Four Days in Perugia – Part Two of the Italy Rail Trip of a Lifetime
Europe,  Italy

Four Days in Perugia – Part Two of the Italy Rail Trip of a Lifetime

When travelling across Italy by train, be sure to spend four days based in Perugia. Here’s why…

Rome to Perugia

My Italy rail trip started life as a two-destination adventure – Rome and Perugia – but quickly snowballed into something much bigger: the background for this change of plan can be found in the first instalment of this series.

As a result, my arrival into my second destination didn’t mark the end of my journey but rather a staging post for further travels.

But I’m getting ahead of myself… first there’s Perugia to explore.

What to do in Perugia – It’s all uphill from here on in…

My new temporary home was a hill town, which I’d dismissed as being of no real concern. I was wrong as my legs reminded me as I struggled up from the station to my hotel. That was some walk.

Fortunately, the journey onwards into the centre of the old town was easy – there are escalators; six or seven. Oh, and a public lift. Yes, it really is that steep. And best of all, the penultimate escalator delivers you into some dungeons, the last remains of Rocca Paolina, a Renaissance fortress that was largely destroyed in 1861.

You finally emerge into the daylight at the edge of town – the main square, Piazza IV Novembre, faces you to the north – and once you start walking you’ll soon see Perugia Cathedral, which is effectively the centre of town.

There are bags of character to be found down tight alleyways and winding streets but for a really great view you’ll probably find none better than is available from Punto di Vista, a bar perched on the edge of the old town.

The clue is in the name, I guess.

Attractions in Perugia – explore underground tunnels!

The first place I visited was Perugia Sotterranea, a collection of underground tunnels (a recurring theme on this holiday) entered via a yard off to the left of the cathedral. It contains Etruscan and Roman archaeology, including the ancient walls that still support the structures above.

The tour guide spoke mainly in Italian but an English commentary was interspersed for my benefit. It was a fun visit but don’t bother with the associated museum unless you like very average paintings and statues of saints.

The Museo Civico di Palazzo della Penna was my next stop and while the building itself is great, especially the slightly bonkers spiral staircase, its contents failed to excite me. If the work of Umbrian futurist, Joseph Beuys, is your bag… dive in. Otherwise, I wouldn’t bother.

Quirky museums in Perugia

I left pretty quickly and made my way down the hill to the Museo Archeologico, which was far more to my liking. Greek pots, Roman statues, Neolithic hand axes, the skeleton of a cave bear, ancient Egyptian gubbins… and I had the place almost all to myself.

Sadly, most of the signage is in Italian (hardly a surprise) but I got by well enough for it not to be too much of an inconvenience.

Top tip for travelling in Italy:

Italian is a visual language. Learning ‘hello’, ‘thank you’ and ‘goodbye’ is probably enough to get by if you throw in a few hand gestures.

Also, pretty much everyone speaks some English.

Exploring Umbria – Day trips from Perugia

Basing yourself in Perugia for four days enables you to go beyond the city and also explore some of Umbria’s beautiful hill towns.

Perugia is a great base for day trips and so day three featured the first of my return train journeys.

Spello – and its explosion of flowers

My destination was another local hill town, Spello, famous for its flower-lined streets. There was no choice but to use Shanks’ Pony but by now my legs had almost got accustomed to the up-hill walking.

And it was worth the ache in my calf muscles – the town is beautiful. You enter through the original Roman gate and meander up and up and up… and up, en route passing magnificent display of flowers and some rather nice old buildings.

My top discovery was a statue of a saint with a dagger in the top of his head! And he was smiling despite the trickle of blood down his face. It’s mad stuff like this that makes nosing around so much fun.

There was one local destination that I’d planned to see, though: the Villa dei Mosaici – the house of mosaics. I do love tesserae and this place amply delivered. Those were some floors!

Saints above, it’s Assisi!

My second day-trip from Perugia was Assisi, another hill town a short train ride away but perhaps a little more famous.

The association with St Francis – the one that famously preached to birds – means it’s well and truly on the tourist trail and I arrived in a small town full to bursting with pilgrims from around the world.

There’s a slightly unattractive commercialism attached to the saint, which distracted from my enjoyment, although the town itself is amazing. And there’s no doubting that the cathedral is a masterpiece. Why the tomb of St Francis is wrapped in iron bars is a mystery but perhaps the brutal austerity of it matched his stripped-back lifestyle.

Oddly, the cathedral is dedicated to San Rufino, a third century bishop of Amaziah in Turkey, not St Francis.

And with that I spent one final night in Perugia before heading on to my next base of operations, Ancona.

Join me next time for part three of my Italy rail trip… and don’t forget to pack your hard hat. We’re going caving!

Four Days in Perugia – Part Two of the Italy Rail Trip of a Lifetime

Four Days in Perugia – Part Two of the Italy Rail Trip of a Lifetime

This is a guest post by Anthony Clark, journalist, copywriter and longtime friend of the Ladies What Travel team. He loves beer, cheese and travel and is a genius when it comes to making the most of his annual leave.

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