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PostMagazine
The focal point of the evening, and indeed the reason for my having left
my rural Umbrian retreat, is a 9pm appointment with Alicia. However,
I have arrived early in Perugia, my interest piqued by guidebook descrip-
tions that characterise the central Italian city as a hilltop Etruscan
treasure trove and a widely disregarded medieval gem. Most agree
that a blend of historical riches and effervescent nightlife creates an
alluring ambience.
Towering high above the surrounding plains, its city walls basking
in the early-evening summer sunshine, Perugia appears to appraise its
territory from a position of omnipotence. Approaching from the north,
the visitor is greeted by the imposing travertine blocks that constitute
the Etruscan fortifications. The main gate into the city, the Arco Etrusco,
was renamed the Arco di Augusto and inscribed with the words Augusta
Perusia following the citys near destruction by Augustus Caesar during
his defeat of Mark Antony. The arch epitomises Perugias eclectic archi-
tectural heritage: while the Roman arch is set into Etruscan walls, the
overlooking loggia was added during the Renaissance and is contrast-
ingly lighter in style.
Nearby, an imposing aqueduct draws the eye long before you spot the
people walking across the top of it. Strolling into town along this aque-
duct-cum-street, you feel rather Roman as you look down on terracotta
rooftops and flagstone patios. Called Via Acquedotto, it was constructed
to supply the city with water in medieval times now it is an enchanting
gateway into Piazza IV Novembre.
Perugias social hub and architectural epicentre is dominated by the
magnificent edifice of one of Italys greatest public buildings, the Palazzo
dei Priori. More than a town hall, the palazzo encompasses a number
of absorbing fresco-laden complexes, including the Collegio di Cambio,
complete with masterpieces by ubiquitous local Renaissance hero Pietro
Vannucci better known as Perugino. As one might expect, Perugino is
also the leading man in the palazzos Galleria Nazionale dellUmbria,
which presents a history of the regions art.
Outside, the palazzos ancient steps are a focal point for young
Perugians and foreign visitors seeking a shady corner of the piazza.
Tonight, locals and visitors alike will be treated to high-calibre
entertainment, courtesy of the Umbria Jazz Festival, which provides
Perugia with a multitude of musical acts for about 10 days each July
Keys to the city
Perugia, a trove of Etruscan, Roman
and Renaissance treasures, comes
alive during the annual Umbria Jazz
Festival, writes Paul Letters.
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