Perugia is one of Italy’s lesser known regional capitals. It is the capoluogo, or capital, of the region of Umbria This region is often referred to as “il cuore verde dell’Italia” or the green heart of Italy. It is the only land-locked region in central and southern Italy which makes it distinct from its neighbors. One aspect of daily life that the lack of beaches directly effects is the cuisine. As opposed to other regional capitals like Rome or Ancona (the capitals of the surrounding Lazio and Le Marche regions) which are closer to the coast, seafood is scarce and not very fresh in the Perugian markets because of the inconvenience of transportation. They don’t have seafood, but the Perugians make up for it with many other local delicacies including black truffles and an abundance of chocolate. They make up for the lack of beaches with rolling hills, the beautiful Lake Trasimeno, and fertile farmland.
Today, Italian is the official language in Perugia but you will find that the locals (as is true in every Italian region) have their own distinct dialect. Thanks to the abundance of university students from all over the world, English is also spoken by many of the younger Italians.
The city of Perugia is situated on top of a hill. It has one of the highest elevations of any city in Umbria. The center of the city, Piazza IV Novembre, is at the top of this hill and houses the Fontana Maggiore, the Duomo (the main cathedral of Perugia) and the Palazzo dei Priori (an important historical political building). Corso Vannucci is the main street that connects the main piazza with Piazza Italia and the Rocca Paolina (all that remains of Etruscan Perugia before Pope Paul III destroyed and built over that part of the city making a fortress in response to Perugia’s attempt to defy the Church). If you walk across Piazza Italia to Via Independenza you will find one of my favorite panoramas of the Umbrian countryside. From here you can see more of Perugia, the city of Assisi and the beautiful Umbrian countryside. Since it is a hilltop town, there are plenty of beautiful panoramas to enjoy. The price you pay for the beautiful views, though, is an inordinate amount of stairs. Perugia is definitely not the easiest city to walk around in, especially for those who have limited mobility. This doesn’t stop the elderly of Perugia who I often saw trekking up and down the same stairs I climbed every day.
The weather in Perugia is relatively mild. The summers are hot and dry and the winters are cold and rainy with snow during the early parts of the year. Since Perugia sits on top of a hill, it gets cooler and windier than in other parts of the region. Walking down Corso Vannucci in the winter is often quite a chore seeing at it turns into a wind tunnel of sorts. Corso Vannucci, though, is one of the most happening spots in Perugia for window shopping, an afternoon coffee or evening stroll. It is here and at the Fontana Maggiore, especially in the summertime, that Perugians young and old come to take a passeggiata or meet up with friends.
After spending almost 4 months in Perugia, I fell in love with the place. I had an unforgettable experience thanks to the people I met and the beauty of everyday life in Perugia. I am forever grateful to this place.