This is an excerpt from the book “Umbria

Perugia Palazzo dei Priori - Photo © frabuleuse
Perugia Palazzo dei Priori – Click for more Perugia Photos from © frabuleuse

Perugia is the capital city in the region of Umbria in central Italy, near the Tiber river, and the capital of the province of Perugia.

Perugia is an important artistic center of Italy. The town gave his nickname to the famous painter Pietro Vannucci, called Perugino, who worked in Perugia, Rome and Florence. Perugino is said to be the Maestro of Raffaello, who left in Perugia five paintings (today no longer in the city) and one fresco. Another famous painter, Pinturicchio, lived in Perugia. In Galeazzo Alessi Perugia found its most famous architect.

Visiting Perugia in one day

PERUGIA, This important Etruscan city, built on a hill overlooking the Tiber valley, became a Roman municipality; and the Middle Ages and the Renaissance have given it the severe and noble aspect it bears today. The artistic center of the city is the Piazza IV Novembre, in the middle of which stands the Fontana Maggiore (1275), decorated by Nicolo and Giovanni Pisano.

On one side of the square stretches the massive wall of the Gothic Cathedral (inside, sculptures and paintings and a Madonna by Luca Signorelli in the Museum), and on the opposite side, the bold Palazzo dei Priori (built in the 13th century, but enlarged over the next two centuries) from whose severe facade jut the bronze statues of the Griffon and the Lion, emblems of the city.

The exquisite main Door of the Palace opens on to the nearby Corso Vannueci; on the second floor is the National Gallery of Umbria, a magnificent collection of paintings in 25 rooms, with Umbrian primitives works by Duccio di Buoninsegna, Gentile da Fabriano, Begin Angelica, Piero della Francesca, Benozzo Gozzoli, Pinturicchio, and Perugino, as well as outstanding medieval and Renaissance sculptures.

Next door, in the same street, is Collegio del Cambia, seat of the money-changers of old, whose avish Audience Chamber contains excellent frescoes by Perugino, set in precious carved wooden frames. Leaving the building, we take Via dei Priori, in a rough medieval setting and passing the church of S, Filippo Neri, with its Baroque facade, we descend through a network of narrow old streets, to an extremely picturesque spot, where the tall Tower of the Sciri (12th century), the Mardorla Gate, dating from Etruscan times, and the exquisitely pure Renaissance facade of the Madonna della Luce (1518) are grouped together.

Fontana Maggiore - Photo © f-remolo
Fontana Maggiore – Photo © f-remolo

From here, we come to the spacious piazza San Francesco where, standing side by side we see the gentle facade of the Oratorio di San Bernardino, with delicate hasrelief by Agostino di Duccio (1461), and the Gothic church of S. Francesco (1230).

We suggest returning to Via dei Priori, and them taking, still behind the Palace, the extremely ancient Via della Gabbia, so as to get to the impressive bend in the street, called Maesta delle Volte, one of the most awesome medieval spots in Italy.

We walk down to Piazza Morlacchi and, by way of Via Cesare Battisti, come to the so-called Arch of Augustus, a superb Etruscan gate, with a 16th century loggin at the top of the left-hand bastion. In Piazza Fortebraccio stands Palazzo Gallenga (18th century), which today accommodates the University for Foreigners.

Taking Corso Garibaldi, we reach the Church of S. Angelo (5th-6th century), the oldest in Perugia (but elegant in its unassuming simplicity. Returning along Corso Garibaldi, we reach the beautiful Gothic church of S. Agostino (inside, magnificent wooden Choir-stalls by B. D’Agnolo, 1502, and an excellent painting by Guercino). Returning to Piazza Fortebraccio, we go up Via Pinturicchio to the extremely ancient chapel of S. Severo with a fresco by Raphael, the only work by him in Perugia. Nearby is the so-called Sun Gate (Porta del Sole – perhaps from the name of an ancient temple, dedicated to the Sun), from which we head towards the solitary Piazza Michelotti, the highest point in the city, with a magnificent view of the surrounding plain and the mountains and Assisi.

Taking Via della Viola and Via Alessi, we come to Piazza Matteotti where, beyond the Church of the Gesu (1572), we see the Lombard Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo (1481), and the long Palazzo della Vecchia Universita 1483). Passing by the facade of S. Maria del Popolo and turning up towards the busy Corso Vannucci, we finish off our morning tour in one of the restaurants in the center of town.

From Corso Vannucci we will return to Piazza Matteotti and take Via Oberdan where, making our way down among interesting buildings, we come to the towering octagonal Gothich church of S. Ercolano, fromwhich we reach the Etruscan Marcia Gate. Taking Via Marzia, we enter the subterranean Via Bagliona, where once stood the old houses of the Baglioni family, the lords of Perugia; in 1540, commissioned by Paul III, Antonio da Sangallo used them as the foundation for his Rocca Paolina, which was unfortunately destroyed in the uprisings of 1848.

We now enter Corso Cavour which takes us to San Domenico, a Gothic church with a handsome interior illuminated by a magnificent Stained-glass Window (the striking Gothic tomb of Pope Benedict XI, wooden Chairstalls, sculptures, by Agostino di Duccio). Next to the church, m a former convent, is the Archaeological and Prehistoric Museum, richly endowed with Etruscan and Roman bronzes and sculptures. Continuing down Corso Cavour, we pass by the stupendous Porm San Pietro (1475) by A. di Duccio and come to the Church of San Pietro (originally 10th century, but transformed) with a 15th century bell-tower and an outstanding, extremely rich interior, decorated with extraordinary works of art, including a Piela by Perugino and what are perhaps the most beautiful wooden Choir-stalls (1526) in Italy. Retracing our steps to Viale Roma, we can climb up to S.Giuliana, a Romanesque church with a most beautiful 14th century Gothic cloister. We then return into the city, our visit of what at least are its essential aspects having come to an end.

Perugia by night
Perugia by night – Photo © Michele Tortioli – proprietà Regione Umbria

Main sights

Main attractions

  • The Cathedral of S. Lorenzo.
  • Palazzo dei Priori (Town Hall, encompassing the Collegio del Cambio, Collegio della Mercanzia, and Galleria Nazionale). The Collegio del Cambio has frescoes by Pietro Perugino, while the Collegio della Mercanzia has a fine later 14th century wooden interior.
  • Church and abbey of San Pietro (late 16th century).
  • Basilica of San Domenico (begun in 1394 and finished in 1458). It is located in the place where, in Middle Ages times, the market and the horse fair were held, and where the Dominicans settled in 1234. According to Vasari, the church was designed by Giovanni Pisano. The interior decorations were redesigned by Carlo Maderno, while the massive belfry was partially cut around mid-16th century. It houses examples of Umbrian art, including the precious tomb of Pope Benedict XI and a Renaissance wooden choir.
  • Church of Sant’Angelo (6th century).
  • Church of San Bernardino (with facade by Agostino di Duccio).
  • Fontana Maggiore, a medieval fountain designed by Fra Bevignate and sculpted by Nicolo’ and Giovanni Pisano.
  • Church of San Severo, here’s retained a fresco painted by Raffaello and Perugino.
  • Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria, the National Gallery of Umbrian art in Middle Ages and Renaissance (it includes works by Duccio, Piero della Francesca, Beato Angelico, Perugino)
  • Ipogeo dei Volumni (Hypogeum of the Volumnus family), an Etruscan chamber tomb.
  • National Museum of Umbrian Archaeology.
  • Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo.
  • Porta Augusta, a Roman gate with Etruscan elements.
  • the Rocca Paolina, a Renaissance fortress (1540-1543) of which only a bastion today is remaining. The original design was by Antonio and Aristotile da Sangallo, and included the Porta Marzia (3rd century BC), the tower of Gentile Baglioni’s house and a mediaeval pit.
  • The Etruscan arch.
  • The directional center,Piazza del Bacio by Aldo Rossi the famous architect

To do

  • It could be a good idea to see the Umbria Jazz Festival. During this period Perugia has a really beautiful atmosphere, with jazz concerts in the center of the city. for more info:

Where to stay in Perugia

Hotels, B&Bs, apartments and villas in Perugia: search and reserve here.

Get in

Perugia is accessible by long-distance trains and buses. The train station is in the valley, a few kilometers from the centro storico (historic center) of the city. You can take a local bus or a taxi from the station.

Perugia is also accessible from other parts of Italy by car via the Autostrada.

Get around

It is very hard to drive in the Centro Storico. You will drive very slowly over the many cobblestoned one-way streets and may very well end up driving around in circles several times. You are best advised to do as little driving as possible, and get around on foot. As usual in Italian cities, taxis can be called if you need them.

Photo © frabuleuse
Click for more Perugia Photos from © frabuleuse

Other attractions

  • The Etruscan Well (Pozzo Etrusco).
  • Medieval aqueduct.
  • The Tribunali.
  • Piazza Matteotti.
  • Teatro Comunale Morlacchi.
  • Church of Sant’ Agata.
  • Church of Sant’ Ercolano (early 14th century). Currently resempling a polygonal tower, it had once two floors. The upper one was demolished when the Rocca Paolina was built. It includes Baroque decorations commissioned from 1607. The main altar is made by a 4th sarcophagus found in 1609.
  • Church of Sant’Antonio da Padova.
  • Church of San Francesco al Prato.
  • Church of Santa Giuliana, heir of a female monastery founded in 1253, which in its later years gained a fame of dissoluteness, until the French turned it into a granary. It is now a military hospital. The church, with a single nave, has traces of the ancient frescoes, which probably covered all the walls (13th century). The cloister is a noteworthy example of Cistercense architecture of the mid-14th century, attributed to Matteo Gattapone. This is contemporary to the upper part of the belfry, whose base is from the 13th century.
  • Church of San Michele Arcangelo (5th-6th centuries). It is an example of Palaeo-Christian art with central plant recalling that of Santo Stefano Rotondo in Rome. It has 16 antique columns.
  • Church of San Matteo in Campo Orto.
  • Church of Santi Stefano e Valentino
  • Templar church of San Bevignate.