A Hill Town in Umbria

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Piazza IV Novembre in Perugia

Last week we took the train to Umbria, where we’ll spend our last month in Italy. We are very fortunate to have an apartment in the old center of Perugia, an often overlooked city in the middle of Italy. Perugia is the quintessential medieval town with most of the ancient city walls still in good shape, lovely old churches, a few towers, a huge fortress, an important museum, and a beautiful city hall, still used for a variety of events.
Everywhere you glance is a visual feast. Our favorite church is the temple of San Michele Arcangelo, which is from the late 5th century. It has an octagonal shape, lovely stone walls and a tile roof. We love the simplicity of the interior and the 14th century frescoes that are a bit faded, but still visible on many walls. The floors have some interesting inscriptions that add to the mystical atmosphere of this old temple.
The main piazza, IV Novembre, anchors the west end of the town. The first thing you notice is the huge marble fountain, Fontana Maggiore. It’s stunning in the daytime, and also, when it’s lit up at night. Behind the fountain is the main duomo, dedicated to Saint Lorenzo. It’s a simple church by Italian standards, but, it has Mary’s wedding band inside. It also has a wide mass of steps that remind us of the Spanish Steps in Rome because they are a popular spot for the young people. During happy hour, the steps are filled with students hanging out and drinking their beer and wine or munching on pizza. We often sit on the steps to check our emails, because the piazza has free wifi.
Sitting on the steps, you can look past the fountain to see the Palazzo dei Priori, an impressive medieval structure that housed the administration of the city back in the middle ages. It’s been beautifully restored and is composed of several buildings. Our favorite is the museum, which has a Signorelli show going on right now.
Although Perugia is a very old Etruscan hill town, it has added some modern conveniences. Visitors can get reach the old city center by using the new, Mini-Metro, a cool addition to the transportation system of Perugia. Within ten minutes, you can get from the main train station at the bottom of the hill, to the top of the historic city center—for 1.5 euro. It’s an efficient system that is well worth the price. They also have a few escalators that make it easier to get from the lower parking areas to the upper part of the city.
But when you stay in an old hill town, you must be prepared to walk a lot. You don’t have to worry about sampling the wonderful Umbrian food because the stairs provide a good workout after every meal. And, since we like to eat, we are happy to walk the streets as much as possible. In Perugia, very often, this means that you are either climbing up some stone steps or descending them. A special walk we enjoy is the old aqueduct that is now used for pedestrians. From the higher vantage point, you can get a better view of the old buildings and peak into some small gardens. Other walks take us to the outer edges of town where we can look across the valley and see Assisi and the snow-capped mountains in the distance. When I look out at this particular view, I understand how the early Peruginos must have felt quite secure in this high hill town. For us, it’s a perfect base to explore the green heart of Italy—Umbria.
Below: The Tempio of San Michele Arcangelo, the old aqueduct, more steps and the view towards Assisi from Piazza Italia

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About msraaka

I am a writer, ESL teacher and desktop publishing consultant living in the Pacific Northwest. After our first visit to Italy, my husband Bob and I have found ways to spend more and more time there. We love the people, the language, the food, architecture, art and the history of this amazing place.
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3 Responses to A Hill Town in Umbria

  1. lemonodyssey says:

    Cosi bellissima!

  2. ishitasood says:

    I love your blog. I went to Perugia last month and fell in love with the medieval town.. I got a picture clicked in the aqueduct steps too. Read more on my blog soon 🙂 ishitasood.blogspot.in

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