“Home of the real chocolate kisses.” - Reviewed by Deborah
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When the light is just right, Umbria’s capital city, Perugia, seems to glow with a bright golden hue; nature’s nod to its rich historical and cultural importance. Spiralling the hilltop, most of the city’s major tourist attractions congregate at the crown, where a pedestrianised centro storico charms visitors, locals, chocolate lovers and culture-hungry students with its fascinating streets and wares. The hills surrounding the ancient settlement slope gently towards the Tiber Valley.
The ancient city first made its mark on the Umbrian landscape as far back as the Etruscan period more than 3000 years ago before it was conquered by the Romans. Then, during the Middle Ages, it grew into one of the most important cities in Umbria, sparking battles for power between local communities such as Assisi and Todi. Several popes took up residency here — Pope Honorius III, Pope Honorius IV, Pope Celestine V, and Pope Clement — raising its status even further. Nevertheless, historically Perugia was a somewhat rebellious city and there are numerous tales of revolts against the papacy and conflicts until the unification of Italy in 1860.
Today, Perugia’s rebellious temperament has found a positive outlet towards academic pursuits, welcoming almost 30,000 students each year and hundreds of full-time staff. Its status as home to one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Italy infiltrates the ambience of the town and creates a lively, scholarly ethos.
Like many towns and settlements in Tuscany and Umbria, Perugia’s treasured tourist attractions are housed within city walls that date back to the early Middle Ages. Yet what makes this city unique is the way that modern technology, ancient architecture and nature convene in the construction of the city’s escalator system that leads to a mini-metro network ensuring that Perugia’s historic centre remains car free. You will be amazed to see remnants of an ancient fortress on display in situ as you ride the escalator tunnels that cut into the solid rock foundations of the city.
The historic centre is characterized by narrow streets opening up to large elegant squares, fountains and the spritely hustle and bustle of tourist and students. Compact and easy to navigate by foot, the centre is more stately than in other towns in Umbria and Tuscany. Its main thoroughfare, the Corso Vannucci, is just under a mile long, connecting a network of quaint side streets lined with wine bars, boutiques, galleries, cafes and lots of chocolate shops… yes… chocolate!
Chocolate in Perugia
Like truffles in Chianti and limoncello on the Amalfi Coast, chocolate deserves its own paragraph when writing about Perugia. Italy’s best-known chocolate maker, Perugina, put Perugia on the cacao map in 1907. The company is best known for its baci (which literally means kiss), a dark chocolate treat filled with chopped hazelnuts and wrapped with a love note in blue foil. Nowadays, you cannot walk more than a few meters in Perugia without some reference to chocolate, even if that means chocolate gelato. Each year from mid-October, the city puts its traditions where its mouth is and hosts a delicious Eurochocolate festival – one of the biggest festivals dedicated to chocolate in Europe.
- Capital of Umbria, central Italy
- 20 min to Perugia airport
- 2 hrs to Florence International Airport
- 2 hrs to Rome International Airport
- 30 min by car to Assisi
- 30 min to Lake Trasimeno
EXPERIENCES IN PERUGIA AREA
Sightseeing – There are plenty of sights to enjoy in Perugia:
- Perugia Cathedral of San Lorenzo
- Piazza IV Novembre
- Fontana Maggiore (main fountain)
- Palazzo dei Priori
- Basilica di San Pietro
Museums – Some great museums to explore include:
- Galleria Nazionale dell Umbria
- Casa Museo di Palazzo Sorbello
- Collegio del Cambio
- Rocca Paolina
Walking and Cycling Tours – The whole city is easily walkable and you can rent bicycles to tour the local countryside.
Gastronomy – Discover the many local and regional dishes with hundreds of restaurants to suit every taste and budget.
Wine Tastings – Umbria claims a number of top-notch wineries and vineyards, including Montefalco, Torgiano and Orvieto wines. We can even organize custom wine tastings – tell us your favourite Brunello vintners and we’ll organize custom vineyard tours and tastings with lunches and special vintages where possible.
Cooking classes – Let us set you up with a local chef who will teach you how to make the local delicacies.
Language classes – If there is one place in Italy to learn Italian, Perugia’s University for Foreigners is a great place to start. Plus, there are plenty of private teachers available for intensive courses or basic immersion.
Shopping – Boutiques and specialty shops selling everything from chocolate treats, local designer clothing and unique Italian commodities such as leather items, silk ties, ceramics and jewellery.