Begin your day in piazza della Repubblica, centerpiece of Cortona and formerly the Roman forum of the town. (Notably for Under the Tuscan Sun devotees, this is also the spot where Diane Lane’s character goes market-hopping in the movie). Standing over the square is the Palazzo Comunale, a 12th century structure in the Romanesque style (with additions over the centuries), originally intended for town meetings. You’ll immediately notice its quaint clock tower, but in a town like Cortona, where life moves at a more relaxed pace, you’ll hardly be worried about the actual hour.
A quick walk takes you into the adjacent piazza Signorelli, one of the filming locations for Under the Tuscan Sun—the fountain scene, to be specific (although the fountain was added for the film and does not exist here). Thankfully, there’s something even better: one of Cortona’s main attractions, the MAEC (Museum of the Etruscan Academy and of the City of Cortona) is housed in the square’s Palazzo Casali, which is named for a noble Cortona family who built it in the 13th century and owned it until the early 15th. (As we said, time works a little differently around here). Despite the building’s 13th century origins, its current appearance can be traced back to the first half of the 17th century.
Inside, however, are the real treasures. Perhaps the best-known of all the objects in the permanent collection is the Tabula Cortonensis or Cortona tablet, a bronze Etruscan tablet believed to document the details of a local legal transaction, and a rare lengthy example of the written language of Etruscan civilization. Also famous is the Etruscan Bronze Lamp of Cortona, which was discovered by chance in La Fratta, approximately 2.8 km west of Cortona. Besides these highlights, the MAEC regularly hosts high-level temporary exhibitions.
After dipping into Etruscan history, try exploring some (relatively) recent structures. Make your way to the nearby via Roma to visit the Baroque church of San Filippo Neri, remarkably the last church to be built in Cortona (in 1720). Its façade is not particularly noteworthy, so many visitors miss it, but once again, the memorable must-sees are inside: prominent Venetian painter G.B. Piazzetta’s depiction of the Madonna and Child is among the standout pieces.