It took me 3 years to see any of the museums in Perugia. Even the Perugia art gallery took several years to visit. I would take photos from the outside of these fantastic buildings that house the art gallery and the
Why? Because the fame and popularity of the galleries and museums in Florence and Rome convinced me they were better and more important.
And no, I don’t regret going to the Uffizi, it houses some great works of art. But the Perugia art gallery has great pieces; without the high ticket prices, long queues and endless crowds. And the archeological museum is full of antiquities.
A visit to Perugia should include a wander through at least one site from the list below. You could take a tour under the city’s cathedral, explore the archeology museum in the impressive San Domenico, or see ancient graffiti in an Etruscan well.
There’s something for everyone and a great backup plan when the weather is just too hot/cold/wet.
Just keep in mind while planning: most places are closed one day a week, like the national art gallery which is closed on Mondays.
Perugia: Full of Art Galleries and Museums
Here’s the list of my favorite museums in Perugia. I’ve written a short description of each museum/site and what I enjoyed most about it.
1. Museo Archeologico Nazionale dell’ Umbria
In the Giardini Carducci, looking out at Assisi, there is one church that dominates. That’s San Domenico, which now houses the museum of archeology. Inside the cathedral are great skyline views from the upper windows and a beautiful courtyard.
Also known by its initials M.A.N.U., this is my first choice for museums in Perugia. I find ancient history fascinating, maybe because growing up, my parents took us to archeological digs and museums.
The collection, coming from Perugia’s surrounding area, began in the 18th-century and was first exhibited in 1948 at the convent of San Domenico. There are sections for prehistoric and proto-historic eras, Etruscan and Roman periods, and Palaeolithic to the 3rd century AD.
The biggest problem with M.A.N.U. is not finding enough English translations.
The people from these periods come back to life with their everyday cooking items, jewelry, and labor. The ‘Cippus of Perugia’, a collection of documents written in Etruscan, found in a reconstructed Etruscan tomb on the lower level of the museum.
Open from 8.30 till 19.30 every day except Mondays which are from 10.00 till 19.30. Their website is here (but not in English)
2. Galleria Nazionale dell’ Umbria
I first visited the Galleria on a drizzling Friday afternoon because I was early for an appointment. The entrance is on the main road of Perugia, Corso Pietro Vannucci in the Palazzo
There’s a nice little book store after the front entrance where you can purchase any tickets. Head up the stairs on the right to the very top. The automatic glass doors open and you’ll find yourself in a fabulous vaulted ceiling gallery full of religious works from around Perugia.
The gallery is in chronological order beginning in the 11the century. This helps to see the artistic evolution in Italy, and how Umbria played a roll. One of my favorite rooms is early on, a
The artists are from Umbria include Benedetto Bonfigli, Bartolomeo Caporali, Fiorenzo di Lorenzo and the most famous Perugino and Pintoricchio.
All the early goldsmith work is my favorite, and the pieces of original traditional tablecloths are interesting. I
There’s also an exhibit of 19th-century Perugia topography and an extensive collection of 17th-, 18th- and 19th-century paintings and sculptures created in Umbria.
Open from 8.30 till 19.30 Tuesday till Sunday and on Mondays from 10.00 till 19.30 from mid-march till November. Free admission on the first Sunday of every month, April 25th and June 20th. Find out more on their website.
3. Museo Laboratorio Moretti Caselli
Interested in how things are made? This is a functioning workspace and a museum, making and restoration stained glass windows and of works of art.
Since 1860, for five generations this family of artists has been making painted and baked stained-glass windows in the historic
The museum does
Capitolar Museum/Archeological Area of the Cathedral San Lorenzo
A cloister of the Cathedral of San Lorenzo, the cathedral of Perugia, this museum has a collection of art from wooden furniture, paintings, and books. With 25 rooms in the old residency, it goes on a bit too long. My favorite is the display of illuminated manuscripts. But what I came for is attached:
The archeological Area. Not included with the ticket for the
April till July 14th: Monday mornings 10.00 till 13.30, Tuesday to Sunday 10.00-13.30/14.30-18.00. September 16th till October 31 is the same.
July 15th till September 15th is as above but with Monday afternoons open.
November 1-March 31. Tuesday till Friday 9.30-13.30 Saturday and Sunday 10.00-17.00
5. Chapel of San Severo
It took me four attempts to see this chapel. The opening hours change constantly, so when I found/arrived/thought of visiting it was always closed. For me, it was 5th time lucky. A peaceful, fresh space that isn’t exhausting physically or mentally, it’s in my top 5.
Commissioned by the bishop Troilo Baglioni, it depicts the Saints Mauro, Placido, the martyr Benedetto and Giovanni the monk, beside the Trinity. The upper part of the wall’s frescos date from around 1505. Raphael left the lower part of the fresco incomplete, and in 1521 his teacher, Perugino, finished it.
Here is a link to other info on the Chapel, and the (complicated) opening hours to avoid disappointment:
From November to March Tuesday till Sunday 11.00-13.30/14.30-17.00
For May, September and October 10.00-13.30/14.30-18.00. April the hours are the same but open on Mondays.
In June and July, it doesn’t close for lunch, but is closed Mondays.
And in August it’s open 10.00-18.00 Monday till Sunday.
6. Civic Museum at Palazzo
Palazzo Della Penna is a center of contemporary culture. There’s always a new exhibit, literary meetings, and it’s a fun cultural spot for coffee. We come at least once a year with friends and family to escape a surprise downpour or to get a quick art fix and
A 16th-century noble residence built on the ruins of a Roman amphitheater, that since 2002 it houses several collections of artwork.
The “Gerardo Dottori Collection” is dedicated to the Umbrian futurist master. My favorite modern Italian painter, Dottori taught at the art school in Perugia. His paintings include landscapes with a birdseye view of Lake Trasimeno.
Another exhibit is the six slates of the “Joseph Beuys Collection”. Drawn in Perugia by the great German artist in 1980 by the Rocca Paolina. For information on location, tickets and checking the hours find their website here.
Closed on Mondays except in April and August. Otherwise it’s open 10.00-18.00
7. Nobile Collegio del Cambio
Great for anyone interested in finance, or some impressive interior decorating. The headquarters of the Exchange Guild, by Bartolomeo di Mattiolo and Lodovico di Antonibo, was built between 1452 and 1457. It’s the ‘new’ wing of the Dei Priori Palace. The Sala delle Udienze or audience hall in English, is one of the finest examples of Renaissance art and a must if you like woodworking or art.
The interior wooden furnishings are by Domenico del Tasso (1491-1500). The wood doors just after, by Antonio Bencivenni in 1501. Check
In the adjacent Chapel of San Giovanni, the woodwork is attributed to Bencivenni (c. 1509) and the paintings are by Giannicola di Paolo (1513-1529).
Closed on Sundays, and Mondays from November to March, it’s open from 9.00-13.00/14.30-17.30. Their website is full of information in English.
8. Nobile Collegio
Part of the original Palazzo dei Priori that open up onto the city’s main street, Corso Vannucci. The offices of the Medieval Merchant’s Guild stand in their original form from the late 14th century.
It’s like nothing I’ve seen before. So if you’re sick of seeing churches and paintings: this is that something different. With little use of gold or colour, the hall is decorated with inlaid wood paneling, with Nordic and Eastern influences, it’s warm, intricate, and original.
It’s special because when built, wood was used only in religious buildings like choir stalls and sacristies, but rarely in secular buildings.
The interiors have well preserved over the years. The guild chose wood decorations over ‘common’ frescoes. Wood was a more precious than wall paintings, asserting the Guilds taste, wealth and power.
Unfortunately, the website isn’t in English (yet) but the photos give an idea of what you’ll be seeing. Included
Always closed on Mondays, it’s open from March till October Tuesday till Saturday 9.00-13.00/14.30-17.30 and Sundays/holidays from 9.00-13.00. November till February Tuesday/Thursday/Friday 8.00-14.00, Wednesday and Saturday 8.00-16.30, Sundays/holidays 9.00-13.00
9. The Etruscan Well or Pozzo Etrusco
You would never know that there was a massive well below your feet while wandering through Perugia.
The Medieval town was built on top of this well which the Etruscans used over 2000 years ago.
So while you stroll through the side streets taking pictures, what lies below is an immense well going down 37 meters (or 121 feet).
From the road, all you can see is a pretty little marker for the well in Piazza Sorbello.
The well is much larger than other water reservoirs that existed in the Etruscan age. Historians think the Etruscans first built the well as a cistern and then turned it into a well.
An extraordinary feat of hydraulic engineering, the ‘
If you’re scared of heights or claustrophobic the bridge across the well might be a pass. I’m nervous with both heights and claustrophobic, but I was so distracted and amazed by the sheer size it wasn’t a problem.
From a Medieval underground passageway, enter and pass through the well on a modern bridge that reveals just how far down the well goes.
Interested in learning more? Head to their website.
10. Museo-Laboratorio di Tessitura a Mano Giuditta Brozzetti
While technically in the city center, it’s a good walk with hills, about 15-20 minutes from the main piazza. Housed in the Romanesque church of San Francesco Delle Donne, find out about the traditional textiles and fabrics of Perugia and Umbria.
Fabrics from Perugia and Assisi are famous throughout Italy and are represented in the artwork of Giotti and Leonardo Di Vinci. It’s a side of art and history you don’t normally see. This is also a working studio you’ll see the looms in action and there are demonstrations of exactly how these beautiful fabrics are made.
Entrance includes the glass museum and the fabric museum. Tours, in English, are by appointment so have a look at their website here.
Should You Purchase A Perugia Città Museo Card?
Perugia is full of hidden gems for art and history lovers. If you’re planning on seeing several museums in Perugia, it’s cost effective to purchase the Perugia Città Museo Card. Great value, for 14 euros you have 48 hours to see 5 of the museums listed below. Some, like the Etruscan Well and the Chapel of San Severo, won’t take more than an hour to see.
- Baldeschi al Corso Palace
- Capitolar Museum
- Chapel of San Severo
- Civic Museum at Palazzo della Penna
- Galleria Nazionale of Umbria
- National Archeological Museum of Perugia
- Nobile Collegio del Cambio
- Nobile Collegio della Mercanzia
- Etruscan Well
- Volumni Hypogeum
Museums included in the Perugia card, but not in my top 10:
The card includes the Baldeschi al Corso Palace a collection of medieval buildings where Baldo
- “Madonna with Child and Two Angels” by Perugino (1450 ca.-1523)
- “Our Lady of Assumption between Saints Thomas and Sebastian” and “Madonna with Child on the Throne, St. Mary Magdalene and St. Lucy”, by Matteo da Gualdo (1435 ca.– 1507)
- the “Deposition in the Tomb” by Lattanzio di Niccolò (1480– 1527) “Madonna with Child” by Pintoricchio(1456-1513).
Renting a car? There’s another Etruscan museum outside of the city center called Volumni Hypogeum. A necropolis, containing around 200 tombs, it dates 300 years before Christ and were discovered in 1840. Open to visitors, there are pictures illustrating information about the site.
The main tomb is of a wealthy Etruscan nobel family called the Volumnus. The layout of the tomb is like an Etruscan/Roman home. The main space at the far end, called the tablinum, and contains seven urns. Six are in travertine (a type of stone) and one in marble holding the family’s remains. The lids of these urns have a portrait of the deceased.
My Top 5 Museums and Art Galleries in Perugia
If you’re here in Perugia for a week or a weekend, see at least one of these museums.
- M.A.N.U: It’s such a beautiful spot, and while the English translation is lacking, it’s well worth an afternoon exploring Perugia’s ancient history in this cathedral built in between 1300 and 1453.
- Etruscan Well: For anyone interested in engineering this is a must. It’s hard to comprehend its size until you’re looking at it from the bridge in the middle!
- Chapel San Severo: A site that’s less time consuming and is cool inside during the summer months. Wander through the side streets heading towards the wine bar Civico 25 for a glass of Umbrian wine.
- National Gallery: It can’t be any more central or beautiful. Go inside and explore early medieval art in all its glory.
- Stained Glass & Textiles/Weaving: Being that it costs the same to visit one or both I’ll combine them. Visiting these museums is a great way to find out how things are made from artisans that make them. Connect with local craftspeople and pick up a souvenir.
A Visit to Perugia for Art and Culture
Perugia is off the main tourist attractions so visiting the museums here is normally a quiet and unrushed affair. Add value to your time in the museums by also exploring the town on foot. There are lots of great walks in Perugia with Etruscan to Medieval monuments and find new funky neighborhoods full of street art around Porta Sole area.
Whichever spots you choose to see enjoy the ancient and the new in this medieval hilltop town filled with art, music,