Perugia is a beautiful city in Italy’s gorgeous Umbria region that is almost equidistant between Florence & Rome. But, unfortunately, it has surprisingly been mostly overlooked by foreign tourists who instead choose to zoom through Central Italy on the Intercity trains despite there being so many great things to do in Perugia.
The capital of of Umbria, a small area of Italy with arguably the same beauty of northern Tuscany and filled with a number of interesting small towns to visit. Perugia lends itself as being a fantastic base to explore the region.
Even if you don’t have time to spend a couple of days in the city, its convenient location between two of Italy’s most visited destinations (Florence and Rome) make visiting Perugia an excellent option for a day trip, as well.
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Getting To & Around Perugia
The easiest way to get to Perugia is by train. As it is located almost exactly halfway been Rome and Florence, it is a logical stop if heading between these two cities, or as a day trip from either.
From Florence, the train takes approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes while from Rome it will take about the same. It is advisable to book train tickets in advance, particularly for the faster trains as fares are lower compared to booking on the day of travel. Click here to check train schedules
If you’re visiting Perugia as part of a longer Italy itinerary, then renting a car can be a good option if you want to get further off the beaten path. We suggest browsing on Rentalcars.Com to find a good deal as they aggregate results from a number of car hire companies available in Italy.
There is also a small airport in Perugia, so it is possible to fly directly to the Umbrian city from a few cities in Europe. If you’re going to or from Perugia Airport then a taxi will cost around €30 and take approximately twenty minutes. There is also an airport bus that will take you to the city centre, but note that connections can be limited if you’re travelling on the weekend.
Once in the city, Perugia is very walkable and if you’re staying in the city centre then the only time you’ll need to use public transport is to get to and from the train station or airport.
The Perugia train station is located a few kilometres from the city centre. You can either buy bus tickets from convenience shops or buy a ticket on board the bus.
12 Things To Do In Perugia, Italy
1. Explore and hang out at Piazza IV Novembre
The majority of foreigners that you will see in Perugia will likely be the large number of students who call Perugia home during the university year.
And like most students around the world who have little money or just a large amount of time on their hands, you will undoubtedly see a large portion of them congregating in the city’s main hangout – Piazza IV Novembre located in the heart of the old town.
The piazza has a number of famous monuments including Fontana Maggiore – a large medieval fountain in the centre of the square, the gothic Perugia Cathedral of San Lorenzo – the city’s main church – and Palazzo dei Priori – the Town Hall of Perugia.
However, these monuments, while impressive to explore, tend to act as a backdrop for a large number of students sipping wine out of plastic cups, playing a musical instrument or tucking into gelato.
2. Watch the sunset at Giardini Carducci
One of the best things to do in the Umbrian capital is to visit Giardini Carducci around sunset. The tiny park at the southern end of the city provides a spectacular, panoramic view of surrounding Umbria including the nearby Basilica di San Domenico.
There are maps to help you locate nearby towns however one can simply spend an hour or two here enjoying the view as the sun goes down.
This area is a popular date spot, for obvious reasons, but it is just as beautiful if you only have yourself to enjoy it with! The views of the surrounding hill towns and the Umbrian countryside are truly beautiful.
3. Wander through Underground Perugia
Just below Giardini Carducci in the historic centre, you’ll find Underground Perugia or Rocca Paolina, which is an entire network of streets that are the remains of a sixteenth-century medieval fortress built by Pope Paul III. Seen as a symbol of papal power, most of the fortress was destroyed in the nineteenth century following the unification of Italy.
These days, what remains has been integrated with modern-day Perugia through a number of escalators. There are exhibits, museums and shops that you can explore underground as well as simply walking through the maze of streets and reading about the history of the place.
For Game of Thrones fans, they even had their own version of the Red Wedding!
4. Visit the National Gallery of Umbria
The National Gallery of Umbria is a great option to visit for travellers wanting to see a unique collection of paintings, specifically from many Umbrian artists. There is a permanent exhibition as well as a rotating temporary collection on the second floor.
Full-price tickets are €10.00. The museum is closed some days of the week so make sure to check their website for the latest opening hours.
5. Stroll down Corso Vannucci
If you wondering what Perugia’s answer is to Oxford Street in London or Champs-Elysees in Paris, then you have to look no further than Corso Vannucci. The wide, vehicle-free street runs from Giardini Carducci to Piazza IV Novembre and is bustling with cafes, street musicians, bars and much more!
You will almost certainly end up walking up and down this street a number of times during your stay. This is clearly one of the most popular things to do for visitors and locals alike!
6. Learn more about the history of Perugia
If you want to delve deeper into the history of the city, one of the best things to do is to take a short walking tour with a local guide.
Apart from visiting some of the sites listed in this article, you’ll learn about the city’s ancient past and uncover treasures that might go unnoticed while you’re walking around by yourself.
7. Enjoy traditional Umbrian cuisine
The New York Times suggested that Umbrian cuisine was Italy’s best-kept secret and this might very well be the case. Local specialties in Umbria haven’t yet got the international acclaim that dishes from Bologna or other parts of Emilia-Romagna might have but that will surely change over the coming years.
Typical food to look out for includes anything with truffles, strangozzi (a type of square spaghetti), spelt/farro and sheep’s cheese.
One of the best places to try local cuisine is Civico 25 (located not far from the lovely Porta Sole viewpoint), which also has an extensive wine list. The strangozzi with lamb and artichoke is a definite winner! Make sure to book ahead as this restaurant is extremely popular with locals. They do not have an English menu, however, the waiters are happy to help you make a decision.
Another great place we ate at was Trattoria Borgo San Francesco, which also has a large menu of local specialities and innovative dishes.
8. Visit the Perugina Chocolate Factory
Umbria is a big producer of chocolates including the world-famous Baci and one of the best ways you can learn more about the tradition and sample some products is by taking a tour of the factory.
You’ll get the opportunity to see the chocolate-making process, sample a variety of different chocolates and get to sample some other traditional products at a nearby local shop.
9. Admire the Etruscan Arch
The Etruscan Arch is one of the most impressive sites in Perugia. Originally built in the third century BC, it served as one of the official entrances to the city of Perugia in that time period.
Walking through the gate is the quickest way to some of the main sites of Perugia such as Piazza IV Novembre, however, it is also worth walking to the right and around the Etruscan Arch for fantastic views of both the gate and the rest of Perugia.
A great way to admire the Etruscan Arch is by having a drink at Caffè ForteBraccio, located across the road from the arch. This student bar is open 24 hours so is a great option for a morning coffee or evening Aperol Spritz. It has plenty of outdoor seating with a direct view of the impressive arch!
And if you want to see more of ancient Perugia, walk less than five minutes from the arch to view the Perugia Aqueduct – a great place to see this attraction is at the Belvedere sull’acquedotto.
10. Enjoy some cheap student eats
Having previously spent a few nights in Modena before arriving in Perugia, where cheap takeaway options were more limited, it was nice to be able to enjoy one of the huge benefits of being in a student city – the cheap eats!
There were a number of great hole-in-the-wall style places that we discovered during our three days in Perugia.
One favourite was La Bottega, a panini shop located a few minutes’ walk from Piazza IV Novembre. A regular panini will set you back a few euro and the crowds around the shop certainly suggest this place is a winner amongst hungry students!
11. Take a day trip to Assisi
If there is one town in Umbria that has established itself firmly on the tourist trail then it is undoubtedly Assisi. Located only a twenty-minute train ride from Perugia, Assisi is most notably known as the birthplace of Saint Francis of Assisi.
His eponymous cathedral attracts thousands of pilgrims each year and is definitely a spectacular site worth seeing during your visit to this Umbrian hilltown. You can also spend an hour or two walking around the medieval town or take a guided walking tour if you want to learn more about the history of Assisi.
Due to a large number of pilgrims and visitors, we found that the town felt a lot more catered towards tourists compared to Perugia and therefore wouldn’t recommend basing yourself in Assisi unless you are particularly interested in this part of Catholic history.
Note you will also need to buy a bus ticket from the Assisi train station to the centre of town. Buy bus tickets at the bar or tobacco shop in the train station for €1.30 each as they are not sold onboard the bus.
If you prefer to visit as a part of an organised tour, you can take a full-day tour that includes a visit to Assisi and nearby Spello as well as transfers and lunch.
If you’re looking for a different day trip, consider heading to nearby Lake Trasimieno, a massive lake located within easy reach of Perugia.
12. Spend an afternoon at Tili Vini
If you want to combine your day trip to Assisi with another activity, arrange a visit to nearby Tili Vini Winery. Located about 7km from the centre of Assisi, there are irregular public buses that drop you off about a ten-minute walk from the winery or, alternatively, you can arrange a taxi for around €15-20.
Maria and her German shepherd will give you a fantastic tour of their organic winery, explaining the history of the vineyard and the production process.
Afterwards, you’ll indulge in a tasting of five local wines accompanied by a selection of delicious food including bruschetta with their own olive oil, a spelt and mozzarella salad and an antipasti plate of meats and cheeses. There’ll also be some dessert wine with homemade biscotti!
The wine from Tili Vini is sold all over the world and they spend a portion of the year travelling and doing private tastings. Luckily for visitors, a tour of the winery and tasting is very affordable when compared to nearby wine tasting in Tuscany. You can book a tasting at Tili Vini either on GetYourGuide or on Viator.
Where to stay in Perugia
Residenza il Punto – This mid-range boutique hotel is about a ten-minute walk from the city centre, has spacious rooms (including some with balconies and mountain views) and also has a breakfast option when booking.
Sina Brufani – If budget isn’t an issue and you want to splurge on accommodation, this historic luxury hotel is a great option. With pristine rooms offering incredible views and access to a swimming pool with a glass floor showcasing 3000-year ruins, this is a great option for luxury travellers. Breakfast is included in the nightly rate.
Little Italy Hostel – If you’re on a tight budget then this hostel located inside a converted church and only a few minutes walk from the centre of Perugia is a fantastic option. They offer both dorms and private rooms and also have a spacious common room.
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Perugia hotels!
Umbria might not be on the mainstream tourist trail yet but with so many fantastic things to do in Perugia, it is surely only a matter of time before more visitors start exploring this amazing region of Italy.
Are you visiting Perugia? Have any questions? Let us know in the comments below!