St. Francis passed through Cortona in 1240, on his way to a mountainside hermitage 3km (2 miles) outside of town. Francis’ companion Brother Elia then took up residence in one of the caves and redid the place into a bona fide monastery, which it remains to this day, home to a small community of monks and a place of solitary retreat for the religious. The honey-colored stone dwellings, forest paths, bubbling streams, and simple, rock-hewn chapels are lovely and humbling, and the walk out from town is a delight. From Piazza Mazzini, outside Porta Colonia, walk northeast (to the right as you leave the gate) for about 500 feet to a gravel road on the left that skirts olive groves high above the baroque church of Santa Maria Nuova. At the entrance to a villa garden you will come to a fork; take to the road to the right and follow it to the Celle.