Tuck into authentic cuisine in Cortona, overlooking sun-blazed views of one of Tuscany’s most deeply rural valleys.
The ancient Etruscans were among the first to appreciate the culinary riches of the Val di Chiana in eastern Tuscany. Then, in the 1990s, American writer Frances Mayes restored an abandoned old casa, with a lemon house and pergola for al fresco dining, on the green fringes of Cortona. It became the setting for her memoir Under the Tuscan Sun; its success attracted more visitors. Today, foodies pour into the medieval hilltop town to feast on its grassroots cuisine – here are some of the best places to eat in Cortona.
This restaurant is perfectly placed for a Tuscan lunch after a feast of medieval art at the nearby Diocesan Museum. Family-run La Loggetta is as much about its film-set location as its cuisine. Chef Marco Frivoli cooks up Cortonese classics alongside signature vegetarian dishes, such as spelt with red chicory and cheese, and caramelised figs with tangy pecorino – all washed down with local Cortona DOC wine. The icing on the cake? Al fresco dining beneath historic arches overlooking the main square.
Tuscany’s iconic bistecca alla fiorentina (a thick-cut T-bone steak) originally hails from Chianina cows bred in the Val di Chiana, rendering a steak-for-two a juicy Cortonese essential. Trailing locals to this overwhelmingly simple eatery in Castiglion Fiorentino is well worth the 15-minute drive. Different beef cuts are cooked to perfection above an open wood fire, accompanied by a modest choice of Tuscan veggie sides, and only come brilliantly blue unless you stipulate otherwise.
Should you be visiting Cortona around Easter, there is no sweeter treat than a gently spiced spolette from this much-loved bakery, chocolate maker and gelateria on the main street, Via Nazionale. The traditional oval-shaped honey-bread buns are spiced with raisins and candied fruit, slicked with sugar icing and typically devoured for breakfast during Lent. Order and pay at the counter before grabbing a table inside or on the buzzing, people-watching street terrace outside.
No address evokes Tuscan dolce vita so stylishly. This hybrid concept store-bistro is a Pandora’s box of artisan homewares and fashion accessories, contemporary art and fresh deli produce accompanied by casual all-day dining. Wines are from the Baracchi winery, and the menu surprises with Tuscan fusion combos, like fish carpaccio with orange-fennel salad and porcini mushrooms with pecorino fondue. Sassy cocktails – don’t miss Sex in Cortona mixing sparkling wine with Aperol, peach purée and berry-flavoured vodka – make it an aperitivo hot spot.
The Chiana Valley’s signature beef finds its way into artisan burgers, paired with local craft beer, at this gourmet burger and hot dog bar on Via Nazionale. Toppings are sourced from regional producers, inventive homemade mayos (whipped up with free-range farm eggs) and salsas are faithfully zero-kilometre, and veggie sides pack a ruthlessly seasonal punch. The Cortonese burger cleverly marries Chianina beef with shallots, smoked pancetta and a bacon sauce, evocative of Cortona’s classic pici al fumo pasta dish.
This is a rewrite of an article originally by Helen Armitage.
You’ll need somewhere to rest your head after a day in the Tuscan sunshine, so check out the best hotels in Cortona, bookable now with Culture Trip.
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