Cortona in Tuscany is a place that you will enjoy without any doubt. Its relationship with antiquity and with myths makes it one of the most popular towns with tourists from all over the world. But where is Cortona? If you look at a map, you will easily find that there are many places that you can easily reach from Cortona: first of all Arezzo, but also Montepulciano, the towns of the Orcia Valley and the Trasimeno Lake.
You will also find that in addition to the visit of Cortona, the surrounding areas are places full of history and beautiful landscapes. You will have a lot of things to do and see in Cortona and will not have any difficulties in finding out what to see in Cortona and its area!
If you love Etruscan history, the towns of Volterra and Cortona are the most interesting with regard to the preservation of relics and artifacts in the Cortona museums. There are also archaeological sites of great value such as the Etruscan necropolis, just outside the city centre.
For ideas about whats to do in Cortona and for historical information we suggest you continue reading the following information to enter this magical atmosphere.
Do not worry about entertainment during your holiday: we suggest to take parto to Cortona Mix Festival which is surely one of the main events in Tuscant. It hosts guests and international artists and is surrounded by the beautiful landscape of this charming Tuscan village.
VISIT CORTONA.Where is Cortona in Italy? During your trip (you can leave your Cortona map in the car!), unwind and take first a walk to see the old town surrounded by its ancient walls. The city, built on top of a hill, offers a panoramic terrace where you can admire the natural landscape of the Val di Chiana, take pictures, rest your mind and glimpse the Trasimeno lake in the distance.
The heart of Cortona is Republic Square, home to the elegant 13th century Cortona Town Hall which is characterized by a picturesque staircase from where it is not uncommon to see a pair of newlyweds with a smile. Does it make you want to say yes to your boyfriend? Sooner or later it happens to everyone! This is the square where the main roads cross and from which you can observe the incessant comings and goings of tourists and residents.
The second leg of your itinerary should be dedicated to Etruscan Cortona, or rather, to the wonderful Etruscan Cortona Museum. In fact, the name is a bit 'long to remember or pronounce for directions: that is why it is often abbreviated to MAEC! This important museum, which was adopted back in 1727, houses exhibits of various areas of Etruscan Cortona and its surroundings.
The Academy is located in the 14th century Palazzo Casali, former residence of the lords of Cortona and home to Etruscan and Roman artefacts, antique medals, objects of various kinds and important paintings dating back to the 13th century. The Cortona museum is organized over four floors, including two underground, where there are the Etruscan and Roman sections: here you will find funerary tombs found in the Tuscan area of Cortona and especially the famous Tabula Cortonensis - a very rare contract written in bronze.
In the MAEC you will also find a splendid Etruscan bronze lamp dating back to the 5th century B.C. and many other ancient objects that enable you to understand the customs of the Etruscan civilization with a particular focus on the vision on the afterlife that these people had.
The upper floors of the Academy are dedicated to the collections of the founders of the Cortona museum and symbolic elements of the culture of Cortona such as crafts and numerous manuscripts. Do not miss, among the paintings, 'Virgin and Child', one of the masterpieces by Luca Signorelli made in the 15th century.
Another interesting section, from the collection of Monsignor Corbelli of Cortona, is dedicated to the ancient Egyptian civilization: here there is a precious and unique object, a small funeral boat where the deceased is clearly visible together with other characters such as the scribe, travelling to the ultra-terrestrial world.
Other areas are dedicated to the medieval history of the city and at later times: among the most important, you will find a slab of slate from the 16th century with a depiction of the Muse Polyhymnia. The look of the girl and the delicacy of her features will leave you spellbound. From the Modern Age you will find, instead, a series of works by the futurist painter and native of Cortona Gino Severini.
After seeing the various rooms of the Academy, get ready for a walk uphill to the Sanctuary of Santa Margherita and then to the Fortress of Girifalco. The uphill route is very pleasant and allows you to admire the views as you climb.
The Basilica of Santa Margherita, the patron of the city of Cortona, was built in the late 13th century following the death of the saint that took place in the small Church of San Basilio where she used to pray. Today the Basilica is dedicated to the devout and presents an 18th century aspect due to recent renovations but, inside, houses a dedicated marble cenotaph of the saint from the 15th century built by an artist from the Siena school.
The Fortress of Girifalco is located at the highest point of Cortona: Val di Chiana is great for photographs and unforgettable sunsets! This bastion was built by order of Cosimo de Medici on the ruins of a former Etruscan stronghold and was designed by Gabrio Serbelloni.
Continuing in your tour of the monuments of Cortona, we suggest you visit the Cathedral built on the ruins of a Romanesque church dating back to the 11th century. Its Renaissance structure has been remodelled and presents Renaissance elements from later times. Inside you will see works of great value such as the Adoration of the Shepherds by Pietro da Cortona from the 17th century and Our Lady of Tears (La Madonna del Pianto), a terracotta sculpture of the 13th century.
Many masterpieces of this Cortona church were included, in order to preserve them in better conditions, in the Diocesan Cortona Museum located opposite. Since 1945, this museum has housed some of the most important things to see in Cortona: must-see are the Crucifix and Majesty (1315-20) by Pietro Lorenzetti, the Annunciation (1430) by Beato Angelico, the Assumption (1470) by Bartolomeo della Gatta and the Lamentation over the Dead Christ (1502) by Luca Signorelli.
A masterpiece from ancient times at the beginning of the Cortona museum is a wonderful Roman sarcophagus of the 2nd century A.D. (found only in the 15th century) which shows the Fighting between Dionysus and the Amazons.
As final stage that we want to suggest to you for your itineraries in Cortona is the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie al Calcinaio. Calcinaio, in the 15th century, was a tub used to tan leather: it is said that on the wall of this tank there was a miraculous painting that could fulfil the demands of the faithful. The community of Cortona decided to build the church in honour of the sacred place and entrusted the project to the architect Francesco di Giorgio Martini. The cult image, the Madonna and Child, was painted by Jacone in the pall you see today in the main altar: the forms expertly created by its architect make this church a remarkable example of harmony and simplicity in which the sobriety and decorative style recall the great Renaissance masters Leon Battista Alberti and Brunelleschi. Write down on your map how to reach this destination, just outside the historic centre, as it is well worth a visit.
Not to be missed. When you visit Cortona, Le Celle and the Archaeological Park are two places that you cannot forget about. If you have a little time to devote to this area you should move to find a wonderful place surrounded by nature. After visiting Cortona, the Cells Hermitage is definitely the most important thing to do and visit, especially for those who love nature. This isolated site, founded by St Francesco in the early 13th century, is a place of praying and of great spirituality and now a convent of Capuchin friars that you can visit. In addition to its structure, you will see the small cell of the saint and find calming silence when watching the endless waterfall located below the monastery.
The Archaeological Park of Cortona includes within the town, the remains of the Etruscan civilization such as the walls, the mullioned door and some underground structures.
There are also the remains of a Roman aqueduct at the Montanina gate and the cistern of the Baths of Bacchus near the church of St. Antonio.
Outside the city walls you will find the famous 'meloni', these are large Etruscan tomb mounds (one in Camucia and two more in Sodo). One of the them still retains its altar decorated with sculptures and has an orientalising style.
The archaeological tour of Cortona area ends with a visit to a tomb of a later period known as Tanella Pythagoras. If you are particularly passionate about ancient civilizations, we suggest you continue towards the Trasimeno Lake and go towards Ossaia, where you will find an important Roman villa with interesting mosaics.
Bear in mind that the Archaeological Park is active and still the subject of research and discoveries: so you might even find a rare artefact from the Etruscan civilization!
EATING IN CORTONA. After having suggested what to do in Cortona, you will want to know what are its typical dishes. The main cuisine of Cortona has rural roots and is expressed through a traditional 'poor' Tuscan diet. Cortona, being close to the Val di Chiana, has many products in common with the Arezzo cuisine, especially with regard to meat dishes.
A typical lunch can only start, therefore, with the legendary crostini neri (chicken liver) and oil-based or tomato bruschetta: you continue with panzanella and pappa al pomodoro in the summer months or pici with ragù and hare pappardelle sauce to get warm in the winter.
The second most typical dishes is Chianina steak, burischio (pork offal), wild boar and stuffed neck (gooseneck).
For vegetarians there are interesting dishes such as: fennel flan, baked beans, celery and red onion omelette.
To conclude this hearty meal, enjoy it with some cantucci and Vin Santo! If you want to take home some memories of Cortona alcohol, many good varieties of Cortona D.O.C. white and red wine are available.
Cortona in Italy was described by the writer Henry James as 'the oldest and unique among the cities of Italy' and thereafter many foreign travellers of the 17th century began to include it among their main itineraries.
The location of Cortona makes it a great place to for those who travel around Tuscany and for those in search of traces of the Etruscan past of this region.
According to some sources as Virgilo and Silio Italico, the city was founded by Dardano, the mythological hero son of Zeus and one of the Pleiades. Legend has it that Dardano during a battle lost his helmet and that the city of Cortona was then built in the place where the warrior's armour was located.
There are many ancient stories that are intertwined with the founding of this place, its inhabitants summarize its origins defining Cortona as 'mother of Troy and grandmother of Rome' ... simple, isn’t it?
Need help choosing
Florence City Sightseeing 24, 48 or 72 hours
Duration: 24, 48 or 72 hours
- starting from
- € 23.00
Tours & Activities
Day trip to Siena, San Gimignano and the Chianti area
Duration: approx. 11 hours
- Per person
- € 59.00
Tours & Activities
Fresh pasta making course in Florence
Duration: approx. 3 hours
- Per person
- € 55.00