Whether you’re visiting Italy for art, architecture, atmosphere, food and wine, beautiful countryside – or all of the above – you’ll find what you’re looking for in the romantic walled hilltown of Perugia. What to do in Perugia? Here are five of my favorite things about this lovely Umbrian town.
The Piazza IV Novembre (photo above), with its gorgeous fountain and surrounding buildings looks like it belongs on a poster attracting visitors to Italy, doesn’t it! Other must-sees on the architecture itinerary include the Duomo, or main church, the Oratorio di San Bernardino, and the Rocca Paolina or Fortress.
Italian Walled Hilltown (can-I-bottle-this?) Atmosphere
Perugia emanates atmosphere, so you can’t miss it. But the best place to experience it is during the daily evening passeggiata (seen in the photo of Piazza IV Novembre above) on the pedestrian street of Corso Vannucci. It’s not uncommon to do the circuit over and over again so don’t be surprised if you keep seeing the same people. Another great place for atmosphere is at the fountain around midnight, when the students gather.
Perugia has great cheese, pasta, olive oil, pine nuts, and salami, but it’s most famous for chocolate: Baci, or kisses (photo above), made with hazelnuts and milk chocolate, then wrapped with love notes written in 4 languages. Read the scandalous love story about the origin of wrapping a note around each chocolate.
Perugia hosts a free chocolate festival every year in October which attracts thousands of visitors. This year on October 18th, a few Italian artists will get to sculpt an 1100 kg block of chocolate as they choose. Note: if you’re not particularly interested in the chocolate festival, avoid Perugia while it’s on because it takes over the city.
Umbria is wine country, so visit a vineyard or two or at least sample some of the local wine in an enoteca. We have great memories of Enoteca la Tana dell’Orso (Via Rochi Ulisse 32), which is about a 5 minute walk from the Piazza IV Novembre. If you go, visit the Enoteca pub in the cellar, and make sure to ask about their salumi, and get recommendations on cheese and marmelade pairings.
Two of Italy’s most famous artists come from Perugia: Raphael and Perugino, born Pietro Vannucci. Visit the Collegio del Cambio inside the Palazzo dei Priori to see some of Perugino’s most famous frescoes. If you love art (or like art, and it’s raining) the Umbrian National Gallery is also worth a visit. One of the most famous frescoes by Perugino and Raphael is in the Church of San Severo.
Take the train to Perugia, then take either escalators up the hill or the minimetro’ people-mover. If you drive, park in the lot in Piazza Partigiani. However, if you’re considering driving in the city, know that Perugia has a Zona Traffico Limitato, a limited traffic boundary that if crossed could result in an automatic fine. Once you’ve reached the historic center, explore Perugia on foot, though remember it’s on a hill, so wear comfortable shoes.
Photo of Piazza IV Novembre from www.istockphoto.com; Photo of Perugia by Sanjay; Photo of Baci chocolate by “Monira*
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