As you may have noticed, we often take a dim view of Italy’s artistic heritage. Not because some of these pieces of this and that inherited from the last twenty-five centuries aren’t great: indeed, precisely because some of them are great, and others are simply superfluous. The Academy of Fine Arts (Accademia delle Belle Arti) is a refreshing exception to this, and you even get the Bonus Glass Apse (more below). The Academy is housed in the former convent of Saint Francis at the Lawn, which, as you can imagine from the name, sits behind one of the largest flat spaces in Perugia. It’s a pleasant little park in its own right, full of students and loungers in good weather.
From Corso Vannucci, walk all the way down Via dei Priori and when you see steps in front of you descending to a large city gate, bear off to the right in Via San Francesco. Walk fifty meters and you’ll see the lawn. Cross it and enter the door between the big church on the right and the chapel on the left. Walk down the ramp and, when you can, look up to your right for a surprise.
The convent’s large church given to the Franciscans in the 1200s but had fallen into disrepair. The City of Perugia has been working on it for the last decade, turning it into a convention center. They intentionally left the apse behind the main altar off, placing instead a rounded glass wall that, from inside, gives you an incredible view of the valley below (unfortunately it’s not open yet).
After you pass your Bonus Glass Apse, continue on straight and going through one courtyard, enter and go up the stairs to your left. The friendly staff will sell you a ticket (€5, €3 reduced), and you can then go into the Plaster Casts Gallery and the Pinacoteca. “Plaster casts? Boorrrring!” you would think. But no, it’s pretty cool: there are casts (some centuries old) of a lot of famous statues that you may not be able to go see: the Dying Gaul, two of Michangelo’s Prisoners, the Laocoön and His Sons (the sea serpernt has just grabbed them outside Troy’s gates!), even the reconstructed façade of a Roman temple. Not too many, but enough to be cool. The Pinacoteca is like the Plaster Casts Gallery: a really nice, small selection of the Academy’s huge collection (12,000 drawings, 6,300 engravings). It goes from sixteenth century sketches to paintings from one of Perugia’s greats, Dottori. There are maybe fifty frames on the walls, so it’s a great panorama of four centuries of work, but not overwhelming. We particularly like the paintings of nineteenth-century Perugia, as well as the Death of Saint Sophia (near the end—cool light!). Open Sa 14:30-17, and Su 10:30-13 & 14:30-17