Perugia has the honour of being both the capital of the Umbria region and of the Province of Umbria. Located in the centre of the country, Perugia is approximately equidistant from both Florence and Rome and sits in a hilltop region surrounded by valleys and mountains.
During the Etruscan era in Italy, Perugia was one of the main cities and prospered greatly due to its central location. During the Middle Ages, Perugia became and established University City and was known for its devotion to the development of arts and culture. Today the city still maintains this tradition and hosts many festivals and events such as the Umbria Jazz Festival.
When visiting Perugia, you can expect to find a myriad of gorgeous churches and historical structures, but also fantastic museums and attractions such as the Perugina Chocolate Factory. Furthermore, the surrounding countryside is bursting with stunning scenery and rich national parks to cater for those who love the outdoors. As a tourist destination, Perugia really does have a great deal to offer and its combination of historic and natural attractions will keep you entertained for days on end.
Lets explore the best things to do in in Perugia:
1. San Lorenzo Church
There are several notable examples of cathedrals that have remained unfinished throughout Italy and the Perugia Cathedral is one such structure.
Originally created in 1587, this cathedral is unique in the fact that its front façade does not face the main square it is constructed in.
The front façade is the wall that remains unfinished and this provides the church with a strange look.
Inside the church however is completely finished and is lavishly decorated.
Several marble columns hold up the ornate ceiling that is full of beautiful frescos.
Furthermore, one of the chapels contains the tomb of Pope Martin IV and several religious relics belonging to Pope Innocent III and Urban IV. Finally, the cathedral also houses a small museum that contains a selection of interesting religious artefacts and relics.
2. Piazza IV Novembre
The Piazza IV Novembre is the main square in the centre of Perugia and features a plethora of fantastic historical buildings and the beautiful Fontana Maggiore.
On this fine Piazza you can find the impressive Cathedral of Perugia, the Palazzo dei Priori, the Comune di Perugia and the Logge di Braccio.
In the centre of the square is the Fontana Maggiore that features a series of ornate statues and a central bronze bowl that spills over with water.
This charming square is a great place to admire some historic architecture or as a base to start a walking tour of Perugia.
3. Palazzo dei Priori
Designed in an ornate Gothic style, the Palazzo dei Priori is a huge building that sits across from the Cathedral in the Piazza IV Novembre.
This ancient structure has stood in the centre of the city since the 1300’s and has played an important role in Perugia’s politics.
At the front of this structure is a large circular stairway and a series of ornate arched windows; the top of the palace is lined with crenulations that make it look more like a castle.
Inside the palace, there is a huge amount of rich decoration including some colourful frescos depicting various biblical scenes.
4. Oratorio di San Bernardino
Located next to the Church of San Francesco, the Oratorio di San Bernardino is noted for its brilliant front façade and multi-coloured design.
You can find this grand structure in the eastern part of the old town approximately 10 minutes’ walk from the Piazza IV Novembre.
Due to its front façade that is created using coloured polychrome marble, it is considered to be the most significant examples of Renaissance art in Perugia.
The interior of this delightful oratorio is just as decorative and features several pieces of fine artwork and a plethora of gold trimming.
5. Church of San Pietro
This ancient church and monastery complex has survived since the 11th century and throughout the years it was an important place of power for the leaders of Perugia.
Located in the southern part of the town centre, the complex features a tall bell tower and a beautiful inner courtyard that contains a small fountain.
Inside the church, there is an important collection of art including a coloured fresco of Saint George and the Dragon, together with other artworks by various Renaissance artists.
The walls, arches and ceiling are covered with beautiful decoration and are simply stunning to admire.
6. Museo Archeologico
This delightful museum is located in the Piazza Giordano Bruno and is housed within an old convent of San Domenico.
Redesigned in 2009, the museum takes a chronological approach starting at pre-historic times and following on to the Roman period etc.
Within the separate collections you can find a wonderful display of artefacts collected from the Umbria province including Neolithic ceramics, Bronze Age carvings, weaponry and funerary items from Perugia and a series of Roman manuscripts.
Furthermore the is a reconstruction of an ancient Etruscan tomb that was found just outside the city.
This museum really does provide a fantastic look at the history of Umbria in a detailed manner.
7. Arco d’Augusto
Also known as the Etruscan Arch, this structure is one of the 7 remaining arches that served as an entrance to the city of Perugia in ages past.
Constructed in the 3rd century BC, this arch is one of the oldest pieces of architecture in the city and is considered to be the best remaining example of the cities original defences.
The front façade of the arch features a charming design and some of the original latin inscriptions can still be seen.
Over the years, various other aspects have been added to the arch and it now looks more like a fortress than a gateway.
8. Sciri Tower
This imposing tower can be found on Via Priori and is one of the tallest towers in the city.
Created in the 12th century, the tower stands at 46m high and belonged to the Sciri family.
As the only antique tower that remain in its original state, this structure is hugely important and is a fine example of architecture from this period.
Although simple in design, the tower is domineering and it is possible to climb to the top for fantastic panoramic views of Perugia.
9. Etruscan Well
Perugia is full of unique and interesting sites and the Etruscan well is one such attraction.
Located in the Piazza Danti, this well dates back to the 3rd or 4th century BC and is a marvel of architectural genius.
With a depth of 37m, and a diameter of 5m, this colossal well features an ornate bridge that spans the middle and crosses over the expanse below.
It is possible to get right down to the bottom of the well to get a true sense of its size proportion, and whilst walking through the town centre, a visit to this intriguing site is a must.
10. Perugina Chocolate Factory
Italy has some famous chocolate brands and Baci Perugina is known throughout the country for its spectacular chocolate kisses.
Located just outside the city centre, the Perugina Chocolate Factory provides a fantastic alternative attraction that is great for all the family, and especially for those who love the sweet stuff! A tour of the factory will take approximately 1 hour 15 minutes, during which you will see the production line in operation, sample some mouth-watering chocolate during a tasting session, and get to spend time in the historical museum.
There is of course a gift shop too where you can buy your own weight in chocolate if you desire!
11. Volumni Hypogeum
Another unique attraction just outside the historic city centre, the Volumni Hypogeum is an extraordinary place.
Discovered in 1840, this ancient tomb dates back to the third century BC and is part of a huge necropolis that contains over 200 separate tombs.
Dedicated to the Volumni family, this series of tombs contains many of the wealthy elite from Perugia from centuries past.
What makes this complex so special is its design and architecture – the building looks more like an ancient Roman structure with many palisades, pediments and ornate columns.
12. Parco Regionale del Lago Trasimeno
This immense body of water and regional park lies to the west of Perugia and can be reached by car in approximately 25 minutes.
With a surface area of 128km squared, it is one of the largest lakes in the region, and actually the fourth largest by surface area in Italy.
Surrounding the lake are a series of small coastal towns that are charming place to visit.
Furthermore, boat rides are available on the protected waters.
At the southern end of the lake is the interesting Isola Polvese – here you can find a beautiful stone castle and an interesting tourist information centre.
13. Parco Naturale di Monte Tezio
Located to the north of Perugia is the immense Monte Tezio and the natural park the surrounds it.
Standing at 961m high, the mountain is one of the tallest in the region and the slopes are covered with verdant green forests.
If you are looking for a place to hike and experience the beautiful outdoors of the Umbria region then this natural park is the perfect place.
The mountain side provides amazing views of the landscape and there is numerous different sites on the top such as a radio station and some old ruins of farm houses etc.
On clear days you are also rewarded with fantastic views of Perugia below.
14. Monte Vibiano Wine Tour.
Perugia is surrounded by some fantastic countryside and this region of Italy is known for its production of fine wines.
The Monte Vibiano winery is a wonderful place to visit and the brilliant eco-tour provides you with the chance to explore the vineyards and sample some of the delicious wine.
During the tour you will drive electric buggies through the complex and watch the day to day operations of the winery such as grape picking, olive picking and the actual creation of the wine.
The owners of the winery are extremely friendly and will ensure that your tour is personal and memorable.
15. Via dell’Acquedotto
This ancient path used to serve as an aqueduct for the transferral of fresh water through the city of Perugia and it now stands as a public footpath.
Stretching from the edge of Via Cesare Battisti to the Monastery of San Benedetto, it is possible to walk the whole length of the aqueduct.
This wonderful path provides you with a different view and you can walk between the historic building in the old town centre and also see the original ornate arches of the aqueduct.