Cortona, Italy

Photo Credit: MojoBaron licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

Site Description

Cortona is a Tuscan hill town that predates Roman times and is still surrounded by a thick, medieval wall. The town is best known as being the setting for Frances Mayes’ book Under the Tuscan Sun. Her restored villa is just outside the city wall.

Cortona is about 1½ hours southeast of Florence and 2½ hours north of Rome. We are able to arrange shuttles from both the Florence and Rome airports, depending on interest.

While Cortona is a small town, its streets are packed with boutiques, galleries, museums and restaurants. There are 32 restaurants within its walls, and it is known as a foodie vacation destination for the Italians. There are also many Italian cafés, pizzerias and gelato shops to choose from.

Since there is much to see in Cortona itself, we are planning various events within the city.

In addition, we are planning two excursions outside of Cortona. One will be to Florence—a city with wonderful architecture, gardens, museums and artwork. The other will be to Montalcino—a beautiful hill town set in the Orcia Valley, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site made famous by its beauty and its Brunello wine.

Cortona attracts many English-speaking tourists, and many of the merchants speak some English.

Cortona will not be an all-inclusive site, but it will have a similar atmosphere. For those staying within the city walls, there will be many opportunities to visit with one another in the piazzas—the town squares. There will be a variety of housing styles available, from hotels to vacation homes.

A word of caution: Cortona is a “hill town” in its truest sense. Other than the main flat road that runs through the city, all the streets and alleys are steep ramps or staircases. The roads are pedestrian-only, so you won’t be able to drop anyone off at the theater where services are held. If you would like to attend, please be sure that you are comfortable walking on steep cobblestone streets and stairs.


We will have services in the Teatro Signorelli—a beautiful opera house in the heart of Cortona. Seating is limited, but we expect to be able to host about 300 attendees. We will have Sabbath services at the theater on the Sabbath prior to the Feast for those who are registered for the Cortona Feast site.


Registration for this site will open at 10 a.m. CST, Sunday, Feb. 11. After you receive your acceptance to the site, you will receive a housing brochure that includes several hotel room blocks and discounts for our group. When you receive the housing brochure, we encourage you to reserve housing as soon as possible, as some of the room blocks are only available through the end of February.

  • February 11: Registration opens at 10 a.m. CST (ONLY for Italy).
  • February 16: First 300 registrants will be notified if they are accepted, and a waiting list will be created.
  • February 16: After being notified of acceptance, the first 300 registrants can start making housing and travel plans.

Key Information

  • Cortona is built on the side of a large hill, and almost all of its roads and walkways are steep. Please be sure that you are comfortable walking on steep cobblestone streets and stairs. Those needing wheelchairs or those who have severe walking disabilities should be aware of the mobility difficulties they will encounter at this site.
  • Cortona is a pedestrian town, so you will not be able to drive a car inside the walls or drop off passengers where services are being held. Free parking is available outside the city walls, approximately a quarter of a mile from services.
  • Round-trip tickets to Rome for travel dates around the Feast are currently between $600 and $1,000.
  • We have room blocks reserved at several hotels within walking distance of services. Prices range from €80 to €179 per night (around US$97-217 per night) based on double occupancy (breakfast included). In addition, there are many bed-and-breakfasts and affordable apartments and villas available for rent. Attendees are encouraged to choose accommodations within walking distance of the hall.
  • At this time, the exchange rate is US$1.21 to €1.
  • Please wait until you receive your site acceptance before reserving housing. When you receive your acceptance and housing brochure, we encourage you to reserve housing as soon as possible, as some of the room blocks are only available through the end of February.
  • If you are not accepted at first, you will be placed on a waiting list until you are accepted or until the Italy site is officially closed. You will be taken off of the waiting list if you choose to register for another site.

We will also be contacting you in the spring with information on all the available activities, excursions and airport shuttle options.

We look forward to sharing an enjoyable and inspiring Feast with you in Cortona, Italy!

Gary Black