Amazingly and wonderfully, there are a number of free parking lots on the edge of Cetona that are usually available. Be prepared to manage tight turns and small spaces to park, but then you are done with the car and can explore on foot.
Explore beyond the Piazza following the “arrow up” and “arrow down” staircases for Instagram worthy details – antique bronze door knockers, light-beams on honey-colored stone or the trail of flower filled window-boxes and front stoops. Be rewarded with surprising vistas to the east, across the Val di Chiana and over to Umbria.
We recommend buying an inexpensive tricycle and keeping it in the trunk for use when you arrive – you sip cappuccino or brunello, the children tire themselves out. Cetona is one of those fabulous and rare towns with a flat piazza – like Lucca, or Gaiole in Chianti – where young children can be free and out of harm’s way of cars.
Just outside the village square is Trattoria del Contadino, a restaurant and accompanying farm dedicated to the chianina, that majestic animal who gives us Bistecca Fiorentina. Lunch is recommended so you have the afternoon to recover. Meals here are for the hale and hearty.
Nilo is becoming a local institution. He has an excellent restaurant, aptly named “Nilo’s,” and has redone a bar at the far end of Cetona’s open horseshoe shaped Piazza Giuseppe Garibaldi. You can take in all the comings and goings from this key vantage point.
The best bread baker in town is Forno del Vicolo. It is on the Via Risorgimento off the main square as you leave Cetona heading to Piazze and Chiusi. They have an amazing selection and bake different breads each day. Tuesday is Pane Arabo, an oatmeal bread with no yeast. On Thursday it is Pane Panda, their version of whole grain. Of course you can also get your daily cornetti and some good, hard, unsalted Tuscan bread for your Bruschetta, Pappa col Pomodoro or Ribollitta.
In the far corner of the piazza is J&J a refined gift shop selling beautiful cashmeres, fine jewelry and small leather goods – all rigorously ‘made in Italy.’ Be sure to consider a pair of custom shoes in alligator and python skins. The brothers Raffaelle and Stefano are of that special breed graced with impeccable taste and refined style.
Stop in and introduce yourselves to Loredana at La Frasca. Her family has been running this in-town cantina for some 30 years. Here they showcase their own produce as well as that of other local farmers who share their commitment to high quality and local small production.
Step into Pippo’s Studio and Gallery for stunning contemporary pieces of ceramic art from Pippo. This is the founder but today the work is produced and designed by the son. And the fabulous news is they will ship it home (although we always recommend hand carrying your Italian purchases if at all possible.)
If you need fruit and veggies during the week, stop in to the last shop on the far left (as you enter Piazza Garibaldi) I have never managed to find its name. You won’t miss it – the broad window always displays the most luscious looking fruits and freshest vegetables. Be sure to capture a good view of Valentino’s butter yellow villa across the piazza past the old well.