Ah darling Perugia, the capital of Umbria and the perfect base in Umbria for exploring the nearby medieval towns of the Italian countryside. After living a fairytale in Spoleto, it was the next stop on my journey.
While not originally on my list of Umbrian towns to explore, I ended up staying here partly because it was the only place I could find reasonably cheap accommodation, and because of its great public transport connections.
I thought that being a capital it would be bigger and less charming than some of the smaller towns. I was wrong. It’s absolutely gorgeous and the main sites are easily walkable.
I loved the higgledy-piggledy houses and ancient archways that surround the cobblestoned streets. It has a more energy than quiet Spoleto, largely due to the many university students who all meet on the church steps in the Piazza IV Novembre in the evenings for a drink.
Public transport from the train station into the old town is done through the Minimetro which I found to be so much fun. It’s like a cross between a cablecar and a rollercoaster and the sneak peaks of the old city as you come up are super exciting.
Things to do
While I spent most of may days doing trips to the nearby towns, there is quite a lot to see in the city itself.
The hilltop location of the town means that there are some spectacular views of the surrounding countryside at viewpoints scattered around the walls of the old town. Definitely take some time to seek these out and take it all in. The views just down from Piazza Italia are particularly impressive.
The main piazza of the town, Piazza IV Novembre, is the centre of life for locals and tourists alike. It’s a perfect place to sit and watch the world go by, eat some gelato or read a good book.
The piazza is surrounded by two of the main attractions of the town. Firstly, the massive Cathedral di San Lorenzo, a 14th century church known for its gothic architecture. Secondly, the 13th century Sala dei Notari, which is essentially the town hall, and is still used as such, but its open for wanderers to see the delightful frescoes of stories from Aesop’s fables. The nobility of the region used to meet here to discuss official matters.
This building also houses the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria. If you have a special interest in art history, or more specifically Virgin Mary and Baby Jesus paintings (there are so many!), then you will love it. Otherwise it might not be worth the 8 euros entry fee, when you can see equally impressive pieces in nearby churches for free.
A short walk around to the other side of the piazza will take you to Arco Etrusco a Roman arch from 300BC!! i.e. it’s 2300 years old. If arches could see, imagine the many changes and many lives it would have seen. So cool!
Lastly, Perugia has an ancient aqueduct that you can walk along. It’s surrounded by some charming old houses and nice views.
Where I stayed: Little Italy Hostel – At 16 euros a night, this is a fantastic hostel. The people are nice, the wifi is good and it’s clean!
La Taverna – little pricey but great service and delicious Italian food.
Al Mangiar Bene – Umbrian food all found within a 100km radius.
Panciotto – Fast food shop that does hollowed out bread rolls filled with your choice of hot filling (e.g. meatballs, chicken arrabiata) for 3.50 euro. To honest I didn’t eat anywhere else after finding this place.
Loft Cafe – Good coffee, strong wifi, nice ambiance, pretty decor… everything I want in a cafe to sit and read or write for an hour or two.
Pizza Mediterranea – Traditional wood-fired pizzeria and one of the best in town.
Have you visited Perugia? Were you enchanted? Did you do any day trips? Tell me your thoughts in the comments below!