Cortona is a breathtakingly picturesque hilltop village in Tuscany. Our family of four (kids 9 & 11) visited for 3 nights in May and fell completely in love with this place… our only regret is not staying longer.
Why did we visit Cortona?
We wanted to get a feel for the ‘real’ Italy. It was a tip off from a work colleague that put Cortona on the list of places that would tick that box and as soon as I googled it I knew it was going to make the itinerary. That being said, I wasn’t quite prepared for how beautiful it is there and how much there is to see and explore, all without the crowds that were such a hinderance everywhere else we visited.
What makes Cortona so special?
It’s small, beautiful and has old school charm
Photos simply cannot capture how amazingly gorgeous Cortona is and just wandering through the streets is an experience in itself. On the subject of walking, one of the best things about Cortona is that you can walk to everything because the town itself is quite small… it is on a hillside though, so it can still be a bit of a workout!
Food & Wine
The best food and wine we experienced in Italy was during our stay in Cortona… whether we were eating out or eating at home.
On Saturday’s there is a market in the main piazza where you can buy all sorts of local produce. One of my favourite experiences in Italy is muddling through with my very mediocre Italian (thanks DuoLingo) to buy some salami, pecorino, bread and tomatoes at this market… eating it was pretty fun too! There is also a small grocery store in the main piazza where you can get most of the essentials.
Our AirBnb host recommended a trattoria a short walk from our apartment. Trattoria Toscana (the name is different to what’s listed on the aforementioned Google maps link) was fantastic and cheap too with generous servings of delicious home made pasta and great wine in a relaxed setting.
To celebrate my 40th birthday we went to a more upmarket ristorante, Bottega Barracchi, in the more touristy part of town. This Barracchi family grows their own wine (grapes) and olive oil. The bottle of wine we had with dinner certainly was the highlight of the night. The food was good and they made up a pasta meal for the kids. This outing was more expensive than anywhere else we dined in Italy but that was mostly because of the wine (which was worth every penny). At least the menu provided a rest from he pizza and pasta we’d been eating!
Art, Architecture and History… minus the crowds
Cortona is a treasure trove of art, architecture and history. The quiet streets and venues are such an antidote to the tourist bustle of the major attractions elsewhere in Italy and makes the experience so much better for kids.
The MAEC Museum
The MAEC Museum (Museum of the Etruscan Civilisation) is oh so more awesome and encompassing than its name suggests. Cortona has a fascinating human history pre-dating the Etruscans right up to the present day and this is beautifully captured by the displays here and while it is fairly small, as far as museums go, it is well designed walking you through the pre-human history of the area leading you through the different eras in succession. I’ve been to a lot of museums with my kids and this was a standout… if you want to give your kids (and yourself) an education on how our human society evolved then this is a really good place to start. The entry cost €24 (family). Allow 2 hours. There is also an archeological park associated with this museum.
The Diocesan Museum
Want to see beautiful renaissance paintings with absolutely no crowds or lines?… then look no further than the Diocesan Museum! This museum is home to a small but beautiful collection of art and you will probably have the place nearly to yourself… we did! Admission was €10 (family of 4). Allow 1 hour.
The Fortress of Girifalco
We were told about the Fortress of Girifalco or Fortezza del Girifalco by our taxi driver and we found it by accident when walking up to the Sanctuary of Santa Margherita (it’s right next door). This place is super cool and a must see if you are in Cortona with kids plus it has spectacular views! Admission (family of 4) was €16. Allow 1 hour.
The Sanctuary of Santa Margherita
It didn’t take us long to find out that Santa Margherita, the patron saint of Cortona, holds a special place in the hearts of the locals and they credit her with shielding them from the bombs in World War II. Santa Margherita’s 800 year old remains are preserved and on display in this beautiful church. It’s well worth a (respectful) visit. Allow 30 mins.
How much did it cost?
Cost listed here are what we paid and cover our family of 2 adults & 2 children
- Taxi to & from Camucia Cortona station to Cortona Airbnb €35 euro
- AirBnb for 3 nights €397
- Fortress tickets €16 euro
- Lunch at Trattoria Toscano €45 euro
- Gelato (4) €17 euro
- Groceries (mostly dinner ingredients) €12 euro
- Salami and cheese from the market €11.70 euro
- tomatoes from market €2.50 euro
- Bread from bakery €3.50 euro
- Diocesan Museum €10 euro (family ticket)
- MAERC Museum €28 euro (€7 euro each)
- Groceries €3.5 euro
- Birthday dinner €115 euro