Italy here I come!
Imagine you are heading to Italy, and your head is full of all the places you want to see. But where to start? Do you head to the Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre or explore Tuscany? Not to mention Rome, Venice, Milan and Florence. And that is just the tip of the iceberg!
This post is part of a series of One and Two Day Itineraries for places in Italy that I think you will love. And to make it easy for you each one comes with a downloadable itinerary, already timed and scheduled for you, so all you have to do is go. Of course, you can be flexible and use our ideas as suggestions, but if you are not a planner, short on time or are just looking for ease and convenience then, by all means, grab it and slot it into your Italian Itinerary. Our gift to you!
Here are other articles in the series:
Everyone wants to explore Tuscany. I mean why wouldn’t you? With rolling hills of grass rippling in the breeze dotted with ancient villas and overlooked by medieval hilltop towns. Tuscany is gorgeous! The scenery, the food, the wine and the people.
I fell in love with Cortona on a previous 6-day stay. We stayed at the Villa Marsili, a beautiful place if you want to spoil yourself, and ate at some cafes and restaurants and had fun doing a little bit of shopping and a whole lot of exploring.
I have put together this One Day in Cortona, although I highly recommend more time if you have it. But Cortona is an easily manageable place, and it is easy to see most of the main sites in one day.
Cortona is a 2.5-hour train ride from Rome and about the same time if you decide to drive. Please note that if you drive, you need to park outside the city walls.
From Florence, the train ride is just under two hours and a 1.5-hour drive.
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Where to Start
I recommend you get to Cortona as early as possible to maximise the time you have.
If you have parked in one of the free parking places below the city walls you will find an escalator that will take you to the top. And at the top, you will find Piazza Garibaldi.
The views from here are stunning overlooking the valley below and all the way to Lake Trasimeno. Take time to take some photos and take it all in.
Warning: DO NOT be tempted to try the restaurant to the right for lunch, dinner or any meal. Don’t be seduced by the views. I will just say that the fake grass should have been a warning sign.
Instead, if you are planning on staying for dinner before heading out, I would highly recommend Bottega Baracchi Wine Bar & Bistro. It is located on your left as you start walking up Via Nationale. There is an outdoor deck/bar area that overlooks Piazza Garibaldi. The food and service here were fantastic.
And if you haven’t had breakfast this may be a good place to start the day! Although breakfast does not start until 10.30 am, so lunch maybe?
View from Piazza Garibaldi
The view from Piazza Garibaldi
But if coffee is what you are looking for then I recommend Caffe Bar Signorelli located near Piazza della Repubblica. They were always open when we headed out for our early morning walk, and the staff were friendly.
There were other cafes, but this one was convenient for me.
And this cafe is also close to the Visitor’s Information Centre where I suggest you pop into and grab a map (if you haven’t already printed the one above) before your coffee. You will find it marked on the map. Then you can get your bearings while you relax and plan your day if you choose to do your own itinerary.
Sit at the outdoor seating at Caffe Bar Signorelli or if very early you can sit comfortably inside.
Seated at Caffe Bar Signorelli, Cortona
Caffe Bar Signorelli on the right
Church of Santa Margherita
Next stop is the Church of Santa Margherita. You can drive up to the church which sits high above the town of Cortona; however, if you are feeling energetic then I suggest you walk up. Be warned it is steep, but when you look back, the views are spectacular.
The story of Saint Margaret is an interesting one. You can read the full story here. Saint Margaret’s body lies preserved in a casket in the Church which was rebuilt in her honour.
It is worth the walk, and I would recommend you give yourself some time to look around.
A bit of a walk up, but manageable
Read More: A Tuscan Town called Cortona
And if you think you would like just a little bit more exercise, hike up the hill further to the 16th century Medici Fortress that sits above the Church of Santa Margherita.
The Fortress is open from 10 am – 6 pm April – June and 11 am – 1.30 pm and 2.30 pm – 7 pm July to October.
Tickets are – € 3,00 – Adult and € 1,50 – Children’s from 6 up to 12 years old.
As you come back down into Cortona, take the time to wander around. You can walk to the city walls easily, and the view is spectacular. I would suggest you find the little street, Via Janelli, where you can see medieval half-timbered homes still in use.
Medieval Half-Timbered Houses
Walk along the city walls and take in the beautiful views
Piazza della Repubblica
After such a strenuous morning head down to the Piazza della Repubblica for some rest.
The Piazza is where life bubbles away here. With a large variety of shops and cafes surrounding it is an interesting place to sit and people watch.
The Piazza is the heart of Cortona and indeed, should not be missed.
Take some time to lunch and then browse through the stores around the Piazza and explore the laneways. You will find antiques, handbags or maybe grab a gelato. You can look at cashmere items or browse art galleries.
Etruscan Academy Museum
After lunch and a bit of shopping head up to the Piazza Signorelli and the Etruscan Academy Museum.
Cortona was once an Etruscan centre and the best place to see Etruscan artefacts and remnants of their existence is here. Housed in the Palazzo Casali, the museum consists of four floors and is an impressive building in itself to see.
As well as Etruscan artefacts, the museum also houses Roman artefacts, Renaissance art and a Greek collection.
The museum is open every day except Mondays from:
April – October from 10.00 am to 7.00 pm and
November – March from 10.00am to 5.00 pm
Tickets are €8.00.
To finish off your time in Cortona itself I would suggest a visit to the beautiful Parterre Gardens located on the edge of the city overlooking the valley and out to Lake Trasimeno.
The Parterre Gardens are a delightful parkway lined with trees and greenery. It is a lovely place to take a walk and relax. If you walk to the end of the parkway, you can see in the distance, Bramasole, the villa brought to fame by Frances Mayes’ book, Under the Tuscan Sun. The movie of the same name was also filmed in Cortona.
End your time in Cortona with a visit to the Monastery founded in 1211 by St Francis of Assisi and his followers. It sits nestled in the forest near Cortona. You may or may not see any of the monks, but take a look at the small chapel and the cell occupied by St Francis.
Take in the peace and tranquillity. Listen to the water in the stream cascade down the mountain. Take a walk on the path through the forest.
It is possible to walk here, but with limited time I would suggest you organise a taxi. Or drive yourself.
If you decide to hire a taxi, you can negotiate a pickup time so that you don’t need to worry about calling when you have finished, and they can take you back to the train station if need be.
The Monastery is open from 7.00 am to 7.00 pm.
For information on taxis find out more here.
Or we also recommend Enzo Belleri, firstname.lastname@example.org. We used a couple of different services during our stay in Cortona and found both to reasonable in price and reliable.
We used both services during our stay in Cortona and found both to reasonable in price and reliable.
And they are both Enzos! It did get a little confusing.
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