Novelist Frances Mayes put Cortona on the map with her "Under the Tuscan Sun" novel. And it's very easy to see why she fell in love with this town. It's authentic, down-to-earth, lovable and vibrant. The town's population is circa 20,000 but the old town (centro storico) where we stayed in a HomeAway apartment is probably around 3,500 to 4,000 people. For that reason, Cortona seems like a little town you can pick up, put in your pocket and keep forever. But little doesn't mean boring. Quite the opposite. While we were only there for two days, something was scheduled for every day in the main piazzas whether it was a rock, opera, or children's concert, a classic BMW car show, the market or even someone beautifully singing Con Te Partiro in a local restaurant.
Cortona is an ancient, walled town founded by the Etruscans, the ancient civilization comprising the people of Tuscany that the Romans eventually wiped out. The town's Museo dell'Accademia Etrusca is the largest Etruscan museum in the world with artifacts dating to 4 B.C.. It's in the center of town and shouldn't be missed if you have interest in history. The town also has a very interesting small lane (vicolo) called Via Iannelli which is a virtually intact Medieval street with interesting houses. Get lost in Cortona (kind of impossible). Go down an alley or a dark lane. You are bound to find something that fascinates you.
Our favorite spot in Cortona was Tuscher Caffè. It's run by Massimo and Daniela and the quality of their drinks and food along with exemplary service is something you don't expect in a town this size. Massimo brought me a Bloody Mary straight up and when I asked for ice, he said that he would be happy to bring it if it wasn't to my liking. It was one of the best Bloody Mary's I'd ever had. No ghiaccio, per favore. Grazie, Massimo!
While we only stayed for two days, we learned enough to know that we definitely will return to Cortona. Include it on your trip to the area and you will not be disappointed!