Cortona For 3 Days/Nights - Area Things To Do/See

After RS 9 day Heart of Italy Tour ends in Florence morning of June 21, I have reservations in Cortona at Hotel San Luca for 3 nights.
Although I'm allowing time to relax there and just stroll around the main square and sampling good food, I do want to schedule some activities away from the square.

  1. Is there anyone with experience in Cortona that can suggest things to do and see around the area.
  2. I'm open to walking, biking, hiking, renting a car, regional trains.
  3. By train, is a day trip to Sienna, returning to Cortona by nightfall, feasable?
  4. Other day trips by train.
  5. Easy car day trips, where the driving would be country driving, not much traffic.

My interest in Cortona came from watching the movie Under The Tuscan Sun -- movie was fun, and Cortona seems like a nice, peaceful (but active), very old Tuscan hill town with a lot of history. Is my impression correct, and choice to visit there a pretty good choice?
And of course, one activity would be to take a walk to the house featured in the movie - I think it is close to the town, a couple of miles.

Any comments will be appreciated ------ Thanks, Jim.

Posted by Roberto
Fremont, CA, USA
6702 posts

If you use Cortona as a base I'd recommend renting a car. There is a train station in nearby Camucia, but a car would give you more flexibility for a stay in a small village in the countryside, such as Cortona.
A day trip to Siena by car is very feasible (one hour drive one way), less so by train (3 hours, when everything is factored in).

Posted by Holly
Watertown, MA
65 posts

You can take a day trip to Arezzo by bus. The bus departs at the lower part of the town, a quick walk from the central square.

Posted by jkc
535 posts

Assisi, Perugia, Spello, Spoleto all are easy train trips, once u get to the train

Posted by Linda
Hendersonville, NC
84 posts

Hi Jim,

I spent 3 days in Cortona last May. It's a good place to relax, but not too much else. The travel info office will give you directions to Frances Mayes house. It's a pleasant walk and the house is beautiful. You can easily take day trips to other towns from there with a car. Have fun.

Posted by maryc
34 posts

Hi Jim,
Cortona really is a lovely hill town, and I think you will enjoy being there post-tour. The train from Florence takes about 1 1/2 hours, and If you arrive at least by 2pm on that Saturday, you can check out the market at Piazza Signorelli. I would make it a point of getting there at least by 6pm, to be able to stop by the Tourist Information for their maps, directions, tips, etc. If you are interested in a cooking school while you're there, check out this husband-and-wife team's classes at (closed Monday).
If you are not particularly interested in renting a car, there are still some good day-trip possibilities.Thirty minutes away by train is Chiusi, with an interesting Etruscan museum and good food. Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis, is about an hour away by train.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
24148 posts


The others have provided lots of good information and I tend to agree with Linda's comments. Cortona is a beautiful smaller city but there's not a lot to do there in terms of sightseeing activities. As I recall there are some nice Churches and smaller Museums, but it won't take long to see those. There are also some nice restaurants and the atmosphere in the evenings is vibrant and lively as all the shops are open.

Regarding a walk to Bramasole, as you may be aware the house used in the movie is not the "real" Bramasole where Frances Mayes lives. I believe the house used in the movie is called Villa Laura and is now a luxury rental property. It was extensively renovated after the movie shoot, so looks quite different now.

In addition to watching Under the Tuscan Sun, you might also enjoy having a look at the Andre Rieu Tuscany concert that was filmed in Cortona a few years ago. The DVD is available on Amazon, and THIS is one of the songs from the concert (I used this one as it shows some views of the city).

Regarding "easy car day trips", you'll need to be vigilant to avoid the dreaded ZTL (limited traffic) areas, as expensive tickets will result. Cortona also has ZTL areas but there's a large car park just below Piazza Garibaldi (free as I recall) and you can get from there up to town via two Escalators and stairs. Also, you'll need the compulsory International Driver's Permit, which is used in conjunction with your home D.L.

If you'd prefer to travel by public transport, you can buy tickets for the Bus to the Camucia station (about 15 minutes) at a small Tabac, which is just below Piazza Garibladi where the Bus stop is located (the arrow in the bottom left corner of the photo is the top of the stairs which lead down to the Escalators to the car park). I can't remember where to buy tickets at the station for the trip uphill, but you may be able to buy a ticket from the driver (have small change at hand).

One restaurant that I'd recommend in Cortona is Trattoria La Grotta. I found the food to be excellent, and I dined there several times. It's accessible via an alley off Piazza della Repubblica.