One of the reasons I started to write this blog is that sometimes I forget places I have fallen in love with. Cortona is one of these magnificent locations and I am excited to write about it, paura che io non lo farò giustizia, and scared that people may start visiting more and ruin all that makes it wonderful. Antonio and I ended up there purely by chance. Our last Italy trip was barely planned. We bought a ticket into Rome and a ticket out of Paris – that was about as much planning as we did. The day before we were supposed to check out of our aparthotel in Rome, we had no idea where to go. I turned to Twitter for recommendations and someone mentioned the Sun Festival in Cortona. We said f-it, let’s go! It was one of the best decisions we could have made. Abbiamo potuto utilizzare questi suggerimenti di viaggio Cortona, ma abbiamo capito le cose come siamo andati insieme. Ma tu, basta leggere e pronti ad avere un tempo incredibile in Toscana.
I knew nothing about Cortona except what I had read on Twitter about the Sun Festival (which is sadly no longer there, but in Florence). When I arrived (after a very pleasant train ride & a short taxi ride to town) I knew I was in love. There is not much space for cars to get around, so our taxi dropped us off at Piazza Garibaldi. Siamo usciti e non potevamo resistere check-out la vista delle colline toscane. La città di stretta, strade acciottolate e dei suoi antichi edifici cattureranno la vostra anima in pochi secondi. Questa città collina fortificata si sente fuori del tempo. There is no starbucks. Non v'è alcun McDonalds. Ci sono artisti negozi, shoe makers, jewelry makers and some amazing restaurants.
If the city name sounds familiar to you, its probably due to the movie Under the Tuscan Sun, c'è una ragione hanno scelto questa città come l'impostazione. Di tutti i diversi villaggi e città in tutta la Toscana, Cortona has gained tons of tourist attention (for reasons that will describe in just a moment), but it remains almost untainted by outside influence. One of the main reasons for its popularity is Frances Mayers who crafted an incredible tale (based on a true story) titled “Under the Tuscan Sun". Ever since that book was first published – and then later transformed into a movie – Cortona tourism has exploded.
Far and away one of the most picturesque places on this huge blue marble we call Earth, Cortona is an almost too perfect representation of a quiet, quaint, traditional Tuscan town, tutto ciò che rappresenta il meglio di questa regione. A Cortona si può splendide colline walk-through, valleys, and Tuscan fields. You can take in modern art in a medieval setting (walk into a gallery – you will most likely be invited to lunch or dinner by the artist – not so you can buy their art, but just because they want to talk to someone about it). You can enjoy delicious food and drink at any number of restaurants…with lots of Italian truffles to enhance your meal.
Millions and millions of people flock to this gorgeous Tuscan village each and every single year to soak in just a bit of that story, and maybe experience a bit of romance. Mi auguro che la lettura di una volta il gioco è fatto, you book your trip…just please treat Cortona with love and tenderness. It is unspoiled and I hope that we can all keep it that way.
Se avete letto questo blog prima, you probably know that I studied Art History and that I have an unhealthy obsession with churches. Even if you aren’t a history buff, you’re going to appreciate the beautiful churches, the incredible museums (including the Etruscan Academy Museum), and the famous Cortona Tablet – a 2,200-year-old bronze artifact that shares an incredible amount of history from the earliest Cortona village life.
Cortona Travel Tips
You can go any time (just make sure to rent a car – because you’ll want to visit nearby cities). Cortona is gorgeous no matter when you go. The Sun Festival has now moved to Florence (I’m super bummed – although Florence is also lovely), but there’s plenty more going on in the city, especially food festivals 🙂
June: Sagra della Lumaca – There’s a village quite close to Cortona called Fossa del Lupo where the “Escargot Festival” takes place. There’s dancing, music, and…of course…escargot.
July: Il Cortona Mix Festival has replaced the Sun Festival.
August: Sagra della Bisteca – If you’re a carnivore, this one is for you. Just imagine a gorgeous steak with a glass of Chianti made just a few miles away.
September: Autumn Festival – This takes place in the village of Fratta, near Sant’Agata church, focusing on seasonal Tuscan dishes.
October: There are two festivals in the area at the time; The Chestnut festival (Teverina) & the Farm Wagon Festival (Fratticciola). You’ll definitely need a kitchen if you come by at this time.
WHERE TO STAY?
Casa Chilenne: There are lots of hotels and bnb’s to stay in Cortona, ma sono stato incredibilmente fortunato a trovare Casa Chilenne. Jeannette e la sua famiglia vi faranno sentire incredibilmente a casa in questa bella BnB. We trook the room on the top floor. This meant we had an almost private living room with a kitchenette and a gorgeous patio. When we arrived, Jeanette welcomed us with a glass of Prosecco and introduced us to her gorgeous girls Carly and Daisy, her lovely miniature poodles. Breakfast at Casa Chilenne was lovely each morning and Jeanette accommodated our requests for eggs (Italians tend to do pastries and charcuterie in the mornings – this gets tiresome after 2 weeks, I could not have been happier to have eggs made for me by Jeanette. Amerete questo posto.Casa Chilenne B&B is located at Via Nazionale, 65 Cortona 52044 (AR) – Phone/Fax +39 0575 603320
THINGS TO DO AND SEE IN & NEAR CORTONA
Hot Springs: Eravamo i più giovani a Chianciano. This is a “blue hair” kinda town, and I can understand why these incredibly smart seniors frequent it. Chianciano non è un centro termale. It is a town full of thermal baths and spas. It is known the world over for its mineral waters (which are said to have healing qualities). The town is full of parks, but pick a spa and spend the whole day there. These are the best spas in the world (even better than those in Budapest). Our favorite in town was CCN.
Drink Wine: Sei in Toscana. Saresti un pazzo a non godere di deliziosi vini italiani. There are plenty of wine bars in Cortona, but you’d be a fool to skip Montepulciano (one of my all time favorite restaurants is there – La Grotta). If you do decide to stay in Cortona, assicuratevi di approfittare diaperitivo. Go to the bar around 4-5pm. Order a glass of wine or a cocktail and the bar will give you complimentary dishes. This will hold you over until dinner starts at 9 or 10pm. My favorite place was Caffe Tuscher on Via Nazionale, we felt welcome every night, the wine selection was fantastic, and the art on the walls was gorgeous. This place is addictive.
Santa Maria Nuova: Questa chiesa è nota per la sua cupola barocca, rose window, and vaulted ceilings. The church contains an Annunciation scene and Nativity by lesser known Italian artists.
San Francesco: This 13th century Gothic style church was constructed by Brother Elias in 1247 on Roman remains of what was most likely hot springs. Once inside you can enjoy its 17th Century Baroque altar by Bernardino Radi, which is said to contain a relic of the Holy Cross. Besides the Holy Cross, which was brought by Brother Elias from Constantinople, the church also preserves the tunic, an evangelistic manuscript, and a pillow. All these relics belonged to Saint Francis and have been preserved by Brother Elias, who called the saint “my mother”, as we are told by Celano in the first biography of Saint Francis. On the wall on the right of the entrance there are the remains of a fresco attributed to Buffalmacco (16th century).
Basilica of Santa Margherita: This 13th century church was built on a hill where a small 11th century church once stood. It was damaged during a siege and redone in 1288 by St. Margherita. She died and the church took on her name. It is known for the rose window and baroque altars.
BEST VALUE RESTAURANTS IN CORTONA
The food in Cortona is out-freakin-standing. Restaurants tend to be quite liberal when they are shaving truffles over your pasta. Tuscan food is simple and beautiful. If you get a place with a kitchen, make it a point to hit up the Saturday market in the Piazza Signorelli for fresh, seasonal Tuscan products. There are plenty of bars that will offer you an aperitivo (buy a drink & get a complimentary snack). You won’t go wrong with any restaurant in the city…some will cost you more than others. Non stupitevi se vedete persone con i loro compagni canini in ristoranti a Cortona. Unlike the idiotic rules in the US, Italian restaurants have no issues allowing pups to chill out with their guardians…for the most part, they are incredibly well behaved. Petey would like Cortona.
These were some of my favorite restaurants right in town:
Caffe degli Artisti: Located in the heart of Cortona, Caffe degli Artisti serve piatti classici toscani realizzati dal proprietario Francesco Salvadori. La pizza è delizioso come sono i piatti di pasta e piatti di fagioli.Situato in Via Nazionale, 18 +39 0575 601237
La Loggetta: This gorgeous restaurant has one of the prettiest outside areas in town. It overlooks the Piazza della Republica and serves gorgeous Tuscan food. Non perderlo.Situato a Piazza di Pescheria ++39 0575 630575
Caffe Tuscher: Great service, awesome wine, and tasty food. Non si può andare male andare in questo posto.Located atVia Nazionale 43 +39 0575 62053
HOW TO GET TO CORTONA?
BY AIR: There’s really no airport that is “close” to Cortona, but this gives you an excuse to visit another city. Pick one of these locations and take a train into Cortona (info follows)
Florence International Airport – 75 miles away (I’ll be writing about Florence soon, it’s a great city).
Perugia International Airport– 75 miles away
Pisa International Airport– 140 miles away (I’d skip Pisa – it’s a tourist trap. If you choose this airport explore Lucca instead).
Roma Fiumicino International Airport– 140 miles away (This was my choice. Rome is kind of awesome)
BY TRAIN: Prendete un treno per entrambi stazioni ferroviarie Terontola o Camucia. Once you get off, look for the signs with taxi phone numbers. Call a number & ask them to pick you up at the station. It is a very quick ride up to Cortona. It took us about 2.5 hours to get to Cortona from Rome by train.
BY CAR: Io non sono un fan di guida, and if given a choice, Io prenderei il treno. If you decide to drive, take the Valdichiana exit from the A1 highway (Autostrada del Sole). After the toll take the E45 towards Perugia and then take the 2nd exit: Cortona San Lorenzo. Follow the signs to the SS71 road in Camucia and to continue to Cortona.
Have more questions about Cortona? Need more specific Cortona Travel Tips? Leave me a comment.