Cortona, featured in Under the Tuscan Sun by Francis Mayes, is one of the most popular hill towns to visit in Tuscany. Cortona’s history goes back to the ancient Umbrians, followed by the Etruscans and later the Romans. Etruscan tombs dot the hillside below the town. Remnants of the Etruscan walls are incorporated into the medieval walls around the historic center.
Start your visit in Piazza della Repubblica, the main square, where you’ll see the 13th century town hall and clock tower. The square is a good place for a coffee or an apertivo at one of the cafes.
Cortona’s Renaissance cathedral was built on the site of an Etruscan temple. Its facade dates from the 11th century. Inside are art works from the 16th and 17th century. Other top churches to visit are San Domenico with works by Fra Angelico and Signorelli and the 13th century Church of San Francesco that houses the remians of Signorelli.
Visit the Etruscan Academy Museum, housed in the 13th century Palazzo Pretorio on Piazza Signorelli,. It has displays of Etruscan and Roman artifacts, Renaissance and Baroque paintings, ivories from the 15th century, and a small Egyptian exhibit. Closed Mondays.
Narrow streets lined with medieval buildings wind up the hill through the historic center. Take some time to wander around and enjoy views of the valley below from the walls. There are also public gardens.
In town there are many shops and places to eat. Check these recommendations for 7 family-run places to go in Cortona.
Above town, the 16th century Medici fortress has great views. A 45 minute walk through the woods outside the town walls takes you to Le Celle di Cortona, a Franciscan convent where Saint Francis preached in 1211. Visitors can see the spartan cell where he stayed.
Cortona is between Lake Trasimeno in Umbria and the hill town of Arezzo, another good place to visit in Tuscany.
If you’re traveling by train, the closest stations are Terontola-Cortona or Camucia-Cortona. Buses connect the stations to the center of town. The bus drops you at Piazza Garibaldi, a big square at the foot of the old town. Take a few minutes to take in the views before walking into town.
If you’re driving you must park outside the historic center, there are several parking lots.