A perfect holiday with art, culture and fun? We have the ideal destination. Even in summer. Discover what to do in Perugia like a local.
Perugia mesmerises you with its melody. No, we're not talking about some street band (you'll meet plenty of those, anyway).
It's a peculiar symphony of smells, flavours and visions that don't overwhelm immediately but envelop each visitor little by little, square after square, rione after rione.
This city knows how to cast a spell properly. And it's a perfect destination for a summer break, too.
Give your holiday a very Umbrian touch and discover what to do in Perugia like a local.
What to do in Perugia like a local
Perugia will win you over at a slow pace with the flavour of its romantic, iconic chocolate, the notes of the most celebrated jazz festival and, of course, the explosion of art and beauty condensed in a historic centre which is an authentic time machine.
Solemn as its ancient Etruscan layout, delicate as the dazzling Renaissance that refines roads, churches, museums and palazzos, and irreverent as the street art that enlivens it with irony and modernity. Perugia is perfect either for a getaway of just a few hours or a weekend with your kids.
The nightlife flows sweet and sparkling amid toasts, music and laughter, food is a delight from appetisers to dessert, and panoramas look like brushstrokes by Perugino.
This is Visit Italy's guide to Perugia. Like a local.
10. Perugia like a local. A tour of the most beautiful panoramic terraces
Of all the things that you can do in Perugia like a local, a super panoramic tour is a must. The city boasts a landscape that has enchanted painters and artists for centuries.
The spectacle is always assured, whether it's a view over the city rooftops or a terrace overlooking the Umbrian countryside. And it's even better with a beer or a fragrant ciauscolo sandwich in your hands.
From Porta Sole, the panorama embraces the entire city, from Borgo Sant'Antonio to Borgo Sant'Angelo, with the medieval walls, ancient city gates, the temple of Sant'Angelo and mountains in the background.
The road to the centre, via Battisti, is another privileged spot for perfect photos. The medieval aqueduct is just below: don't be afraid of the endless stairs and cross it to enjoy another breathtaking view.
Move near Porta Marzia, along the Etruscan walls, and be amazed by a sensational all-around vista of Perugia.
Have we intrigued you? Then our article dedicated to the most panoramic points og Perugia might interest you. Save it and keep them all a click away.
9. Watching a film under the stars
La Basilica di San Pietro is one of Perugia's must-sees. There you will find an abundance of gold, marble, frescoes, paintings realised by art legends such as Vasari or Perugino, and a gorgeous medieval garden, too.
While you are at it, consider stepping into a place just a stone's throw from the ancient cathedral: you'll find a corner of green and history in the city's heart, Borgo XX Giugno.
I Giardini del Frontone, the oldest gardens in Perugia, are undoubtedly among the most beautiful and popular with locals.
A location for military exercises, games and events of all kinds and types since the Middle Ages, the gardens are now a highly atmospheric backdrop for shows, concerts and fairs.
A suggestion? The Perugia Flower Show, a large market exhibition held twice a year where you can admire flowers and rare plants.
Among the things to do in Perugia, find room for a stroll in the shade of the park's holm oaks and cypresses, with its small amphitheatre and the 18th-century triumphal arch.
During summer, I Giardini del Frontone become the setting for a popular open-air cinema, with the most recent film hits screened under the stars on warm Perugia evenings.
8. Attending a concert
While any month is a good month to visit Perugia, July is definitely a special moment, with notes, voices and international vibes vibrating in the medieval city centre.
Here, music has been synonymous with Umbria Jazz, the most influential jazz festival in Italy, since 1973.
The locals rave about the triumph of sounds, colours and freedom permeating the city like in a big party, almost an exuberant Italian-style Woodstock. Don't miss it, because you'll have the feeling of being part of something extraordinary.
For jazz lovers, the one with Perugia and its most acclaimed festival is a fixed appointment that attracts fans, curious and connoisseurs from all over Europe.
Squares, arenas and theatres host plenty of concerts and cultural initiatives. The streets are packed with people dancing, singing, or simply enjoying the exciting, warm, lively atmosphere that pervades Perugia.
Indeed, the success of Umbria Jazz goes beyond the big names that tread its stages and is made up of faces, stories, encounters, and unknown idioms intertwining to the sound of the universal language of music. You'll love it.
7. Taking a day trip to a fairytale village
The weekend away for those who live in Perugia is to Lake Trasimeno or one of the villages the province teems with: Assisi, Norcia, Spello, Montone, and Trevi, to name but a few.
The one we suggest here is about half an hour's drive from Perugia, and you can easily imagine the kind of environment you'll find there from its reputation.
Rasiglia is also known as "the village of mills", a 600-metre high fairytale townlet where the concept of time is entirely relative.
Forget car noises and fierce troupes of visitors typical of the art cities: quietness and slowness reign in Rasiglia, which has recently become popular among tourists thanks to social media and travel blogs.
This small village, which is part of Foligno, seems like a sort of Umbria Venice, with streams, brooks, waterfalls and small lakes running through meadows, gardens and stone houses. Not a sight you see every day.
What can you do in Rasiglia? Strolling is a great pleasure in such a place, full of picture-postcard corners like la Peschiera, a small, quaint lake surrounded by mills.
You can visit the ancient remains of the old industrial hub. In fact, all the water you see once provided energy for mills, dye works and wool mills.
If you feel up to it, walk towards the ruins of the Trinci Castle, but carefully consider whether to tackle the journey, because the road is truly uphill. Along the way, you'll also come across Fonte Capovena, the spring that feeds the canals of Rasiglia.
6. Tasting a special cake
Not a cake, nor focaccia. And no, it is not a pizza, although the ingredients are more or less the same.
La torta al testo is an Umbrian speciality, a delicacy to try while sitting at a restaurant table or on the road as you recharge after yet another exhausting climb.
Among the things to do in Perugia like a local, you certainly cannot escape tasting its most famous street food. Hot and fragrant, you'll have it in large wedges, just like a slice of cake, to devour in a few bites.
It's prepared using - precisely - the testo, a peculiar round plate deriving from the ancient Roman testum, a sort of brick pan with a similar function.
Perugia has plenty of food shops, bars and norcinerie where you can order your torta al testo and indulge in stuffing it with strictly Umbrian cold cuts and cheese. Don't miss it.
5. Climb the Sciri tower
Of all the towers that used to dot Perugia in ancient times (there were around seventy), La Torre degli Sciri is the only one that has survived in its entirety.
We told you about the most beautiful scenic spots on point 10.. Now that we are nearing the end of this brief excursus on what to do in Perugia like a local, here is another must-see spot to catch.
To find it, you must go to Via dei Priori, one of the main entrances to the historic centre. The street is an attraction in itself, teeming with period buildings and intersected by a myriad of medieval alleys, squares and climbs (inevitable in Perugia).
The Sciri tower is a symbol of the Umbrian city, which most tourists only admire from the outside. Be brave, enter, take a breath and tackle the 288 steps to the top. From its 42 metres, the view of Perugia's skyline tastes as sweet as the chocolates ( I Baci Perugina) you won't stop unwrapping during your stay.
If you can, come there at sunset: the lights on the roofs and walls of the palazzi will make the moment more magical than ever.
4. Strolling in Via della Viola
From being a degraded area to an acclaimed art stage. David Byrne, the legendary Talking Heads' leader, has included it in its editorial project, Reasons to Be Cheerful, which collects virtuous stories of urban regeneration.
If you pass through Perugia, plan a diversion to Via della Viola, a historic street not far from the central Piazza IV Novembre.
The district's recent history is a stunning tale of redemption and beauty whose absolute protagonists are its residents. In recent years, they have overturned the appearance and reputation of an area long considered "to avoid".
Today, Via della Viola is a colourful and lively open-air laboratory of art and culture, a centre of aggregation for young people of all ages.
Murals, graffiti, sculptures, ironic and irreverent mottos imprinted on the walls of the buildings and many art installations make it poetic and modern.
With its ateliers, workshops, live music and lively bars, Via della Viola boasts a unique international flair, a space where even locals become tourists in their own city.
3. An evening out and about
As is typical in any university town, Perugia's nightlife is vibrant, youthful, and laid-back.
The favourite hangouts for locals and tourists are scattered throughout the city's five historic districts: Porta San Pietro, Porta Sole, Porta Eburnea, Porta Santa Susanna, and Porta Sant'Angelo. You'll find plenty of venues to spend the evening with friends while enjoying some excellent music.
Pubs, wine bars, restaurants, and cafés are largely nestled within the Etruscan walls, and you won't struggle to find the perfect spot to sip an aperitivo after visiting the Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria or the San Lorenzo's Cathedral.
From a tea room that transforms into a lounge bar to a brewery for post-dinner-out gatherings, there's an abundance of entertainment options revolving around food and wine.
Outside the walls, the most enticing attractions await those looking to dance the night away in cool clubs.
2. Shopping at the Farmer's Market
Perugia boasts the first covered farmer's market in the Umbria region.
For those seeking to purchase fresh local produce directly from the producers (without having to leave the city), it's a must-stop for local gastronomic shopping.
Nevertheless, behind its appearance as a classic neighbourhood market lies a deeper purpose. The project aims to promote food awareness and culture by emphasizing the quality of zero-kilometre offerings.
Thus, you could attend tastings, workshops, and activities tailored specifically for children. All initiatives shed light on the traditions of the Perugian countryside, represented in the building on Via della Madonna Alta by a group of young and closely-knit local farmers.
1. Attending the local festival
On January 28th and 29th, Perugia is immersed in celebrations honouring its patron saint, Costanzo, the city's first bishop.
As often happens on such occasions, exhibitions, workshops, and cultural and folkloric events follow the religious celebrations to enrich and complement the festivities.
Luminaria, an ancient historical reenactment, is one of the most famous and popular occurrences among the locals. The medieval procession, featuring numerous participants in costume, develops from Palazzo dei Priori to the Church of San Costanzo. As per tradition, five offerings - a laurel wreath, a candle, incense, Vin Santo wine, and torcolo, a typical cake prepared for the San Costanzo festival - are presented to the patron saint at the end.
Tastings of torcolo and Vin Santo are also planned for the following day during Fiera Grande, the traditional fair hosting several stands offering staff from food to clothing scattered around the old town.