Umbria's capital Perugia is a small-but-perfectly-formed Italian city known for its buzzing university culture and beautiful historic centre. Although it seems to sit in the shadows of hot-shot destinations in neighbouring Tuscany like Florence and Siena, Perugia has a great historic core, vibrant bars, cafes and restaurants, loads of pretty, winding streets, and a love of chocolate, all the while staying largely non touristy and really authentic. To us that sounds like the makings of an ideal city break destination that deserves a little more love.
Visit San Lorenzo Cathedral - This cathedral, built in the 14th century, dominates the Piazza IV Novembre Square, and is a treasure-trove of late-Gothic architecture, delicate sculptures, and a stunning altarpiece. Don't let the stark, boxy outside fool you, it's actually a really beautiful building inside with grand columns and a decorated ceiling. Definitely worth peeking into.
Grab a gelato to eat in the Piazza IV Novembre square - Once you're done in the cathedral, head next door to L'artigiano Del Gelato for a scoop of, you guessed it, gelato, and find a spot in the square to relax as you eat it. The square is one of the main meeting spots in the city, so it's a really nice, welcoming spot to chill amongst the chattering of Italian voices.
Browse the artwork in the Umbria National Gallery - Another cultural stop-off in Perugia is the Umbria National Gallery in Palazzo dei Priori on the city's main street. It has around 3000 works on display across 40 different rooms, so you'll certainly have your work cut out if you want to see everything! If you're strapped for time or don't fancy spending hours here, head straight for the works of Pinturicchio, a local Renaissance painter, for a taste of the area's artistic flair.
The Umbria Jazz Festival is one of this city's most iconic events, which focuses on all things jazz for ten days in July each year. During the festival, which celebrates both Italian and international music, squares and venues throughout the city are brought to life with the tinkering of live instruments and the warm buzz of applause as spectators embrace the lovely setting. Well-known stars have also been known to make an appearance at this world-famous festival including Elton John, Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga, and Carlos Santana, allowing this city a few days of well-deserved fame.
The annual Eurochocolate Festival is another great event that takes place in Perugia every October once the temperature has cooled down a touch. Chocolate stalls selling all the best commercial and independent brands pop-up throughout the streets, and events, tasting tours, and shows entertain the crowds. The chocolate sculptures, however, are the main highlight, with all kinds of crazy creations being crafted before your eyes from huge slabs of the good stuff. The event is free to wander round, and yes, there are also loads of free samples on offer at the stalls - if you weren't already sold on Perugia, we bet you are now!