YOUR HOME

IN CORTONA

WELCOME AND INTRODUCTION

Firstly, welcome! And let us say this is not our home. This is your home in Cortona for however long you choose to stay!

Palazzo Passerini was always conceived as the place in Cortona for the discerning traveller and not as a personal home for us. We have spent the best part of three years designing procuring and curating this experience for you. As Architects, we look at every detail but as travellers, we understand how important the experience is.

Our highly experienced and talented team, from our marketing and media guru, to house manager Marialena and her dedicated team of cleaners, handymen and artisans who maintain the property, are here to make your stay an experience you will always remember and want to return to.

Please tell us what you want from your visit to Palazzo Passerini. Our network and contacts mean we can arrange whatever you want to do, without wasting your precious time finding the best way. Marialena is here to help you do exactly that, so please discuss your plans with her.

It may be peace and quiet you crave, although this lively medieval town offers a full calendar of events that may pull you away from more introverted pursuits at home from time to time.

Cortona and Palazzo Passerini Residenza (to give its full name) is a base for exploring the wider Tuscan and Umbrian countryside and some of the greatest cities of art and culture – Florence, Siena, Arezzo, Perugia, and Pisa to name a few. Or even go to Florence, Rome or Milan and return in a day, with fast trains connecting these cities from local stations in Camucia or Terontola (use the Frecciarossa- Red Arrow high-speed rail service).

Alternatively, you may want to explore on bicycles, visit vineyards, eat good food (of course) and drink great coffee in the Piazzas of Cortona, Gubbio, Assisi, Città di Castello, Sansepolcro or other famous Tuscan and Umbrian towns. Or walk or cycle in the staggeringly beautiful Niccone valley.

Cortona itself has a lot to offer, from great food and wine to culture and art. Visit one of our recommended restaurants or go to the market (on Saturday mornings) less than 200m from Palazzo Passerini and buy the ingredients to cook in the kitchen on our Italian Smeg range. Visit Santa Margherita at the top of the town or wander amongst the many art galleries. Play tennis at the amazingly located Cortona Tennis Club overlooking the Val di Chiana or walk along the avenue of trees in the Parterre to the swimming pool.

Palazzo Passerini is ideal for small groups of 6, friends and family, to enjoy an authentic medieval Palazzo in one of the most beautiful medieval hill towns in Tuscany.

If it’s countryside you want, just walk to the Etruscan walls (2-3,000 years old) of the city and look towards the Val di Chiana or North towards the Umbrian mountains. Walk out of the town (gate) to Le Celle di San Francesco dating back to 1221; the retreat of St Francis of Assisi to find peace in the Umbrian forests with its oak, chestnuts and beech trees and maybe see its famous cinghiale (wild boar) rummaging in the undergrowth. Beware at night though, that’s when the cinghiale really do roam the roads around Cortona, and some of them are really big!

Visit or sail on Lago Trasimeno, visible from Piazza Garibaldi, where Hannibal once defeated and slaughtered a Roman army of 26,000! Yes, these are the mountains of Hannibal on his elephants too! The history of the city can best be conveyed at the City Museum in Piazza Signorelli, a good starting point if you have never been to Cortona before and just a few metres from Palazzo Passerini.

HISTORY OF PALAZZO PASSERINI

History is a funny thing! What can it tell us about the ambition and aspirations of a young nobleman, by the name of Passerini? It was 1493 – Christopher Columbus had just discovered the new world whilst Leonardo da Vinci was inventing the helicopter or aerial screw and the renaissance was gaining momentum with a new age of enlightened thinking as radical in its ways as the digital age of today. At 24 years old Silvio Passerini (b. 1469) knew he could not stay in Cortona forever, but perhaps out of caution or frustration decided to build a Palazzo as a home base to retreat to in case things went badly. People and families could fall from favour very easily and feuding was a regular feature of the fiefdoms of Tuscany and Umbria. Italy was a disunited group of states and would not be recognised in its current form until Garibaldi united the country under one flag in 1871. Re-enactment of conflicts of this period can be seen at the Joust of the Archduke held annually in Cortona.
The Palazzo was built between 1493 and 1495 just as Passerini’s connections in Florence with the powerful Medici family were bearing fruit. Accordingly, he then moved to Florence to cultivate his new friendships and gained favour in the court of Lorenzo di Medici, where he became very close to his son Giovanni. His position and power (and wealth) increased over the next 30 years in Florence until eventually, it was time to return to Cortona as Cardinal Passerini to govern the people of Cortona.

The people of Cortona welcomed their new mayor by presenting him with the building (Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo) that now overlooks the main Piazza Nazionale. This building was then renamed Palazzone Passerini as it is known to this today. Confusing perhaps, but the building you now stay in was the original built by Passerini himself. However, by 1521 this building had been superseded by events and the advance of the new renaissance age, so styles had changed. Like something from your childhood, you discard as a forgotten trinket, it was largely overlooked but may have been occupied by other members of the Passerini family.

STEMMA (Crest)

The crest you see on the fireplace backplate, and the crowned bird are the original crest of Passerini c 1495, but the later crests were much more ornate with a standing bull and a red cardinal’s hat adorned with flourishes and colour. Passerini now the Bishop-Cardinal of Cortona went on to build a much more grandiose Palazzo outside the walls of Cortona, which you see with its private chapel at the gate, as you approach Cortona from the South. So that’s the third Palazzo bearing his name!

However, and there is always a twist, it was said that Passerini was somewhat harsh in the application of his rule and the taxes he extracted from the people of Cortona, who wrote to the Pope to report this information. The Pope was none other than Lorenzo di Medici, who had now become Pope Leo X in Rome! He sent a special envoy to see Cardinal Passerini, who as punishment was directed to make the bull on his new crest kneel as a sign of humility. Maybe this light ‘punishment’ was in deference to their former friendship!

Not much is known about the ownership of the property since Passerini passed away in 1529, but it is assumed it remained in the family for several centuries. It survived two world wars largely unscathed, with liberation (a day celebrated annually in Cortona) being first declared by a British Gurkha regiment arriving, quickly followed by the Americans. Bullet holes fired by the fleeing Nazis can be seen around the front door (kept as a reminder). The property fell into considerable disrepair in the later part of the 20th century when it was virtually uninhabitable. Enter then the great restoration carried out by the former owner Maria Giaquinto and her husband who bought the property in 2000. The fabric and structure of the building was restored, and some floors had to be replaced as well as a complete renovation of the roof and interiors.

RENOVATION

We bought the property in March 2020, both of us Architects who have been visiting Umbria and Tuscany for 20 years.

So why Cortona and why Palazzo Passerini? Cortona was known to us through a friend who had owned and operated boutique hotels in Cortona and Umbria before the term ‘boutique’ really existed in hospitality. During a visit to this country house hotel in 2003, we sealed not only a lifelong friendship but an ambition to do something similar ‘one day’. So that day came when almost despairingly in 2019 looking all over Tuscany for the right place, we found Palazzo Passerini.

As we walked with the local agent Lorenzo through the Piazza, having seen another six properties that morning, Mark turned to Lorenzo in frustration and said ‘look, what we want is an authentic medieval hall with a big fireplace’ (as if it was not too much to ask!). Lorenzo in his calm and generous way then offered to call Maria, who was known to be thinking about selling but had not yet decided. A meeting was hastily arranged and before Mark had seen the whole property had whispered to Charles that ‘this was it’! We instinctively knew it was right.

Maria was persuaded and the sale was agreed upon in 2019 and almost a year later we took full ownership. A long process of design and renovation was interrupted by the Covid pandemic and building work did not start until April 2021 following an extended design period.

What you see today is a contemporary interpretation of ‘medieval’ luxury. Not only have the services been completely updated with high-speed internet and mobile booster but bathrooms and kitchens have been replaced or new ones installed. The aim has been to emphasise the handsome architecture of the interior whilst adding contemporary but comfortable furniture, working with local artisans and companies to feature the best Italian products.

Fabrics throughout the property are supplied by Busatti (founded in 1842) of Anghiari, just an hour’s drive from Cortona and well worth a visit. Curtains, linen and soft furnishings are all supplied by them and towels and bedding as well as dining chairs have the distinct bird and crown logo taken from the ‘Stemma’ woven onto the fabric.

Tosconova, a Florence-based manufacturer of bespoke furniture, made all of the beds, sofas and chairs and use the Busatti fabrics to cover many pieces you see.

The interior was completed by craftsmen from Palazzo Morelli, a family-owned interior fit-out firm in Todi, with kitchen and bathroom cabinetry and marble work by them. Stone and floor cleaning were also arranged using local experts in the restoration of terracotta floors and the local pietra serena stone door and fireplace surrounds had to be carefully cleaned.

The brassware was supplied by Italian manufacturer Nicolazzi with a contemporary style in brushed brass as a natural finish; as the brassware ages, it will naturally gain a tarnish which is intentional.

Stone and specifically Carrara marble are used sparingly for kitchen surfaces and bathroom surrounds with basalt stone used for shower bases. The entrance area outside has been resurfaced with the traditional pietra serena (rigatto) for slip resistance and is commonly used in almost all Tuscan cities as paving.

A place to contemplate life’s important questions

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52044 Cortona, Province of Arezzo, Italy

+39 338 2999246

info@palazzopasserini.com