2. Cortona

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Legend has it that 108 years after the Flood, Noah came to the Valdichiana and loved it so much that he stayed for 30 years. A little more than 150 years later, one of his sons built the hilltop village of Cortona. It’s easy to see why they would have preferred this site: The views over the valley and Lake Trasimeno, where Hannibal ambushed the Roman army, are simply stunning. You may recognize the town from literature and the big screen too, since this is where Frances Mayes’ Under the Tuscan Sun was set. Some scenes from Life Is Beautiful were shot in these steep, narrow streets too. You can learn more about Cortona’s Etruscan past by visiting the Museo dell’Accademia Etrusca and the Etruscan tombs in the area. If religious art is more your thing, don’t miss the Diocesan museum, where one of the treasured paintings is Fra Angelico’s Annunciation. Located a little over 120 km south-east of Florence, a visit to Cortona will remind you that life is, indeed, beautiful.

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