Perugia - Umbria
to one of the oldest universities in Europe, the Umbria Jazz Festival,
the Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria, the Buitoni pasta industry, and,
of course, Perugina and the Eurochocolate Festival in the fall, Perugia
is like a richly layered dessertand a small taste will leave
you wanting more! Charmingly-medieval alternates with cosmopolitan-industrial,
making Perugia one of the most varied towns in Italy.
Once an important Etruscan city, Perugia hides traces of its past in its ancient architecture. Several buildings remain from this period, such as the Etruscan Arch and the Etruscan Well. Romans captured the city in 40 B.C. under Emperor Octavian, who renamed the city "Augusta Perusia." When the Roman Empire fell, the city emerged as an independent town with its own council, though this became plagued by squabbles between dynasties. Eventually Pope Paul III gained power over the city, and only relinquished his rule in 1860, the year Italy was unified.
Though Perugia maintained a long history of conflict with its neighbors, periods of peace and prosperity gave rise to astounding artistic achievementsmany of which are preserved in one of Italy's most illustrious art museums, the Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria. The city counts the great Pietro Vannucci "Perugino," teacher to Raphael, among its cultural treasures; and served as a meeting place for Tuscan and Umbrian masters from the 13th through the 15th century. The Galleria is housed in the Gothic-style Palazzo dei Priori, and found at the north end of the city in the Piazza IV Novembre. Also located in or nearby the Piazza are the Fontana Maggiore (designed by Fra' Bevignate), the city's Duomo, and the various medieval Guilds (or Collegi). On the east side of the city, look for the 10th century Basilica di San Pietro, the Chiesa di San Domenico (Umbria's largest church), the Museo Archaeologico Nazionale dell'Umbria (the region's National Archeological Museum), and the Giardini Carducci (a set of panoramic public gardens named after the 19th century poet Giosué Carducci).
The candied smells of pastry shops and bakeries await the sweet-toothed visitor to Perugia. A city long renowned for its superb chocolates, Perugia also serves up a variety of sumptuous breads and baked goods. Some local confections are the torciglione (an eel-shaped sweet almond bread), the torta di formaggio (cheese bread), and the mele al cartoccio (Italian apple pie). Not to miss are baci, Perugia's celebrated chocolate-hazelnut kisses, which conceal fortunes and adages about love within their silver wrappers.
Trains leave from Perugia FS, located in Piazza V. Veneto, Fontiveggio. Perugia is a great base for daytrips, and Assisi, Foligno, Florence, Passignano sul Trasimeno, and Sansecpolcro are within easy reach by train. Buses travel to the additional cities of Todi, Chiusi, Gubbio, and Siena.