May 24, 2024

Explore like a local – Things to do in Perugia, Italy

Rome, Venice, Florence, the Amalfi Coast – these are all incredible destinations that you need to see at some point in your Italy travels. But you’re truly missing out if you don’t dig a little deeper by going to Perugia, the capital of Umbria, the so-called green heart of Italy. To Italians, it’s hardly a hidden gem – but to foreigners, Perugia makes it on the itinerary on the second, maybe third Italy trip. I think this is a mistake.

I have traveled to all 20 Italian regions, having lived in both the province of Perugia as well as right in the city center, and I think that Perugia is not only an excellent place to live but also somewhere that all travelers should visit. Everything from the food, architecture, and the music & arts scene – there’s something for everyone.

 

Things to do in Perugia:

  1. Explore the Historical Center
  2. All the Eats of Perugia
  3. Pubs, Live Music, and More

 

Explore the Historical Center

First a quick logistical note. The Perugia city center is at the top of a hill. If you arrive by train (the station is at the bottom of the hill), I suggest you take the convenient Minimetro up to the city center.

Maybe the locals don’t seek out the sights every day, but you should see at least some of them while in Perugia.

  • Piazza IV Novembre is the main piazza at the end of Corso Pietro Vannucci, the main strip in the city center. Its centerpiece is Fontana Maggiore, and it’s bordered on two sides by Palazzo dei Priori and the Perugia Cathedral. Not only is it a beautiful piazza, it’s also a great place to grab a porchetta panino and sit on the stairs and chill out for a bit. You won’t be alone.
  • Arco Etrusco is a perfect example of Etruscan architecture on display in this pre-Roman city. Built in the 3rd century BCE, It’s one of the eight gates in the Etruscan wall of Perugia.
  • If you have time for a tour, Perugia Underground (Perugia Sotterranea) is absolutely worth doing. Tours are offered in both English and Italian. It’s a great way to see the Etruscan roots of the city and better understand the history. If you’re instead looking for an underground experience that doesn’t require a ticket, check out the Rocca Paolina Renaissance fortress.
  • A little outside the busy city center, navigate to Abbazia di San Pietro, which will take you down the more quiet Corso Cavour. After a walk through the abbey, you can go right next door to the Gardini del Frontone. Corso Cavour is one of my favorite parts of the city because it’s quieter and has a more local feel than the main center.
  • Take a walk down peaceful Via Della Viola to see the open air art gallery that’s become a unique staple of the city.
  • From the main center, you can walk down Via dei Priori to Piazza San Francesco, out front of the Church of St. Francis. This greenspace is a popular lay-in-the-sun spot for locals, especially university students.

As is the case with most Italian cities, the best thing to see in Perugia is the city itself. Just walk around and take it slow.

 

Museums

This article is about seeing Perugia like a local, so I’m not listing a ton of museums. But when there’s a new exhibit to see, locals will often go see what’s new. Here’s two museums that are worth checking out:

  • Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria is the most well-known museum in Perugia, with Umbrian art on display from the Middle Ages to the Baroque period. Locals will often visit when there’s a new exhibit to see.
  • Museo Archeologico Nazionale dell’ Umbria as the name suggests, is an archeological museum with a beautiful courtyard and beautiful skyline views.

 

 

All the Eats of Perugia

Every region of Italy has a culinary specialty. I always recommend when you go to Italy – eat the regional food. You’re not in Perugia for pizza (though if you’re having pizza withdrawals, good pizza can be found at Pizzeria Mediterranea Trearchi).

In Perugia, some of the specialties are porchetta, cinghiale (wild boar), chocolate, wine, and black truffle.

Some great restaurants where you can find traditional Perugian/Umbrian cuisine are Ristorante Il Cantinone Perugia, Locanda Del Bartoccio, and Osteria a Priori. I suggest making reservations ahead of time if you can. Some of my personal favorite Umbrian dishes are pappardelle with white wild boar ragù and stringozzi with ricotta, mushrooms, and sausage.

For more casual food options, you can try Testone or Caffè Dal Perugino. The latter is more of a pre-dinner spot for an aperitivo, but they also have great sandwich options.

If you’re looking for something different, Pinturicchio Cafe & Kitchen specializes in American breakfast and lunch, plus they have great coffee. It’s also a good place to study or work if needed.

 

Pubs, Live Music, & More

  • Dempsey’s – A small yet hyper-local bar that’s adored by locals. The owner, Andreas, is from the USA and has become a fixture of Perugia, having lived there for over 15 years.
  • Marla – also owned by Andreas of Dempsey’s, Marla is an awesome bar / night club that always has awesome live music and a cool vibe. Wednesday funk night is my personal favorite.
  • Elfo Pub – An awesome tucked-away bar serving drinks of all kinds, but specializing in craft beer. The staff is always fun, and the owner, Natale, knows his beer. It’s also a good place to watch a football game or see a local Italian stand-up comedy act.
  • Venti Vino is great you’re looking for a wine bar to try some local Umbrian wines.
  • Caffè Fortebraccio is a popular local hang out spot, for everything from morning coffee to late night drinks.
  • If open-mic events are your thing, Indigo Art Gallery & Cafe and Cafe Pinturicchio are both great spots.
  • If you’re looking to see some live jazz, there’s of course the famous Umbria Jazz festival every July, though like most jazz festivals it’s more pop music than anything. Otherwise I suggest you check out a jazz jam session at Osteria Cardinali on Fridays.

 

We hope this guide helps you to discover things to do in Perugia. Let us know in the comments if you’ve been to any of these spots or if you’d like to share an activity that you think other travelers should experience. Buon viaggio!

 

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