If you are looking for a European tourist destination, consider the historic cities of Perugia and Assisi in the Umbria region of central Italy. This beautiful area might be your ideal vacation spot. You can get classic Italian food, and wash it down with fine local wine. These cities are hardly undiscovered, but that shouldn’t stop you from going. Be sure to read the companion articles in this series that present southern Umbria and other sites in northern Umbria.
The city of Perugia is the capital of Umbria. This beautiful medieval hilltop city of about 160,000 is relatively unspoiled. It is quite a center of Italian language schools including the Universitŕ per Stranieri (Foreigners University) that houses more than eight thousand students. This university is within easy walking distance of most of Perugia’s tourist sights.
You may start your tour at the relatively unadorned Duomo (Cathedral of San Lorenzo) that dates back to the end of the Fifteenth Century. The Duomo is right on the main city square, Piazza IV Novembre, which commemorates the Italian-Austrian armistice signed on November 3 (not 4), 1918. Then it’s on to Palazzo dei Priori, a Thirteenth Century palace that became the center of foreign exchange. Make sure to see the frescoes, including some by Perugia’s top Renaissance painter, Pietro Vannucci, who taught Raphael. The Palazzo’s fourth floor houses the Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria devoted to Umbrian art. Stroll down the Corso Vannucci from the Piazza IV Novembre to the Piazza d’Italia at nightfall before going for an aperitif and dinner.
Assisi is a medieval walled town about 25 kilometers (16 miles) east of Perugia. It honors St. Francis of Assisi, Italy’s patron saint and founder of the Franciscan order. Start your tour outside the city in the caves of Monte Subasio where St. Francis and followers once lived. Bring some alms for those who live there. The northeast section of town hosts the Amphitheater and other Roman buildings including a theater and a forum. To the west is the Duomo, San Rufino Cathedral where St. Francis was baptized. To the south is the Thirteenth Century Santa Chiara church. To the northwest is the Tempio di Minerva, remains of a Roman temple dedicated to the goddess of wisdom that became a Catholic church in the Sixteenth Century. Nearby is Rocca Maggiore, a fortress rebuilt during the Fourteenth Century that dominates the city. The view of Assisi and the Spoleto valley is magnificent.
The Basilica of Saint Francis has been a World Heritage Site since 2000. The Upper and Lower Basilicas were started in 1228, shortly after St. Francis’ canonization. The churches’ architecture combines Romanesque and Gothic styles, and helped set the tone for many Italian edifices to come. Don’t rush your visit. The complex includes a great collection of windows, frescoes, and paintings. Please respect the dress code, no bare shoulders and no bare knees.
Levi Reiss has authored or co-authored ten books on computers and the Internet, but to be honest, he would rather just drink fine Italian or other wine, accompanied by the right foods. He teaches classes in computers at an Ontario French-language community college. Visit his website www.travelitalytravel.com devoted to Italian travel with an accent on fine Italian wine and food. Visit his central wine website www.theworldwidewine.com with weekly reviews of $10 wine and columns devoted to various aspects of wine including wine and food, humor, trivia, organic and kosher wine and lots more.Click to access the original, longer article on this Italian tourist location.
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