We fell in love with Cortona on our first trip to Italy in 2014 and, even though it was a two hour drive from Montepozzo, we just had to revisit. Yes, it is another Etruscan hilltown but from an elevation of 600 metres, the panorama across the Val di Chiana and Lake Trasimeno is breathtaking.
The alluvial valley covers 2,300 square kilometres and is home to the Chianina cattle, the largest breed in the world and one of the oldest. The beef is sold at premium prices by approved butchers and you will pay handsomely for Bistecca alla Fiorentina in any ristorante.
The Chiesa di Santa Maria delle Grazie was built on the site of a former tannery where, in 1484, an image of the Madonna and Child, painted on the wall of a basin used for tanning leather, began to perform miracles. Because of the steep terrain and presence of a stream, the building wasn’t completed until 1525 and the original icon is still visible on the high altar in the church.
We made our way along narrow stone streets
to Piazza della Repubblica, the centre of the city since Roman times. There was so much to take in around the piazza; gorgeous shops, medieval architecture and sunshine.
We enjoyed coffee & pastries while being serenaded from the steps of the Palazzo Comunale. The town hall was built in the 12th century on the ruins of the Forum of the Roman City and was extended in the 1500s.
Pietro Berrettini was a 17th century Italian Baroque painter and architect. Although he worked mainly in Rome and Florence, he was known by the name of his native town, Pietro da Cortona.
We wandered around Piazza Signorelli
before exploring the shops along Via Nazionale
and celebrating our purchases with an Aperol Spritz in Piazza Garibaldi.
We retraced our steps to lunch at Caffè degli Artisti, seated in the street we savoured our surroundings as much as the food.
Starting with bruschetta, we decided on ravioli with butter & sage, pici with cream, porcini mushrooms, sausage & truffle sauce and pici with walnuts, gorgonzola cheese & pear.
Reluctant to leave, we returned to the car and drove to the top of the town to see Fortezza del Girifalco and the fascinating Basilica di Santa Margherita but that is another story.