Millions come to Italy for the vacation of a lifetime each year, and the enchanting town of Perugia is often a favorite destination among those who spend time in Central Italy. Located in the heart of the region of Umbria, this city on a hill is as beautiful within as the views of the surrounding Umbria countryside are. Perugia’s charm can be found street side in the evenings when the sun is setting, in the laughter of newfound friends in one of the city’s piazze, or even in the light of the stained glass windows of the Cathedral of San Lorenzo. Whether you stay a day or a week, the quintessential Italian city of Perugia is sure to delight and entertain.
FESTIVALS AND EVENTS IN PERUGIA ITALY
In April of each year, Perugia is home to the International Journalism Festival. This gathering is one of the largest annual media events in Europe and is open to current and aspiring journalists from all over the world.
During the month of July, Perugia is home to the Umbria Jazz Festival, an annual celebration of music. It is one of the most well attended jazz festivals in Italy and typically lasts a week or longer. Although the focus of the event is jazz music, the festival celebrates music in general and attracts musicians from across the globe who perform in a variety of different venues.
The Eurochocolate Festival is one of the most delicious events in all of Umbria and one of the largest festivals of its kind in Europe. Every October, the sights and smells of chocolate permeate Perugia and attract visitors to tastings in piazze and streets throughout the city. The event typically offers wine pairings for adults and special activities for children. While celebrating at the Eurochocolate Festival, be sure not to miss the chocolate sculptures.
Each year in November, Perugia hosts the Fiera dei Morti (Fair of the Dead) in conjunction with All Souls’ Day. Dating back to the Middle Ages, the modern Fair of the Dead in Pian di Massiano and is one of the largest fairs in Umbria. More than 500 booths are present each year with a variety of goods for sale such as books, clothing, leather, crafts, culinary items, and more.
When it comes to exploring Perugia outdoors, one of the best ways to take in the local culture and beauty of the city is to visit the piazze. With features like a park, grand water fountain, statue, and even a merry go round, it is no surprise that Piazza Italia is a favorite with families. Piazza Ignazio Danti, named after a Perugia-born scholar, is also a favorite of travelers particularly because of its close proximity to the cathedral. Also not to be missed are Piazza IV Novembre and Piazza Matteotti. In general, these city squares are popular gathering and meeting places that also feature interesting little shops, cafés, and restaurants.
One of the most unique walks to be had in Perugia is atop an ancient Roman Aqueduct. This thirteenth century structure stretches for nearly two miles in old town Perugia. The aqueduct no longer serves as such, but instead functions as a coveted elevated walkway destination for tourists. It offers one-of-a-kind views of the University of Perugia and various adjacent buildings.
The Etruscan Arch, sometimes referred to as the Arch of Augustus, is one of seven historical entrance gates to Perugia. Although the gate was constructed in the Etruscan period, evidence of Roman and Renaissance influence from the ensuing years can be seen.
It is believed to be one of the best-preserved Etruscan structures still standing. The stone gate still acts as an entrance to the city today. While the architecture of the Etruscan Arch is impressive, it pales in comparison to the experience of walking under a gate to Perugia that has been in place for centuries, where hundreds of thousands of people have trod before you. Other historical entrance gates include San Girolamo Gate, Sant’Angelo Gate, Crucia Gate, Trasimena Gate, and more.
When touring the city, be sure to stop by the Piazza IV Novembre to see the grand Fountain of Perugia. This thirteenth century masterpiece is a large circular water fountain that is comprised of three main basins. The bottom basin features dozens of life-like sculptured panels carved by artist Giovanni Pisano that depict scenes from the Bible’s Old Testament, as well as astrological signs and the personification of the liberal arts. This elegant water fountain features a number of statues and intricate details that make it so much more than just a meeting place.
One of the most breathtaking buildings in Perugia is the Collegio del Cambio. This fifteenth century building that once served as the chamber of commerce is now a museum. Visitors can easily wander for hours here as they go room to room viewing stunning Renaissance frescoes created by Perugino at the end of the fifteenth century.
The Palazzo Publico is a historic structure from circa the fourteenth century that has been home to the Municipality of Perugia. The building also acts as a museum of sorts. The exterior of the museum is imposing and grand with the rooftop somewhat resembling that of a castle. For most visitors, one of the main attractions here is the Room of the Notaries. This room is famous for its large arches and a number of detailed frescoes.
Suspected to be built atop the site of a former church is one of Perugia’s most renowned places of worship, the Cathedral of San Lorenzo. Construction for the church began in the fourteenth century and continued into the fifteenth century without ever being completed. Still today, the exterior of the church is somewhat plain and noticeably unfinished in places. The interior of the Cathedral of San Lorenzo is magnificent and is widely known for the impressive wooden choir and breathtaking stained glass windows.
The expansive Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria is perhaps the top art gallery in the region. Covering 40 rooms, the permanent collection of more than 3,000 works features art from the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries, including paintings, sculptures, jewelry, and pottery.
Perugia’s National Archeological Museum, situated in a thirteenth century Dominican monastery, is the place to gain a better understanding of the history of Perugia and the surrounding area. Starting with prehistory, the museum delves into the Etruscan and Roman periods with significant ancient artifacts on display.
Another key museum is the Museo Capitolare in San Lorenzo, which exhibits art from the Cathedral and other churches in Perugia. Art and artifacts on display include paintings, sculptures, silver objects, and liturgical clothing.
Something the family can do together for a break in the day or all during your Italian vacation to Perugia is wander the city’s charming cobblestone streets and alleyways. Crowd favorites typically include Corso Vannucci which is one of the main thoroughfares of the city that is just under a mile long and Via Oberdan. Both streets are known for being home to local shops, fantastic cafés, and fabulous sightseeing. With so much to see, do not be surprised if you and the family lose track of time on a peaceful stroll down these roads.
Families should also plan to spend time in Perugia’s green urban areas, with each offering something different. For example, the panoramas enjoyed from the Carducci Gardens simply cannot be beat, while the historic Frontone Gardens were built on a former Etruscan necropolis and today are a venue for musical performances and other cultural events. Not to be missed are the Botanic Gardens, which are home to 3,000 species of plants.
One of the most fun ways to explore Perugia, especially with kids, is by hopping on the Minimetrò, which is the city’s People Mover. These small rail cars cross the city center on elevated rails, allowing visitors to take in panoramic views as they travel from station to station.
Located just outside of the city center of Perugia, the Perugina Chocolate Museum is a great way to learn about the delicious treat that Perugia is famous for. Visitors will learn about the chocolate production process as well as the history of Perugina. Tastings are available while visiting the museum, and during certain parts of the year it is also possible to see the factory.
Roughly ten minutes west of central Perugia is the Città della Domenica. This playground of sorts covers almost one hundred acres and is a natural respite from city life. The park is a mixture of zoo, fairytales, and kid-friendly activities. At Città della Domenica expect to see a wide variety of free-range wildlife including deer, ostriches, and llamas. Children who adore a storybook adventure will enjoy meeting characters from Little Red Riding Hood, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, and Pinocchio. Kid friendly activities can include go-karts, video games, and more. A day spent in the park may be just the thing to rejuvenate the children with an adventure of their own.
UNIQUE EXPERIENCES IN PERUGIA
One of the more unique experiences in Perugia is to visit the Rocca Paolina. This fortress was commissioned by the Pope in the sixteenth century after a period of political unrest. This structure is partially visible from the exterior in the older, historic part of the town but the real treasure is within.
Take the escalator down to make your way through a network of underground paths that mimic what ancient Perugia must have looked like hundreds of years ago. This fascinating area offers a unique look at Perugia’s past with Etruscan, Roman, medieval, and Renaissance ruins.
For travelers looking to venture off-the-beaten-path, the city of Perugia offers an excellent base to discover the charm of the Umbria region. Immerse yourself in the rich history, architecture, and art of this stunning city, then spend time admiring the natural beauty of the surrounding area.