During 14-days in Italy, I visited cultural gems including Florence,
Venice, Cinque Terre, Positano, Fiesole, and even my heritage hometown in Campagnia. But Cortona was a pilgrimage because it’s the inspiration behind the book and movie, “ Under the Tuscan Sun.” Once you arrive, it’s easy to see why.
Cortona, Italy is a Tuscan hill town with a history as rich as its fertile soil. Ancient roots boast Umbrian, Etruscan, and Roman cultures dating as far back as the 7th Century B.C.
History and architecture buffs will enjoy the many churches and Etruscan ruins, and foodies won’t be disappointed by the authentic Tuscan cuisine and regional wines.
The journey up the hillside toward Cortona is magnificent, offering sweeping views of the Valdichiana–the fertile valley–below. I can see how this vantage point would guard against invasions in medieval times!
Moss and earthy growth add texture to the terra-cotta tiles of a villa perched on Cortona’s rolling hillside. It’s classic Tuscany.
The streets of Cortona surrounding the offer quaint little shops, some family run for generations. You’ll find artisan papers and gifts, handmade dresses, Italian leather (oh, the leather!), jewelry, wines, and more to take home as regional souvenirs. Piazza della Repubblica
Cheerful sunflowers draw you into the intimate courtyard of . Locals recommend it for a taste of authentic Tuscan cuisine. Break for lunch or opt for a romantic evening of courtyard dining. Delizioso! (Indoor accommodations also available. Reservations recommended either way.) Trattoria La Grotta
What’s better than exploring? I wonder where these ancient steps lead. (This is how I get myself in trouble.) Hey, I’m walking off a great Italian meal…!
Just a little window shopping in Cortona, Italy. Handmade papers, fountain pens, inks, leather notebooks. It’s a writer’s dream! History Meets Flavor in Cortona, Italy
The centuries-old center of Cortona is the Piazza della Repubblica, which dates back to Roman times. It continues as a central meeting place within this Tuscan community today.
How does it get better than this? Fresh made Spaghetti Bolognese for lunch in Tuscany. I’m in heaven at – Cortona, Italy. Caffe degli Artisti
The 13th Century town hall and clock tower preside over Cortona’s Piazza della Repubblica. A Latin inscription with biblical origins above the door reads PAX HVIC DOMVI. Translation: “Peace Be to this House.” Words to live by, I’d say!
Ok, I admit it. I have a cappuccino problem.😍☕
I enjoyed a leisurely stroll through the WWI Memorial park ( in Cortona, which features a lovely fountain at its center of nymphs and sea creatures. (This is not the one featured in the movie “ Parterre) Under the Tuscan Sun,” a set prop placed in Piazza Signorelli.)
Look at this pure indulgence at . How could I not? Pasticceria Banchelli
Peter Capucci of Tiferno (b. 1390, d.1445) rest on the central altar of San Domenico, a small but beautiful medieval church in Cortona. A longtime priest known for patience and humility, he is attributed with performing miracles. Pope Pius VII beautified Peter in 1816. The Road to Bramasole
I came to Cortona on a bit of a pilgrimage, wanting to see scenes from “ Under the Tuscan Sun” because 1) it’s so beautiful and 2) the movie’s messages were personally meaningful. The story takes place at a villa named “Bramasole,” which loosely translates to “I yearn for the sun.” (Anyone who knows me knows this defines me!) So, I embarked upon the cypress-lined path that ascended to the highpoint of my visit: a glimpse of Bramasole.
With each turn of the road in Cortona toward Bramasole, I enjoyed incredible panoramics of the Tuscan countryside. Imagine living here, perched on the edge of the hillside? What views!!
I can easily see how Cortona inspired writer Frances Mayes to take up residence to write the book, “ Under the Tuscan Sun.” (Read my book review here.) It’s an enchanting town, steeped in Etruscan and Roman history, Italian Culture, and nestled within the Tuscan hills. From here, you can see Lake Trasimeno in Perugia (Umbria) and beyond. Can you see that bright spot in the center of the horizon? Even on this hazy day, Trasimeno is visible.
And There It Is!
Uncertain of my bearings and direction, I walked along Localita Torreone for a long while in search of Bramasole. Dusk was falling, and the air was damp with mist. I thought to myself, what have I done — lost out here by myself, in a foreign country speaking little Italian, tired, and on a deserted road to possibly nowhere? And then I saw it. Bramasole rose before me, dressed in gorgeous Tuscan hues, just as I’d long imagined. This villa was the “real” Bramasole Frances Mayes wrote about in her book “ Under the Tuscan Sun.” I savored the moment, relishing the tremendous success of a fellow writer and Italophile, and the story of a woman who found happiness after life threw her a few curve balls. I pinched myself and mentally checked Bramasole off my bucket list. (“ Villa Laura,” the home filmed in the movie, is also in Cortona.)
“Every day, I watch for the old man with the flowers, and I wonder, was he born here? Did he love someone here? Did he lose someone here?” – Frances Mayes, “Under the Tuscan Sun” (film)
I collected a spray of wildflowers along the path to Bramasole, leaving behind the token of gratitude at the little shrine in Cortona, Italy.
“Life offers you a thousand chances… all you have to do is take one.” (Frances Mayes, Under the Tuscan Sun) I took one last look up at the balcony of Bramasole before heading back to town in Cortona. I couldn’t be happier about my off-the-beaten-path pilgrimage or the opportunity to experience a bit of the inspiration behind “ Under the Tuscan Sun” by Frances Mayes. So long, Cortona!
Going to Cortona was a dream come true for me. When the opportunity presented itself, I jumped without hesitations. Where have you always wanted to go, given the chance? Share your thoughts in the comments below.