Perugia, the capital of Umbria and the province which bears its name, is not a city easily overlooked, nor should it be.Surrounded by two perimeter walls – the inner Etruscan with 7 ancient gates built of massive stone and an outer Medieval ring intact over several kilometers – its historic centre is a 14th Cent. Gothic dream. Yet while its monumental buildings may speak of the past, the energy on its broad streets is decidedly present-day. For Perugia is a seat of learning, with both a major university founded in 1308 and Italy’s foremost University for Foreigners. Add other schools of art, music and translation and the reason for the city’s vibrancy and the many locales one can eat, drink and shop become clear.
The heart of the city with its historic Palazzo Priori, Fontana Maggiore and St. Lorenzo Cathedral is decidedly uphill – comfortable shoes will be appreciated by the end of the day – yet Perugia was the first Italian city to install escalators to help visitors reach the centre from its car parks. Once there, be prepared to be dazzled by the art, architecture and history found in wide piazzas or behind arched doorways.
The history of Perugia is not one of smooth sailing and peaceful expansion. While remnants of Perusia’s Etruscan origins can be seen in its massive walls, nearby tombs and an ancient well, little else remains. In part because the Roman Ottavian had the city burnt to the ground. Two and a half centuries later Totila the Ostrogoth again laid waste to the city following a long seige.
On various occasions Popes found asylum here from crises in Rome. Yet the city never accepted papal sovereignity, to the extent that at one point it was excommunicated and in 1369 was in open warfare with Pope Urban V. In the Middle Ages the city grew in size and importance and its city centre still bears the look it acquired in these centuries.
The 14th century found the populous in conflict with the nobility and throughout the 15th cent. the city was passed from one noble or Pope to another with resulting bloody squabbles and Rocca Paolina being built to control the 'audacious Perugini'. Things did not improve; in 1797 the city was conquered by the French and later merged with the Roman Republic. In 1849 they were seized by the Austrians and once again ruled by Papal authority. Only in 1860 were they united as part of the Kingdom of Italy. Suffice it to say that the Perugian character does not back down from a fight.
Perhaps Umbria's most delicious festival, Eurochocolate offers food stands, tasting tours, sculptures and shows. And 'Baci' for all.
For 10 days in July Perugia becomes a musical village, with world-class jazz performed in city squares and streets. See 2019 program
In honor of their patron saint Ubaldo three teams carrying enormous wooden 'candles' compete to reach the Basilica atop Mount Ingino.
A race through this town of ceramics producers had to involve something breakable. Competing runners carry their pitchers with them.
This 9.5 race through the historic centre of Perugia is open to runners of all speeds. Dash through the city or cheer on those who do.
Come eat at tables set with the colorful ceramic ware this town is famous for, then tour its Museum to appreciate how these beauties are made.
In full Renaissance regalia, four competing town districts, the 'porte', take on donkey cart racing and archery and slingshot accuracy.
This competition, a popular parody of knightly tournaments, offers a goose, 'l'oca', to the winner whose lance proves the most accurate.
Set against the majesty of the Piazza Grande this medieval archery competition draws colorful participation from the town's four districts.
For classical music concerts in beautiful venues in and around Perugia, have a look at the 2018 programme.
Once a month this bustling market town is filled with antique-hunters in search of a bit of well-bargained nostalgia - Why not join the hunt?
Tradition has it that a farmer who cuts a Poplar tree on his land will have a year of bounty. The cut tree is then carted to the village center, the bark is removed and the pole raised to bring luck to the whole community.
Visit the Casa del Cioccolato to take lessons in the School of Chocolate and make your way through the Museum dedicated to this world-loved confectionery.
Visit the oldest of Perugia's many churches. The Church of Sant'Angelo was built on the ruins of a pagan temple. NB: the 5th cent. altar surrounded by 16 columns dating from different periods.
For a fabulous view and a bit of a thrill ride Gubbio's Funivia, a ski-lift style cable car that takes visitors up Monte Ingino to the Basilica of Sant'Ubaldo, the city's patron saint.
Hunt for the perfect souvenir in the province's many artisan workshops. There are textiles and stained glass in Perugia and ceramics in Deruta and Gualdo Tadino.
Walk the ancient aqueduct in Perugia. Built in 1254 by the Venetian architect Boninsegna, it encompasses 3 km from Mount Pacciano to Piazza Grande. If walking the portion in the city centre where the aqueduct is surmounted by Medieval arches, be sure to bring a camera.
Discover Umbrian rivers in a raft The Umbrian region is a land of waterfalls and rivers surrounded by woods, consequently the perfect way to combine sport, ladscape beauty and a certain thrill. The best opportunities for rafting are only an hour's drive out of Perugia - along the Nera river near the Marmore Falls for those who like rapids, or perhaps in the Nera River Park for those preferring a quieter ride.
Montone is acclaimed one of Italy's most beautiful villages. Home of Bracco da Montone a famous 14th century mercenary and keeper of the 'Holy Thorn' in S. Gregorio church, dating to 1000 AD
In northeastern Umbria, Gubbio is one of the region's most ancient medieval towns. An important trading centre in the Middle Ages, it has kept it lively bustle and seems to always have a celebration on the go.
In the high Tiber River valley, Città di Castello celebrates artists - both its native son, sculptor Alberto Burri, as well as masters from the Renaissance to the 20th Cent. in its National Gallery of Perugia.
Thanks to the clay deposits on the Tiber river, Deruta has been a centre of maiolica manufacturing since the Renaissance. With over 250 producers of the colorful, painstakingly detailed ceramics, your choice is endless.
Located at the meeting of two rivers, the Reggia and the Tiber, hence no hills to negotiate, Umbertide is not your typical 'tourist town', yet its fortress, Collegiata and bustling daily life make it worthy of a visit.
Famous for its ceramic production since the 1300s, Gauldo Tadino is dominated by its bright stone fortress 'Rocca Flea' which is now home of their art gallery and Ceramics Museum.
Discovered in 1840, this Etruscan cemetery only 4 kms from Perugia includes an atrium and 9 burial chambers dating back to the 3rd cent. B.C. A nearby museum holds the artifacts of the tomb, whose layout is that of an Etruscan-Roman home.
Hiking, canyoning, mountain biking and cave exploration are all possible within the Monte Cucco Park, whose area is covered by of a dense network of around 120 kms. of well-signposted paths. A great place for an active family with a spirit of adventure.
While there are many fine-dining restaurants in the province of Perugia, sometimes the memorable dishes are those found in neighborhood trattorias. Do not be afraid to try some of the local specialties.
Torta al Testo is a much-loved flatbread named for the griddle-like pan used for its preparation; usually it is stuffed with various meats and cheese, such as Umbrian sausage and bitter greens.
Typically Perugian is Strangozzi or Strozzapreti, or ‘priest strangler’, a homemade ribbon-like pasta referring the city’s ancient fraught relationship with the Church; often this is served alla norcina, a creamy mushroom or truffle sauce featuring the prized sausage from Norcia.
Frequently found on menus is Perugia’s love of pulses, e.g., Imbrecciata, a harvest soup of lentils, beans, corn, chickpeas and spelt or Crema di fave, a delicious cream of fava beans with pecorino cheese, used as topping for toast. A testament to the transformation of leftovers, rich broth and extra slices of meat turn into Torello alla ghiotta with the addition of a tasty chicken liver sauce.
Naturally, what sweet tooth or chocaholic can resist what Perugia can do with chocolate and a hazel nut; a homemade Bacio (kiss) should never be passed up.
Wines: In an accompanying glass, consider trying:
As the highly prized white wine of Orvieto accounts for 80% of Umbria’s vineyards, consider Albaco Orvieto Classico Superiore
Lungarotti, Rubesco Riserva “Vigna Monticchio” Torgiano Rosso Riserva DOCG (from Torgiano, south of Perugia)
Sagrantino – from area near Montefalco, e.g., Tenuta Alzatura, “Uno” Sagrantino di Montefalco
Rosso di Montefalco
Sagrantino Passito – a dessert wine from the area near Montefalco
MONDAYS - Marsciano & Panicale
TUESDAYS - Deruta & Gubbio
WEDNESDAYS - Torgiano & Umbertide
THURSDAYS - Città di Castello & Gualdo Tadino
FRIDAYS - Tuoro sul Trasimeno
SATURDAYS - Perugia
Osteria a Priori– Perugia, Tel: +39 075 5727098
Trattoria del Borgo– Perugia, Tel: +39 075 5720390
Al Tartufo– Perugia, Tel: +39 075 5734809
Fontanella di Porta Sole– Perugia, Tel: +39 075 5734265
Osteria Il Borghetto– Deruta, Tel: +39 075 9724264
Osteria dei Sensi– Montone, Tel: +39 075 9288040 or +39 338 3608754
Antica Osteria– Montone, Tel: +39 075 9306271
Osteria dei Re– Gubbio, Tel: +39 075 9222504
Ristoranti dei Consoli– Gubbio, Tel: +39 075 9220639
Trattoria Pappa e Ciccia– Città di Castello, Tel: +39 075 8521386
Vineria del Vasaio– Città di Castello, Tel: +39 329 6219056
Ristorante San Giorgio- Umbertide, Tel: +39 075 9412944