Perugia dominates the Tiber Valley from a high, irregular and rough hill: the particular feature of the land has generated a wide variety of urbanistic situations, giving the town a very special aspect.
The rich artistic and cultural patrimony and the natural environment make Perugia an unique city of major importance, and this from the beginning of its history.
Perugia lies on a hill inhabited ever since the prehistoric times; it was first a settlement of the Umbrians, then it passed under the rule of the Etruscans, becoming one of the most important cities in the High Tiber Valley.
Conquered by the Romans, Perugia was deeply involved in the civil war between Antonio and Ottaviano; this latter took possession of the town in 40 B.C. and this, after being heavily destroyed, was given the name of “Augusta”.
After the fall of the Roman Empire Perugia was destroyed again by Totila in 547; then it belonged to the Byzantine dominions, and finally it became a powerful independent city-state allied to the Papal State.
The 14th century was characterised by violent struggles between Nobles (Beccherini) and Populars (Raspanti) and by the war against the Pope who wanted the Umbrian cities to be under his rule; the war finished with the Peace of Bologna in 1370, when Perugia was forced to recognize the Papal authority.
Also in the following centuries the town continued to be divided into various rival factions fighting to come to power: the Popular government leaded by Biordo Michelotti was replaced by the sway of the soldier of fortune Braccio Fortebraccio; the leading families were always making conspiracies and massacres, causing a grave moral and political decline.
In 1540 Perugia was placed under the direct control of the Papal State and pope Paolo III ordered to Antonio da Sangallo the erection of the Rocca Paolina, symbol of the papal power over the city.
The papal rule continued – brief breaks excepted during the French occupation and the Roman Republic – until the formation of the Kingdom of Italy in 1861.
Perugia today is a modern and cosmopolitan city known all over the world because of its cultural events and the University for Foreigners.
Proud of its historical traditions and the beautiful buildings of the past, Perugia let itself be admired in its thousand picturesque corners where present and past integrate one another and create an unforgettable atmosphere.
The monumental center of Perugia is represented by the Piazza IV Novembre together with the steep alleys which lead as far as the oldest walls of the original Etruscan nucleus reachable through the ancient gates Porta Marzia, Porta Sole, Porta Cornea, Porta Trasimena, Porta della Mandorla and the Arco Etrusco.
The piazza is justly considered one of the most beautiful squares in Italy; it is surrounded by splendid buildings, and in the center stands the FONTANA MAGGIORE: this beautiful medieval fountain was erected in the second half of the 12th century, ending an important public work, the aqueduct which carried water to the town from Mount Pacciano. Architect and supervisor was Fra Bevignate da Perugia, while the sculptural decorations were made by Nicola and Giovanni Pisano.
The structure is composed of two superimposed polygonal basins, covered by splendid slabs of marbles representing biblical and mythological personages, saints, animals, and personifications of months, sciences, virtues, and places.
The monument, one of the best examples of Gothic in Italy, is very important also from the symbolic-politic point of view: it represented the city at the top of its power, combining civil and religious aspects, and sacred and profane themes.
Another side of the square is occupied by the PALAZZO DEI PRIORI, which was in the Middle Ages the residence of the principal political authorities of the city; in 1298 was built the first nucleus of the structure and in 1353 the work was completed. The palace, built of travertin and red and white stone from Bettona, has on the side facing the fountain a large stairway and a portal which gives access to the beautiful SALA DEI NOTARI, rectangular, with a vault sustained by great Romanesque arches and walls covered with frescoes. The façade has two lines of mullioned windows with three lights and a portico.