Villa Laura was the setting of a Soft Surroundings photo shoot as seen in their Endless Weekend catalog. Former guests and one of our brides-to-be are having fun seeing the soft clothes set off against ancient stone walls and arches of the beautiful villa

Finding Villa Laura

The first time I saw Villa Laura, I clambered over vines and pushed through thickets (thinking of Prince Charming) and looked in wonder at the sleeping beauty. My client, Nancy, had asked me to check it out because she was thinking of buying and restoring it and she asked if I thought it was worth her while to fly to Italy to see it.

What I discovered was the estate used as Bramasole for the movie Under the Tuscan Sun. There was a hole in the roof of the chapel and birds fluttering up at our approach— we found spider webs, plaster dust and little lizards on the walls.

But under the cobwebs and vines, there were beautiful beamed ceilings, arched doorways and original stone steps, and the fake Hollywood painted fresco featured in the film. Outside was a beautiful ancient fountain, a cistern and a lake that was covered with fallen trees.

What a beautiful opportunity! I called Nancy and the rest is history. She came, she bought and she restored. And the result is magical!

Highlights from the Villa Laura Photoshoot

We've collected up a few of the photos from the shoot and juxtaposed them against photos of the villa, so you can compare the two. 

Villa Laura and Farmhouse Exteriors

Villa Laura and Farmhouse Exterior

Villa Laura Interior

Villa Laura Interior

Farmhouse Interior

Farmhouse Interior

Renting Villa Laura

Villa Laura is not a hotel that rents rooms by the night, but rather a private vacation rental. The villa, farmhouse and limonaia are available for rent as one estate. The estate comfortably sleeps a group of 20 in 10 bedrooms, each with its own bathroom— and is ideal for weddings and events like family reunions, birthday or anniversary celebrations or even for groups of friends who love wine and cooking.

The setting is perfect with the stunning Tuscan scenery, rose gardens, ancient stone walls and fountains. It is quintessential Tuscany. 

The original features of the property were meticulously kept and exposed, with modern comforts carefully installed without losing any ancient charm. 

 If you're not traveling with a large group, we recommend taking a look at some of our small to mid-sized properties in the Cortona area of Tuscany — a wonderful, magnificent place to visit.

Things to do in Cortona

Guidebooks

If guests want a guidebook for touring in the area, they have to look no further than Frances Mayes’ books Under the Tuscan Sun, Every Day in Tuscany, and In Tuscany. If guests want to cook, then we recommend the Tuscan Sun Cookbook.

Daytrips from Villa Laura

Cortona, Tuscany

Daytrip 1—Explore Cortona

Explore Cortona to find the tourist office, grocery shops, restaurants, and the nearest coffee bar. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Lake Trasimeno. Visit the Etruscan Museum or the churches of San Niccolo and San Domenico. Or follow the mosaic stations of the cross leading up a steep hill to the church of Santa Margherita. Linger in the double central squares and book an appealing restaurant for dinner.

Perugia

Daytrip 2—Perugia

Drive east on the highway about 30 minutes to Perugia. Park at the base of the town and take the mini-Metro up to the center. Tour the Perugino factory where Italy’s favorite candy, the Baci, is made. One of Europe’s most celebrated jazz festivals is held in July, while October is time for Eurochocolate. Continue to Torgiano to visit the Museum of Wines and enjoy a midday meal at Le Tre Vaselle (see our Restaurant Guide). Or visit Deruta to shop for ceramics.

Duomo in Siena, Tuscany

Daytrip 3—Siena

Visit the Cathedral. Follow the winding brick alleys to the shell-shaped Piazza del Campo to relax and enjoy the scenery as you imagine the spectacle of the Palio that takes place here in July and August.

Florence, Tuscany

Daytrip 4—Florence

Take the train from one of Cortona’s two rail stations (Cortona-Camucia or Cortona-Terentola), or if you are up for some hassle, drive and park free at Piazzale Michelangelo. Admire the view from San Miniato and walk into town (30 minutes downhill) or take the bus. Make reservations well in advance to visit the Uffizi. Take in the Duomo and Orsanmichelle, if you have time, and come back another day for the rest. On your way back to the train station, stop at the Farmacia di Santa Maria Novella on via della Scala. We love their potpourri, but this ancient apothecary is worth visiting even if you don't buy anything. Visit the Accademia to see Michaelangelo's David, as well as the monk's cells at San Marco. Other options include the Pitti Palace, Boboli Gardens, the library (and market) of San Lorenzo, Sant' Ambrogio market, and the Synagogue. Don’t visit Florence on Monday when museums are closed.

Basilica of San Francesco, Assisi
Daytrip 5—Assisi

Visit the Basilica of San Francesco (Saint Francis) and stroll through Assisi to the Basilica of Santa Chiara (Saint Clare). Continue on to Spello, but if you are there in June for the “infiorate,” when the streets are filled with wonderful works of art all made from flower petals, you will want to go on Sunday, and we suggest you get an early start to avoid the crowds.

Winery in Chianti, Tuscany
Daytrip 6—Chianti

Explore the countryside of Chianti by driving the SS222 wine route through Greve, Panzano, Castellina in Chianti and on, using your Chianti vineyard map and stopping at villages along the way. Reserve in advance for lunch with wine pairing at historical Vignamaggio. Reserve a wine tasting at the worldwide headquarters of Antinori and pick up some wine for your villa. If you have time, visit the abbey Badia a Passignano.

View from Church of Santa Maria della Pieve, Arezzo, Italy
Daytrip 7—Arezzo and Montevarchi

See Piero della Francesca's Legend of the True Cross and continue to Montevarchi, with designer outlets like Prada, Gucci, and Dolce & Gabbana. Shop till you drop! Or follow the Piero della Francesca trail all the way to Urbino.

Old Town Pienza, Siena, Tuscany
Daytrip 8—San Quirico D'Orcia, Bagno Vignoni & Pienza

Visit San Quirico D'Orcia in the morning to enjoy the view from the Piazza della Libertá, continuing on to the tiny village of Bagno Vignoni, famous for its sulphur baths and worth a visit to admire the architecture of its stone-lined piscine. Explore Pienza, well known for its pecorino cheese; ask to taste the difference between the young (soft and mild) and aged (sharp) varieties.

Piazza della Cisterna, San Gimignano, Italy
Daytrip 10—San Gimignano & Volterra

See the famous skyline and walk all the way around the fountain in the Piazza della Cisterna to ensure your return. Continue to Volterra to shop for alabaster artifacts or to visit the Etruscan museum or the Museo Giarnacci, a major archaeological museum. Enjoy a local specialty, cinghiale (wild boar), for lunch.

Saint Antimo Abbey, Montalcino, Italy
Daytrip 11—Montalcino

Visit the enoteca in the fortress atop this classic Tuscan hill town to sample the famed Brunello wine. Stopping to see the Sant' Antimo Abbey, just down the road. Make reservations ahead of time for dinner at Taverna dei Barbi, with an international reputation for Tuscan country cuisine. (Closed Tues evening and all day Wednesday - 0577 8471 17). If you have time continue on to Buonconvento & Monte Oliveto: The drive from Asciano to the abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore takes you through the eerie landscape of the Crete. Shop for unique souvenirs in the abbey gift shop, which specializes in herbal remedies. Have lunch at the restaurant by the gatehouse or continue on to Buonconvento for lunch at the unpretentious Da Mario. If you have time, visit the village of Murlo, one of the oldest settlements in the area.

Cathedral, Orvieto, italy
Daytrip 12—Orvieto

Explore Orvieto, visiting the Etruscan tombs, St. Patrick’s Well, and the Cathedral, as well as its many shops and restaurants. One of our favorites, Antica Trattoria dell’ Orso which has some of the best soup in Italy. Continue on to Todi before returning via the area of Perugia.

Or take a longer daytrip to Pisa & Lucca: Visit Pisa's Campo dei Miracoli to see the Leaning Tower and the Cathedral. Spend the afternoon in Lucca. Rent bikes at the tourist office to ride around the city walls, or tour some of Tuscany's most impressive villas and gardens in the surrounding hills. In July or August, attend the Puccini Festival in nearby Torre del Lago. If you have kids, visit the Leonardo Museum in Vinci or the Parco di Pinocchio in Collodi. Or hike the villages of the Cinqueterre and stop at Carrara to see the quarries where Michelangelo got his pure white marble.

San Galgano Abbey, Chianti, Tuscany
Daytrip 13—San Galgano

Explore nearby Lake Trasimeno and visit the ancient city of Citta’ della Pieve.
Or take a picnic to San Galgano: This ruined Cistercian abbey is one of Tuscany's most unusual attractions because it is a huge cathedral open to the sky. Stop at the little chapel on the hill to see the Italian Sword in the Stone.

Our Favorite Restaurants in Cortona

La Grotta, Cortona

  • Il Falconiere is a Michelin rated restaurant, advance reservations are a must. Located just off the road to Arezzo. 
  • LaTufa in Ossaia is great value perfect for a large crowd with kids. It has a large terrace with a wonderful view for al fresco dining which can’t be beat on a beautiful summer evening. 
  • Corys Restaurant, on the hill in Cortona on the way to The Church of Santa Margherita, is one of our favorite restaurants for lunch or dinner. They have the best views in Cortona, wonderful food & & good service. Phone 0575 605143 for reservations.
  • Trattoria La Grotta is one of our favorite places in Cortona. It is closed on Tuesday & popular with the locals & the tourists, so we recommend you make reservations in advance.
  • Ristorante Tonino is one of the best restaurants in Cortona. The view from their deck must be one of the finest of any restaurant. Of course, this can only really be appreciated on a clear, sunny day. They are very accepting of children, but it is ideal for an adult meal without bambini. Their specialty, Antipatissimo, is course after course of small hot & cold delicacies – something not to be missed. If you go for lunch, forget eating dinner that evening.

Special Events in Cortona

All year round

Etruscan and Egyptian Museum in Palazzo Casali

First week of June

La Giostra dell'Archidado, in full medieval costume, culminates with a Mediaeval Crossbow Tournament and re-enactment of the wedding of Francesco Casali, first Lord of Cortona, to noblewoman Antonia Salimbeni of Siena, which took place in 1397.

July & August

Cortona Mix Festival, performances of music, dancing, cinema, theater, art and literature, cuisine, wine and local products tasting throughout the city center.

July to September

Cortona On The Move - International photography festival with shows by top travel and reportage photographers, meetings, workshops and conferences.

September

The National Antiques Fair located in Palazzo Vagnotti with certified art, paintings, antique furniture, sculptures, earthenware, silver and bronzes, prints, engravings, carpets, jewelry, tapestry, copper and marble.