We The Italians | Italian culture and history: Perugia

Italian culture and history: Perugia

Italian culture and history: Perugia

  • WTI Magazine #167 Sep 23, 2023
  • 230

With its Etruscan walls, a gorgeous Medieval center, Perugia is not only a city for the gluttonous (re: chocolate), but for artists and art lovers alike. 

This splendid capital of the Region of Umbria is also a culture capital par excellence, and the seat of two important universites: Università degli Studi, founded in 1308, and the University for Foreigners, the foremost in Italy. More well-known, though, is old Perugia, surrounded by two perimeter walls.

The exterior of the two, from the Medieval Age, remains intact over an expanse of a few kilometers, and along it one encounters several different entrances or portals, including the Cassero di Porta Sant’Angelo. The interior wall is the Etruscan perimeter (the Etruscans built seven different portals through which to enter), characterized by the large masses used in its construction. Nevertheless, not many monuments dating back to this ancient epoch actually remain, and most of the older urban core that is still extant harks back to the Middle Ages.

The historic center, in fact, is a certified 14th-Century borgo, and one of the prettiest in Italy. 

Entering from the Porta San Pietro, one will find the Gothic Basilica of San Domenico, on the inside of which are statues and works by esteemed local artists – among these the wooden choir stalls stand out. 

In the architectural complex of San Domenico, the cloisters and the convent host the National Archaeological Museum of Umbria. 

Visitors should be sure to see Piazza Matteotti as well, with its 15th-Century Palazzo dell’Universita Vecchia, and Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo. Then, one of Italy’s most important, Piazza IV Novembre, is the city’s monumental social hub. On this central piazza sits Palazzo dei Priori, the symbol of governmental power; the cathedral (religious power) and; at its nucleus, the Maggiore Fountain, completed in the 1200s and fed by the aqueduct originating on Monte Pacciano. 

Palazzo dei Priori is also the seat of Umbria’s National Gallery; its interior boasts valuable works of art realized by artists with strong ties to the Umbrian territory. Among the masterpieces, one should note: the Polyptych of St. Anthony by Piero della Francesca, and the Polyptych of San Domenico by Beato Angelico. 

Perugia, besides its vast artistic heritage, hosts events of international renown, especially Eurochocolate (every autumn) and Umbria Jazz (mid-July). From the city’s clubs, to the theatres, streets and piazzas, the entire historic center beats and resounds during the lively days of Umbria Jazz, creating a magical and electric atmosphere that merges with the places and history of Perugia. 

For ten days the city center becomes a musical village, with concerts and performances one after another, every hour of the day until late into the night. 

And despite its magnificent Medieval facade, Perugia has always been a rather innovative city. After all, it was the first Italian locality to build escalators in several points throughout the city, in order to facilitate pedestrians on their way to the city center.