Perugia is the charming capital city of Umbria, the green and hilly region in the heart of Italy. This medieval city is still an under-the-radar Italian destination for many international travelers. Yet, Perugia has captivated countless visitors throughout the centuries. As far back as 1875, American novelist Henry James wrote about Perugia in his first collection of travel stories, Transatlantic Sketches:
“I should perhaps do the reader a service by telling him just how a week at Perugia may be spent. His first care must be to ignore the very dream of haste, walking everywhere very slowly and very much at random, and to impute an esoteric sense to almost anything his eye may happen to encounter.”
Is Perugia worth visiting today? Yes, it is. Whether you stay in this hidden gem for a week or just a couple of days, Perugia is a place to step off the beaten tourist track and feel a bit more like a local.
Let’s discover 11 reasons to visit Perugia
1. Perugia is easy to reach and a great base to explore Umbria
Located in the very center of Italy, Perugia is easy to reach by train, plane, bus, or car. The main train station in Perugia connects with Italy’s top cities like Rome, Florence, Bologna and Milan. Perugia Airport, “San Francesco d’Assisi – Umbria International Airport,” services flights from two of London’s main airports, as well as from Brussels, Rotterdam, Vienna, and Barcelona. And since Perugia is in the middle of Umbria, it’s also a great base to explore the rest of this unspoiled region. Nearby cities include Assisi, Gubbio, Spello, Orvieto and Todi. There are natural wonders like the Piana di Castelluccio di Norcia, the Marmore Falls and Lake Trasimeno. Wineries and other food-related excursions are also within easy reach!
NOTE: There are multiple train stations with the attached name “Perugia,” but they don’t put you in Perugia proper.
2. History & Architecture
Perugia’s history is vibrant, and its heritage covers every historical era up to the present day. Strolling around the city, you find gorgeous vistas and beautiful points of interest, including immense Etruscan city gates, Roman arches, Medieval Government buildings, and Renaissance Palazzi. Bringing the city into the modern age is Perugia’s mini metro, a compact monorail that shuttles visitors from the free parking area of Pian di Massiano (Piazzale Umbria Jazz) to the historic center of the city. For those who want to drive closer, there is ample parking not far from the main piazza.
3. Great Museums
While Perugia itself is an open-air museum, it is also home to some fantastic places where you can learn about its ancient history, art and traditions. The most famous is the recently renovated National Gallery of Umbria. There is also the hidden museum of Palazzo della Penna, the Giuditta Brozzetti Weaving Museum, the Etruscan Well Museum, the National Archeological Museum, the Glass Museum and the House Museum Ranieri di Sorbello – among others.
4. Shopping delights
The streets of Perugia offer a mix of small artisan boutiques, art galleries, historical jewelers, Italian high fashion, and multi-national stores. Craftsmanship is widespread, an ancient knowledge that dates to the Etruscans. In Perugia, you will find the best crafts from all over Umbria, including the famous majolica from Deruta, one-of-a-kind creations from Materia Ceramica, and other pottery shops, hand-woven textiles made with ancient techniques like those of Marta Cucchia, quality objects made with carved wood and wrought iron. In many artisan ateliers, it is possible to buy crafts while admiring their making!
5. Perugia is a foodie paradise
Perugia has an ancient food and wine tradition. It’s a city of good food! You will find charming botteghe (small food shops) with all the delicious Umbrian foods, including cured meats, cheese, extra virgin olive oil and excellent wines from the best local wineries. Many great restaurants serve local specialties prepared with genuine products and ancient recipes. Perugia has a rich pre-dinner and post-dinner scene with wine bars, craft beer pubs, and artisan cocktail bars. And don’t miss a visit to the colorful markets selling all kinds of products, from local gastronomy to clothing and accessories but – above all – a slice of local life!
6. The authentic Dolce Vita off the beaten path
While well-connected to the rest of Italy, Perugia has remained secluded from mass tourism. This isolation has preserved the laid-back Umbrian approach to life, allowing Perugia to offer an authentic and crowd-free experience to all visitors throughout the year. This also means that Perugia is a bargain compared to other well-known cities!
7. A unique vibe
Despite not being besieged by tourists like Rome, Venice and Florence, Perugia has a unique cosmopolitan feel thanks to its international population of students and professors attending the five universities that are located here. Thus, Perugia has a young and lively soul and a vibrant nightlife but still feels local and authentic. This is also why some foreigners have decided to retire, work, or buy a second home in or around Perugia.
8. Lovely hotels
The historic center of Perugia offers accommodations for all tastes and pockets, from modern boutique hotels to ancient castles. A little further from the center, visitors can find accommodations in the countryside on a farm (agriturismo) or eco-resort. There are also beautiful historic residences that have been converted to hotels immersed in nature but only minutes from the city.
9. Internationally renowned events
Perugia hosts prestigious events that attract people from all over the world each year. Eurochocolate is the most delicious event, a festival for chocolate lovers of all ages. Umbria Jazz turns the entire city into an outdoor concert venue featuring world-famous and lesser-known musicians from across the globe. Perugia 1416 is a historical re-enactment centered on one of the protagonists of Perugia’s history – Braccio Fortebraccio. During this festival, the different neighborhoods of Perugia (the Rioni) compete in a series of medieval sporting challenges capped by a majestic parade. The International Journalism Festival brings together a melting pot of thought leaders every year in April to address global issues affecting the world of information.
10. Perugia is great for families with kids
Umbria’s capital offers activities and attractions that are both entertaining and educational for kids. The Science Museum offers interactive learning activities and an immersive amphitheater where visitors can connect with science and technology via the 360-degree projection of images and sound. The mysterious Rocca Paolina fortress is a place where kids can feel like they’ve stepped into a Harry Potter movie. The Toy Museum houses a collection of 2,000 toys and games from the 1800s to the present day. There is also the rather unusual Puppet Museum, which hosts workshop experiences for children. And after a day out exploring the beauty and history of Perugia, Piazza IV Novembre is the ideal spot for parents to relax, sipping cocktails while the kids burn off those last few hours of energy.
And the icing on the cake: Perugia is the city of chocolate, the food of the gods! It’s the perfect place to taste freshly made chocolates, sip Umbrian chocolate liqueurs, and join chocolate-making and tasting classes with an expert.
Would you like to visit Perugia as a local?
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