Perugia is so old its origins are lost in the rocks on which it sits. Like many Etruscan towns (yes, its older than Rome), Perugia sits on a great block of volcanic rock that jumps from the hills around. The rugged platform has been mostly leveled off since, but its easy to appreciate why the Etruscans first settled here: from the many public balconies that rim its old historic center you can see all the land around.
And its stunningly beautiful. Together with Urbino in the Marche, Perugia combines the powerful solidity of strong, stone houses with the gentle delicacy of bright flowers and lacy leaves that is so characteristic of the Italian Renaissance.
Perugia was at the heart of the Renaissance almost as much as Florence was. Here both Pinturicchio and Raphael's teacher Pietro Vannucci lived and painted great art, some of which you can still see in the various museums.
You can also see how boisterous a town it still is, thanks to the many students who enroll at one of the two universities here. Every night they celebrate the joy of living in one of italy's best cities, being students, and being in love. Yes, Perugia is a place for romance, for dining out under the stars, for strolling the streets to window shop for art.
Perugia sits 500 meters high on its rock, perfect for late spring and summer when you can relax in the warm sun yet feel refreshed. You can explore mediaeval streets above ground and even below too: when the fortress was rebuilt 500 years ago they leveled off the platform by covering over some old streets, still accessible today.
A good time to visit is in July for the Umbrian Jazz Festival, or in September for the Chocolate Festival - those famous "Baci" Perugini come from here too, of course.
Article and Photographs | Copyright © Carl Ottersen