Got only one day in Perugia before continuing your travels elsewhere? Wandering what to see in only one day? No problem, you can still get the best of the city between sun-up and sun-down. Starting from the 36 hours in Perugia by the NY Times we created our own insider guide to visit Perugia in one day. Conceived for students who are doing budget travel in Italy and don’t want to spend too much time inside museums.
Below is our step-by-step guide to the perfect day in Perugia.
Towards the Sky: From the train station you’ve made your way up, up, up with Perugia’s light rail, the MiniMetrò. Take the elevator up and drink in that view, then walk twenty steps to Living Café, and drink it in some more while you sip your cappuccino. You’ve got a great day ahead of you, but you need to caffeinate to fit it all in.
Museum…or not: Follow the crowd of MiniMetrò riders out the arch into Via Oberdan, which takes you to Piazza Matteotti, parallel to Perugia’s main drag, Corso Vannucci. Take any street up to the corso and walk towards the fountain. Here you can either a) check out the National Gallery (think Madonna and Child times a hundred and four) or head down to San Francesco. If you’re into all things artey, the entrance is under the duel gryphons and three saints that adorn the side entrance to the town hall.
If you’re not in the mood for frescoes, look for the big clock on the side of the town hall, just to the left of the gallery’s entrance. Under it is Via dei Priori: if you walk all the way down you’ll pass through a nice neighborhood and near the bottom (go right before the big arch!), the church of San Francesco in the Meadow. It’s a nice green lawn where Perugians hang out and sunbathe. Walk back up and sit on the Steps of the cathedral and people-watch for a while.
Filling Your Belly: Hungry yet? Instead of sitting down in a restaurant somewhere, do as the Perugini do—eat on the Steps!!! For lunch on the Steps, we recommend one of Perugia’s three main food groups (for students): a panino, a pizza to-go, or a kebab. For a panino: the small grocery store on Via Bartolo. If you are facing the side door of the cathedral (the one that opens on the Steps) and could jump right over the church, you’d land right on front of it. The paninis are great quality AND the cheapest. The owner and his son are the friendliest people, immediately making you feel at home. For pizza to-go: check out Pizza Mediterranea (around the side of the cathedral but head right into the other small parking lot/piazza, Piazza Piccinino) and ask for your pizza “da portare via” to get the take out box instead of a table. For a kebab: Try Istanbul kebab, right across from the grocery store above.
The Aqueduct: After you’ve enjoyed your meal on the steps (and gotten a bit sunburned), make your way to the Aqueduct to get some leisurely exercise. Get up from the steps and walk to the right, past the fountain, and keep making right until you’re in Via Baldeschi, then keep your eyes peeled on the left for a steeply-descending street called Via Appia. Head down and then onto Via dell’Acquedotto, which used to bring an aqueduct that brought water to the fountain. Enjoy the walk on the aqueduct, and remember this is a stroll not a sprint. Beauty is not lost on the Italian people, nor should it be lost on you.
The University of Gelato: Eventually the Aqueduct will end. Take a right in Via Fabretti and walk a hundred yards back to Piazza Fortebraccio. The large pink building to your right is the University for Foreigners. If you aren’t too tired, pretend you are supposed to be there and keep going up to the top of the building for an amazing view. You’ve reached the summit, but for a little bit of heaven (aka gelato), you’ll need to descend.
Chocolate: One of Perugia’s best gelato shops is Augusta Perugia, located 30 seconds’ walk from the university on Via Pinturicchio (on the far side of the basketball court and up the first little stairs). Augusta Perugia also sells chocolate, if you’re looking to try some of the native wares. They produce their own chocolate, packaged in boxes with cool old paintings of Perugia. Good for a nice, inexpensive present
The…Church: You may still have your gelato in your hand now (we doubt it), but head back to the piazza where the university is and up through the Etruscan Arch (built 2,300 years ago!). Go back to Corso Vanucci. It’s now time to venture into the cathedral and the Town Hall of Perugia, both in Piazza IV Novembre. From outside the cathedral seems has won the “Ugliest Cathedral in Italy” contest for four years running, but the inside is really…baroque. Go for Ba-roque and take a look! Actually inside you can find various art including the Moretti-Caselli stained glass windows, the Holy Ring, apparently (very apparently) the relic of the wedding ring of the Holy Virgin and the Deposition from the Cross by Federico Barocci. Cross the piazza to the main entrance of the town hall (look for the bronze gryphon and lion): this is where the nobles got together to figure out how to screw over the peasants a bit more. Check out the vaults! Now sit down at the café in the Piazza and relax.
Whisper Words of Love: And now for a bit of fun: the Whispering Arches. Go down Corso Vanucci to the end and cross the square of Piazza Italia. The big building on the far side of the piazza with the Gryphon on top is the Provincial building. Go under the arcade under the building’s corner: have one person stand in the corner of the arch, facing the wall with their head tilted slightly upwards. Have another person do the same diagonally across and then whisper something to the wall. Pretty neat!
Rocca Paolina: When you’ve had enough fun with the arches, you’ll notice you’re quite close to an escalator. Curious? It leads to the old city, one buried when a vindicative pope razed this neighborhood to build a huge fortress, not to defend Perugia but to keep the rebellious Perugians in line. Where you’re walking used to be the streets of a medieval neighborhood (look for doors and windows in the walls). Come back up and angle around the back of the building. Walk through the park and go to the great viewpoint:
Dinner dal Mi’ Cocco: Finally, you must be hungry for dinner before you head home. If you want a real Perugian experience with great food, look no further than Dal Mi’ Cocco, in Corso Garibaldi just a stone’s throw from the University for Foreigners and the Etruscan Arch. They offer a set menu of several courses for only 13 euro, 15 with wine. The abundant meal includes home-made pasta and gnocchi, traditional meat dishes, and salad. if you’re vegetarian just tell them “sono vegetariano” and they will bring you an omelets. If you want more of your courses, simply ask and, if they have extra, they’ll give it to you. Dal ‘mi cocco menu.
It’s a full day, but we hope that everything you do will make you fall in love with Perugia like us.