Last Updated on March 17, 2023

The beautiful Tuscan town of Cortona was made famous in Frances Mayes’s book Under the Tuscan Sun, attracting visitors from all over the world who want to experience the magic for themselves. However, Cortona’s history spans back to the Etruscan period between the 8th and 7th centuries BC.

Explore Etruscan, Roman and Italian history in this medieval hillside town while enjoying incredible dining, world-class wines and breathtaking scenery. While you can hit the highlights in a daytrip if you’re staying elsewhere in Tuscany, the town also makes a great homebase of its own.

If you’re wondering what there is to do in Cortona, we’ve got you covered!

Tours and Classes

Cortona Walking Tour

Photo courtesy of Viator

Cortona is a great town to explore on foot, but it’s always nice to have someone who can take you to all the best spots and share with you the local culture. From medieval history to panoramic views, you’ll be captivated by this charming town.

On this private walking tour, a certified local guide will spend a couple of hours showing you around, and then you can head back and spend more time at the spots that interested you later in your trip.

Stops along the tour include: Duomo di Cortona, Piazza Signorelli, Palazzo Casali and Chiesa San Francesco. You’ll also spend time in the historical core. There are no extra admission fees at any of the stops.

Check availability for the private walking tour of Cortona

E-Bike Tour of Cortona

Photo courtesy of Viator

Although Cortona is a walkable town, an e-bike tour will allow you to see even more of this beautiful village and its surroundings in the Tuscan countryside.

During this 3-4-hour tour, you’ll make a stop at the Fortezza di Girifalco, the most panoramic point just below the fortress. Then you’ll ride on to the Basilica di Santa Margherita atop the hill of Cortona. Here, you’ll have time to visit the paintings inside and admire the architecture of the façade. Last, you’ll continue to the Eremo Le Celle, a sanctuary for Franciscan monks.

The rental includes the e-bike, a bicycle helmet, snacks and three stops to explore the local history (no additional admission fees). Tour groups are limited to 8 travelers.

Check availability for e-bike tour

Cooking Class in Cortona

Photo courtesy of Viator

Taking a cooking class is something many of us want to do while in Italy, and Cortona is a great place to do it. This hands-on class takes place in a local chef’s kitchen, allowing you to completely immerse yourself in this cultural experience.

In this class, you’ll prepare a seasonal meal using local ingredients, including antipasto, handmade pasta and sauce, a second course with side dish and dessert. After you’re done, grab a glass of local wine and enjoy your creation!

Check availability for this cooking class in Cortona

Vegetarian/Vegan Cooking Class

Photo courtesy of Get Your Guide

Are you vegetarian or vegan? Immerse yourself in Italian food and culture in this vegetarian/vegan cooking class.

You’ll start with a cup of espresso to get to know the others in your class (limited to 8 participants). Then your local chef will teach you everything you need to know to create delectable Tuscan cuisine. While your meal is cooking, you’ll spend time in the garden and enjoy a 360-degree panoramic view of the Valdichiana valley.

Dinner will be served on the terrace, weather permitting. You’ll also enjoy local wine with your meal.

Check availability for vegetarian/vegan cooking class

Brunello and Montepulciano Wine Tour from Cortona

Vineyards near Montalcino
Vineyards near Montalcino | Photo credit: Shutterstock/Richard Semik

Not up for navigating confusing rural roads on your own to explore the incredible vineyards near Cortona? Even if you could drive, you’ll have more fun (and can drink more wine) if you don’t!

This great wine tour from Cortona will take you to where two of Italy’s flagship wines are produced: Brunello di Montalcino and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano. You’ll experience three winery tours and tastings, a pairing lunch at a historic winery and stop in the town of Pienza for a cheese tasting. Sit back and enjoy a day of beautiful scenery and award-winning wines.

Check availability for the Brunello and Montepulciano Wine Tour from Cortona

What to See in Cortona

Piazza della Repubblica

The Piazza della Repubblica is the heart of Cortona, having served as the city center since Roman times. The Palazzo del Capitano, which previously served as the cardinal’s residence, is the centerpiece of this medieval-style piazza. Great for people-watching, dining or shopping, it’s probably somewhere you’ll find yourself more than once on your trip to Cortona.

Villa Bramasole

Villa Bramasole in Cortona
Villa Bramasole in Cortona | Photo credit: Shutterstock/Atyesz

A can’t-miss for many is Bramasole, the house Mayes made famous in Under the Tuscan Sun. Although this home is privately owned, you can view it from the outside. It’s an easy walk or drive from the town center (directions here).

Convento delle Celle/Eremo Le Celle

A great place for quiet contemplation, many visitors to Cortona make the 10-minute trip to Convent delle Celle. The Hermitage monastery here was built by St. Francis of Assisi in 1211, and he lived here briefly. The dwellings of the monks and the convent are built like stairsteps from the valley going up the hillside, nestled among the natural caves of Mount Sant’Egidio.

Museo Diocesano di Cortona

The Museo Diocesano di Cortona is located inside the former church of Gesu in Piazza del Duomo. Here, you’ll find art and historical artifacts from local churches belonging to the diocese. Some of the most important works are from artists such as Pietro Lorenzetti, Beato Angelico, Bartolomeo della Gatta, Sassetta and Luca Signorelli. One of the most impressive pieces in the collection is a Roman sarcophagus that dates back to the 2nd century AD with the Combat between Dionysus and the Amazons, which was found near the cathedral.

Basilica di Santa Margherita

The painted ceilings of Basilica Santa Margherita in Cortona
Photo credit: Shutterstock/ValerioMei

On a hillside overlooking Cortona, Basilica di Santa Margherita is a church that dates back to the 13th century. Its neo-Gothic architecture and stunning interior are a must for any Cortona visit. Enjoy its beautifully painted ceiling, art collection and a silver altar that holds the preserved body of its namesake, St. Margaret.

Museo del’Accademia Etrusca (MAEC)

Museo del’Accademia Etrusca, also called the MEAC, houses an incredible array of historic artifacts and art found in and around Cortona since the 1700s. Divided into two sections, one focused on the Etruscan Academy and one on more recent findings from Cortona, the MEAC takes visitors from 580 BC through the present. Some of the most notable pieces include the celebrated Etruscan Chandelier, ancient Egyptian burial goods and works by futurist master Gino Severini.

Where to Stay in Cortona

Looking for a place to stay in Cortona? One of our fabulous writers, Linda Funay McCarley, frequents Cortona and has scoped out a great Cortona vacation rentals she recommends:

Finestra sul Teatro: A Cortona Vacation Rental in the City’s Historic Center (read her review)

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