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“Perugia is endowed with great means of defence thanks to its natural setting and the hand of man. It rises sharply on an elevated plateau above the plain where the purple mountains blend with the farthest limit of the horizon.”
Just as Charles Dickens said in his work “Picture of Italy” in 1846, Perugia looks over the Valle del Tevere from an irregular and harsh hill. The particular configuration of the terrain gave birth to a variety of urban situations with rare aspects.
City of art and a cultural and economical center of the region, it is also an important destination for tourists and students (the city is the location to two universities: one is “Università degli Studi”, founded in 1308; and the other is “University for Foreigners of Perugia” the biggest one in Italy). The story of the city is rich and its roots date back ages. It was an old Etruscan settlement, then it soon became the most important center of the High Valley of Tevere river, and a blooming Roman Municipium called “Augusta Perusia” afterwards. After the fall of the Roman Empire, it experienced the barbarian invasions and was destroyed by the Goth of Totila (574 d.C). Conquered by the Byzantines, it became one of the benchmarks of their dominion against the expansion of the Longobard Duchy of Spoleto.
Perugia remained under the Byzantines control until the VIII century, when it turned under the ecclesiastic control, and when in the year 1000 was proclaimed free City, it remained ally of the Papacy. In the XIV century the union with the Church of Rome irredeemably deteriorated, since Perugia destroyed Foligno, an ally of the Papacy. From then onward, the history of the city is a succession of civil wars, conspiracies, betrayals and wars until the control of the Church became decisive, thanks to the Pope Paolo III (1531). In 1540 Paolo III ordered to Antonio da Sangallo the construction of the Rocca Paolina, as symbol of the Church’s power over the city. From that moment Perugia was deprived of liberty and independence, and every attempt of rebellion against the Church power was banished with carnages and destructions. The Papacy control lasted until the inception of the Kingdom of Italy in XIX century, except for some small periods during the French occupation and the Roman Republic.
Today Perugia is a modern and cosmopolitan city, known all over the world for its cultural events, above all for Umbria Jazz and Eurochocolate, and its University for Foreigners. Proud of its historical tradition and important past, the city can be admired in every corner thanks to the unique atmosphere in which the past and present blend completely together. The city has a huge artistic and cultural richness, made by monuments that testimony centuries of history, art and culture. One of them is the Etruscan archway or of Augusto, a monumental gate from the old Etruscan wall and restored in the Roman Age. Another is Palazzo dei Priori, an elegant gothic building that hosts the Galleria Nazionale dell’ Umbria, which faces one of Italy’s most beautiful squares Piazza IV Novembre and where many Italian art masterpieces are from the Middle ages to the XVIII century are kept. The gallery Galleria Nazionale dell’ Umbria a work of Piero della Francesca, Benozzo Gozzoli, Beato Angelico, Pinturicchio and Perigino. Notable is also the Collegio del Cambio, ancient location of the money changers that keeps a prestigious pictorial cycle of Perugino; the chapel Cappella di San Giovanni Battista, with frescos from the XVI century; the Collegio della Mercanzia; the cathedral Cattedrale di San Lorenzo, with the museum Museo del Capitolo; and the wonderful Fontana Maggiore, a work from the Thirteenth Century of Fra Bevignate da Perugia with bas relieves of Nicola and Giovanni Pisano.
Worthy of note are also the Palace of the captain of the People and the Palace of the old university, now seat of the Palace of Justice, Palazzo Donii and Palazzo Cesarii, respectively headquarters of the Regional Council and the region of Umbria, the nineteenth-century Palace of the province, in Lombard style, Palazzo della Penna, exhibition Hall of permanent collections and temporary exhibitions, the Municipal Theatre “Morlacchi” and Palazzo Gallenga-Stuart, seat of the University for foreigners. Among the religious buildings we mention the Abbey of St. Peter and its splendid cloister, the Church of San Domenico, with annexed the National Archaeological Museum of Umbria, Rich in Umbrian, Etruscan and Roman artifacts, the Church of San Severo, with a “Trinity and Saints” partly of Raphael and Perugino, the Church of Santa Maria Nuova, with wooden choir and organ of 1584, the Church of St. Herculaneum and the third century church of San Bevignate. Still in the city the botanical garden and the medieval garden are worth a visit, the latter at the Abbey of St. Peter. Finally, for those who want to live the city, Corso Vanucci has always been the main street of the Old town, the main meeting point of the Perugiani, students and tourists, who walk around, or relax at the tables of the bar or shopping in the elegant shops that overlook it.
For lovers of excursions, the surroundings of the city reserve great walks in nature, among the rolling Umbrian hills, discovering ancient villages, castles, and important historical testimonies, among which the Hypogeum of Volumni (II Sec. bc) in Ponte San Giovanni and the tomb and frescoes by Perugino in Fontignano. Particularly interesting could be a visit to the nearby park of Lake Trasimeno, a concentrate of nature, history, tradition, paradise for sportspeople and the opportunity for gourmets to get to know the typical products of the area. Its beaches, marinas, campsites, restaurants and hotels make it one of the best equipped areas of the Perugino area, as well as an important tourist attraction. Let’s not forget that not far from Perugia are some of the most beautiful cities rich in history of Umbria, Assisi, Gubbio, Foligno, Spoleto, Città di Castello. All this heritage is combined with a calendar full of events in every season, to be always kept in mind when you intend to visit the city. In conclusion, Perugia is a city to live!
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