There is a reason why Cortona was chosen to be the spot for the bestselling book and movie “Under the Tuscan Sun”. Its hillside scenery is simply gorgeous and its old architecture is spellbinding as well as romantic.
The town lies in the Province Arezzo in the famous Tuscany region of Italy. Because of its location, which is about 600 meters in altitude, you will most likely get beautiful views of the countryside at whichever point in town you visit. Cortona is quite small and compact, so it is highly recommended that visitors explore the attractions on foot; especially because the streets are narrow and steep for driving. The city’s historic center is surrounded by medieval and Etruscan walls which protect the historic narrow streets of Cortona and offer amazing views of the valley below the town.
A former Etruscan center, Cortona boasts a long history, which explains all the old and wonderful structures built around it. Thus, visiting the city is all about learning about its past and appreciating well-preserved architectural treasures. One of them is the Duomo (Cathedral), which exhibits the Renaissance design. In addition to its impressive 11th century fa ade, the cathedral’s interior features remarkable paintings made during the 16th and 17th century. The Duomo was built in place of an ancient Etrucian temple, and is now housed at the Piazza del Duomo, a classic medieval designed square dotted with several monuments.
Other equally poplar piazzas include the Piazza della Repubblica and Piazza Signorelli, which are located at the heart of the town. Piazza della Repubblica houses the 13th century Town Hall or Palazzo Comunale and the clock tower. It is also populated by lovely cafes that provide shade and solace to tourists.
Piazza Signorelli is home to the Museo dell’ Accademia Etrusca (Etruscan Academy Museum) tucked in the 13th century Palazzo Pretorio. The museum is known to showcase various precious items dating back during the Roman and Etruscan era. Another must-see museum is the small but lovely Museo Diocesano across, which features a fascinating set of art works including Roman sarcophagus.
There are a number of old churches that dominate Cortona’s town. If you have the time, it is certain worth seeing all of them. Some of the notable ones include the church of San Domenico, which features an exquisite 15th century altar and the works of artists like Fra Angelico and Signorelli; and the 13th century San Francesco, which houses the remains of Signorell, and keeps the valuable Pietro di Cortona painting. If you make the effort of climbing up the Cortona Hill, you will be rewarded with the sight of olive groves, Etriscan tombs and other magnificent structures like the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie al Calcinaio, Santa Margherita Sanctuary, and the Girifalco Fortress.
One of the things that you will certainly enjoy while in Cortona is their top class restaurants, which serve splendid Tuscan cuisine paired with a good local wine selection. Aside from good food, a number of restaurants also provide outdoor or balcony seating so you can have nice views of the piazzas and the countryside.