We’ve had 20 guests over the last nine months, the latest being my parents and my brother’s family. During the past couple weeks, we devoted several mornings to long walks around town and a tour of our favorite sites. Our must-see list is always changing; we have new favorites all the time. And while there really isn’t any required stop in Perugia, there are lots of little interesting things to do and see.
For a little dramatic punch, I like to start at the eerie, 2000-year-old Etruscan Well. It’s right around the corner from our apartment, and it only takes about five minutes to see. Once you enter, you can walk down a dark, damp, stone path to a bridge which crosses the base of the well. The air is warm and humid. It looks and smells ancient.
More Etruscan feats are found all over the city. The enormous Etruscan Arch sits nearby. When Caesar Augustus defeated the Etruscans, he carved the new name of the city on this arch, “Augusta Perusia.”
And even more Etruscans ruins: five minutes outside the city is Ipogeno dei Volumni where 200 tombs are on display. The best part is the walk into the dark underground chamber where the largest tombs lie. On both sides of the stairway sit the carved stone urns which held the ashes of the dead.
Back in the center of town, some important sights are found around the main square, Piazza IV Novembre. First, there’s the Cathedral of San Lorenzo. San Lorenzo is one of three patron saints of Perugia. He was grilled to death by the Romans when Christianity was illegal. Inside the church sits the wedding ring of Mary. Yes, the actual wedding ring of the actual Virgin Mary.
From the main piazza, one can take Corso Vannucci to the other side of town. On the way, there is the National Museum of Art, which is okay. It’s a far cry from the Uffizi; however, if you like paintings of the Madonna with child, Tom and Ray counted more than 75. Next door is the Collegio del Cambio, a small room that was frescoed by Perugia’s most famous Renaissance artist, Pietro Vannucci, known as “Perugino.” This is a more efficient stop for art.
Further down the street sits a piece of the Rocca Paolina, a huge fortress build by Pope Paul III to assert his dominance over the rebellious Perugians. On it is the inscription, “To curb the audacity of the Perugians.” We always take visitors down the escalators (underneath La Rocca) to see the remains of Perugia’s medieval city that Pope Paul destroyed. The Perugians later destroyed much of the fortress.
One of Perugia’s assets is its location high on top of the hills. The benefit is a great view in every direction. To simutaneously see the countryside and the city, we walk down Corso Garibaldi to Porta Sant’ Angelo.
And on the other side of town, in Piazza Italia, we can see two of Perugia’s most important churches, San Dominica and San Pietro.
Finally, whether for coffee before the sites or an glass of prosecco after, we like to visit the oldest and most distinguished cafe in Perugia, Sandri.