The learning experience at the Neuroscience School of Advanced Studies will not stop once outside the lecture halls. The leisure time will not only represent a golden opportunity for extensive discussions with outstanding Faculties and excellent scientific networking interactions with colleagues, but also a rare opportunity to experience this retreat-like atmosphere in one of the most beautiful places on Earth. Hence the added value of a neuroscience Course in Tuscany will be the unique opportunity of a full immersion into the Tuscan traditions, arts, wines, and food making it an unforgettable experience of a lifetime.
Unique in the world are Tuscan wines, arts and local foods and a wide array of personalized activities will be arranged focused on these local excellences according to each participant’s interest. During participants’ stay there will be ample time to arrange activities: should participants desire to engage in activities before the Course, please contact us with your specific request and we will be happy to help refer participants to qualified professionals.
Wine has a close bond with Tuscany, especially in the Cortona area. Here the wine list goes on and on: Chianti Classico, Brunello di Montalcino, Nobile di Montepulciano, Syrah and the Supertuscans.
The well-known and worldwide appreciated Brunello is produced in the vineyards surrounding the village of Montalcino. The Brunello, roughly translated as “nice dark one” in the local jargon has been awarded by the review “Wine Spectator” as best wine in the world. The Vino Nobile of Montepulciano has been produced for hundreds of years and the reputation of this wine spread very early across borders, even mentioned by Voltaire in his Candide, and its elegance and strength is proverbial. Cortona is also a big producing area for Syrah, which represents a specific local excellence.
Local experts will be happy to guide participants to the understanding of the different wine territories: both experienced wine connoisseurs and beginners will find appropriate activities to further deepen their understanding of the most refined Tuscan wines.
Who doesn't like shopping? Beside the many artisan shops available in Cortona -which are definitely worth more than a visit- the area is well known for some of the most famous and discounted designer outlet malls: they are all in short distance of Cortona and there is something for all budgets.
The two most famous of the discount outlet malls are located just north of the town, hidden amongst the hills of Tuscany. One hosts the most exclusive brands of international fashion (Ferragamo, Fendi, Valentino, Loro Piana and the likes) within an architecturally elegant and refined setting, the other one is the factory outlet store for Prada. In addition, the Valdichiana Outlet Village hosts 140 different shops to satisfy all shopping needs and all pockets.
Art is expressed in the territory around Cortona in multiple forms. Siena and its surroundings are less than an hour drive away and participants may enjoy a visit during the free afternoon. In addition, several local town and villages are within a short distance and worth a visit.
Pienza. A magical place to visit as it stands as a beautifully preserved Renaissance gem for its outstanding architecture and its incomparable setting, is just a few minutes away. The village owns its beauty to Enea Silvio Piccolomini who, after becoming Pope in 1458 as Pope Pius II, changed his birthplace, Corsignano, into a Papal residence as an ideal Renaissance town and renamed it Pienza (“Pius”). Intended as a retreat from Rome, it represented the first application of humanist urban planning concepts and created a model that was adopted in other Italian towns and cities and that eventually spread to other European centers. The town’s center consists of a great number of ornate, centuries-old buildings packed into a relatively small area. Among its famous buildings are the cathedral, with its huge stained glass windows, dazzling Sienese altarpieces in the chapels and 16th-century tapestries in the crypt and the Papal Palace, the Palazzo Piccolomini, adjacent to the cathedral. A dazzling hanging garden and arcaded courtyard which lie directly behind the palace offer spectacular views of the valley.
Montepulciano. At an easy reach from Cortona is Montepulciano, one of the most attractive hill towns in Tuscany. Built along the narrow limestone ridge of Monte Poliziano at 1,950 ft. above sea level, the town is encircled by walls and fortifications. The longest of its streets, all crammed with Renaissance-style buildings and churches, climbs up into the main square, Piazza Grande, which crowns the summit of the hill. Montepulciano is chiefly known for its delicious red wine, the Vino Nobile, "noble", in recognition of its splendid flavor and the idea that it was fit for the tables of the nobility.
The reputation of red wines produced in this area owes also to the Brunello and the Rosso di Montalcino, two of Italy's best-known and most expensive wines, grown in the area surrounding Montalcino, a beautiful medieval village perched high on a hill with spectacular views of the entire Val d'Orcia and even to the city of Siena. The fortress, which rises to the highest point of the town and dominates the surrounding valleys, looks like a classic castle enclosure, based on a pentagonal plan with towers at the five angles. The small town is exemplary of the architecture of the late Middle Ages, with its narrow streets, beautiful churches and the impressive cathedral. Just outside Montalcino is the Abbazia di Sant'Antimo, one of the most beautiful Romanseque monastic churches in existence. A Benedictine monastery, the abbey refers its name to Saint Anthimus of Rome, whose relics were moved here during the late 8th century. Between Cortona and Montalcino is also the famous Abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore, also a Benedectine monastery; the mother-house of the Olivetans and territorial abbey was for centuries one of the main land possessors in the Siena region.
Participants with interests in specific aspects of Tuscan art (e.g. paintings, churches, gardens) will find local experts who will be happy to guide them through the art patrimony of Siena and its surroundings with individually tailored visits. Participants will discover how history and lifestyle are intertwined and will never be tourists, they will be guests.
Beside the idyllic countryside around Cortona, not far is Val d’Orcia which deserves a particular mention: it is one of the few landscapes of the Unesco World Heritage List. The UNESCO’s analysis itself stated that the stunning landscape of Val d’Orcia, celebrated by Renaissance painters, was, and still is, seen as an ideal representation of man coexisting in harmony with nature. Images of the Val D’Orcia and its inhabitants have come to be seen as icons of the Renaissance and have profoundly influenced the development of landscape art, engineering and philosophy in modern Tuscany. Its flourishing in the 14th and 15th centuries with its landscape’s distinctive aesthetics, flat chalk plains out of which rise almost conical hills with fortified settlements on top, inspired many artists. Their images have come to exemplify the beauty of well-managed Renaissance agricultural landscapes. The inscription in the World’s Heritage List covers a planned colonized agrarian and pastoral landscape reflecting innovative land management systems; several towns and villages, each unique; farmhouses; and the original Roman road the Via Francigena and its associated abbeys, inns, shrines and bridges.
Plenty of activities are available in and around Cortona and you may enjoy some during your stay: