Visiting Perugia, Italy
Nestled in the Umbrian countryside in central Italy lies the ancient city of Perugia. Full of history, beauty, culture, and liveliness I can think of no better poster child for what an Italian city is meant to look like. From a historical standpoint the city relfects Italy's intensenly dynamic historical fabric like very few others. Numerous structures, most still in use, liter the city from literally every single major historical age the peninsula witnessed. You'll find giant underground caverns built by the Etruscans, a massive stone gate built by Augustus, an early 5th century Christian church, medieval fountains, Renaissance cathedrals, and about everything in between! Mix the rich history in with the city's lively student atmosphere and vibrant Italian culture and the result is an experience you won't soon forget!
Perguia is a hilltop city so getting around is done mostly by foot. All the major sites worth seeing are at the top of the hill in the Centro Storico (historical center), which is nearly impossible to traverse by car. The best way to see the sites are to park your car in the lower part of the town and take a series of escalators that take you to the top, or for a couple euro jump on the city's mini metro, which is a little train that runs to the top every 2 minutes.
What to Do/See
Perugia is a great destination for all travel seekers. It has the history, the good food (including Perugian chocolate, some of the best in Italy), stunning scenery, and the fun student atmosphere. The thing to do in Perugia is grab some wine and snacks and sit along the steps of the cathedral for drink and a chat. Everyone is talking to everyone else and it seems like the entire city is out there, definitely a great chance to meet some fun locals.
The list of historical landmarks in Perugia is pretty daunting, so I've whittled it down to a manageable list that features the city's most important sites.
Cathedral of San Lorenzo- The site of the cathedral has seen tumultuous days as remnants of an old Roman wall and an unfinished facade will tell you. The present cathedral dates back to the 15th century with additions and reconstructions going on throughout much of its life. Part of the building is bathed in white and pink marble, and boasts a huge Gothic doorway. Inside you will marvel at the ornate gilded ceilings and spectacular artwork. Visitors can also catch a glimpse of the so called 'virgins wedding ring,' which is said to change color depending on the bearer.
Palazzo dei Priori- This impressive building opposite the Cathedral of San Lorenzo serves as the city's town hall. Built in the Italian Gothic style between the 13th and 15th centuries the palace is an excellent expression of the city's municipal spirit. Inside you will find the large meeting room for city council members, the Municipal Library and the National Gallery of Umbria. You will also find beautiful statues and carvings around the building with depictions of the griffin, the emblem of Perugia.
Church of Sant' Angelo- Probably the site of an old Roman temple, this 5th century Christian church is the most interesting and peculiar churches I've ever come across. First of all the church is circular, which is unlike most Christian churches, probably reminiscent from the old pagan structure that preceded. Not only is the shape peculiar but the inside has an equally interesting story to tell. There are symbols and illustrations on the stone walls and many frescos depicting scenes of the Templar universe. For instance you will find symbols of the Templars on the neck of the Virgin Mary on one of the frescos inside the chapel. The church is definitely unique and absolutely worth a visit when in Perugia.
Fontana Maggiore- This beautifully sculpted medieval fountain is found in the piazza San Lorenzo between the cathedral and the palace. Built between 1277-1278, the fountain was created to celebrate Perugia's independence. The fountain has twenty five sides of carvings depicting biblical scenes, works of the seasons, signs of the zodiac, and Roman history.
Underground Perugia- The hilltop city has a beehive of underground complexes that once served as a fortress for the city during the 16th century. Today the underground tunnels are used for various markets and street vendors. It's always a neat experience to explore the underground labyrinth and stumble onto some curious artifacts!
Walk Around- By merely roaming the cobbled streets and layered cityscape you will find no end to the beauty and historical landmarks lurking about. Stumble through Augustus's grand stone gate, stroll across a Roman aqueduct that connects two hills, wiz up and down the myriad of stairs and escalators that connect the city. I would loved to have spent even more time just wandering around exploring this amazing place!