A walk in Perugia to discover its Etruscan and Medieval history, beautiful churches, momuments and works of art
Perugia, the capital of the green region of Umbria, is located on an acropolis 450 meters above sea level at the very heart of Italy, halfway between Florence and Rome, and surrounded by the gentle Umbrian hills. The city is rich in art and history, it boasts beautiful Medieval buildings and monuments, romantic narrow alleys, squares of ancient charm and some view points with breathtaking views over the peaceful landscapes.
Thanks to its convenient location, the area has been inhabited since the eleventh century B.C., but it started developing about 500-600 years later, when Perugia became first, one of the most important Etruscan sites and then, in 295 B.C., a Roman colony. Also, remarkable its period under the Byzantine rule until the 8th century when Perugia became a territory of Papacy. During the Middle Ages and beyond the city had a busy history.
Today Perugia is a very lively international city, full of young people from all over the world, thanks to its renowned "University for Foreigners of Perugia", where every year many foreigner students have the chance to study in Italy.
The historic center of Perugia is not so large so you can visit it by walk. Start from Piazza IV Novembre (pic n°1), the real cultural hub of the city. This asymmetrical square links the main streets of the city, and it preserves lots of artistic treasures:
- Fontana Maggiore (pic n°1), first of all. Symbol of the city, this fountain was built in 1275 by architects Giovanni and Nicola Pisano and it depicts characters, symbols and the history of the city with statues and tiles.
- Next to the fountain you can see Cathedral of San Lorenzo (pic n°3), the main church of Perugia. Although its construction took more than 100 years (from 1345 to 1490), the façade remained incomplete. The 3-nave interior features many decorations and paintings, among which the Deposition by Barocci, but it also preserves the Sacred Ring, namely a relic of the Virgin Mary's wedding ring.
- Still in the same square, you can also visit the imposing Palazzo dei Priori (pic n°1), a beautiful example of Medieval architecture, built at the end of the thirteenth century. In the past as well as today, it has been serving as the Town Hall, and it is open for visitors to admire some of its precious halls, such as Sala dei Notari and Sala delle Udienze. The palace is also home to Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria, founded in 1863, which is the most important museum of the region hosting many masterpieces by Perugino, Pinturicchio, Piero della Francesca, and others.
From here, you can take Corso Vannucci, one of the main shopping streets of the city, and get lost in the maze of Medieval-style pedestrian roads, from the widest to the narrowest ones, until you will get to the beautiful Piazza della Repubblica, and then ahead towards Piazza Italia.
- Here, take some time and visit the impressive Rocca Paolina (pic n°4), an ancient fortification built in the fifteenth century at the request of Pope Paul III. Serving as one of the main symbols of the papal authority, it was demolished around 1860, but you can still visit the walls and the stronghold with Porta Marzia, as well as its impressive undergrounds.
- Next to the fortification there is Giardino Carducci, a very nice and peaceful garden that allows visitors to enjoy incredible views over the Umbrian hills, while Corso Cavour is another beautiful street full of shops, restaurants and cafes.
- Basilica of San Domenico (pic n°5), built in 1304, preserves some beautiful works of art, such as the wooden choir, a monument to Pope Benedict XI, and the glass window behind the apse, the second biggest in Italy.
- Next to the Basilica you can visit the Archeological Museum of the city, hosting thousands or artifacts that tell the prehistoric and Etruscan-Roman history of Perugia.
Going down the same street, you will get to Giardini del Frontone, an amazing garden with lots of plants and some interesting monuments, which lies just in front of Basilica of Saint Peter. It is an ancient church, built in 996, with a Romanesque façade and Renaissance-style interiors, featuring some works of art by Reni, Vasari, and Perugino.
Among the other main attractions of the city, we also suggest visiting:
- Oratorio di San Bernardino, with a wonderful Renaissance-style façade that is worth a visit;
- Pozzo Etrusco (the Etruscan Well), a great hydraulic work of art, 37 meters deep and built more than 300 years B.C.;
- the Baroque-style Church of San Severo;
- and some gates of the city, such as the Etruscan Arch (pic n°2) and Porta San Pietro.
Do not miss a visit to Fountain Angelini (pic n°6) which is located in one of the most evocative parts of the city, in an alley called Via Maestà delle Volte not far from the central Piazza IV Novembre. It was built in 1928 by Pietro Angelini, and although it is not an ancient fountain it worth a visit.
Finally, do not forget that the famous Perugina Chocolate was founded here in Perugia: just outside the historical center, you will find the House of Chocolate. Here, you can visit the Historical Chocolate Museum, learn about the secrets in the Chocolate School, have a guided tour in the production area, and ... in the Tasting Area you can taste the worldwide famous Bacio Perugina! So, it is an absolutely not-to-be-missed experience!
Some pics of Perugia:
Piazza IV Novembre with Fontana Maggiore and Palazzo dei Priori (pic n°1); The Etruscan Arch (pic n°2); Cathedral of San Lorenzo - interior (pic n°3); Rocca Paolina, and the underground Perugia (pic n°4); Basilica of San Domenico (pic n°5); Fountain Angelini (pic n°6);