(Umbra Institute, Spring 2015)
Perugia is the Goldilocks of Italian cities. She is not overwhelmingly large, but not too confined. She is not teeming with history like her sisters Roma and Firenze, but she is not lacking in the amount of historical richness either, if one simply just looks. Her beauty is not something that will make you stop and stare, but she is by no means an ugly duckling. Her food is not a reason to interrupt your journey through the region, but it will never disappoint. However, there are some areas where she is unmatched by her sister cities: her sounds and her personality.
Her touch is one of friendship. Heading toward the fountain in Piazza IV Novembre is like walking into the open arms of a much needed hug. Meeting someone for the first time can be intimidating, especially when there is a language barrier. But, meeting Perugia was different. She doesn’t care how well you know her language, history, or ways of life. She is welcoming and will help you discover her idiosyncrasies. She is like a friend it seems you have known forever, but have only just met.
Her smell is certainly a Goldilocks trait. Her narrow passageways provide the perfect space for smells to accumulate. On trash night, this accumulation is one of scraps, drinks, and dog shit (literally!). But passing one of her cafés in the morning, one is instantly enveloped in the aroma of freshly baked pastries. It is a paralyzing smell, making people stop in their tracks to do nothing but breathe deeply through their noses. It is this stark contrast that makes her smell “just right.”
Her taste…mmmmmm…her taste. She will rarely disappoint your taste buds and will do so without emptying the wallet. Perugia offers something for everyone. For breakfast, easily find a café by simply taking deep breaths through the nose and following the delicious scent. Once found, the cafés offer incredible amounts of pastries, filled or covered, and sometimes both, with chocolate, fruit, marmalade, and cream, each providing a delectable sensation with every new bite. One, or maybe two, of these with a fresh cappuccino will make anyone’s morning a bit brighter. Everyone, at some point in their lives, needs to have a delectable panino from La Bottega di Perugia for lunch, while sitting on the steps of the church under a glorious blue sky. The crunchy exterior of the bread, combined with the savory combinations of freshly carved meats and cheeses on the inside, create a delicious meal that makes one wish it would never end Or you can make your way to Ciao Ciao’s where the food is only topped by the family-like atmosphere inside.
For dinner, she offers a plethora of foods to eat, none of which will break the bank. Make your way to Il Settimo Sigillo for a medieval experience with freshly made pastas and a mouthwatering filetto alla griglia that will make one lose track of reality. Or you can find a sensational seafood dish at Antica Trattoria Delle Volte where the Neapolitan owners bring their regional cuisine to landlocked Umbria. If you are in the mood for pizza, take a trip to Pizza Mediterranea with their palatable pizza pies and the best Tiramisú. If after your meal you still have some crevices to fill, head to a gelateria to indulge in a gelato that will be the perfect cherry on top of the meal.
Her sound is one of her finest attributes. During the day, the sounds of passing cars and vespas fill the air, while small-talk between friends, colleagues, and classmates combine to make a beautiful harmony. One interesting, and favorable, trait is that even with so many dogs around, there is hardly ever any barking. Dogs in the US should take lessons! In the night, the muffled sounds of music from bars can be heard in the distance, while new friendships and acquaintances are created inside. However, the most beautiful and enjoyable sound Perugia has to offer is her silence. The morning in Perugia is a breathtaking experience. The smell of her pastries, the rising of the sun, the welcoming hug from her fountain, and the sound of silence, all come together to create a magnificent morning. It is so peaceful that with eyes closed, you might forget Perugia is a city.
Last, but certainly not least, is sight. Perugia has some of the most distinctive features of any city. She is old, but still looks new. She is small, but never feels constricting. She is bright, even when she is dreary. These paradoxes make Perugia the unique city she is. Her buildings are centuries old, but still are functioning and constantly being used. Following the path from Porta Sole to Porta Sant’Angelo, you will find buildings of an old, rustic, stone nature right next to buildings painted in bright colors. From above, it would probably look like sporadically placed baskets of citrus fruits. Finally, her most breathtaking sights are from her hilltops. The sky at sunset is filled with a surplus of nuances, as if a painter knocked over multiple cans spilling pure beauty across the vast blue canvas. At times underneath this heavenly fresco, you can see a dense cloud-like fog covering her body and neighboring mountains. It is as if she is cuddling underneath this blanket to combat the chilling, breezy air, like a polar bear cub does with its mother’s own personal blanket. Gazing across this view, there are the occasional mountain peaks, church steeples, or towers peaking above the blanket, like courageous cubs hoping to see a glimpse of their new world. It is a scene you can only find in fantasies, and Perugia.
Brad Leer is a junior at Lebanon Valley College in Annville, Pennsylvania. As an Actuarial Science and Mathematics double major, he rarely needs to write creative works. Yet, he enjoys finding time to write creatively through music, composing songs. Coming to Umbra and taking this class with the guidance of a brilliant professor has sparked a flame for creativity in him. He hopes that this piece, along with the other fantastic works on the website, will engage students and tourists to discover all that Perugia has to offer, so they too can paint their own portrait of this fairytale city.