With culinary delights galore, and amazing events like the Jazz and Eurochocolate festivals, Umbria is a fantastic choice to experience Italy with fewer crowds. Nina Gigante shows you how to have the best day in the city of Perugia. 

Your guide to Umbria: Nina Gigante

Hi! I’m a food and travel journalist from Puglia, Italy’s “heel.”. I moved to Umbria two years ago, during the pandemic, after living for many years in Milan and abroad (including Cambridge, London, Rotterdam, Amsterdam and Barcelona). I fell in love with this region – so much so that six months ago, I gave birth here to my son Arturo.

Why Nina thinks you should visit Umbria

Belvedere Viale Indipendenza
Nina at Belvedere Viale Indipendenza © Nina Gigante

Uncrowded and authentic, Umbria and its regional capital Perugia are Italy’s green heart. You’ll find the best the country has to offer here.

Beyond our big cities, what remains of the dolce vita – the slow way of living everyone admires – can still be found in pockets of countryside. Perugia is known for significant events and festivals, like the world-famous Umbria Jazz Festival and Eurochocolate, one of the largest chocolate festivals in the world. 

Check out Nina’s Perfect day in Perugia, Umbria


Three questions with Nina 

We asked Nina three questions to help plan your trip to Perugia and the Umbria region. 

What’s the one place people should go to get a better understanding of Perugia?

Perugia is an enigmatic, layered place that’s illuminated by all the history that has happened here. I would start exploring the city from the so-called Rocca Paolina, a mysterious and dark fortress with an intriguing past, where traces of ancient Etruscan culture coexist with buildings, streets and squares of the Middle Ages, and alongside such contemporary works of art as Alberto Burri’s Grande Nero. Perugia is like entering a gigantic time machine: a city within a city, a historical maze you wander through until emerging at the Giardini Carducci, the highest point of the town, which offers views of the rolling green Umbrian hills beyond.

What is a signature dish someone should try?

Perugia’s food is very bold in flavor, and each bite tells you the history of the city, and the still vibrant connection between Umbrians, their animals and the land.

A classic afternoon snack here is panino con la porchetta (a sandwich with cured meat) or a piece of torta al testo (a local focaccia cooked on a cast-iron plate, and stuffed with local meats and freshly foraged herbs). 

You can try these basically everywhere. Since I do not eat meat, I would take guests to Testone, the best torta al testo place in town, and one with plenty of vegetarian options.

If someone wanted to buy a souvenir, what would you recommend?

When you tell an Italian that you are visiting Perugia, the first thing she’ll think of is…chocolate. (Probably jazz, too – but mostly chocolate.) This is for two reasons: the Perugina Factory, where the iconic Baci Perugina (pralines with a hazelnut heart covered in chocolate) has been made since the ’50s; and Eurochocolate, Italy’s biggest chocolate party.

So how can you not leave without this sweet souvenir? It may even make your return home less bitter. The Perugina factory is in the suburbs, though the brand does have a shop in the city center. Since I find this too touristy, I recommend going to Cioccolateria Augusta Perusia, a boutique where you can buy pralines, homemade baci and artisanal chocolate bars made by a truly artisanal cioccolataio. 

Want an itinerary for a longer visit to Umbria? Check out Virginia DiGaetano's four-day plan to fall in love with Umbria. 

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A meal at L'Officina Ristorante celebrates Umbrian cuisine © Claudia Gori/Lonely Planet

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