Peruguia is an important town in central Italy and capital of the Umbria region, situated on a hill dominating the plain of Umbria and the Upper Tiber Valley (to the north of Rome).
Historically it was both a lively and important city due to active agricultural, manufacturing and handicraft industries. No less important is the appearance of the city, which has perhaps the richest artistic heritage to be found in Umbria.
The plan of the historical city of Perugia was shaped in the Municipal age in the same place as the earlier Roman city had been located, and these medieval streets are now a key characteristic of the Old Town.
The centre of Perugia contains a great deal to explore, with medieval streets and attractive squares, and lots of interesting churches and palaces.
The artistic centre of Perugia is based around the Piazza IV Novembre, with walls that once belonged to the Etruscan city and could be accessed using the ancient gates, such as the Porta della Mandorla, Porta Marzia and Porta Trasimena.
This square stands out because of the presence of the Fontana Maggiore, created in the 13th century under the direction of Fra’ Bevignate and decorated by father and son Nicola and Giovanni Pisano.
The fountain is a remarkable example of the gothic style in Italy and symbolizes the political and religious power of the city.
Also in this square is the Palazzo dei Priori, built between 1298 and 1353 and with a façade of travertine and red and white stone of Bettona. For art lovers this is an important destination in Perugia because it contains the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria [National Gallery of Umbria] and an impressive series of works: see Umbria National Gallery
In another part of the same square you can see the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, began in 1300. The church is of gothic style, with a simple façade with a Baroque portal. The interior has three aisles with vaults, supported by octagonal pillars.
The cathedral walls are decorated with many works of art - note in particular the 'Deposition from the Cross' by Federico Barocci* (1569) in the Chapel of San Bernardino.
Federico Barocci, 1535-1612, has been recognized in recent decades as one of the greatest artists of the 16th century. His most dramatic work is no doubt 'The Deposition' in Perugia.
Behind the church there is the cloister, and the Museum of the Cathedral, founded in 1923.
Other important religious monuments here include the 15th century Basilica of San Domenico which holds the tomb of Pope Benedict XI and the monastery and Church of San Pietro, with its belltower and frescoes. This church also holds a very extensive collection of notable artworks.
Also to visit in Perugia are the remains of the Fortress of the Rocca Paolina, a formidable fortress built by Pope Paul III (1468-1549) in 1540 on the basis of a design by Antonio da Sangallo the Younger (1484-1546).
The fort was the symbol of the Pontifical Government for three centuries until it was largely destroyed in 1860.
Also worthy of admiration in Perugia is the National Archaeological Museum, housed in the Convent of San Domenico, which holds precious collections ranging from prehistory to the Etruscan and Roman times.
Inside the museum you can see the famous Cippus of Perugia, which has one of the longest Etruscan inscriptions in Italy and which describes a contract between two Roman “gentes” (noblemen).
In Piazza Danti, near the Cathedral, there is an Etruscan Well, thought to have been built in the third century BC at the same time as the last part of the walls.
Elsewhere in Perugia as you explore you will numerous interesting houses and architectural details, parks and gardens and a very wide selection of cafes and restaurants.
Attractions close to Perugia
After enjoying the art of Perugia we suggest you travel to the Chiana valley to Lake Trasimene. This lake was made famous in history because it was here that Hannibal (247-182 BC) defeated the Romans. Lake Trasimene was historically called "the lake of Perugia", demonstrating its importance to the city.
Your visit to the lake is also a good time to sample the traditional cuisine of Perugia, which is strongly linked to the Etruscan and Roman civilizations. Among the typical dishes, we suggest the "torta al testo" (a cake of flour, water and olive oil) and various recipes based on local truffles.
See also history of Perugia.
Map of Perugia & places to visit
Selected places to visit near Perugia
See the Umbria guide for more travel ideas...