Without a car its more difficult, doable, but there will be a hassle factor. Camucia and Terontola are the two closest train stations. We used Cortona as our base this last May, but we had a car. We did not see many taxis, but we really weren't keeping an eye out for them. Without a car I would recommend a different town to base from and a day trip to Cortona. Getting around in Cortona itself is not difficult, and there are some very good restaurants there, its the getting to the public transit that could be a hassle. Depending on what other towns you want to visit, a car in this area can be a great advantage. The local car rental company is www.autonoleggioilgirasole.it, we did not use them this last trip but may on our next trip.
Cortona is not a good base for visiting Tuscany by public transportation. Its train station is a good distance from the town, and it's on a slow branch line. Being in the far northeast corner of Tuscany, with a long access road and behind a large lake, it's not even a good base for visiting Tuscany by car.
Tuscany is difficult to visit by public transportation in the best of cases. It's not very well served by trains. Trains don't go up and down hills; they wind through the valleys and are connected to the famous hill towns by bus. For most of Tuscany, the best regional hub is Siena. There are bus connections from Siena to most of the hill towns to the south, although the schedules are infrequent, and are mostly for the benefit of students and others who leave the small towns in the morning and return home in the evening. There is virtually no bus service on Sundays and holidays.
From Siena, you can visit San Gimignano, Montepulciano, Montalcino, and Pienza by bus. The trips would pretty much have to be on separate days, although you might be able to see Pienza and Montepulciano on the same day, because they are on the same bus line. You can also get to Montepulciano station from Siena by train, which makes it a feasible visit on a Sunday or holiday when the buses aren't running, although I don't know how easy it is to get into the center of Montepulciano from the station.
Cortona is not my favorite town in Tuscany, by a long shot, by a long shot. I would much prefer Siena on all counts, not just convenience. Siena has a lot to see on its own, which is always an advantage in a town where you will be spending some time.
I agree with bvlenci. Although I do like Cortona a lot, I have to say it really is not well positioned or well connected for exploring Tuscany by public transport. It may be that there is a taxi service somewhere in the town, but they are certainly not sitting around outside the station, instead you need to catch the bus up and down to the town.
If your heart is set on Cortona, and why not it is a very attractive town, you really do need a car and perhaps consider day tripping into Umbria as well as that corner of Tuscany. If you really want to travel to further flung parts of Tuscany, I would reconsider your homebase.
If you need further info just ask.
all the cities mentioned in Tuscany are unique jewels which is worth visiting. Cortona for example is an incredible place and it's shocking to hear that someone thinks that a city with over 2,500 years of history (perhaps more) it's not worth one night staying. Perhaps it's true that Siena has better connections but on the other side the Eastern side of the Val Di Chiana (Arezzo, Cortona, Castiglion Fiorentino) is less busy and more genuine (if you know what I mean!). Also from Cortona you can easily visit the neighbour region of Umbria which is as nice as Tuscany (the city of Perugia is 45 mins. drive).Edited: 24 November 2009, 21:49
I don't see anyone saying it isn't worth spending a night in. The original poster asked how feasible it is to stay in Cortona and day trip to other parts of Tuscany from there. The simple answer is that it is on the edge of Tuscany and is not well served by public transport. That is no negative reflection on Cortona as a town, just a straight answer to the question.
I am referring to an old post in the same forum.
Ok, that wasn't clear though!
I find Cortona most attractive, but unless you have parking arranged it is very difficult to access with luggage, with often quite long walks up to be inside the walls (there is an escalator for part of this now, giving an idea of exactly HOW steep it is) and is a very steep town internally once you are past the square. It is not somewhere I would choose as a base, maybe Montalcino, Pienza or Montepulciano if your hotel has parking. I also love Arezzo and Siena. Both are wonderful bases but both have some parking difficulties which you need to look at before booking.
If staying 2.5 miles outside Cortona in the countryside for 3 days in May, what are the top choices for visiting? Cortona, of coarse, Lake Trasimeno, Perugia, Orvieto??? Have not been to Arezzo, really wanted to see Siena. How far is Montepulciano for a day. Suggestions appreciated.
Will be arriving Cortona area from Florence. Will rent a car for 3 days and then proceed to Rome. Is it best to rail from Florence to Cortona, rent a car upon arrival and drop the car when railing to Rome? That would avoid any city driving.
Is there a car rental company near the Cortona Rail Station? Grazie