Culture of Perugia
Culture of Perugia

Perugia Culture Guide For Traveling

In the heart of Central Italy tucked into the region of Umbria, is the hidden jewel of Perugia. This gorgeous hilltop city is filled with an enchanting aura and a quintessential Italian vibe that makes the town a favorite with visitors year after year. Spend your Italian vacation in Perugia taking in the local culture via architecture, art, literature, music, and more. Take your time exploring and end the day by viewing the breathtaking green and rural countryside of Umbria from the top of your favorite Perugia landmark as you look out into the sunset.


The historical architecture of Perugia has religious roots and can be seen in several of the area churches. The Cathedral of San Lorenzo, the Church of San Pietro, and the Basilica of San Domenico are some of the most visited of these sites.

The Cathedral of San Lorenzo from circa the fourteenth and fifteenth century is largely unfinished even after years of construction.
However, the interior of the cathedral is the opposite as it is finished and grand. Before making your way in, admire the Baroque portal that is part of the façade. Once inside, be sure to visit the various chapels and stop to view the wooden choir, stained-glass windows, and eighteenth-century frescoes. The Chapel of San Giuseppe is home to a magnificent reliquary dedicated to the Santo Anello (the wedding ring of the Virgin Mary). Before leaving, take a moment to sit on the iconic stairway of the church just outside to take in the day and your surroundings as many locals often do.

The Church of San Pietro was a Benedictine abbey that was founded circa the tenth century. The abbey experienced a fair amount of destruction over the years due to political unrest, but multiple renovations have restored it today. One of the most stunning features of the exterior is the multiple arched entryways. Do not miss the paintings and detailed fourteenth century frescoes found in the church’s interior, including art by Perugino and Vasari.

In Perugia, the Church of San Domenico is a historical landmark. It was originally built in Gothic style before the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, but still received updates such as a bell tower as late as the fifteenth century. Over time, the structure experienced distress and was partly demolished before being rebuilt again in the early seventeenth century. The altar piece of the Madonna del Voto Chapel is a must see along with the bell tower, wooden choir, and beautiful fourteenth and fifteenth century frescoes.

Although not a church, the Palazzo dei Priori has a great deal of historical significance. The structure was one of the first seats of government or town halls. The exterior of the building is quite imposing, and the rooftop is reminiscent of that of a castle. Inside, visitors will find the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria which provides stunning collections of Italian art.

Other architectural stops for your Perugia itinerary should include the artistic masterpiece of the three-tiered Fontana Maggiore located by Palazzo dei Priori, the fresco filled Chapel of San Severo, the Renaissance fortress of Rocca Paolina, the breathtaking Gothic Monastery of Santa Giuliana, the marvelous Baroque Church of San Filippo Neri, the historic Pozzo Etrusco (Etruscan Well), and the local university’s botanical garden Orto Botanico dell’Universita di Perugia.


One of the more renowned artists from Perugia is known as Pietro Perugino. This High Renaissance fifteenth and sixteenth century painter, originally known as Pietro Vannucci, was born in the province of Perugia. He is known for his frescoes, for pioneering oil painting, and for teaching Raphael. Some of his more famous masterpieces include The Delivery of the Keys fresco located in the Sistine Chapel, Crucifixion, Pietà, St. Sebastian, Madonna in Glory with Saints, and so many more. Perugino’s Tezi Altarpiece is on display at Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria in Perguia.

Bernardino Pinturicchio is another famed Italian Renaissance painter that was born in Perugia in the mid-fifteenth century. This artist’s work can still be found today in part of the Vatican Library where several of his frescoes are on display, as well as in art galleries throughout the world. Some of Pinturicchio’s best-known works include Miracles of St. Bernardino, which is displayed at the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria, as well as Saint Jerome in the Desert, The Crucifixion with Sts. Jerome and Christopher, and the Borgia Apartments in the Vatican. Much of Pinturicchio’s work can be found in museums and chapels across Italy still today.
Art lovers should not miss a visit to the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria which is located in Perugia. The museum can be found inside of the Palazzo dei Priori on the upper floors. Paintings and sculptures from the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries are usually displayed in several dozen rooms of the Palazzo dei Priori. Visitors can expect to see examples of Pietro Perugino and Bernardino Pinturicchio here as well.

The Collegio del Cambio is also a headquarters of sorts for Perugia’s art. This fifteenth century building was once a chamber of commerce, but now acts as a museum and features a wide variety of art. There is no shortage of masterpieces to see here, such as the stunning frescoes by Perugino in the Sala delle Udienze.

Not to be missed while exploring Perugia’s city center is the Chapel of San Severo. This chapel, which dates back to the fifteenth century, is noteworthy for its fresco by Raphael depicting the Trinity. It is the only work by Raphael that remains in Perugia, and interestingly enough Raphael died before completing the work, so it was finished by his teacher Perugino.

Fans of more modern art should visit the permanent exhibition of Salvatore Fiume, a twentieth century Sicilian painter. Located in Palazzo Donini, the cycle consisting of 10 canvases depicts key moments from the history of Perugia commissioned by Bruno Buitoni for the Perugina chocolate factory.


Sandro Penna was a twentieth century Italian poet born in Perugia. He spent much of his career in Rome and contributed poetry to newspapers and literary outlets. Penna’s poetry differed from the poetry that was in style at the time, a movement called hermeticism, due to its clear and easily understandable language. An openly gay poet, much of his work expressed homoerotic desire and was controversial.

Italian writer Giuseppe Prezzolini was an established twentieth century journalist, editor, and literary critic. Born in Perugia, Prezzolini was a co-founder for the Italian literary journal Leonardo. He then went on to be the editor of the magazine until it retired. He later founded a second literary journal called La Voce. He was known for writing books in both Italian and English as well as essays of history and philosophy. He is estimated to have more than thirty-five literary works published over the years.


Perugia’s music heritage is quite rich, with a number of renowned composers originating or spending much of their time in the area.

Matteo da Perugia was a fifteenth century Italian composer of the medieval era. He is recorded as being the first magister cappellae of the Milan Cathedral.

Born in Perugia, Francesco Giuseppe Baldassare Morlacchi was an Italian composer. Over the years, Morlacchi wrote roughly twenty operas. Much of his success came in the nineteenth century when he wrote both comedic and dramatic opera. His work eventually earned him commissions from opera houses in Milan and Rome. His masterpiece is widely considered to be Tebaldo e Isolina.

With the renowned Umbria Jazz Festival taking place in Perugia every year, there is no denying the city’s ties to jazz. Giovanni Mirabassi, born in Perugia, is considered to be one of the most influential modern day Italian jazz pianists. Largely self-taught, this twentieth and twenty-first century musician has released at least a dozen albums as well as some video recordings of his concerts, and he has played at venues all around the world.

Perugia is also home to three historical theaters: Pavone Theater, Morlacchi Theater, and Sapienza Theater. All three are open to the public and to this day Pavone Theater and Sapienza Theater host musical performances and other cultural events.


Though Perugia has not yet attracted international filmmakers, the city’s history and beauty easily lend themselves to the silver screen.

Italian productions filmed in Perugia include Uomini e cieli (1943), Bufere (1953), Fumo di Londra (1966), L'ultima neve di primavera (1973), Profondo rosso (1975), Il maestro di violino (1976), Una domenica sì (1985), Un delitto poco comune (1988), Lezioni di cioccolato (2007), and Lezioni di cioccolato 2 (2011).


Perugia was the birthplace of Ignazio Danti, a sixteenth-century Catholic Bishop and noted mathematician, astronomer, and cosmographer. During his life, Danti created numerous maps, brass scientific instruments, and globes. He lived in Florence for a period where he designed the armillary sphere and quadrant on the façade of the Church of Santa Maria Novella. While in Rome, he directed the painters who completed the highly detailed Gallery of Maps in the Vatican.

Often the best part of any trip can be found within the journey itself. As you visit different landmarks and sites of cultural importance on your Italian vacation, enjoy the wandering of Perugia between each and take in the striking beauty of this lovely ancient city.