Things to Do in Cortona
Things to Do in Cortona

Cortona Things To Do Travel Guide

In the heart of Italy sits one of its best kept secrets, the city of Cortona. Most find this city to be just as enchanting as portrayed in the 2003 movie Under the Tuscan Sun. Inside its city walls, Cortona features charming living and social gathering areas. Outside the city walls lies picturesque and breathtaking scenery featuring the surrounding Tuscan countryside and even the edge of the Umbria region. With festivals, markets, fantastic shopping, museums, and more, adding Cortona as a destination for your next trip to Italy is a must.


Although it is a relatively small city, Cortona truly thrives when it comes to celebrating its roots and Italian culture. Each year the residents participate in a number of festivals that celebrate food, music, and more.

An ancient medieval event that is still actively celebrated today is the Archidado Joust. This joust is thought to have originated in the late fourteenth century when it was part of a wedding celebration. It typically happens the second Sunday in June. Cortona comes alive during the recreation of the Archidado Joust with medieval decorations and period costumes. One of the highlights of this event is when the different sectors of the city participate in the Veratta, or Golden Arrow competition.

The Sacred Music Festival has been an annual event since the early twenty-first century. This celebration of culture, music, and faith generally takes place during the month of July. The festival usually includes performances such as organ concerts, choir concerts, chamber orchestra concerts, and more.

Another popular July celebration of the arts can be found at the Cortona Mix Festival. Event goers can expect to hear musical concerts, see theatric and cinematic performances, and hear literature readings. Wine tastings that celebrate Italian heritage are also generally offered at this event.

The Tuscan Sun Festival takes place each summer usually during the months of July and August. The event is a celebration of arts and classical music marked by many concerts, operas, musical galas, and other open-air shows.

Throughout the year, the city of Cortona celebrates its authentic Italian cuisine. There are a number of festivals dedicated to everything from chestnuts to autumn harvests. A few of the more renowned festivals of the area include the snail festival called Sagra della Lumaca, the T-bone steak festival called Sagra della Bistecca, the pasta festival called Sagra della Pastasciutta, and the porcini mushroom festival called Sagra del Fungo Porcino.
The Fiera del rame del fiore e del coccio is held each year in May. During the fair, exhibitors from all over Italy display their earthenware and flowers.

If visiting Cortona during the months of August and September, look for the Cortonantiquaria. This annual event is an antiques fair typically held in Palazzo Vagnotti. Here shoppers can peruse fine goods from Italian collectors and vendors. Although shopping is the main highlight of the market, locals also consider it to be somewhat of a social event where they can raise a glass to the passing of summer and the arrival of autumn.


The streets of Cortona are filled with a quintessential small town Italian charm that comes largely from the fabulous restaurants, quaint cafés, and unique shops that line them. Visitors will find a number of shops and boutiques that offer a wide variety of goods including souvenirs, antiques, art, clothing, and jewelry, just to name a few.
If time allows, be sure to visit the Basilica of Santa Margherita located just outside of Cortona for some amazing countryside views. With such spectacular panoramas, visitors often choose to hike up the steep climb to this landmark.


Whether looking for an indoor activity or immersing yourself in history interests you, the Palazzo Casali and MAEC Museo is a must see for your Cortona itinerary. The palazzo was built by the Casali family who lived there until the early fifteenth century. The palazzo then became part of the Accademia Etrusca to be utilized as a museum and library. The structure has been renovated over the years and is now known as the Etruscan Museum (Museo dell’Accademia Etrusca e della Citta). This museum has an impressive collection of Etruscan artifacts including sculptures and jewelry as well as examples of Renaissance artwork. One of the goals of the museum is to trace the history of Etruscology, making it an internationally revered center for Etruscan study. Give yourself ample time to wander through this fabulous museum.

Another popular area museum in Cortona is the Diocesan Museum. Located just in front of the Duomo, it is known by the locals as the Museo Diocesano del Capitolo. Although the museum has exhibits featuring goldsmithing and fabrics, the main draw is often considered to be Tuscan art. The Diocesan Museum is thought to have one of the finest collections of Tuscan art with masterpieces from the thirteenth to the nineteenth century. Some of the paintings regularly sought out by guests include Bartolomeo della Gatta’s Madonna in Glory, Beato Angelico’s The Annunciation, Giuseppe Crespi’s St. Margherita, and Luca Signorelli’s The Deposition. This museum is a lovely way to spend a morning or afternoon.
A more reverent indoor experience is visiting the Hermitage le Celle. This early thirteenth century Franciscan hermitage is thought to have been built by the famed Saint Francis himself. To this day, the hermitage is inhabited by a handful of friars who live and practice their faith as Saint Francis did. When visiting the structure, travelers are usually allowed to see Saint Francis’ cell. This hermitage is popular amongst visitors and those embarking on spiritual retreats.

Another point of interest is the Museum of Rural Culture located in Fratticciola. The museum traces the history of farming in the Cortona area with an emphasis on daily life in the countryside up until the mid-twentieth century. On display are examples of historic farming equipment and other items, such as kitchen utensils.


One of the best and most relaxing ways to soak up Cortona’s culture is to spend some time in the city’s main city square, Piazza della Repubblica. Although the square has changed since medieval times, today it is a popular meeting place for locals and is home to an impressive structure that functions as the town hall. Bring the family and sip a cool drink while people watching and taking in the beauty of Cortona.


Children are often fascinated by the Fortezza del Girifalco. This Medici fortress sits majestically upon a hill at Cortona’s highest point. While the fortress itself is often most captivating for young children, running uphill to get to it usually ranks a close second. The structure is estimated to have roots in the fifth or sixth century BC, but the earliest documentation of its existence is from the mid-thirteenth century. For many children, visiting Fortezza del Girifalco is like living out an adventure from a page of a fairy tale.


An experience somewhat unique to Cortona is the presence of ancient Etruscan tombs. These tombs were not discovered until the early twentieth century. They are known largely for their inscriptions, which appear on the lintel above the door. Many of these tombs are thought to belong to wealthy Etruscan families. Two of the more popularly visited tombs include the Melone I of Sodo and the Tanella di Pitagora.

Regardless of how many days you choose to stay in Cortona for your Italian getaway vacation or who you go with, the beautiful town of Cortona has an abundance of diverse and interesting activities that will have you trying to figure out how to add more days to your stay here.