Umbria Sights - Perugia

Perugia is the lively Umbrian capital, not only during the "Umbria Jazz Festival"

Provincial capital with charme

Pisano-fountain in front of the cathedral of Perugia
Pisano-fountain in front of the cathedral of Perugia. Photo: Steffen Müller

Perugia is sometimes overshadowed by its famous neighbor Assisi where every year hundreds of thousands of pilgrims and tourists are pouring into. Quite wrongly, as we find. Perugia with its winding streets, the splendid Piazza in front of the cathedral with the fountain of Pisano and the young and vibrant feel of a university town is one of our absolute favorites for a warm summer night or a winter Sunday.

Etruscan heritage

Palazzo dei Priori, Perugia. Photo Steffen Müller
Palazzo dei Priori, Perugia. Photo Steffen Müller

The heraldic animal of Perugia is the griffin, which sits as a medieval bronze above the entrance to the Palazzo dei Priori. Supposedly an Etruscan figure was melted down and the material was used again for the griffin sculpture. Like many other hill towns of central Italy Perugia is an Etruscan foundation. It may well happen that the digging works for a new house will bring to light an Etruscan tomb with rich grave goods.

On a hot summer day it is a great experience to descend into the Etruscan well of Perugia. The entrance is right near the Duomo. On a spiral staircase you step down ever more deeply into the past. You will be surrounded by a timeless silence. Only  sometimes you can hear a slight dripping of water from the moss and fern plants that have been growing in this almost lightless world for millennia.

Umbria Jazz Festival

Umbria Jazz at Perugia. Foto: Steve McCurry
Umbria Jazz at Perugia. Foto: Steve McCurry

Perugia is considered a sleepy provincial capital, but at least in the second week of July every year she wakes from her slumber, when the Umbria Jazz Festival Jazz sizes and invites an audience from all over the world. This haughty city really lets its hair down for these two weeks as the streets ring with the sounds of marching bands from new Orleans and the main piazzas become stages for free concerts.  Life pulsates on the Corso Vannucci, the wide pedestrian area in the historic city center. Before the venerable Cathedral, and in the Municipal Gardens Giardini Carducci platforms are built, where you can hear jazz deep into the night: Big Band Swing Jazz, Gospel, Zydeco and lyrical jazz. And it is all for free.

Umbria Jazz attracts many international acts - past stars have included Sting, Prince, Mark Khnopfler, Al Jarreau, Santana, Stan Getz, Sergio Mendez and Wynton Marsalis. More intimate gigs can be enjoyed in Perugia's theatre Morlacchi and some bars and restaurants... You will certainly not be stuck for entertainment.

 

A heaven of "dolci"

A heaven of "dolci". Photo: Steffen Müller
A heaven of "dolci". Photo: Steffen Müller

After a tour of Perugia, you can settle at Cafe "Sandri", in summer outdoors in front of the Palazzo dei Priori, in winter under the frescoed ceiling sky from the 19th century. We recommend the excellent tiramisu, homemade chocolates or a "babà al Rhum" - beware lots of alcohol! You can watch the waiters in their red jacketsflirting with their customers, or you can witness the latest fashion parade of elegant Perugian ladies in the Corso Vanucci right in front of you.

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