Santa Margherita Basilica (Basilica di Santa Margherita)
Overlooking Cortona is one of this lovely Tuscan Hilltown’s many architectural treasures, the Santa Margherita Basilica (Basilica di Santa Margherita). The church, with a history dating to the 13th century, boasts an imposing neo-Gothic façade and lavish interior, and the preserved body of its namesake, St. Margaret, still rests within.
Before the Basilica di Santa Margherita (also known as the Sanctuary of Santa Margherita) occupied this hilltop above Cortona, an 11th-century church dedicated to San Basilio stood on-site. After the church sustained damage during a siege, St. Margaret herself led efforts to rebuild it. A larger structure created to house her relics was eventually built, though it was later replaced by the basilica that stands today, with its richly painted ceilings, array of artworks, and the silver altar that still showcases Margaret’s remains.
Cortona and the Basilica di Santa Margherita can be visited on a select, tour itinerary departing from Siena that also visits the nearby town of Arezzo.
Things to Know Before You Go
The hilltop church can be reached on foot, though those with limited mobility may have difficulty without a car.
Free parking and public restrooms are available on-site, as are vending machines that sell cold drinks.
The Basilica di Santa Margherita offers panoramic views of Cortona and the surrounding Tuscan countryside.
How to Get There
Physically fit travelers can hike from the town of Cortona up to the Basilica di Santa Margherita; the journey takes about 20 minutes. Alternatively, the church is only a 10-minute drive from the center of town.
When to Get There
The Basilica di Santa Margherita is open daily, with longer hours during the summer months. Mass is held several times daily, in addition to other ceremonial rites. It is recommended to research service times in advance, as it is best to tour the church when services are not underway.
Other Cortona Highlights
Located roughly 70 miles (113 kilometers) south of Florence, lovely Cortona is celebrated for its medieval architecture, Etruscan heritage, and local wine. In addition to the basilica, other must-sees include the Diocesan Museum (which showcases select artworks that were once displayed in the church), the Girifalco Fortress (a military fort located near to the church), and the MAEC (the Etruscan Academy Museum of Cortona).