What to do in Perugia

Whether you’re visiting Italy for art, architecture, atmosphere, food and wine, beautiful countryside – or all of the above – you’ll find what you’re looking for in the romantic walled hilltown of Perugia. What to do in Perugia? Here are five of my favorite things about this lovely Umbrian town.

August 4

Perugia’s gorgeous architecture

The Piazza IV Novembre (photo above), with its gorgeous fountain and surrounding buildings looks like it belongs on a poster attracting visitors to Italy, doesn’t it! Other must-sees on the architecture itinerary include the Duomo, or main church, the Oratorio di San Bernardino, and the Rocca Paolina or Fortress. 

Italian Walled Hilltown (can-I-bottle-this?) Atmosphere 

Perugia emanates atmosphere, so you can’t miss it. But the best place to experience it is during the daily evening passeggiata (seen in the photo of Piazza IV Novembre above) on the pedestrian street of Corso Vannucci. It’s not uncommon to do the circuit over and over again so don’t be surprised if you keep seeing the same people. Another great place for atmosphere is at the fountain around midnight, when the students gather.


Baci monira flickr 

What to eat in Perugia

Perugia has great cheese, pasta, olive oil, pine nuts, and salami, but it’s most famous for chocolate: Baci, or kisses (photo above), made with hazelnuts and milk chocolate, then wrapped with love notes written in 4 languages. Read the scandalous love story about the origin of wrapping a note around each chocolate. 

Perugia hosts a free chocolate festival every year in October which attracts thousands of visitors. This year on October 18th, a few Italian artists will get to sculpt an 1100 kg block of chocolate as they choose. Note: if you’re not particularly interested in the chocolate festival, avoid Perugia while it’s on because it takes over the city.

Perugia’s wine

Umbria is wine country, so visit a vineyard or two or at least sample some of the local wine in an enoteca. We have great memories of Enoteca la Tana dell’Orso (Via Rochi Ulisse 32), which is about a 5 minute walk from the Piazza IV Novembre. If you go, visit the Enoteca pub in the cellar, and make sure to ask about their salumi, and get recommendations on cheese and marmelade pairings.

Art in Perugia: Perugino and Raphael

Two of Italy’s most famous artists come from Perugia: Raphael and Perugino, born Pietro Vannucci. Visit the Collegio del Cambio inside the Palazzo dei Priori to see some of Perugino’s most famous frescoes. If you love art (or like art, and it’s raining) the Umbrian National Gallery is also worth a visit. One of the most famous frescoes by Perugino and Raphael is in the Church of San Severo.


Getting to Perugia and Getting Around

Take the train to Perugia, then take either escalators up the hill or the minimetro’ people-mover. If you drive, park in the lot in Piazza Partigiani. However, if you’re considering driving in the city, know that Perugia has a Zona Traffico Limitato, a limited traffic boundary that if crossed could result in an automatic fine. Once you’ve reached the historic center, explore Perugia on foot, though remember it’s on a hill, so wear comfortable shoes.


More Info

  • For opening and closing times of stores, hours of operation of escalators and elevators, and more information on traffic rules in the historic center, click here.
  • Umbria Jazz Festival in July: www.umbriajazz.com.
  • Stay awhile and learn Italian at the Universita’ Per Stranieri, which has many classes for foreign students.
  • Visit the Umbrian archaeological museum to see Etruscan and Roman artifacts. 

Photo of Piazza IV Novembre from www.istockphoto.com; Photo of Perugia by Sanjay; Photo of Baci chocolate by “Monira* 

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Posted by on Aug 31, 2009 in Umbria | 4 Comments


  1. Nils Davis
    September 11, 2009

    Ha! We’re going to be Umbria from 23-25 October – perfect for the Chocolate Festival! Thanks for mentioning it, and other great things to do in Perugia. Loving your blog, btw – we’ll be referring back to your suggestions for the whole two week trip to Italy.

  2. Madeline
    September 13, 2009

    Thanks Nils! Exciting you’ll be there for the festival – I’d love to see photos of the giant chocolate sculptures if they’re still around 5 days later.
    Let me know if you come home with any Beyond the Obvious recommendations of your own.

  3. Mack Reynolds
    August 31, 2011

    I’ve never heard of Perugia, but it sounds like a really nice place to visit and get romantic. Have you been there more than once?

  4. Madeline
    September 2, 2011

    Thanks for your comment Mack. Perugia is one of those (many) Italian cities that don’t get the glory of the Big Three (or the Big Seven or the number you know) but you get there and it can feel overrun with tourists. Or, depending on the time of year and day of the week, it can feel like you’ve discovered your own little corner of Italy.
    yes I’ve been there a few times: on an overwhelming school trip when I was an exchange student in Italy; and more memorably (more calmly, more romantically) with my husband more than a decade later.


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