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Piazza Italia is like a balcony hanging over the hillside at one end of town. From this airy square, sophisticated Corso Vannucci flows through the massive Palazzo dei Priori to Piazza IV Novembre, where the cathedral is a backdrop for the Fontana Maggiore, with elaborate panels and figures that Nicola Pisano and his son Giovanni carved between 1278 and 1280. An especially entertaining time to stroll up the corso is in the early evening, when it becomes the stage set for one of Italy’s most lively and decorous evening passeggiate.

Perugia’s Medieval Pompeii

 

Beneath Piazza Italia is some remarkable underground scenery. Around 1530 the Perugians rebelled against Pope Paul III over a tax on salt—to this day, Perugian bread is salt-free. In retribution, the Pope demolished more than one-quarter of the city, and built his Rocca Paolina atop the ruins. After Italian unification in 1860, locals ripped the castle to pieces and built Piazza Italia on top. Today the vaults of the fort and the remains of medieval dwellings and streets it was built atop are in full view beneath the piazza. You can clamber through doorless entrances, climb the remains of stairways, walk through empty rooms, and wander at will through the brick maze. Enter the underground city daily (no admission fee) from the escalators that connect the lower-town’s Piazza Partigiani, with its car park and bus station, and Piazza Italia (daily 6:15am–1:45am). 

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.