The Walls and Gates of Cortona are the fist thing you see when you visit Cortona. The old town is surrounded by massive Etruscan walls, dating to the IV century B.C..
The circuit of the walls has a total perimeter of about 3 kilometers and encircles the town from the lowest part to the fortress on top. Today the circuit largely corresponds to the old one, and in many places the original foundations are clearly visible. You can recognize the oldest parts because Etruscan walls show massive stones, much bigger than the newer ones on top.
Porta Bifora: the only left Etruscan Gate
There is only one original Etruscan gate that’s left, and it’s Porta Bifora, the double-arched gate at the end of Via Ghibellina that gives access to the “Mercato” parking lot.
This gate is said to be cursed, mostly for historical reasons. In 1258, invaders from Arezzo entered into town through this gate thanks a treacherous monk and runsacked the town. Since then the door had been closed. It was recently reopened on one side, but the rumors connecting the door to bad luck and misfortune still persist.
Roman & Medieval Times: Old & New Gates
In Roman times the damaged sections of the walls were reconstructed and new gates were built in correspondance of the two axis roads of the city. On one side Porta Porta Sant’Agostino (end of Via Roma) and Porta Colonia, and on the other side Porta Santa Maria (end of Via Guelfa) and Porta San Domenico (also called Peccioverardi, it used to be at the end of Via Nazionale… no longer existing).
In medieval times the walls, which were severely damaged during the sack, were rebuilt with the help of Perugia and Siena. In this period new gates were added, like Porta Montanina (in the upper part of Cortona, where the remains of the Etruscan walls and the Roman aqueduct are still visible) and Porta Berarda (where it is said that Santa Margherita, saint patron of Cortona, entered the town in 1272 – probably closed at the beginning of the XVII century).