Key to Umbria: Perugia

This walk begins in what is now Piazza IV Novembre, in front of the left wall of the Duomo

A deep declivity here, between the Colle del Sole to the north (ie to the right in this photograph) and Colle Landone to the south, was filled in at an unknown time to create the terrace that supported the Etrusco-Roman forum.   Its supporting walls along Via Maestà delle Volte and Via delle Cantine (below) were broadly contemporary with the Etruscan city walls, while the stretch under Palazzo dei Priori seems to date to the Roman period.

This forum marked the intersection of the principal roads of the ancient city:

  1. the cardus maximus, which ran from Arco di Augusto in the north to Porta Marzia in the south; and

  2. the decumanus maximus, which ran from Porta Trasimena in the west to Arco dei Gigli in the east.

Excavations have uncovered two large Roman cisterns under the paving of what is now Piazza IV Novembre, one in front of Palazzo Vescovo and another at right angles to it, in front of the ex-church of San Severo (now part of Palazzo dei Priori).

A fortified structure known as the Castello di San Lorenzo  which incorporated the old Duomo (San Lorenzo), had been established on this terrace by the 10th century.  This complex housed the ecclesiastical authorities of the city and, from at least the 11th century, the residence of the canons of San Lorenzo.  The secular administration of the city began to establish itself here in 1205,  after which the area became the civic as well as the spiritual heart of the city. 

The medieval Piazza Grande, which was laid out in the 13th century, originally comprised what are now:

  1. Piazza IV Novembre (created by reducing the height of the Roman terrace to the left of the Duomo by some 2 meters);

  2. Corso Vannucci, as far south as (and including) Piazza della Repubblica; and

  3. Piazza Danti, to the west.

Piazza IV Novembre

The piazza is named for the date of the plebiscite of 4th November 1860, in which the people of Umbria voted by 97,040 to 380 to join the new Kingdom of Italy under King Vittore Emanuele II.

Its focal point is the Fontana Maggiore, which the Commune commissioned to underline and celebrate the political dominance of Perugia in 1277-8.

The original Duomo of Perugia, which was built here in the 10th century, probably stood on the site of the left transept of the present Duomo (behind the loggia in this photograph). 

The walk begins with a walk around the exterior of the Duomo, starting with the  Loggia di Braccio, which was built against the left wall of the Duomo in 1423.  The opening beyond the Loggia di Braccio, in the ex-Palazzo del Seminario, leads to the first cloister of Palazzo dei Canonici (the ex-palace of the canons of the Duomo) and to the Museo Capitolare.   There is a fine view of the apse of the Duomo and its present campanile from this cloister. 

Retrace your steps into Piazza IV Novembre, past the Loggia di Braccio and the side entrance of the Duomo to the right of it.  Continue into Piazza Danti to see the facade and the right side of the Duomo.

The walk continues around the outside of Palazzo dei Canonici.  Leave Piazza Danti along Via Ulisse Rocchi, which is opposite the right transept of the Duomo, and turn immediately left along ia Cantine, which is named for the cellars of the palace.  It seems that wine from these cellars had to be used in 1315 to put out a fire that threatened the palace.  The buildings at number 6 - 8 on the left have the arms of the canons of San Lorenzo on their portals and the date of their completion, 1745.

Huge stones at the palace walls beyond that point probably belonged to the walls of the Roman forum have been re-used as the foundations of the walls on the right. 

Continue into Piazza Cavallotti (see Walk II), with the curtain wall of the palace on your left.  The entrance here leads to the second cloister (which connects to the first cloister, which you visited above0.  Excavations under this part of the palace can be visited from the Museo Capitolare:
  1. A large part of the wall that supported the terrace of the Etruscan acropolis has been excavated below and parallel to the curtain wall of the palace. 

  2. A Roman road that ran along this retaining wall probably connected with the similar one that has been excavated under Piazza Cavallotti (in the area that can be entered down the steps in the pavement here). 

  3. A number of antefixes (2nd and 1st century BC) that were found here seem to have come from what must have been the most important temple in Perusia; it may have been the temple dedicated to Uni (Juno) that miraculously escaped destruction after the Perusine War (40 BC). 


Continue along Via Maestà delle Volte, with the imposing palace walls  still on your left.  [This takes you through the extraordinary vestiges of the Castello di San Lorenzo]. 

The street is named for the ex-church of the Maestà delle Volte, which is further along on the right as the road turns sharply to the left. 

This street originally continued through the vaulted passage under  Palazzo del Podestà and into what is now Piazza IV Novembre.   The remains of pilasters high up on the left (on the side wall of the Palazzo Vescovile - below) belonged to the original vaulting.   Braccio Fortebracci, who took over this palace when he took power in 1416, commissioned the so-called Loggia di Braccio (1423) to connect it to the Duomo.  This detail of a fresco (late 15th century) by Benedetto Bonfigli in the Cappella dei Priori (now part of the Galleria Nazionale) shows the situation at that time (with the original vaulted passage on the left).  The palace was burned down in 1534, leaving the loggia somewhat stranded.
Continue around Piazza IV Novembre in a counter-clockwise direction, passing Palazzo Vescovile at its west end. 

Cross the entrance to Via della Gabbia, which is named for the suspended cage here in which criminals were exposed to ridicule.  This brings you to the site of the ancient church of San Severo, which was incorporated into the Palazzo dei Priori in the 14th century.   The portico to the right of the steps in the north facade of the palace probably belonged to this ancient church.  These steps to the left lead to the Sala dei Notai (described in the page on Palazzo dei Priori), which is usually open to the public. 

Corso Vannucci to Piazza della Repubblica


Turn right into Corso Vannucci, which is named for Pietro Vannucci, il Perugino, the most important local artist in the Renaissance.  This print (1947) by Giovanni Ellero reconstructs how the southern part of Piazza Grande originally extended in this direction, towards the tower houses of Colle Landone.

Walk along the east facade of Palazzo dei Priori, which incorporates the Collegio della Mercanzia at number 15.  Beyond it is the main entrance to the palace, which leads to an inner courtyard and to the ticket office of the Galleria Nazionale

Continue along Corso Vannucci, passing the Collegio del Cambio at number 25 (illustrated here), followed by two imposing palaces:
  1. Palazzo Lippi-Alessandri at number 39-43; and

  2. Palazzo Graziani at number 47-53.

You are now at what was the narrowest and lowest part of the Etruscan city.  To get an idea of how much the street level has risen, take a detour to the right down the steps of Via della Luna to Via della Cupa, where the Etruscan walls still form the foundations of the terracing that prevents the city from sliding into the valley below. 

Continue into Piazza della Repubblica, which was the probable site of the Roman forum.  It was also the site of the Fontana Minore, which stood “in pede fori” (at the end of the forum).


                            Inscription commemorating                Inscription commemorating

                                     Giuseppe Garibaldi                                  King Umberto I

The piazza developed its own political identity in the late 18th century:

  1. A tree of liberty was erected here during the French occupation of Perugia in 1798.

  2. An inscription on the facade of Palazzo Baldeschi Cennini (at number 66-70 on the left) records that Giuseppe Garibaldi addressed the Perugians from the balcony here in 1848.

The piazza was re-named for King Umberto I in 1890: an inscription on the facade of Palazzo Ceccoli (at number 72-82) mourns the murder of this “good, brave and loyal” king in 1900.  The piazza was renamed again in 1946 for the newly proclaimed Italian Republic. 

The façade of the ex-church of Sant’ Isidoro is at right angles to Palazzo Ceccoli.

Palazzo Graziano-Monaldi (16th century) at number 59-73 opposite incorporates the Teatro del Pavone

The rest of Corso Vannucci is described in Walk VII.


Retrace your steps along Corso Vannucci to Via Mazzini on the right.  The papal legate Tiberio Crispo substantially widened this street in 1547 to improve the access to what is now Piazza Matteotti.   He placed the arms of Pope Paul III on the left corner and his own arms on the right corner; the former seem to have been moved from the facade of the short-lived Farnese palace, which had been replaced by Rocca Paolina in 1542.

Take a short detour by turning right into Via Mazzini to with Piazza Matteotti: the horse’s head (16th century) on the right also seems to have come from from the facade of the Farnese palace palace. 

Retrace your steps along Via Mazzini.  The ex-church of Santa Maria del Popolo is at number 9-11 on the left, with Palazzo Danzetta extending above and to the left of it.  An inscription on the house opposite (at number 14) commemorates Cesare Fani, a Perugian who fought with Garibaldi as a young man, and who then went on represent Perugia in the National Assembly of Italy from 1886 until his death in 1914.
Turn right at the end of Via Mazzini to continue along Corso Vannucci.  Palazzo Capocci is at number 6-16 on the right.  The surviving part of the ex-Collegio dei Notai (visited in Walk IV) is next to it. 

Palazzo Friggeri (1730) is across Via Calderini, at number 36 Piazza IV Novembre.  Walk past it into Piazza Danti.

Piazza Danti

Continue into Piazza Danti, past the facade of the Duomo on the left.

  1. Palazzo Conestabile della Staffa is opposite the facade (at number 28);

  2. the entrance to the Pozzo Etrusco (see Walk II) is at number 18; and

  3. Palazzo del Teatro Turreno (illustrated above) is ahead of you, at number 10-6, between Via del Sole and Via Bartolo.  It used to house Teatro Turreno.

This piazza was opened up in 1389, when the moat in front of the Fortezza di Porta del Sole was filled in.  It was originally known as Piazza della Paglia (of straw) and was the site of a market for straw, hay, grain and firewood.   A relief at each corner of Palazzo del Teatro Turreno (see below) depicts a hand holding a sheaf of corn.

The piazza took on its current form in 1547, when a number of buildings cluttering the space were demolished as part of the urban redevelopment of Cardinal Tiberio Crispo.  It became known as Palazzo del Papa in 1816, when the statue (1555) of Pope Julius III that is now in front of the Duomo was temporarily moved here.  The statue was returned to its current location in 1899 to make way for the new tramway, and the piazza was renamed again at this point in honour of the family of Vincenzo Danti, the sculptor of the papal statue. 

Return to Piazza IV Novembre, where the walk ends. 

Return to Walks in Perugia.

Perugia - Walk I

The Civic Heart of Perugia

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