Top 10 Attractions - Cortona
On this page you will find the best tourist attractions of Cortona listed according to our website users’ opinion. Consult them to plan your visit in Cortona, find their position on the map or, if you have already visited these places, vote them by expressing your preference between 1 and 5 stars.
1 Diocesan Museum
It is located in front of the Cathedral and is divided into nine exhibition rooms, where works of art dating from the 2nd century A.C. to modern art have been gathered. They come from the churches of the city and have been preserved here for security reasons. You cannot miss the Painted cross by Pietro Lorenzetti, the Virgin and Child by the School of Siena and the Annunciation by Fra Angelico. The museum also exposes pontifical vestments belonging to cardinal Silvio Passerini.
2 Hermitage Le Celle
Saint Francis came to Cortona in 1211 and founded this hermitage in a pleasant and quiet place. The toponym “celle” refers to small houses of hermits built in the holes of the mountain. Brother Elias restored the hermitage, where you can still see Saint Francis’ cell, which was kept untouched after his death, as well as the small church dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua. The waterfall in front of the convent, which today belongs to the Capuchin Friars, is really breathtaking.
3 Church of San Niccolò
Built in the 15th century, this church is connected with Bernardino from Siena who founded here in 1440 the Compagnia di San Niccolò. Its banner representing a Mourning over the Dead Christ and a Virgin and Child with Saints Peter and Paul, painted by Signorelli, is displayed over the main altar. The church is characterized by an elegant porch on the façade and on the left hand side. The interior has been completely restored during the 17th century and has today three Baroque altars.
4 Melone I and II of Sodo
These marvelous Etruscan tombs are located at the bottom of the hill of Cortona. Melone I, explored in 1909, has given wonderful Etruscan funerary equipments. On the contrary, Melone II, discovered in 1927, is over 70 m in diameter and has splendid decorative sculptures. A unique terraced altar, decorated with fighting scenes between humans and mythical animals, where probably the Etruscans made sacrifices, is not to be missed.
5 Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie al Calcinaio
It was built in the 15th century with the help of painter Luca Signorelli, in Renaissance style on a Latin cross plan with an elegant dome. It was the church of the guild of the shoe makers, who had here their vats of lime to be used for tanning leather. Their patron Madonna, painted on one side of a basin, has now been placed over the main altar. The glass window of the central rosette portraying the Madonna with Pope Leo x, with Emperor Maximilian I and Bishop of Cortona, Cardinal Francesco Soderini is really impressive.
6 Basilica of Santa Margherita
It was built in the 13th century on the ruins of a “Camaldolese” church dedicated to San Basilio where the saint lived and died. The inhabitants decided to build a basilica in her honor and moved here her embalmed body, today exhibited in a display cabinet behind the main altar. The church is enriched with works of art and a marble mausoleum of the School of Siena, with Baroque altars and a beautiful rose window on the façade. A big chapel on the left aisle is dedicated to the fallen soldiers from Cortona.
7 Church of Santa Maria Nuova
It was built in the 16th century following the project of Cristofanello, then modified by Vasari. This beautiful church has a Greek-cross plan with three identical facades, a beautiful Baroque dome and a nice central rose window. Four pillars rise inside the church giving it a strong vertical character. The four arms of the Greek cross are covered with magnificent barrel vaults. The church preserves a nativity and an annunciation by minor painters.
8 MAEC Museum
It has been founded in 1727, when a few members of the Etruscan Academy donated their collections for the creation of this museum in the rooms of Palazzo Casali. Restored in 2005, it is today a museum of modern conception, which displays beautiful Etruscan and Roman treasures along with the sections dedicated to the Egyptian collection, the Medieval history of the city, the great works of art and painting of the Renaissance made by famous artists from Cortona such as Luca Signorelli and Gino Severini.
9 Abbey of Farneta
Located about ten kilometers away from Cortona, this abbey was built by the Benedictine monks between the 8th and the 9th century and reached its utmost splendor between the 9th and the 14th century. It belonged to the monks until 1780, when Grand-Duke Leopold ordered to remise its propriety to the clergy. The crypt is very interesting, sustained by Roman columns and capitals with fine sculptures and decorations. One of these columns is made of red granite coming from Egypt.
10 Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta
The Cathedral has been erected on the ruins of a parish church of the first Christian age and of a heathen temple. Built in the 15th century, it was declared a Diocesan cathedral in 1507. The plan has a nave and two aisles, which are divided by columns with capitals inspired to Brunelleschi style. It has beautiful portals by Cristofanello and some works of art by Pietro Berrettini and by the school of Signorelli. The three Venuti brothers, founders of the Etruscan Academy, have been buried in this cathedral.
Church of San Domenico
It was built in Gothic style at the beginning of the 15th century right outside the city walls where there once was porta Peccioverardi, which today is destroyed. The church of San Domenico was part of the convent of the Dominican friars, which is now almost completely demolished. This convent accommodated important people like Sant'Antonino Bishop of Florence and Fra Angelico. The façade is simple and harmonious; on the lunette of the portal we see a fresco. On the right-hand side traces of eight pillars testify the existence of an ancient porch.
Church of San Francesco
It was built by Brother Elias in 1247 on the ruins of old Roman baths in honor of Saint Francis, whose frock, evangelistary and pillow are here preserved. The portal and the big windows on the left hand side are to be admired, along with a masterpiece by Pietro Berrettini, some Baroque altars and a monumental marble altar which keeps some remains of the Holy Cross. Painter Luca Signorelli and Brother Elias, who succeeded Saint Francis at the head of the Franciscan Order, have been buried here.
Church of San Michele Arcangelo in Metelliano
It was built around the 7th century by Lombards after they conquered the area. Considering their worship for Saint Michael the Archangel, this church was dedicated to him. Around the year 1000, the church was rebuilt in Pre-romanic and Byzantine style by architect Maginardo from Arezzo, who left the two side aisles untouched. The nave and the aisles are divided by big pillars and Byzantine columns, which anticipate the Gothic style. This church has been declared national monument in 1907.
Palazzo Comunale (City Hall)
It has been built in the 12th century on the ruins of the forum of the Roman city, at the crossroads between the Cardo and the Decumano. Originally made up of a single large room, it was extended during the 16th century with the construction of the bell tower and of the massive access staircase to the palace. On the side overlooking Piazza Signorelli there is a column with the Florentine lion, erected in 1508. In the Council room you can admire a beautiful stone fireplace made by Cristofanello (16th century).
Fortress of Girifalco
In 1556 the grand-duke of Tuscany Cosimo I de’ Medici has built the Fortress of Girifalco on the upper North-East part of the city of Cortona for defense, even if there aren’t significant battles connected with its name. The building is trapezoidal in shape with four big bulwarks and was erected on the ruins of ancient Etruscan, Roman and Medieval fortifications. Recently restored, it hosts today a documentation center on rural civilization and some exhibitions.