Umbria is a contemplative region of tiny hilltop towns and rolling countryside, a destination known much more for its culture and cuisine than for its shopping or nightlife. An exception to this quiet rule is the relatively cosmopolitan provincial capital, Perugia.
The largest city in Umbria, Perugia is home to the region’s most important art museum (though its most visited monument--the Basilica of Saint Francis—is in nearby Assisi) and most impressive civic architecture, with staid Medieval palazzi lining wide Corso Vannucci.
Because of its sprawling university, Perugia is buzzing with students (thus the nightlife) who mix with chic Perugians and curious travelers on the streets. These groups tend to go their separate ways, however, when perusing the city’s many shops, which range from high-end boutiques to historic artisan workshops. Here are a number which can satisfy a variety of tastes (and budgets):
Perugia Shopping Districts
Perugia’s historic center is compact, so can be easily visited on foot. There are three interesting commercial hubs, which are fun to meander if you’re as interested in exploring Perugia’s side streets as you are in exploring its shops: Via dei Priori (crowded with everything from ethnic shops to jewelry designers to wine bars); Via Floramonti/Via Sant’Ercolano (where the kids hang out to pick up cheap, funky clothing and pizza by the slice); and Corso Cavour (recently gentrified and now home to a number of contemporary fashion boutiques and gourmet shops).
Artisans in Perugia
Perugia has a long and proud history of artisan workshops, which have become an endangered species as they are slowly shouldered out by the international chains taking over the downtown. Two of the best known are the Laboratorio Giuditta Brozzetti, which makes hand-loomed traditional linens in a 13th century church, and Studio Moretti-Caselli, a stained-glass workshop in a historic palazzo steps from Corso Vanucci.
Both offer wonderful guided visits to their ateliers along with in-house shops. For hand-painted Umbrian ceramics, both the delicate contemporary designs of Maria Antonietta Taticchi and the traditional motifs of Francesco-Maria Giuliani reflect this traditional local art form.
Home to the Italian fashion giant Luisa Spagnoli, Perugia knows how to dress well. Men should head to the Lemmi Sartoria where the Lemmi family has been making bespoke suits and menswear since 1945. For a more contemporary local look, women can take a look at Le Muria, where each dress can be twisted and knotted into a number of different styles (and come with a DVD to show you how to do it). Both have shops near Corso Vanucci.
Italians love to accessorize, and Perugia has some wonderful shops for it. For a pair of unique eyeglasses, designer Sandro Gonnella’s Ozona frames have been featured in a number of glossy fashion magazines. The store is on Via del Morone, off Via dei Priori. Nearby on Via Deliziosa, also just off of Via dei Priori, the gold, silver, and paper jewelry of Anna Fornari is one-of-a-kind. Along Corso Cavour, Marjda is tiny shop crowded with wonderful and whimsical hats and, nearby at number 35, Wabi sells quirky jewelry, scarves, and other accessories.
Tucked into a side street behind the cathedral on Via Baldeschi, Legatoria Biccini has been making hand-bound and tooled leather books since the 1960s. Gorgeous albums, journals, and made-to-order gold leaf designs can be found here. Along Corso Cavour, Anna Barola sells her exquisite needlework—embroidery and lace—decorating linens, lampshades, and home accessories. The Bottega Artigiana dei Secchi, on Via Cartolari, also makes accessories for the home, and their handmade puppets and play theaters are always a hit with little ones.
Food and Wine
Perugia is famous for its Perugina chocolates, and Talmone chocolate and sweet shop on Via Maestà delle Volte is a paradise for satisfying a sweet tooth. For fantastic local cheeses and cold cuts, Cacioteka (known by locals as Giuliano’s) on Via Donzetti is bursting with some of Umbria’s best.
For an excellent selection of local wines and beers, Osteria a Priori, Via dei Priori 39, is both a wine shop and a restaurant.