Cortona is one of the prettiest and oldest hill towns in Tuscany. It shot to fame after being featured in Francis Mayes book “Under the Tuscan Sun” and many tourists include the town in their private tours Italy.
Located in the Chiana Valley in southern Tuscany Cortona is surrounded by ancient stone walls hailing from Etruscan and Roman times. From Piazza Garibaldi you can admire beautiful views of the valley with beautiful Lake Trasimeno glinting at a distance. The architecture of Cortona is mainly medieval with some spectacular Renaissance churches and palazzi in between. Despite the small size of the town, there are plenty things to see and do. The Diocesan Museum houses two magnificent works by Fra Angelico, an Annunciation and a Madonna and Child with Saints and many other masterpieces dating from the 2nd century A.C. to modern days.
The city prospered under the Etruscan rule and as testimony to those golden days many artifacts have been preserved that not only history buffs will find fascinating. A complex of Etruscan chamber-tombs can be visited outside of the city walls as well as The Etruscan Academy Museum where many archaeological finds are displayed.
Among other places that are worth a visit are the beautiful Santa Margherita Sanctuary and the 16th century Girifalco Fortress, both boasting fantastic vistas of the surrounding countryside. Just outside of the city walls stands the Franciscan hermitage “Le Celle”, the first monastery built by Saint Francis of Assisi in 1211. His tiny cell has remained unchanged since he lived there and can be visited today.
The restaurants in Cortona serve tasty traditional Tuscan cuisine. La Locanda nel Loggiato has balcony seating overlooking a beautiful piazza. They serve delicious homemade pasta “pici” with duck and local tender Chianina beef. In the wine shop “Enotria” you can taste excellent Tuscan wines as well as typical products, such as the hearty ciaccia bread stuffed with pork, wild boar and venison sausage and paired with cheese and vegetables, as well as stock up on gourmet gifts to bring back home.
Photos by: Patrick Keogh, Jose Gonzalez, Dick Pountain