The Top Restaurants in Cortona, Italy

Foodies pour into the medieval hilltop town of Cortona to feast on its home-grown cuisine
Foodies pour into the medieval hilltop town of Cortona to feast on its home-grown cuisine | © Ivan Nesterov / Alamy Stock Photo
Nicola Williams

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.

1. La Bucaccia

Charcuterie, Restaurant, Italian, Mediterranean, Vegetarian

Piazza della Repubblica, Cortona, Arezzo, Italy from the steps of the Palazzo Communale, showing the loggia in Piazza Peschiera to the left
© will Perrett / Alamy Stock Photo
Squirrelled away on a peaceful backstreet in the 13th-century Palazzo Cattani, this hallowed cellar restaurant is one of Cortona’s finest for farm-to-table Tuscan cuisine. Exposed gold-stone walls and flagstone flooring cocoon you in a romantic old-world vibe, while owner Romano Magi woos with his encyclopaedic cheese and charcuterie mastery. The meat dishes – think local Chianina beef and Cinta Senese pork – and hand-rolled pasta crafted from ancient Val di Chiana wheat varieties are all exceptional.

2. Osteria del Teatro

Restaurant, Italian, Mediterranean, Vegetarian

A labyrinth of dining rooms with beamed ceilings, fireplaces and walls smothered in framed snaps of actors from the neighbouring theatre infuse this osteria with eclectic charm. Summer dining spills onto a hidden patio garden. The staunchly Tuscan menu sizzles with seasonal Slow Food favourites: Chianina beef laced with black truffles, pepper- and chilli-spiked bringoli (local fat spaghetti), springtime artichokes, and wild fennel stuffed with pungent Pecorino Abbucciato cheese from the neighbouring Valle del Casentino.

4. Ristorante Da Muzzicone

Restaurant, Italian

t-bone steak on the frypan. Image shot 10/2013. Exact date unknown.
© Zoonar GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

5. Pasticceria Banchelli

Patisserie, Bakery, Italian

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.

6. Il Facioniere

Restaurant, Italian

192950630 - Il Facionere
Courtesy of Il Facioniere / Booking.com
A vintage orangery provides the romantic backdrop for Michelin-star cuisine on the estate of a 17th-century villa-turned-luxury hotel. Local chef Silvia Regi Baracchi fronts the kitchen at this exquisite fine-dining restaurant. The menu, firmly rooted in sustainable zero-kilometre produce, includes olive oil and wine from the estate and the catch of the day from Lake Trasimeno. The choice of tasting menus – all with superb wine pairings – includes a vegan option. Bay leaf crumble with caramelised figs and Syrah grape gelato anyone?

7. Bottega Baracchi

Bar, Wine

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.

8. Beerbone

Restaurant, Steakhouse

Cortona, Via Nazionale, Tuscany, Italy. Image shot 11/2014. Exact date unknown.
© Mauro Toccaceli / Alamy Stock Photo

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.

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