Perugia, located in an area already populated in the Villanovan times, was first of all an Umbrian settlement, which then passed under the Etruscan rule to become the most important city in the Tiber’s Upper Valley. The particular layout of the land led to a large variety of urban conditions, giving the city a unique aspect. Having been conquered by Rome, it was heavily involved in the civil war between Anthony and Octavian, who conquered it in 40 B.C. After having suffered a lot of damage, Perugia was rebuilt and given the name “Augusta”. When the Empire fell it was destroyed to then become part of the Byzantine domain, going on to be an important independent city in alliance with the Papal State. The fourteenth century was dominated by internal fighting between nobles and common people and by the war against the Papacy, who wanted to bring the city back under its rule; the war ended with peace in Bologna in 1370, when Perugia was forced to recognise the Pope’s authority. Apart from brief intervals during the French occupation and the Roman republic, papal rule continued up until the birth of the Kingdom of Italy. Today Perugia is a modern and cosmopolitan city, known worldwide for its cultural shows and its University for foreigners.
The city and its monuments
The heart of Perugia is piazza IV Novembre and the ancient walls of Etruscan origin; the piazza is one of the most beautiful in Italy and is surrounded by uniquely beautiful buildings with the Fontana Maggiore in the centre. The fountain has medieval origins, with decorations made by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano, and was made in the second half of the eighteenth century as the conclusion of the important project of building an aqueduct that brought water into the city from Monte Pacciano. One side of the square is taken up by Palazzo dei Priori, built in Travertine and Bettona white and red stone: in the Medieval time it was the residence of the city’s most important political figures. Inside there is the headquarters of the Umbrian National Gallery, the most important collection of regional art from the medieval and modern times. In the upper part of the piazza lies San Lorenzo cathedral, where work began in the 1300’s and finished at the end of the 1400’s. The inside is divided into three naves and contains interesting works of art: those worthy of note include the Santo Anello chapel, where tradition has it that the ring of Virgin Mary is kept and the San Bernardino chapel. Amongst other religious monuments there is the San Pietro church with its hexagonal bell tower and the San Domenico church located in a small square dedicated to Giordano Bruno, the philosopher from Nola condemned to the stake by Pope Clemente VIII for being a heretic.
The geographical area
The province of Perugia is without doubt full of numerous places bursting with history and that are famous throughout the world: Assisi, Foligno, Spello, Norcia, Spoleto and Città della Pieve are just a few examples of places to be explored and which have a strong link to Saint Francis. Assisi is the destination of a continuous flow of pilgrims who visit the Saint’s best-known places such as the Upper and Lower Basilicas. The whole town commemorates Francis’ life whose work left a permanent mark on it. In Spello there is Saint Francis’ famous prison, but the town is also famous for the infiorata on Corpus Domini. Spoleto, Città della Pieve and Norcia are towns full of unique beautiful monuments that help tourists discover elements that have made up the history of the Belpaese.