First, a few quick questions and answers about the Umbria Jazz Festival:
Where is the Umbria Jazz Festival held?
Umbria is a region in the middle of Italy. It borders Tuscany, Lazio and Le Marche.
For the summer ten day festival Umbria Jazz is held in the historic centre of Perugia, the capital of Umbria and the biggest city in the region.
There’s also a winter Umbria Jazz Festival held in Orvieto, just an hour north of Rome by train, at the end of December that covers New Years Eve.
When is the Umbria Jazz Festival?
The dates change every year. But the summer addition is held at the beginning of July on a Friday and ending on a Sunday a week later.
For 2020 Umbria Jazz will be July 10-19th
The winter Umbria Jazz in Orvieto in 2019 was Dec 28th till January 1rst. When the dates come out for Umbria Jazz Winter 2020 I’ll update.
So what is the Umbria Jazz Festival?
Of all the festivals that happen throughout the year in Perugia, the Umbria Jazz Festival is my favourite.
And it probably would be yours if you come to Perugia for (some of) the ten days of Umbria Jazz in July.
Why? Because Perugia comes alive. I love wandering through the medieval arches, hearing the different musicians, and how the city becomes full of late-night treats.
While it isn’t unusual for a city to host a jazz festival, I’ve never seen one envelope a city the way Umbria Jazz takes over Perugia.
For ten days in early to mid-July, the festival wraps Perugia up in a celebration of music.
From buskers on every corner and alleyway to the stadium arena filled for jazz greats, the city of Perugia puts its heart and soul into this festival.
The Essentials for Enjoying Umbria Jazz Festival in Perugia
- Before deciding what days to come for check out Umbria Jazz’s website. It’s in English, lists the program, tickets and all sorts of other information.
- Comfortable shoes you can walk in. I like my
birkenstocksfor all the stairs, cobblestones, and steep climbs that make up Perugia.
- A Bag. Make sure you have something for storing the program, camera, and light cardigan.
- Small bills. Italy is a
cash basedsociety. While credit and debit cards are fine for buying concert tickets, pizza by the slice hole in the wall spots opentill 4 am won’t be taking them. Or the guy selling beer out of his apartment.
- Stay away from white (or light
coloured) skirts, shorts, and trousers. You’ll want to sit down at some point and with the streets crowded it could well be on some stairs/entranceway.
- Thinking of going to an indoor concert? Best to bring a paper fan, air conditioning is standard and isn’t in the Teatro Morlacchi.
My favorite Musical Acts During Umbria Jazz
Umbria Jazz has been going on for almost 50 years.
I imagine that in 2023, for the 50th anniversary, there’ll be a big celebration.
Many musicians play here regularly. In the past, Miles Davis came two or three times, in the last 4 years Diana Krall has come twice, and less famous local acts return every year.
A good example of a local group is Funk Off, from nearby Tuscany. They have a street parade and a stage performance that is a hit with kids and parents alike. With choreographed dance numbers while playing brass instruments in the heat of an Italian summer, it a crowd pleaser!
Other fun regulars are Ray Gelato & the Giants who come from England every few years. Great for the classic Frank Sinatra feel and they attract big crowds.
And from the USA multiple high school brass bands, jazz bands, and gospel choirs take part, something not found in Italy.
The Venues of Umbria Jazz Festival
Umbria Jazz has multiple venues in Perugia that are all walking distance within the city.
The main venues vary from free outdoor stages, the city’s main theater, and a huge arena. There’s always a concert to check out.
On top of those four locations, there are concerts in the National Art Gallery and at several churches, with jam sessions held in small restaurants and bars as after-hour jam locations.
I strongly recommend mixing up which locations you head to. I try and see at least one performance at the Morlacchi theater, usually up in the nose bleed section.
If there’s something I’m really excited about I’ll buy tickets for the arena, but our
There are two free venues for Umbria Jazz. While free, there are designated entrances and exits with security checking bags. Don’t bother bringing a water bottle with you, sadly they’ll confiscate it. Well the lid anyway. Acts go from noon till midnight with short breaks in between.
The first free stage is found in the main piazza, Piazza IV Novembre.
Full of medieval architecture, sit on the steps and enjoy a view of the stage, fountain, and cathedral.
The other free stage is in the Giardini Carducci.
Straight down the main street, above the fortress, there’s a garden with a view of Assisi. This spot has more than just music, there are items for sale like t-shirts, food, and drinks. With park benches to sit on, you can chill out a bit in between acts taking in the panorama.
Venues During Umbria Jazz That Require Tickets
The theater, Teatro Morlacchi isn’t free (in 2019 tickets are priced from 15 to 25 euros) but hosts bigger names than the free stage.
Worth a visit just because the theater is so pretty, I’ve seen the Japanese pianist Hiromi here and a few local big bands.
This year, 2019, for the first time since 1997 Umbria Jazz is able to use the new auditorium of the church San Francesco al Prato.
The church was used from 1987 until the earthquake of 1997. From pictures, it looks breathtaking spot, so I can’t wait to see it in 2020.
Escape the afternoon heat and be a tourist at the National Art Gallery of Umbria.
There are daily concerts in one room of the Gallery, usually at noon and at 15.30. Tickets include entrance to the gallery so you can wander through the medieval art collection before or after some listening to some jazz.
Below the bus station is the main stage, Arena Santa Giuliana, for big names like Diana Krall and ones that aren’t always jazz based like Kraftwerk, Thom Yorke, and Brian Wilson.
The good news is even if you can’t afford the tickets, or aren’t sure if you’ll enjoy the concert, this is an outdoor venue. There are always people above in the bus depot, in Piazza Partigiani. Enjoy the concert for free, and maybe next time pay to enter the venue.
Even on the street behind the stage, via Cacciatori delle Apli you can hear the concert. In 2019 we heard the great Italian Paolo Conte by hanging out above the arena.
The History of The Perugia Jazz Festival
Umbria Jazz started in 1973, had a pause from 1979 to 1981, and ever since has been going strong.
Its history is full of performances by the jazz greats, including Miles Davis, Dizzy Gillespie, and Bill Evans.
Even better? There are so many free concerts of up-and-coming musicians.
Why I Love the Jazz Festival in Perugia
I love pouring over the program and planning out which concerts we’ll go to, who’ll go out for dinner with us before heading to a late night gig, and how late I can stay up while still managing to work the next day.
Ten days is a marathon of concert going, the risk of burn out is high if we taken in a few late night jam sessions.
July is the best time weather-wise to host outdoor concerts. It’s usually hot and dry throughout the festival.
Even after midnight, wearing shorts and a t-shirt or a summer dress is
Umbria Jazz is a great way to discover musicians from around the world.
Groups that come and play the free stages, like the Shake Em’ Up Jazz band from New Orleans, we’ll return to see multiple times throughout the week.
My first year Fi bought tickets for us to see the pianist Hiromi from Japan- an amazing live performer. And all the brass bands from the US, which even though I’m Canadian, make me feel at home.
Why not visit Perugia in July for Umbria Jazz?!
Umbria Jazz lasts for ten days, arguably the best ten days of the year in Perugia. While there’s always a chance of a thunderstorm or two the weather should be hot, perfect for summer dresses in the evening. And midnight gelato.
Umbria Jazz provides a quality and a quantity of musicians featuring all styles of music.
The best part is how much music there is to discover. Through the Umbria Jazz Festival, I always end up with one new favourite musician and a new CD every year. And knowledge of new (to me at least) music that I can’t imagine being without.
What I love the most about Umbria Jazz? It’s my summer holiday in Perugia. A staycation where the world comes to us. People come from all over to listen or take part in Umbria Jazz, and we’re the richer for it.
Visiting Perugia for the first time? I have a post all about visiting Perugia any time of year.