The capital city of Umbria

Perugia, the capital city in the region of Umbria in central Italy, near the Tiber river, and the capital of the province of Perugia. Perugia gave its nickname to the famous painter Perugino (Pietro Vannucci), who lived and worked here. Another famous painter, Pinturicchio, lived in Perugia.

A short history of Perugia

Perugia first appears (as Perusia) in history as one of the twelve confederate cities of Etruria. It is first mentioned in the account of the war of 310 or 309 BCE between the Etruscans and the Romans. It took, however, an important part in the rebellion of 295, and was reduced, with Vulsinii and Arretium (Arezzo), to seek for peace in the following year.

In 216 and 205 BCE, it assisted Rome in the Hannibalic war, but afterwards, it is not mentioned until 41-40 BCE, when Lucius Antonius took refuge there and was reduced by Octavian after a long siege. A number of lead bullets used by slingers have been found in and around the city (Corpus inscr. lat. xi. 1212). The city was burnt, we are told, with the exception of the temples of Vulcan and Juno, the massive Etruscan terrace-walls, naturally, can hardly have suffered at all, and the town, with the territory for a mile round, was allowed to be occupied by whoever chose. It must have been rebuilt almost at once, for several bases exist, inscribed Augusta sacr(um) Perusia restituta; but, as we have seen, it did not become a colony until 251-253 CE.

It is hardly mentioned except by the geographers until the middle of the 6th century when it was captured by Totila after a long siege. In the Lombard period it is spoken of as one of the principal cities of Tuscia. In the 9th century, with the consent of Charles the Great and Louis the Pious, it passed under the popes; but for many centuries the city continued to maintain an independent life, warring against many of the neighbouring lands and cities, Foligno, Assisi, Spoleto, Todi, Siena, Arezzo, etc. It remained true for the most part to the Guelphs.

Perugia has become famous for chocolate, mostly because of a single firm, Perugina, whose Baci (kisses) are widely exported. Perugia chocolate is very popular in Italy, and the city hosts a chocolate festival in October of every year.

Perugia today hosts two universities and is a melting pot for students from all over Italy and the world. One of the universities, the Universitá per Stranieri, (University for strangers) serves as an Italian language and culture school for students from all over the world. The city also hosts the Umbra Institute, an American school for students studying abroad in Perugia. The city symbol is the griffin, which can be seen in the form of plaques and statues on buildings around the city.

Main attractions of Perugia

  • The Cathedral of San Lorenzo
  • Palazzo dei Priori (Town Hall, encompassing the Collegio del Cambio, Collegio della Mercanzia, and Galleria Nazionale)
  • The Collegio del Cambio has frescoes by Pietro Perugino, while the Collegio della Mercanzia has a fine later 14th-century wooden interior
  • Church and abbey of San Pietro (late 16th century)
  • Basilica of San Domenico (begun in 1394 and finished in 1458).  It is located in the place where, in Middle Ages times, the market and the horse fair were held, and where the Dominicans settled in 1234.  According to Vasari, the church was designed by Giovanni Pisano.  The interior decorations were redesigned by Carlo Maderno, while the massive belfry was partially cut around the mid-16th century.  It houses examples of Umbrian art, including the precious tomb of Pope Benedict XI and a Renaissance wooden choir
  • Church of San Angelo (6th century)
  • Church of San Bernardino (with façade by Agostino di Duccio)
  • Fontana Maggiore, a medieval fountain designed by Fra Bevignate and sculpted by Nicolò and Giovanni Pisano
  • Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria, the National Gallery of Umbrian art in Middle Ages and Renaissance (it includes works by Duccio, Piero Della Francesca, Fra Angelico, Perugino)
  • Ipogeo dei Volumni (Hypogeum of the Volumnus family), an Etruscan chamber tomb
  • National Museum of Umbrian Archaeology
  • Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo
  • Porta Augusta, a Roman gate with Etruscan elements
  • Rocca Paolina, a Renaissance fortress (1540-1543) of which only a bastion today is remaining.  The original design was by Antonio and Aristotile da Sangallo and included the Porta Marzia (3rd century BC), the tower of Gentile Baglioni’s house and a mediaeval pit
  • The Etruscan arch

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