Perugia … less than an hour from the island

Perugia – the impressive capital of Umbria – is well-known for its arts and culture and definitely worth a visit. It’s just half an hour by train from Passignano sul Trasimeno, where the ferry goes over to Isola Maggiore.  What’s more, it has its own airport a short bus/taxi drive away, where RyanAir flights arrive from Stansted. So, if you’re looking to ‘bookend’ your retreat week with a day or two elsewhere, Perugia makes an ideal place.

It’s also easy to make a day trip there from the island on our ‘no workshop Wednesday’ and spend the afternoon exploring the art gallery, or meandering around the shops. Perhaps simply sit and watch the world go by?  Perugia spreads across a huge hill top and down across the valley, with no shortage of cafés and restaurants to sit outside and enjoy the amazing views.

Perugia dates back to the Etruscan period and has an ancient university, along with a fine arts academy, a conservatoire, and a foreign language school attracting students from all over the world.  Not surprisingly – this being Italy! – there’s even the ‘University of Tastes,’ a national centre for vocational training in food.

One of Perugia’s big annual events is Eurochocolate, a festival that takes place in October, when the streets are lined with the most tempting stalls imaginable and the smell of pure chocolate wafts all around. This festival evolved largely because of local company Perugina, whose Baci (‘kisses’) chocolates, wrapped in their distinctive dark blue and silver, are widely exported. When you come to Italy, you see Baci everywhere, including single chocolates piled high by café cash desks.

Perugia also has a weekly flea market, with stall after stall of all kinds of weird and wonderful things. Allow plenty of time for browsing though … you’ll find everything from vintage handbags and jewelry to nineteenth century door knockers, chaise longues and chandeliers!