Food & Wine of Cortona
Food & Wine of Cortona

Ultimate Cortona Food & Wine Guide

Cortona is a gorgeous hilltop town located in the heart of Italy and in the beautiful region of Tuscany. This breathtaking town offers stunning panoramic views of the Tuscany countryside and the neighboring foothills of the Umbria region. The town itself is full of charm whether you are watching the evening sunset from an outdoor terrace, strolling the adorable shops during an evening passeggiata, or visiting historical ruins. Perhaps the only thing more wonderful than the scenery in Cortona is the authentic Italian cuisine.

In 2003, the American movie Under the Tuscan Sun made its debut and featured the town of Cortona. Ever since, there has been a notable increase in the number of Americans and other travelers who frequent the city for their vacations with dreams of taking wine tasting tours through the local wineries, harvesting olives, and making fresh olive oil.

As in many places in Italy, meal time is an event of sorts. In other countries, meals are typically fast-paced without too much lingering, but in Cortona, and the rest of Italy, you can expect the opposite. People here live a slower-paced life taking care to enjoy all that every moment has to offer. Meals are considered to be a time for relaxation and delicious indulgence that is best enjoyed with a glass of wine and good friends. Travelers should expect mealtime to last two hours or more and should willingly immerse themselves in this time-honored Italian tradition.


Cortona is known for simple dishes that taste wildly complex due to the infusion of local flavors and quality ingredients. One plate that exemplifies the best of these worlds is the traditional appetizer that features locally-made cheeses, cured meat, and fresh homemade bread.

Pecorino cheese is one of the specialty cheeses produced in Cortona and is made from sheep’s milk. This cheese can be served as an accent for a first or second course meal or even served on its own alongside nuts, sweet honey, and a variety of delicious jams.

Bruschetta is delicious bread-based appetizer. These grilled or toasted pieces of bread are rubbed with garlic and topped with deliciously fresh ingredients, such as diced tomatoes. This crunchy appetizer is particularly savory since it is made with fresh, locally grown ingredients.

In addition to bruschetta, another classic Tuscan appetizer is crostini. These small slices of toasted bread can be topped with a variety of ingredients. In Cortona, the most popular option is a chicken liver spread with capers and anchovies.


One of the more uniquely Tuscan flavored first course options is that of pappa al pomodoro. This amazing hearty tomato soup is adored by locals and visitors alike. The secret of this dish’s success is the fresh chunks of tomatoes, basil, extra virgin olive oil, and a healthy helping of bread mixed in. The dish is the result of a peasant recipe that featured stale bread as a way of not letting any food go to waste.

The Italian staple of homemade pasta is a standard first course here in Cortona. Regardless of what form the pasta takes, the dishes are fabulous if you like pasta in general. Be delightfully forewarned that enjoying fresh, homemade pasta from Italy is an entirely different experience than the dry boxed version found abroad. Cortona’s pasta dishes often feature a variety of sauces that can range from hearty tomato to cheesy and creamy.

One may find locals choosing to order a pasta called pici. These noodles are typically thicker than spaghetti and are served with a wide variety of options from wild game sauces to fresh vegetables.

Risotto is another delicious first course option. In one version of this rice-based dish, the risotto is fabulously enhanced with a splash of wine, locally made olive oil, broth, herbs, and a few mushrooms thrown in for good measure.

In traditional Tuscan cooking, nothing goes to waste, and, as a result tripe, is the basis of some local dishes in Cortona and other parts of the region. During the first course, locals may enjoy a tripe soup.


Second courses in Italy are generally considered meat-based dishes. With Cortona being renowned for serving some of the best and most delicious beef in the region, it goes without saying that second courses are a bit of a specialty here.
Chianina is thought to be one of the largest and oldest breeds of cattle in the world. The Chianina roam nearby allowing the people of Cortona to indulge in some of the finest steaks served in Italy. This type of steak is usually cut thick, seasoned with salt and locally made olive oil, and then cooked on a wood barbeque pit. To dine on a tenderly prepared Chianina steak at a table in Cortona along with a glass of locally made wine, may be the highlight of the trip for some foodies.

One traditional dish may be considered a bit more peculiar to international visitors due to its base ingredient: snails. Throughout Italy, snails have featured in local cuisine since the time of the Ancient Romans. In Tuscany, snails feature prominently in peasant cooking, and today Cortonese style snails have been elevated to the realm of gourmet cuisine. The snails are cooked with fresh ingredients, such as peeled tomatoes, anchovies, thyme, rosemary, sage, celery, onions, carrots, fennel, and garlic.

Another traditional peasant dish is panzanella, which is emblematic of the summer season. This light and fresh salad consists of soaked stale bread that is enhanced with olive oil, salt, vinegar, and pepper and mixed with seasonal vegetables, such as tomatoes and onions, as well as herbs, such as basil and mint.


For Cortona’s staple meat-based second course dishes, there is no more perfect accompaniment than roasted potatoes or a fresh salad. Other local ingredients, such as beans, cabbage, and kale may be featured in side dishes as well.


With the outdoor sights being so exquisite, much of Cortona’s beauty can be found wandering the streets and lookout points of the city. Finding time to pause your outings long enough to enjoy a sit-down lunch can sometimes be a challenge. However, in Cortona, as in much of Italy, street vendors often sell delicious and savory snacks that are “walk and talk” friendly.

One of the most often enjoyed street foods here in Cortona, and throughout Tuscany, is porchetta. This flavorful pork dish is slow-roasted for many hours with generous amounts of fennel, rosemary, and other herbs until it is remarkably tender and fragrant. For on-the-go diners, porchetta is served on warm Tuscan bread to make the perfect panino.


Somewhat of a dessert staple in the city, and the majority of the Tuscany region, are cantucci cookies. These sweet treats are the quintessential almond cookie with a crunchy texture thanks to the fact that they are baked twice. Tuscans know that the best way to enjoy cantucci is to dip them in a glass of locally-made Vin Santo wine.

Another local favorite is castagnaccio, a cake made with chestnut flour, raisins, sugar, and pine nuts, that is popular throughout Tuscany.


Tuscany is rich in vineyards and wine, making it one of the premier destinations for authentic wine tastings. Whether you choose to sample the wine at your dinner table or via a wine tasting tour through the neighboring Tuscan countryside, do not leave Cortona without allowing yourself a fine glass of wine.

Vineyards abound in the area with some estimated to date back all the way to the Etruscan Era. These vineyards in particular often have more unique growing styles than others. Grapes grown in and near Cortona include Sangiovese, Merlot, Syrah, Grechetto, Chardonnay, Trebbiano Toscano, and Sauvignon. These grapes are used to make the local Cortona DOC wine, which is available in red, white, and Vin Santo varieties. Vin Santo is a sweeter wine that beautifully complements a light dessert such as cantucci almond cookies.

The city of Cortona is a delight to the senses. Indulge your sense of taste with freshly made Italian appetizers, first courses, second courses, and desserts. Further enhance your mealtime experience by enjoying a terrace-side meal that offers spectacular panoramic views of the Tuscan countryside. Do not be afraid to let your stomach guide your Italian vacation destination — Cortona awaits.