Things to do in Perugia

Things to do in  Perugia

Jazzy beats and chocolatey sweets

Capital of the rustic and rural region of Umbria, Perugia surprises with its stately architecture and cosmopolitan atmosphere—the latter fueled by two local universities. The medieval center is a time machine, transporting visitors back centuries with its Escher-like maze of alleys and staircases winding past Romanesque churches and Gothic palaces. When night falls, however, the city zips back to the 21st century and its cafés and squares fill with a rolicking mix of students and locals. The city is especially animated each July during Umbria Jazz, Italy’s top jazz festival.

Top 5 attractions in Perugia

Lake Trasimeno (Lago Trasimeno)

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With its placid waters lined by rolling vineyards and olive groves, Lake Trasimeno (Lago Trasimeno) is one of the most picturesque corners of Umbria and a popular day trip destination. Take the ferry to one of the lake’s three islets, relax on its beaches, or explore the lakeside towns of Castiglione del Lago and Passignano sul Trasimeno.More

Fontana Maggiore

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Set in Perugia’s elegant Piazza IV Novembre, the 13th-century Fontana Maggiore is one of the most important examples of medieval sculpture in Italy, and a symbol of this hilltop city. Built between the cathedral and Palazzo dei Priori, the intricately carved pink-and-white marble fountain is a highlight of the historic center.More

Collegio del Cambio

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Set in Perugia’s gothic Palazzo dei Priori, the 15th-century Nobile Collegio del Cambio was once the seat of Perugia’s exchange guild, the most powerful in the city during the Middle Ages. The Collegio’s three magnificent halls are lavishly decorated with frescoes by Perugino and others, a testament to the guild’s wealth and influence.More

Assisi Basilica of St. Mary of the Angels (Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli)

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Like the architectural version of a Russian doll, the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli is a church within a church. The grand basilica, one of the largest in the world, was built over and around the tiny 13th-century Porziuncola, a humble stone chapel where St. Francis founded his order and began the first Franciscan community.More

Porziuncola Museum (Museo della Porziuncola)

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Part of the Basilica of Santa Maria degli Angeli complex, the Porziuncola Museum (Museo della Porziuncola) is a repository of artwork and archival documents related to St. Francis. Pilgrims, art aficionados, and those wanting to take a deeper dive into the saint’s life and teachings will enjoy this small but exceptional collection.More
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All about Perugia

When to visit

Winters in Perugia are cold and wet, and the city goes quiet from November to March. Spring ushers in balmy days and the festival season, beginning with the International Journalism Festival in April, spotlighting top journalists from across the globe. July brings Umbria Jazz, one of Europe’s premier music events, and the Eurochocolate festival marks the sweet end to the season in October.

Getting around

The best way to take in Perugia’s partially pedestrian-only historic center is on foot, but be prepared to scale steep streets and seemingly endless steps. A “mini metro” elevated train runs from the train station to the hilltop old town, with views over the rooftops along the way. Alternatively, park in the Piazza Partigiani public garage and take the escalator up through the medieval remains of the city to Corso Vannucci, the city’s main thoroughfare.

Traveler tips

Perugia has a long, proud history of chocolate production, embodied in the hometown confectionary company, Perugina. The company’s flagship Baci candy, filled with a hazelnut and chocolate paste and topped with a whole hazelnut, has been one of Italy’s most beloved sweets since its invention in 1922. Learn more about this historic company, tour its factory, and even take a chocolate-making class at Casa del Cioccolato, the Perugina headquarters just outside the city center.

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A local’s pocket guide to Perugia

Rebecca Winke

Assisi-based writer Rebecca lives just up the road from Perugia, and she heads to the hilltop old town at least weekly for the fab dining, live music, and boutique shopping.

The first thing you should do in Perugia is...

wind your way through the underground medieval streets of the Rocca Paolina that connect the Piazza Partigiani parking lot and bus terminal to the heart of the old town above.

A perfect Saturday in Perugia...

begins with a treasure hunt through the Piazza Italia antique market (last Saturday of the month) then a sun-drenched al fresco lunch along the main Corso Vannucci. As night falls, pick a club for jazz, rock, and everything in between.

One touristy thing that lives up to the hype is...

the National Gallery inside Palazzo dei Priori, a bite-sized museum that hides a surprisingly excellent collection of works from the 13th to 16th centuries. Pause in the clock tower for the view of downtown from behind the clock’s face.

To discover the "real" Perugia ...

get lost in the maze of medieval streets that stretch from the cathedral in every direction. The Porta Sole and Distretto del Sale neighborhoods are especially captivating, with local eateries, independent shops, and semi-secret music clubs.

For the best view of the city...

grab an aperitivo-hour table at Punto di Vista, a cocktail bar set atop the ancient city walls. As the sun sets, the view is tinged a rosy pink from the rooftops of Perugia to Assisi across the valley.

One thing people get wrong ...

is judging Perugia by its modern suburbs. From the outside, Perugia looks like a poster child for 20th-century urban sprawl. Once you get past the ring of modern apartment blocks, you’ll find that its medieval heart is perfectly intact.

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People Also Ask

What is Perugia famous for?

This provincial capital has two claims to fame: chocolate and jazz. The storied Perugina chocolate company was founded here, and the city hosts the popular Eurochocolate festival each fall. In summer, jazz musicians and fans from across the globe gather for Umbria Jazz, one of Europe’s top music festivals.

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How do I spend a day in Perugia?

Begin at Carducci Gardens to take in the view at the far end of Corso Vannucci. Then stroll the length of this main thoroughfare. Stop to visit the National Gallery before reaching Fontana Maggiore at the opposite end. Continue down Via Ulisse Rocchi to pass beneath the soaring Etruscan Arch.

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What is one of the greatest sites in Perugia and why?

A symbol of Perugia, the Etruscan Arch is one of the most impressive Etruscan sites in Italy. This massive city gate, constructed in the third century BC, is a testament to the engineering skill of the enigmatic ancient civilization that predated the Romans and left relatively few monumental works.

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Is Lake Trasimeno worth visiting?

Yes, Lake Trasimeno is worth visiting. One of the prettiest lakes in central Italy, Lake Trasimeno has lakeside resort towns to explore, plus the islands of Isola Maggiore and Isola Polvese, linked by ferry. You can rent kayaks, sailboards, and other water sports gear on its beaches or simply relax.

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Is Perugia pretty?

Yes, Perugia’s old town is one of the most striking in central Italy, despite being ringed by drab modern suburbs. Handsome palaces line the main Corso Vannucci promenade, and a maze-like warren of medieval lanes spread out from there. The city’s hilltop perch provides sweeping views from countless overlooks.

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Do people speak English in Perugia?

Perugia is home to the historic University for Foreigners, so the city has an international feel despite its small size, and many locals and visitors speak English. That said, Italian is the primary language spoken.

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