Perugia is a lively medieval walled hill town with historic buildings, people-filled squares, and modern shops. It's home to a university and a large Italian language school for foreigners. Etruscan remains are still visible in several places. The city has a lot to offer the traveler and is a good base for visiting other hill towns in Umbria such as Assisi, Spello, and Gubbio. It's one of the top places to go in Umbria and also one of my personal favorite cities.
Perugia is very nearly at the exact center of Italy. It is the largest city in the Umbria region, known as the "Green Heart of Italy."
Where to Stay in Perugia
Chocolate lovers might want to try Perugia's Etruscan Chocohotel where there's a restaurant with a chocolate menu.
As is true of most Umbrian and Tuscan walled hill towns, one of the best things to do is to wander through the narrow streets and along the walls at the edge of town for views of the valley. Here are top attractions:
- Piazza IV Novembre is the heart of Perugia. It's a large, open square where locals and visitors congregate. In the center is a beautiful fountain, the Fontana Maggiore, surrounded by the Duomo (said to hold the virgin's wedding ring), the Palazzo dei Priori, and medieval buildings with shops and bars.
- The Fontana Maggiore, made of pink and white stone, is decorated with intricately carved panels showing the months of the year, astrological signs, Aesop's fables, mythical monsters, and more.
- The Palazzo dei Priori, where the town councilors used to meet, has some beautiful 13th-century frescoes and wooden furniture. It houses the National Art Gallery of Umbria and three other museums.
- The Corso Vannucci is the main pedestrian street and is lined with elegant shops, bars, and eating places.
- The Rocca Paolina is a fortress built by Pope Paul III over the houses and buildings he destroyed. You can wander through the underground remains of the streets and houses. There are also art exhibits held in the building.
- Etruscan remains include the 3rd century BC Etruscan well, the Etruscan Arch (one of the city gates), and remains of the massive Etruscan wall around the city. There are also remains of the Roman wall and Roman city gates and the Tempio di Sant'Angelo, a 5h century Roman temple.
- Perugia has several artisan shops, fashion stores, and good places to buy gifts.
Transportation to Perugia
Perugia is reached by train from a branch line at Terontola off the main Florence-Rome line or at Foligno off the Rome-Ancona line. From the train station, take almost any bus up the hill into town (or you can walk but it's a steep hill). There's also on a small private Umbria train line out of Stazione Sant Anna, halfway up the hill near Piazza Partigiani, the bus terminal for regional and national buses and a large parking lot. The closest airports are Rome, Pisa, and Florence. Perugia now has an airport with flights from other parts of Italy and Europe.
Transportation in Perugia
Perugia has a good bus system.
It also has an unusual series of escalators through the Rocca Paolina that takes you up the hill from the Piazza Partigiani area to Piazza Italia, the main square in the town center. There's also a new above ground metro line, called minimetrò, that runs from the outskirts to the top of the city.
Perugia is famous for chocolate and holds its chocolate festival, Eurochocolate, in mid-October. The city hosts a huge international Jazz Festival, the Umbria Jazz Festival, that runs for two weeks in July and MusicFestPerugia, two weeks of classical music performances in historic monuments and churches in August.
Perugia's Tourist Office
The main tourist office is at Piazza IV Novembre under the arches near the flight of steps and behind the fountain. They are very helpful and can help you with reservations and concert tickets.
The excellent Universita per Stranieri is a wonderful place to learn Italian. You will be studying with students from all over the world. Sessions last one or two months and have classes at 5 different levels. They also help you get housing. I studied there for one month and they found me a wonderful, inexpensive apartment in the center of town.