Discover the Best of Cortona, Tuscany - Must-See Places and Unique Experiences

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Buongiorno and welcome to Stefano’s RomeCabs, Rome’s leading company for top-rated Tuscany Tours and transfers from Rome to Tuscany. In the heart of the southern part of Tuscany lies a hidden gem that has captured the hearts of travelers – Cortona. With its rich history dating back to Etruscan times and its captivating blend of art, culture, and culinary delights, Cortona offers a journey back in time and a taste of Tuscan life.  Whether you're a history buff, an art enthusiast, a foodie, or simply seeking the serenity of the Tuscan countryside, there is so much to see and create unique experiences in Cortona.

In this travel blog, we will discover the best of Cortona and must-see places, ensuring you make the most of your visit. Explore the cobblestone streets and squares, visit historic churches, savor Tuscan cuisine, and immerse ourselves in the timeless beauty of Cortona.  You will fall in love with every corner of this picturesque town, where history and tradition come alive in every step you take.

Before we delve into the Must-See Places in Cortona, he's a bit of a background about Cortona for those who are not familiar with this Tuscan town.  Feel free to scroll down and go directly to the Must-See Places in Cortona further down in this blog.

Following the Must-Sees, we also included some additional helpful information about traditional food in Cortona, how to get to Cortona, and day tours from Rome to Cortona.


  • Where is Cortona?

This enchanting town sits atop a hill in the heart of Tuscany, offering stunning panoramic views of the surrounding countryside, including the scenic Val di Chiana and the tranquil Lake Trasimeno. It's the kind of place where history whispers through cobblestone streets, and every corner holds a delightful surprise.

How far is Cortona from Rome and Florence?

Cortona is approximately 200 kilometers (124 miles) from Rome and about 120 kilometers (75 miles) from Florence. The town's central location in Tuscany makes it accessible from both major cities, making it an excellent destination for day trips or longer visits. You can reach Cortona from Rome or Florence by train, car, or private transfer, with travel times varying depending on your chosen mode of transportation.


  • Is Cortona worth visiting?

Cortona is definitely worth visiting, especially if you appreciate charming, historic towns with a rich cultural and artistic heritage.

This medieval gem boasts well-preserved streets, captivating art galleries, and museums. Beyond its artistic treasures, Cortona offers panoramic vistas of the surrounding countryside. Culinary delights await at local trattorias, where you can savor authentic Tuscan cuisine. Throughout the year, the town comes alive with cultural events, from music concerts to historical reenactments.

Plus, Cortona's strategic location makes it an ideal base to explore other wonders of Tuscany and a perfect destination for day trips from Rome to Cortona. In sum, Cortona is a treasure trove of history, art, culture, and natural beauty that beckons travelers to uncover the soul of Tuscany either for an extended stay or a day trip from Rome or Florence.


Is Cortona worth visiting from Rome to Tuscany Tours


A Glimpse into the History of Cortona

Perched among the picturesque hills of Tuscany, Cortona boasts a history that spans millennia. Its story begins in the 8th century B.C., when it was founded by the Etruscans and known as Curtun. As part of the Etruscan League, Curtun thrived as a powerful city-state, thriving as a hub of trade and commerce.

The transition to Roman rule marked a new chapter for Cortona, which continued to flourish. In the Middle Ages, the town evolved into a prosperous city-state, renowned for its textile industry. It passed under the rule of various local lords during this time, each leaving its mark on its rich history.

The 14th and 15th centuries saw Cortona as a part of the Republic of Siena, embroiled in the political struggles between Siena and Florence. Following Florence's triumph over Siena, Cortona came under the Medici family's governance.

In the 19th century, Cortona became an integral part of the newly established Kingdom of Italy. Today, this charming hill town retains its medieval allure, with a well-preserved historic center adorned with churches, small museums, and delectable eateries, making it a captivating destination for history enthusiasts and travelers alike.


Discover the Best of Cortona - 

Must-See Places and  Unique Experiences



Discover the Best of Cortona Tuscany Must See Places and Unique Experiences


Whether you are spending a few days in Cortona, passing through, or visiting Cortona on a day tour from Rome or Florence, the historic center beckons with a wealth of architectural wonders,  charming squares, intriguing museums, art, grand palazzi, and inviting shops, cafes, and eateries. For those with limited time, the historic heart of Cortona is an absolute essential, a Cortona Must-See waiting to be discovered.


  • Explore Cortona's Charming Historical Center

If you find yourself in Cortona for a brief visit, whether as part of a Tuscany tour or just passing through on a road trip, be sure to savor the charm of Cortona's historic center. Explore its lively squares, indulge in a delightful meal at a local restaurant, and perhaps even take in the treasures of a museum.

Here are the highlights in the heart of Cortona that you should not miss:


Piazza Garibaldi: 

The picturesque Piazza Garibaldi that first greets you when you arrive in Cortona, offers a sweeping panorama of the Val di Chiana and Lake Trasimeno into the horizon. At its center, an obelisk pays homage to Giuseppe Garibaldi, providing a sublime backdrop for moments of reflection and awe.

Piazza della Repubblica

Stroll along Via Nazionale which is lined with delightful shops, boutiques, cafes, restaurants, and wine-tasting enoteche towards Piazza della Repubblica that graces the town with its timeless charm. This prominent square, surrounded by well-preserved historical palazzi, is a testament to centuries of artistry and craftsmanship.

To the east of the square, the Palazzo del Popolo stands proudly, an architectural masterpiece originally crafted in the 14th century and later meticulously reconstructed in 1514.

Venture to the west side of the square to behold the Palazzo Comunale, a formidable structure dating back to 1241. Over the years, it has witnessed numerous renovations and expansions, including a noteworthy, if slightly less triumphant, restoration in 1896. Marvel at the battlemented clock tower from 1509 and ascend the graceful flight of steps from the 16th century.

Piazza della Repubblica Cortona must see places unique experiences


Piazza Signorelli

Further ahead is Piazza Signorelli, a place of historical significance and cultural richness. Here, the Palazzo Pretorio welcomes visitors, adorned with the coats of arms of former podestàs.

Piazza del Duomo

Walk further down and you will arrive at Piazza del Duomo with the Cathedral (Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta) and the Diocesan Museum at the far edge of the town. From the town wall, you may glimpse a beautiful panorama of the sprawling countryside.


Via Jannelli: A Glimpse of Medieval Cortona

Step back in time and savor the medieval essence of Via Jannelli, named after the illustrious Jannelli family.  Via Jannelli stands out as the quintessential medieval street, with its houses on the north side bearing the ancient marks of the 14th and 16th centuries, characterized by wooden extensions

These medieval dwellings boast sturdy stone and brick construction, while their jambs, thresholds, and architraves exude the timeless characteristic of medieval stone craftsmanship. As you gaze upward, the upper floors of these homes extend over the street, seemingly suspended with the support of wooden ledges, completing the captivating picture of Cortona's medieval charm.

If you find yourself in Cortona for a brief visit, whether you're passing through or joining a day tour from Rome or Florence, immersing yourself in the historical center is the perfect way to savor the essence of this charming town. 


Via Jannelli Best of Cortona Must See Places and unique experiences in Tuscany


Cortona: A Shopper's Delight

Cortona offers a delightful shopping experience where you can immerse yourself in the splendor of art galleries and artist-owned boutiques displaying breathtaking paintings, a haven for passionate art lovers.

Beyond these visual treasures, you'll uncover a wealth of beautiful prints, finely crafted journals, and unique jewelry, each a testament to the ingenuity and skill of local artisans.

Whether you're seeking a masterpiece to adorn your walls or a wearable work of art, Cortona invites you to immerse yourself in the richness of Italian craftsmanship and culture.


What to see and do in Cortona Artists Art Shopping Tuscany



  • Discover the Treasures of Cortona's Museums


Discover Cortona's MAEC and Diocesan Museums—a captivating journey through art and history. The MAEC Museum boasts Etruscan treasures of bygone civilizations, while the Diocesan Museum houses renowned artworks and religious artifacts. Explore Cortona's rich cultural heritage in these two exceptional museums.

If you are a history buff or an art enthusiast, even on a short stop in Cortona you may visit one or both of the museums in town.


MAEC Museum: Discover Etruscan Treasures

MAEC Etruscan Museum in Cortona Tuscany tours from Rome


The MAEC Museum is a treasure trove of history and creativity. Housed within the ancient walls of the 13th-century Palazzo Casali in Piazza della Signoria, this museum transcends its Etruscan origins, embracing a rich blend of artistry.

As you step into the main hall, your gaze is immediately drawn to an extraordinary 5th-century BC Etruscan chandelier. A true marvel, it features a gorgon's head encircled by playful dolphins and stylized waves, its 16 small oil lamps adorned with alternating male and female figurines. Not to be missed is the Tabula Cortonensis, the third longest Etruscan bronze text documenting the sale of land owned by an oil merchant.  In addition, the museum collection also includes Attic vases, bronze sculptures, and Roman statuettes, all whispering tales of ancient civilizations.

The walls bear witness to the genius of local luminaries, such as Pietro da Cortona and Luca Signorelli, whose paintings grace the space. Immerse yourself in masterpieces by Pinturicchio, Cristofano Allori, and other gifted artists. As you explore adjacent rooms, you will uncover hidden gems, from a triptych by Bicci di Lorenzo to a captivating assortment of fans, ivories, weapons, porcelain, miniatures, coins, and jewelry.

Yet, amid this delightful miscellany, it's the medieval ceramics and an Egyptian collection, lovingly curated in 1891 by the Vatican's Egyptian legate, that are truly amazing.

Address: Piazza Signorelli 9 Cortona

Full entry ticket €10
Reduced-price ticket €7

From 1 April to 31 October: open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.
From 1 November to 31 March: from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
* Closed on Mondays, December 25


Diocesan Museum:


Diocesan Museum best things to see and do in Cortona Tuscany tours from Rome


If you have limited time for a museum visit, the Diocesan Museum is compact and can be explored quickly.

Located in Cortona's Piazza del Duomo, the Diocesan Museum is a treasure trove of art and history. Founded in 1945, it houses exceptional works by renowned artists like Pietro Lorenzetti, Beato Angelico, Bartolomeo della Gatta, Sassetta, and Cortona's own Luca Signorelli, as well as precious religious artifacts.

Step back in time as you encounter a second-century Roman sarcophagus depicting a battle between Dionysus and the Amazons, a piece that fascinated luminaries like Donatello and Brunelleschi.

Explore further to admire Niccolo di Mark's "Madonna with Child", Pietro Lorenzetti's striking cross, Fra Angelico's "Annunciation", and Luca Signorelli's powerful creations.

The museum also showcases Bartolomeo della Gatta's "Assumption" and nine panels by Luca Signorelli. Immerse yourself in Old Testament tales depicted in frescoes by Doceno, adorned with Vasari's designs in Sottochiesa.

Don't miss the hall of jewelry and vestments, featuring exceptional pieces like Michele di Tome's cup with translucent enamels, Giusto Vagnucci's reliquary, and the opulent Passerini parried a 16th-century Florentine masterpiece.

Address: Piazza del duomo, 1 Cortona

Full Ticket: € 6.00 audio guide included
Reduced and Reduced Groups: € 4.00

From April 1st to October 31st
Every day from 10.30 to 13:30 and then from 14:00  to 18.30

From November 1st to December 24th
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10.00 to 17.00

From December 26 to January 8
Every day from 10.30 to 13:30 and then from 14:00 to 18.30

From January 10 to March 31:
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 10:00 to 17.00

Closed on December 25th


  • Savoring Cortona: Tuscan Culinary Tradition


While in Cortona, don't miss the opportunity for lunch or dinner at a local restaurant in town.


Lunch in Cortona cuisine Tuscany tours from Rome


Cortona's culinary heritage is deeply rooted in its peasant civilization, characterized by simplicity and robust flavors. As you explore the town's trattorias and restaurants, you'll discover a diverse and exceptional dining experience that showcases the essence of Tuscan cuisine.

Begin your gastronomic adventure with Tuscan classics, such as the delightful black crostini with chicken livers, bruschetta drizzled with freshly pressed olive oil featuring black cabbage, and the refreshing Panzanella salad. These appetizers set the stage for an unforgettable meal.

Moving on to the first courses, indulge in authentic Tuscan flavors with dishes like pici or homemade pasta generously coated in ragù, soul-warming bread soup, and rich pappardelle pasta adorned with tender hare. 

The main course offerings are equally enticing, featuring succulent roasts of goose, rabbit, chicken, and game meats, as well as hearty options like tripe, slow-cooked wild boar stew, tender veal steak, and savory pork livers. Don't forget to savor the earthy goodness of porcini mushrooms. Complementing these delectable main courses, you'll find side dishes like beans all'uccelletto, which perfectly encapsulate the town's rich culinary heritage. 

Cortona's cuisine is a celebration of tradition, flavor, and the heartwarming essence of Tuscan life.


  • Explore the Sacred places in Cortona


For a longer visit such as spending a day in Cortona, or if you are staying in Cortona for a few days there's much more to explore!

A simple glance at the numerous bell towers and architectural treasures scattered throughout Cortona offers a profound glimpse into the spiritual essence of this historic town. It is a place where saints and blessed individuals have left an indelible mark, leaving behind a significant testament to the abundance of active convents and churches that once thrived here. 

Today, many of these churches remain open to the public, each offering a unique spiritual experience. From Romanesque and Gothic marvels to cloistered monasteries, collegiate churches, and sanctuaries, Cortona's sacred landscape is rich and diverse. 

While the town boasts an abundance of churches where one can find solace and reflection, we have included two compelling sacred sites that are a must-see in Cortona.


Church of Santa Margherita

Church of Santa Margherita Cortona from Rome Tuscany tours


The Church of Santa Margherita is a testament to faith and artistic prowess, dedicated to the patron saint of Cortona. This devout Franciscan tertiary shaped the spiritual and cultural destiny of the Observant Franciscans from these sacred grounds.

After her passing in 1297, a church was commissioned in her honor. Adjacent to the ancient Church of St. Basil, restored lovingly by Margherita herself and chosen for penance and prayer, the sanctuary took form. By 1304, the sacred structure stood complete, adorned with frescoes that evolved throughout the subsequent century.

While the current structure underwent a thorough reconstruction in the Roman-Gothic style between 1856 and 1897, retaining only the central rose window on the main facade from its 14th-century origins, the interior remains a testament to Margherita's enduring legacy. Above the main altar, visitors can behold the preserved remains of Cortona's patron saint, lovingly encased in a precious silver shrine crafted according to Pietro Berrettini's design in 1646.

In August 1927, the Church of Santa Margherita was bestowed the honor of a minor basilica—a testament to its enduring significance.

The Monastery of Saint Francis "Le Celle"

Monastery of Saint Francis Le Celle in Cortona day trips from Rome to Tuscany


Tucked away amidst the caves of Mount Sant'Egidio, a mere 10-minute journey from Cortona, lies the Hermitage of Celle—a sacred retreat steeped in history and closely tied to the legacy of St. Francis of Assisi. Even after receiving the stigmata, St. Francis sought solace here in 1226, shortly before his passing. This timeless complex, meticulously renovated in 1969, seamlessly melds with the surrounding natural beauty, beckoning visitors to embrace silence and contemplation.

The architecture of the Hermitage gracefully follows the contours of the land, with monastic cells and convent chambers cascading along the slopes of the valley, connected by charming stone bridges.

Inside the convent, one can still glimpse the Cellar of Saint Francis—a humble chamber where the saint rested in 1226 during a period of illness. This sacred space bears witness to the enduring legacy of St. Francis and his profound connection to this tranquil sanctuary.

Address:Strada dei Cappuccini 1, Cortona
Open: From 7:00 AM to 7:00 PM
Free Admission


Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie al Calcinaio

Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie al Calcinaio  best things to see and do in Cortona day tour from Rome to Tuscany


If you take a look beyond Cortona from the terrace in Piazza Garibaldi, you will spot a picturesque church just below the town.  This is the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie al Calcinaio in Calcinaio, and best known for a miraculous event in 1484 when an image of the Madonna and Child painted on a tanning leather tank began performing miracles. This image still adorns the main altar.

The Guild of Shoemakers, who used the location for lime vats, later built a sacred temple dedicated to the Madonna. Architect Francesco di Giorgio Martini led the construction. The church's exterior was largely complete by the early 16th century, featuring a dome designed by Pietro di Domenico di Norbo. The church has had varied uses, including as part of the Episcopal Seminary, and was elevated to a diocesan Marian sanctuary in 1985 by Bishop D'Ascenzi.

Upon entering the church, you will find it surprisingly empty. The Sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Grazie impresses with its simple, essential, geometric design, symbolizing the sacredness of the Presence. The octagonal dome represents spiritual renewal and victory over evil while leading to a sense of divine illumination in everyday life. Designed by Francesco di Giorgio Martini, this church embodies Renaissance architectural principles, balancing grandeur with simplicity.


  • Explore areas outside of Cortona


You have the option to extend your exploration of Cortona's surroundings, either by strolling on foot or taking a short drive. For instance, you can walk from Cortona's center to Villa Bramasole, but if you're interested in visiting nearby archaeological sites, you'll need to reach them by car.


Villa Bramasole: Living the "Under the Tuscan Sun" Dream

Villa Bramasole the Under the Tuscan Sun Cortona tours from Rome to Tuscany


Tucked away above Cortona lies Villa Bramasole, a picturesque centuries-old Tuscan villa surrounded by idyllic Tuscan landscapes that boast a captivating history. Acclaimed American author Francis Mayes fell under its spell, transforming it into her summer haven. 

Mayes' memoir, "Under the Tuscan Sun", wove a mesmerizing tapestry of this world, celebrating its vibrant colors, scents, flavors, and recipes. Today, this villa has become a pilgrimage for travelers from around the globe who yearn to step into the pages of her best-selling book and see the villa for themselves. The villa is a  half-hour walk from Cortona's "Parterre" public gardens, covering approximately 4 kilometers. As the villa is a private residence it can only be admired from the outside.

Location: Strada Provinciale, 239 – 52044 Cortona (AR)


Etruscan Tombs: Unearthing Ancient Mysteries


The Archaeological Park of Sodo, just 4 kilometers from Cortona's base, conceals an archaic wonder—the Melone tumulus. Discovered in 1909, this artificial mound boasts a central chamber encircled by four intriguing chambers, all linked by a corridor.

The 2003 excavations unveiled part of the original socle. Nearby, the Melone II of Sodo, dating back to antiquity, harbors two inner tombs. Tomb I, unearthed in 1928/9, features a pseudo-vault roof, while Tomb II, discovered in 1991, yielded a trove of golden grave artifacts. Ascend an altar platform, unveiled in 1990, adorned with reliefs and sculptures, and connect with the ancient Etruscan world.

  • NOTE: at the time this blog was written, the archaeological site was closed due to restorations.  Be sure to inquire in advance if the site is open for visits to avoid making an unnecessary drive.

Open every day from 10.00 AM to 2:00 PM and from 3:00 PM to 6:00 PM
Closed on December 25th, January 1st and Easter

For more information: / Tel. +39 0575 630
Location:  Sodo di Cortona 52044 Cortona (AR)



  • The best way to get to Cortona from Rome

When planning your journey from Rome to Cortona, you'll find several transportation options to suit your preferences. 

Taking the Train from Rome to Cortona

If you're budget-conscious, the most economical choice is to hop on a train. Departing from Rome's primary train hub, Roma Termini, you can catch a direct train bound for Camucia or Terontola-Cortona, which are the closest train stations to Cortona. The train journey is around 2.5 to 3.5 hours, depending on the type of train and the number of stops. 

Upon arriving at Camucia or Terontola-Cortona, a taxi ride (or bus journey) will get you to Cortona. It's wise to check ahead for taxi availability and bus schedules to ensure a smooth transition from station to town.


Renting a Car from Rome to Cortona

For travelers who prefer a flexible itinerary and who will be exploring more of Tuscany independently, renting a car in Rome is an appealing option. With a rental car, you have the freedom to explore Tuscany's breathtaking landscapes at your own pace. However, do note that driving in a foreign country may come with unique challenges, and parking in Cortona's historic town center can be quite a feat due to ZTL (Traffic Limited Zones) restrictions.

Private Transfer from Rome to Cortona

If comfort and convenience are your top priorities, arranging a private transfer from Rome to Cortona is an excellent choice. Private transfers guarantee a seamless door-to-door service, ensuring a stress-free journey. 

You can even opt for RomeCabs' private long-range transfers from Rome to Cortona, as well as hassle-free transfers from Rome Airport to Cortona and back. Regardless of your chosen mode of transportation, your voyage from Rome to Cortona promises to be an unforgettable Italian adventure.


Tuscany Tours from Rome to Cortona

If you are staying in Rome and have only one day to experience Cortona, embark on a day tour from Rome to Cortona in a private deluxe vehicle accompanied by an English-speaking driver is a delightful way to explore the stunning landscapes of Tuscany.

RomeCabs' private tours from Rome to Tuscany offer a perfect blend of comfort and adventure as you journey through the picturesque Tuscan countryside.

You'll have the opportunity to visit not only Cortona but also other charming destinations combining a Tuscany Tour to Cortona and Arezzo or exploring Cortona and Montepulicano from Rome. Discover the rich history, art, and culinary treasures of these enchanting towns while relishing the convenience and luxury of a private tour.



During a day tour from Rome to Cortona, with limited time to spare, you can still savor the essence of this charming town. Explore Cortona's historical center by leisurely strolling through its bustling streets and picturesque squares and take in the Tuscan atmosphere. Window shop,  pay a visit to local museums, and treat yourself to the mouthwatering flavors of the region at a nearby ristorante or trattoria. This enchanting experience provides a delightful taste of Cortona's rich heritage and vibrant atmosphere.

With personalized attention and the flexibility to tailor the experience to your interests, day tours from Rome to Cortona and its neighboring gems promise an unforgettable Italian escapade.

Thank you for reading our travel blog and for choosing Stefano's RomeCabs for your sightseeing tours in Italy from Rome and private Transfers in Italy! We look forward to showing you beautiful places.

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