Did I hear you say you wanted a room with a view? Well, you’ve come to the right place. Cortona is the town that tumbles down a hillside, virtually guaranteeing that every building has plenty of rooms with views over the hillsides and valley floor of Val di Chiana all the way to Lake Trasimeno. Did you just say that the town of Cortona rings a bell for some reason? If you haven’t read the book or seen the movie of Frances Mayes’ year in Tuscany renovating her house you’d be one of the only people around – yes, that house was just outside Cortona. Much of the movie was actually filmed here.
Even before Frances Mayes wrote about the place, Cortona boasted some pretty good reasons for visiting. For starters, this town is old – it was originally Etruscan before becoming part of the Roman Empire in 310BC. In later centuries it was the home of many famous people including Brother Elias, a famous monk companion to St Francis of Assisi. Painter Luca Signorelli was born here and Fra Angelico (who painted the wonderful frescoes in San Marco in Florence) lived and worked here for a decade at the beginning of the 15th century. Unfortunately, many of his frescoes in Cortona have been destroyed but his Annunciation of Cortona can be seen at the Diocesan Museum where there is also a whole room of work by Signorelli dating from the early 16th century.
Of course there are city walls and Renaissance churches enough to satisfy all our dreams of Tuscany, and one of the highlights is the Etruscan Museum housed in the Palazzo Casali. When you get tired of all those narrow, hilly medieval streets, head for the main street of via Nazionale (Ruga Piana): it’s the only flat street in town.