Umbria’s provincial capital, Perugia is often overlooked, but its scenic tableau of cobbled lanes, Gothic palazzos, medieval churches and timeless arches and stairways makes it well worth a visit. The city is busy with students and locals, but has fewer visitors than Italy’s more renowned cities, yet awash with impressive architecture, and a stroll here offers a chance to explore the medieval core and see it much as it would have been 400 years ago. Perugia is also a university town and its large international student population means that the cafés, bars and restaurants are always lively. Additionally, there are annual chocolate and jazz festivals and a hidden underground city you can explore.
Things to see and do in Perugia
The centro storico
Founded by the Etruscans, Perugia later became a Roman city and later still, part of the Papal State. Vestiges of its past can be seen all over the city, from Etruscan arches and gates to ancient viaducts, medieval palazzos, Gothic churches and ornate fountains.
The city is split like a hand with five long fingers and the best way to explore is simply to meander the streets on each finger, strolling along the old viaducts, wandering down side streets and discovering hidden squares and churches. The heart of the city is Piazza IV Novembre where you’ll find the Gothic Palazzo dei Priori and the cathedral.
Piazza IV Novembre
The hub of Perugia for centuries, Piazza IV Novembre sits on the site of the city’s Roman forum. An ornate 13th-century pink-and-white marble fountain, the Fontana Maggiore, is overlooked by the medieval Cathedral of San Lorenzo which houses a Gothic interior. However, its most popular feature by far is the front steps, a popular meeting point for young and old.
Opposite is the Palazzo dei Priori, which was built in stages between the 13th and 19th centuries and is now home to the city’s municipal offices and the National Gallery of Umbria. Nearby, the extravagant Nobile Collegio del Cambio was the 15th-century seat of Perugia’s moneychanger’s guild.
The National Gallery of Umbria
Set on the upper floors of the ornate Gothic Palazzo dei Priori, the National Gallery of Umbria displays an extensive collection of medieval and Renaissance art, gold, ceramics, sculpture and frescoes. The artworks are arranged in chronological order, making it possible to trace the evolution of techniques from room to room.
Notable masterpieces include works by Piero della Francesca and Fra Angelico, with a particular focus on of local artists Pinturicchio and Perugino and their followers. The upper floor has space for temporary exhibitions that change several times a year.
Perugia’s underground city
A Renaissance fortress, the Rocca Paolina was built for Pope Paul III in the 16th century following the Salt War. Its construction destroyed Etruscan, Roman and medieval buildings, the palazzos of the ruling Baglioni family and buried former streets in the process.
A symbol of papal oppression, the fortress was pulled down in the 19th century, but it’s still possible to explore the extensive network of underground passages that were the original Etruscan and Roman streets along with vaulted chambers and the remains of ancient towers. You enter the underground city via a gleaming modern escalator, and then take another up and out to emerge into the Giardini Carducci on top of the former fortress for sweeping views of the Umbrian countryside.
Founded in 1907, the Perugina chocolate brand is best known for its Baci chocolate kisses. The company is now based in a modern factory on the outskirts of town, and a visit to their House of Chocolate will teach you all about the history of the brand.
More interestingly perhaps, is the number of artisan chocolate producers now seen on the little streets of central Perugia. Look out for the Augusta Perusia Cioccolato e Gelateria on Via Pinturicchio for their innovative creations or linger a while in the ornate Pasticceria Sandri on Corso Vannucci with its vaulted ceilings and Liberty-style decor.
As a university city, Perugia boasts a youthful energy year-round, but the annual jazz and chocolate festivals see the town burst into life with vibrant celebrations and throngs of visitors. The ten-day Umbria Jazz Festival is held each July across venues all over town and in the past has featured a diverse range of big international acts such as BB King, Thom Yorke and Diana Krall. In October, the cocoa bean is at the heart of the action for the free, ten-day Eurochocolate festival and its workshops, themed events, exhibitions, tasting tours and giant chocolate sculptures.
Best time to visit Perugia
A year-round destination with interest in all seasons, Perugia is perhaps at its best between April and June and in September and October when temperatures are pleasant, rainfall is low and there are fewer visitors. In July and August, temperatures can reach about 84°F (29°C), while in winter they can hover just above freezing.
Suggested itinerary featuring Perugia
This sample itinerary will give you an idea of what is possible when you travel in Perugia, and showcases routes we know work particularly well. Treat this as inspiration, because your trip will be created uniquely by one of our specialists.
Map of Perugia
Places & hotels on the map
Places near Perugia
- Assisi 20 kilometers away
- Umbria 20 kilometers away
- Orvieto 50 kilometers away
- Siena 89 kilometers away
- San Gimignano 117 kilometers away
- Florence 118 kilometers away
- Rome 136 kilometers away
- Ravenna 147 kilometers away
- Pisa 175 kilometers away
- Bologna 176 kilometers away
- Forte dei Marmi 203 kilometers away
- Modena 208 kilometers away
- Porto Venere 232 kilometers away
- Cinque Terre 241 kilometers away
- Parma 251 kilometers away
- Venice 259 kilometers away
- Verona 282 kilometers away
- Portofino and Santa Margherita 289 kilometers away
- Ischia 295 kilometers away
- Naples 297 kilometers away
- Sirmione 299 kilometers away
- Herculaneum 304 kilometers away
- Lake Garda 311 kilometers away
- Genoa 313 kilometers away
- Gardone Riviera 315 kilometers away
- Pompeii 316 kilometers away
- Sorrento 322 kilometers away
- Capri 324 kilometers away
- Costa Smeralda 326 kilometers away
- The Amalfi Coast 332 kilometers away
- Milan 366 kilometers away
- Madonna di Campiglio 369 kilometers away
- Dolomites 370 kilometers away
- Alta Badia 389 kilometers away
- Barbaresco 389 kilometers away
- Alba 392 kilometers away
- Barolo 394 kilometers away
- Como 399 kilometers away
- Blevio 401 kilometers away
- Torno 402 kilometers away
- Laglio 402 kilometers away
- Lezzeno 405 kilometers away
- Bellagio 405 kilometers away
- Lake Como 409 kilometers away
- Tremezzo 409 kilometers away
- Piedmont 429 kilometers away
- Turin 435 kilometers away
- Stresa 435 kilometers away
- Lake Maggiore 436 kilometers away
- Sardinia 437 kilometers away
- Verbania 437 kilometers away
- Matera 442 kilometers away
- Puglia 468 kilometers away
- Alberobello 478 kilometers away
- Fasano 483 kilometers away
Photos of Perugia
Accommodation choices for Perugia
We’ve selected a range of accommodation options for when you visit Perugia. Our choices usually come recommended for their character, facilities and service or location. Our specialists always aim to suggest properties that match your preferences.