If you’re looking for one of the best-preserved medieval hill towns in Italy, and have the time to take some time, look no further than beautiful Perugia. Many travelers make the mistake of zipping by Perugia on their way to some of the more “famous” Italian destinations. But those who are able to take the time to discover this proud gem of a city so steeped in history and full of life will certainly never regret it.
Located in the heart of the Umbria region of Italy, this ancient city, totally encircled by walls, has the form of a star and lies approximately 400 meters above sea level. Because of its altitude, there are unusually beautiful views of the valleys and surrounding countryside below, patiently waiting for the visitor to enjoy as he slowly walks “around” town. You will suddenly know what is meant by the term “walled city” when coming here – and it’s easy to see how Perugia was able to protect itself against its rival neighbors in the past. Its walls are very great and very ancient. It was, after all, founded by the Etruscans (Perugia is said to be one of the few Etruscan cities that has managed to maintain any of its ancient importance) and has a very long artistic, cultural and culinary tradition.
And, in fact, when it comes to food, Umbria is one of those special destinations where seemingly everything seems to revolve around cuisine. You will eat well here. And Perugia is particularly well-known for a number of specific Italian delicacies itself; truffles, chocolate and wild boar among them.
But first let’s have a look at the art! Italian fresco painters, among them Pinturicchio, Vannucci and Alessi, have left many of their most famous works here in Perugia. Take a leisurely stroll along the Piazza IV Novembre and enjoy some of the city’s famous facades – everything is easily accessible here, by the way, Perugia is a walker’s paradise. The towering Duomo (Cathedral) is filled with stunning work, among them a 16th century door done by Alessi himself. And don’t fail to miss seeing Perugia’s famous Arco D’Augusto, the city’s ancient gate. Standing a good sixty feet tall, it is certainly an awesome structure to behold. And just a short walk away from there is what remains of the city’s ancient aqueduct, large sections of it easily accessible by foot. The Etruscan Arch is also a very impressive structure, one of five ancient gates to the city that were later modified by the Romans
Perugia is also the location of some of Europe’s oldest universities, among them the State University, which was founded in 1308 and the famous University for Foreigners. More than 35,000 students from all over the world study in Perugia and contribute to the city’s bustling, youthful touch.
There are so many excellent restaurants in Perugia that is practically impossible to begin recommending them individually (please see the links below), but one or two places are of particular interest. Start out with the cafÃ?Â©s. The CaffÃ?Â© di Parugia on Via Mazzini is known for its excellent coffee and superb hot chocolate. If its pastries your after, however, go around the corner to the Corso and stop by for a short visit at Sandri’s. A few fine, medium-priced restaurants include La Botte in Via Volte delle Pace, Del Gambero in Via Baldeschi and Enoteca Gio Arte e Vini in Via Ruggero d’Andreotto. But, again, there are simply too many wonderful places to choose from and you won’t be able to enjoy them all!
And one more important thing about Prugia; the beautiful green countryside surrounding the city is very popular with cyclists, hikers and those of us just simply seeking some peace and quiet. It’s only a small drive to the Lago die Tasimeno just west of town, for example (the fourth largest lake in Italy, by the way), where water sports of all kinds are available. Neither should hikers and rock climbers miss the nearby Parco Regionale del Monte Curro, also an ideal place to go horseback riding. And just down the road, easily accessible by bus, is the famous and stunning Assisi, birthplace of St Francis. The short journey from Perugia to Assisi, and to the famous Basilica die San Frencesco, of course, makes a wonderful day trip should not to missed.
So how much time to you have for Italy? Don’t forget to add two or three days for Perugia.