A POET’S VIEWS AND A POPE’S CRAVING FOR POWER THE GARDENS OF CARDUCCI’S
From the Carducci gardens, we can enjoy a splendid view of the hills and the countryside surrounding this beautiful city of Perugia. Still, it is also a magnificent place to rest after having walked through the historic centre.The gardens are dedicated to Giosue Carducci, Italian poet and writer and senator and deputy of the Kingdom of Italy who lived here between 1835 and 1907 and was inspired to write his ode “Songs of Love” about Umbria and its beautiful landscapes.
An extract from it would be as follows:
“So, it was in Perugia. Where the fierce mass of the earth was overshadowing the ground, now
love laughs and spring laughs, the women converse and the young men in the Sun.
And the Sun at its the radiant blue immense
Of the Abruzzi to the distant whiteness
It shines and with the desire of a more intense love
Smiles on the mountains of Umbria and the green plainsIn the pink light placid springs
The mountains chase each other,
Till they fade swaying
Within the golden and violet vapours”.
In the ode, Carducci criticises Pope Paul III’s lust for power and his plans to destroy the freedom of the city of Perugia by building the fortress of the Pauline Rock to dominate it. We are on the Pauline Rock, which we would cross using the modern escalators that connect the lower part of the city with the top of the hill. That is where the historic centre is; located a few metres away from this viewpoint. In front of us are fascinating views of the Umbrian countryside and the southern part of the city. Just behind is the Palazzo Della Provincia, on the other side of the beautiful Piazza Italia.
If you happen to be here during sunset, you can witness the views soaked by the shades of sunset.In the centre of the gardens is a monument dedicated to the painter Perugino and busts of illustrious figures such as Carducci himself, Alessi and Pinturicchio.It is a place blessed with great views, tranquillity and peace.
LET’S ENJOY THE TASTE OF UMBRIAN MEADOWS IN THE FORM OF CREAM! ANTICA LATTERIA DI PERUGIA(ANCIENT DAIRY FARMS OF PERUGIA)
This small, old, clean and pleasant café is an old family business run by Umberto Olmati. It is the perfect place to have a good breakfast with excellent pastries: brioches, puff pastries, but their speciality is cream. Try a marizzotto with Panna (cream in Italian), a brioche with cream. The cream is house-made using artisanal techniques. The locals say it is the best in the world, the excellent milk from the area and the owner’s know-how play an essential role here. You can have it with your pastries or coffee, and it is the house speciality.
Cream lovers will be delighted and will leave with a “white moustache”. If you don’t like cream, it may not seem very special to you, but this is a place that has kept its traditions and authentic flavour. If you don’t like dairy products, you can always refresh yourself with a natural “granita” or icy slush, which is very refreshing, especially during hot summer months.
If you visit with children and they have a sweet tooth, they are sure to love it.The shop’s interior has a ceramic frieze from 1925 by the master Federico Berardi, a discreet painter, Dutch country images and images related to milking the cow, and writings such as “The use of dairy products helps live longer”.They also make a delicious, thick yoghurt that can be topped with honey.Coffee with cream is excellent, although you should never mix it because the cream melts, nor should you wait too long to drink it for the same reason.
Oh, and never add sugar on top of the cream. And remember that cream in Italian is called Panna.
It is in Via Baglioni 5, a street parallel to the busy Corso Pietro Vannucci. Leaving the Palazzo Della Provincia behind us, we have Piazza Italia in front of us and on the other side of it, the Legislative Assembly of the Region of Umbria.
Via Vannucci will be to the left of the palace and Via Baglioni just to the right. We will only have to walk about two blocks down it, and we will find the Latteria on the left. Only 5 minutes from Piazza Italia.
PASSION FOR CHOCOLATES, THE FOOD OF THE GODS
Perugia is the city of chocolate. It is no coincidence that it hosts the annual Euro Chocolate Festival, which is the most important of its kind in Europe. This festival has been held since 1992 and attracts more than one million people during its nine-day duration. During this period the city centre is filled with stalls selling chocolates of all sizes, shapes, colours and flavours. Even huge chocolate figures adorn the city.
Perugina, the city’s best-known brand, now part of Nestlé, is represented alongside the world’s best brands and artisan producers. The fair is held annually in October.But don’t worry, if you are not in town on those dates, you can always enjoy your chocolate shopping in the many outlets in the city. Without looking far, just moving along the main street, Via Vannucci that connects Piazza Italia with Piazza 4 de Novembre where the city’s main monuments are. You will also find many places to taste and buy this once-exotic product that came from America and stayed in Perugia.
Even if many houses and brands in Perugia produce excellent chocolates of all tastes, colours and textures, the most famous chocolates in the city are undoubtedly the “Baci” (kisses in Italian), a Perugina brand, today’s Nestlé. They are cocoa and hazelnut chocolates wrapped in silver paper with blue stars, which can be found worldwide. Their history dates back some 100 years when Luisa Spagnoli, a young chocolatier, fell in love with Giovanni Buitoni, founder of the Perugina house. But she was married to the co-founder and sent love notes inside the chocolates that Giovanni had to taste.
This tradition has continued from 1922 to the present day, which explains why chocolates are so much linked to love and romance. Inside, you can still find love notes written on a small piece of paper in several languages.
Be sure to take some of the city’s chocolates with you.
LA PORTA SOLE AND ITS BEAUTIFUL VIEWS
We have already seen the views on the southern side of the city from the Carducci Gardens, and now we can head north to the old part of the city to see other views from this northern part of the city facing east and the Umbrian countryside. As the city is situated on top of a hill, the views can be marvellous. However, because of its monumental and historical buildings, you have to know how to find these viewpoints with no large buildings right in front, allowing you to admire impressive views and take stunning photographs.
I suggest we arrive at Piazza Sole, according to some, named so because the Etruscan temple for the Sun God was erected here, or only because it faces the cardinal point where the Sun was born, because of the flour coming from the mills of the Tiber River etc. It is also a symbol of Saint Herculaneum, patron saint of the city. The ancient Perugians certainly did not mistake choosing this place. From here you can see the entire east and north side of the city, including the neighbourhoods of San Michele and San Antonio, and, if the day is clear, you can even spot the villa of San Francesco of Assisi.
Here we find the Arco Gigli or Gate of the Sun, whose emblem is a sun, one of the 5 Etruscan entrance and exit gates to the city, which, although dates back to medieval times, still exists within the ancient Etruscan walls. Also, if you feel comfortable walking, after a short rest and some good photos, we can go down some stairs to reach via Bartolo, near Piazza Grimana where we find the Etruscan Arch of Augustus, perhaps the most beautiful of the Etruscan walls, and the University for Foreigners of Perugia.
This walk takes us back to point 7 of this guide.The famous writer Dante Alighieri mentions the Porta Sole in his canto XI of the Paradise of the Divine Comedy.
Directions: From Piazza 4 Novembre take the Via del Sole which goes up to the Cathedral’s right and continues straight along the Via Delle Prome. Leave the Augusta municipal library on to your right, and you are there.
LET US DESCEND TO THE CITY’S ANCIENT LIFELINE THE ETRUSCAN WELL
It’s very close to where you sat down to sip on a drink and relax if you can recall from the previous point. The Etruscan Well, the city’s hidden treasure, also called the Sorbello Well, as it’s located under the Sorbello palace, is situated just a few dozen metres away.It is one of the most important Etruscan hydraulic works discovered to date. In 1966, Professor Filippo Magi of the University of Perugia, with the consent of the Marquis of Uguccione, the owner of the palace, carried out a careful analysis of the well. Two more dives were carried out until 1980 before the well was opened to the public.
The well was built at 477 metres above sea level, at the highest point of the city. With a capacity of 424 cubic metres, it dates back to the 3rd century B.C. It was created to supply water to the city. Many similar wells were built in the region during that time. It is cylindrical and 37 metres deep. Its canyon ranges from 5.6 metres at the widest and 3 metres at the narrowest points. The upper part is made of travertine marble blocks similar to those forming the city wall blocks. Cross slabs of travertine are also found at the top, supported by stone beams and without binding material such as cement or mortar.
It is believed that all this work was done using scaffolding to lower stones from above. The interlocking beams form two supports of 8,000 kilograms each.Initially, the water had to be drawn with buckets and ropes and was later extracted by a pulley method.Although the well has never ceased to be used, its archaeological discovery was recent.
Very close to Piazza 4 de Novembre, in Piazza Danti, leaving the Cathedral of San Lorenzo to the left-hand side, at the beginning of Via del Sole. From here, it is easy to reach the Porta Sole.Admission to the well is paid, costing approximately 3 euros per person, and includes an introductory video. Opening times vary according to the time of year.
DO YOU WANT TO DISCOVER JAZZY PLACES IN PERUGIA?
In addition to other beauties, Perugia is Italy’s jazz capital. You can try to organise your trip around the time when Umbria Jazz Festival takes place. Don’t worry if you visit a few days early, jazz music would have already conquered the city before the inauguration of this event, and it’s still alive and kicking for the rest of the months. You have to dare to look where and you will be able to enjoy the best music of this genre and posters, instruments, photos, and souvenirs of some of the best artists who have passed through here.
We are going to propose two options for you to look for, find and enjoy them.The Umbria Jazz Festival was born in 1973, held in July, and considered one of the most important of its kind in the world. In addition to this festival, the Umbria Winter Jazz Festival is held in Orvieto in winter between December and January. Perugia Jazz Club. In the early 1950s, Carlo Pagnota, an Italian jazz legend, requested 1,000 lire from his friends and the people who frequented his father’s Trasimeno restaurant to make them members of the Hot Club Perugia. At that time, jazz lovers gathered in Piazza Della Repubblica to discuss this musical style, whether it was traditional or modern, whether it was hot or cool jazz.
Thus, Hot Jazz Perugia was born with Adriano Mazzoletti as president. In those days, the concerts were held in the hall of the Accademia di Filedoni. It was no easy task, but the auditorium had an excellent piano. It was the beginning of the arrival of great artists who played in different parts of the city such as Gato Barbieri, Louis Armstrong or Chet Baker. In 1960, the Jazz Club Perugia was born. The club reached 300 members, and with the help of the Commune of Perugia and the Tourist Office, other great artists arrived. In 1972, Carlo Pagnota signed a proposal to create an International Jazz Festival which was confirmed in August, 1973.
Directions: The Jazz Club Perugia organises concerts besides the month of the Umbria Festival. These concerts are held in special rooms in hotels or different venues, so finding out what might be going on will be part of your adventure searching for jazz venues in Perugia. Here’s a hint: www.umbriajazz.it
Hotel Giò Wine e Jazz
The only hotel dedicated exclusively to jazz music and wine is divided into two thematic areas. You don’t need to stay there to visit it and enjoy a glass of excellent wine from the region in its bar, surrounded by references to this art form. There is also a large gallery where you can sit in front of a gigantic piano keyboard covering the whole floor and screens with recorded concerts. After enjoying this place 5 minutes away from the centre, you can continue your adventure of discovery by looking for the place where the Jazz Club may be organising an event.The hotel has a shop where you can buy music, souvenirs, wine or chocolate.
Via Ruggero de Andreotto 19, one and a half kilometres from the centre. You can get there by taking the mini underground of the city.
A MARVELLOUS FOUNTAIN AND THE LEGEND OF THE ORIGIN OF PERUGIA MAGGIORE AND EULISTE FOUNTAINS
The Great Fountain was built between 1275 and 1278, with Fra Bevignate da Cingoli as its architect and Bonisegna Veneziano as its hydraulician. Nicola and Giovanni Pisano made the sculptures to celebrate the aqueduct’s construction that brought water to the city from neighbouring Mount Paciano. It has two bathtubs crowned with a bronze sculpture by Rosso Padellaio.It is one of the most beautiful fountains in Italy with 50 bas-reliefs and 24 statues. In the lower basin, the bas-reliefs represent the 12 months of the year and the agricultural work of each month, scenes from the feudal era, zodiac signs, the liberal arts, the Bible, and Rome’s history.
The upper part is dedicated to mythological and biblical characters. Its stones come from the Mount of Assisi. Months in the lower pile: January is represented by a man and a woman warming themselves by the fire,February for fishing, and May for hunting with a falcon, we see the pig’s slaughter in December. The months alternate with symbols of the zodiac and with the lion and gryphon of Perugia.Upper stack:It has plain mirrors, and 24 statues attributed to Giovanni Pisano with historical and influential characters in the history of Perugia, among them Euliste.
Do you know who Euliste is? Well, he is the mythological founder of Perugia. According to the legend of the Eulistea; a Latin poem written by Boniface of Verona around 1293 for the commune of Perugia. Eu-liste (medieval transformation of the Etruscan name Auleste, also translated as Ulysses. However, Ulysses was Achaean and Euliste Trojan.) left Troy with his brother Ocno and other followers to reach Italy, after the destruction of Troy. They climbed up the Tiber River and reached a place called Colle Landome, where they founded Perugia.
Euliste decided that the city would be for him and his family alone, so another Trojan who had gone with him, Coraginus, with his brothers and his wife Solina shifted to another hill where they founded the city of Corciano. Behind this rivalry legend between Euliste and Coragino lies the protest of some of the noble families of Perugia in the 14th century against the power of the bourgeoisie. The bourgeoisie, represented by Ulysses, wanted to give more importance to the city economy than to the countryside, the latter being the source of wealth for the aristocracy represented by Coragino and his family.
The fountain is located in the centre of the city’s main square, the Plaza Grande or 4 de Noviembre, its historical and monumental heart.
A WALK THROUGH THE ORIGINS OF PERUGIA THE WALLS AND THE ETRUSCAN ARCH
This walk will allow us to see the best part of the Etruscan walls that are still standing and which originally surrounded the city in a perimeter of just under 3 kilometres following the unevenness of the terrain. It was clover-shaped and made of large blocks of limestone and travertine marble. It can still be seen today along Via Battisti, in Via Della Cupa or the sections near the arch of the Mandorla (Almendra) or the arch of Gigli (Porta Sole).The construction of the walls can be dated back to the end of the 3rd century B.C.Here we suggest a route that involves going up and down and back up again, but if you have already reached the Porta Sole as we indicated in point 4, it will only be a matter of descending and ascending.
From this point with amazing views and photos, go down the stairs that take you to via Bartolo, near piazza Grimana, where you will arrive directly at the Etruscan or Augustus Arch. It’s situated at the end of the cardus or main ancient access road to the north, which was the access road to this city if you came from Gubbio. It is known as the best-preserved Etruscan monument in Perugia, built with a semicircular arch and two trapezoidal towers; it was erected in the second half of the 3rd century B.C.
The material used is travertine marble from Santa Sabina. Above the arch, there is a Renaissance loggia and a monumental fountain from the same period on the left side. A frieze ornamented with metopes with round shields and triglyphs topping the arch, besides that, another smaller arch on two pilasters. The inner pillar holds an inscription that says “Augusta Perusia”, writings added at the time of the Emperor Octavian Augustus when the city had already been conquered by the Romans in the siege that lasted seven months around 40 B.C. It was the time of the civil war between Augustus and Mark Antony.
The latter’s brother took refuge in Perugia, a difficult place to conquer, but finally fell due to food shortage. The conflict ended with the burning of the city and the extermination of the nobles that opposed Augustus. However, the city was restored to its splendour in the following years. Another inscription, ‘Colonia Vibia’, commemorates the Emperor Gallus Vibius Trebonianus Gallus, born in the city, and his son, both of the Vibian family.Opposite the arch is a palace that houses the University for Foreigners of Perugia.
On one side is the church of San Fortunato, one of the oldest churches in Perugia, dating back to the 12th century, said to have been built on an Etruscan school of haruspices.We could enter the historic centre through the same arch towards via Ulisse Rocchi which would take us to Piazza Ansidei and from there to the Cathedral’s back.
Still, we’ll recommend that you continue at least a little more along via Cesare Battisti to continue observing a part of the excellently preserved wall. We could enter the historical centre a little further on or go back and enter through the same arch. In both cases, you will reach the cathedral area by crossing part of the medieval city.
RELAX IN THE HISTORICAL CENTRE
In the very heart of the city, in the Plaza 4 de Noviembre, where the most beautiful monuments rise to the sky, and from where you can catch an excellent angle of the beauty of this ancient city, we can also take a short break around here. This city is surprisingly peaceful that we can relax on one of its terraces in the city’s very centre. It is up to us to choose whether we prefer a delicious Italian coffee or a wine from the Umbrian countryside with an appetiser.
A few minutes to recover from our walk and regain strength to continue exploring this marvellous city. The views are beautiful, the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, the Palazzo dei Priori, the Fontana Maggiore and the very busy Via Vannucci. Nearby is the impressive Etruscan Well, and bear in mind that you are in the centre of a small city, you can move in any direction to find any of Perugia’s charms.
We will see the locals with their shopping baskets and tourists passing by with their cameras and backpacks from our comfortable spot in this privileged location. Some are walking by, others, looking for a place to rest, will sit at nearby tables reading the newspaper as in the old days, when there were no smartphones, and enjoying a cup of coffee. It is a perfect place to sit and recall this city’s history and experience its calmness and meet friendly people.
Piazza 4 de Novembre or Piazza Maggiore, at the end of Via Vannucci as we take it from Piazza Italia, where the escalators go up to the historic centre from the lower part of the city. Piazza 4 de Novembre is the heart of the historic centre of Perugia.
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