This past December I decided to take my family to the capital of Umbria and base ourselves out of there for 11 beautiful days. My family is from the region, from Gubbio, Citta di Castello and Todi.
Perugia is central, and it’s the capital so there is always something happening. We rented an Airbnb in the center of the city and from there explored and ate amazing food every day! Here’s our the top 10 things to do in Perugia in winter!
The Fontana Maggiore is a medieval fountain that is found in the central plaza of Perugia. It was built between 1275 and 1278, by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano. Today, it is one of the most celebrated fountains in Italy and is a real symbol of Perugia. The beautiful fountain marks the end of the former Roman aqueduct that provided water to the city for hundreds of years. It has been recently restored, and now you can admire it in all its splendor.
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The building has several carvings on the sides that you can admire and get a glimpse of life in the Middle Ages, such as occupations, months of the year, and zodiac signs, as well as statuary of some of Perugia’s medieval citizens. Other Bas-relief statues also grace the polygonal basin representing scenes from the Old Testament, the founding of Rome, agricultural works and the seven ‘liberal arts’. There’s a lot of history and symbolism in this amazing historical monument that you simply shouldn’t miss.
Cattedrale di San Lorenzo
Overlooking Piazza IV Novembre is Perugia’s stark medieval cathedral. The Cathedral was built between 1345 and 1490 as a replacement of the earlier Romanesque cathedral in an area that was considered sacred since the archaic age, as testified in the several layers that recently came to light. It is titled to San Lorenzo, one of the saint patrons of the city. The façade is characterized by a baroque portal by Pietro Carattoli (1729) while the side features a XVI Century portal by Galeazzo Alessi.
Go inside and behold the characteristic structure of gothic cathedrals that this building employs. The ceiling is embellished with complex decorations that offer you a true anthology of painting in the XVIII century. In the cathedral are also significant works that you can behold like “la Deposizione” by Federico Barocci (1569) and “la Madonna delle Grazie” by G. Di Paolo.
The Rocca Paolina is a fortress that was built in the 16th century at the behest of Pope Paul II. It was constructed on the orders of Pope Paul III as a sign of the renewed papal dominion and was once a mighty fortress dominating the Perugia skyline. Today, it stands as a fascinating remnant of the city’s past. Take the escalator to see what remains of the fortress and the medieval neighborhood it was built on.
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Wander through the centuries-old streets, stand where the homes of the powerful Baglioni family once were, and soak up the somewhat eerie atmosphere. In addition to the old neighborhoods and streets, you can still see the hall of the papal guards, the house of the Baglioni family and, before exiting at the bottom of the fortress, the remains of ancient stone “Game of Football”, a stage of wood where the game was played. This is a breathtaking culture attraction, keeping the history and spirit of several dramatic changes in the past of Perugia, and a must see!
The Etruscan well is some great work of hydraulic engineering that belonged to the family Corbello. It is situated just off Piazza IV Novembre on Piazza Danti 18. Its construction dates back to 300 years BC and therefore exhibits the great technical knowledge and civic level of the Etruscan population at the time. The bottom of the well is covered with travertine, the same material that has been used also for the covering of the well.
From a Medieval underground passageway, you can enter and pass through the well on a modern walkway that reveals the imposing depth of this monument. There are steps, passing dripping walls, that lead to a bridge near the bottom of the well, which offers great views of the inside of the well. If you are a history or architecture lover, just imagine yourself back then when it was built, then you’ll be truly amazed by this ancient wonder of engineering!
Baci Perugina Factory
If you are with you family or you are a chocolate lover, then Baci Perugina Factory is a must go! The factory/ museum is located right outside Perugia in a town called San Sisto. This factory is one of the highlights of Perugia and is an extraordinary place where you can go and discover all there is to know and love about chocolate.
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You will get to know about the origin of cacao, its productions and the chocolate recipes, and you will discover the secrets of Perugina’s most famous products, such as the Baci and much more. You will also learn a bit about the chocolates originally produced by Perugina and the ones they are producing in the factory now as well as that belong to Nestlé. After seeing the roasting machines, mixing vats, etc. you will then end up in a small gift shop, where you can pick up fun Perugina memorabilia and, of course, chocolates.
Etruscan Gate “Augustas”
The Etruscan gate/ arch is found at the Piazza Fortebraccio, and it is the main gate in the northern side of this historic center. It is one of 7 gates in these walls, but it is the only one that hasn’t undergone significant changes. The gate is flanked by two sturdy trapezoid shaped towers which taper upwards to a height f about 20m. The height of the door is about 10 meters high and is formed by a double ring of wedges.
It had the words “AUGUSTA PERUSIA” inscribed there at the time of reconstructing the Perugia municipality. This was to remember the war in 40 B.C which was led by the Emperor Augustus and resulted in Perugia’s submission to Rome.Therefore, it is also known as “The Augustas Gate”. There is also the inscription “COLONIA VIBIA”, which commemorate the emperor who granted the town the status of colony.
While in Perugia, make sure you enjoy a leisurely walk along the old aqueduct. It is just a 4 minute walk from Piazza IV Novembre, which is the center of the old town. You can also ride a bus to the University of Perugia to gain quick access. You can then stroll along the top of this ancient waterway, which is now a picturesque path that cuts through the heart of Perugia’s old town.
It winds for three kilometers past gateways, under archways, between buildings, and among balcony-bedecked palaces all outlined by parapets. Weave through the streets below the aqueduct to appreciate it from a different angle. Walk slowly to better appreciate the beauty and atmosphere of the old town. This lane will give you a fantastic viewpoint of Medieval Perugia, and you can stop for photos beneath the ancient stone arches that supported the waterway.
Eat at Osteria Priori
Osteria A Priori is a fashionable restaurant that specializes in local wines and fresh traditional cuisine prepared with excellent seasonal ingredients. It is located very close to the main street of Perugia, and therefore you don’t need to get there by car. Rather, take a walk there as you enjoy the city.
You can come here to relax as you enjoy tasty Umbrian dishes cooked with care and without frills. They also have very good dessert served in generous portions, and the general ambience in the area is really conducive. The staff is very friendly, and they have a great selection of wines to accompany your meal. There are over 300 Umbrian labels sampled from the most renowned wineries in the regions. You can even buy some and take them with you.
Eat at Bottega del Vino
This is easily one of the best restaurants in Perugia. It boasts an excellent location and always has a very good atmosphere, nice for a sweet date or an evening with friends. It is located next to the main square in town, overlooking Corso Vannucci, the most well-known street in Perugia. The deco inside is very eclectic and quaint.
The restaurant features high-quality Umbrian dishes and a wide selection of Italian wines. Stop for a glass of wine or a small plate. The desserts here are simply perfect and you can ask the waiter for the plate of the day. On Wednesdays, there’s usually some live Jazz that make the atmosphere even more pleasant. Enjoy Bottega del Vino’s cozy environs away from the hustle and bustle of the main plaza, and you won’t be disappointed.
In December, Umbria helps you get into the Christmas spirit with a whole host of surprises! The Christmas atmosphere here runs right from December 8th all the way to January 6th. During this time, Christmas markets liven the small villages and historic towns of Umbria. Perugia, being the capital is always ahead. The Mercatino in Perugia has for long and is still being held in Rocca Paolina. Recently it has also extended to other places like fountain and in Piazza Metteotti.
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There you can find typical food and also something from Sicily like cannoli and aranci ermore. There is also an amazing ice skating platform on the main street Corso Vannucci. Apart from the markets, there are also a few stalls that showcase ornaments and Christmas decorations from Slovakia. Everything in Perugia at these times just invites you to abandon yourself and dive into the Christmas atmosphere.
If you are thinking of traveling to Umbria and want to base yourself, then Perugia is the best place strategically in order to be able to take day trips and explore all the medieval towns, beautiful wineries and eat truffles nonstop! I recommend you visit my grandfather’s town of Gubbio, and the famous town of Assisi as well as these Roman Ruins.
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What did you think of the top 10 things to do in Perugia in winter? If you have any more recommendations please leave us a comment below!