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The Rocca Paolina, 16th Century

July 8, and now I know which bus NOT to catch to reach Centro Citta.  I’ve decided to tour the Rocca Paolina.

 

During the reign of Pope Paul III in the mid 16th century, Perugia was the last free (not under the Pope’s dominion) city in Italy.  Paul was initially benevolent with Perugia, even though the city had stained itself with the slaughtering of the apostolic legate.  Later he became more intransigent, forcing the Perugians to purchase salt from the papal salt works instead of from the Sienese, to their great economic disadvantage.  This led to the “salt war,” which ended with the defeat of the Perugian forces in 1540.

Porta Marzia into the Rocca
  (To this day, Perugian bread is salt-free, as a continuing snub to Pope Paul III.)  As a sign of the renewed papal dominion, the Pope commissioned Antonio da Sangallo the Younger to build an imposing fortress. The entire district of Borgo San Giuliano was razed to the ground to make way for the fortress, including all the houses of the Baglioni family that the Pope so hated.  Thus, he penalized an entire town, branding Perugia with his own name and symbol: the Rocca Paolina.

Over a hundred houses, as well as churches and monasteries were destroyed and used as building material and as substructures for the fortress. The citizens of Perugia had to wait until the Roman Republic of 1848 for a first, partial demolition of the loathed symbol of papal power.  Finally in 1860 with the unification of Italy, the Rocca was completely demolished.

 

For several decades, the town forgot about its medieval center buried underneath gardens and streets.

Entering the Rocca from the Porta Marzia
  In the 1930’s, an exploration began of the underground ruins, and in January 1935, the ruins were opened to the public.  All that remains are the basements of the original structures.

I was simply blown away by the grandeur and scale of the buildings/rooms in the Rocca … another testament to the strength of the Roman arch, as they support the weight of the “modern” town above.

 

After ascending out of the Rocca, I headed down (yes, down) into the Borgo Bello (Beautiful Borough) to tour the Museuo Archaeologico housed in the former Convent of San Domenico.  With my avocational archaeology background, I enjoyed seeing all the artifacts collected.  Of particular interest were the travertine cinerary urns from the Hellenistic era, with bas-reliefs of the interred on the lids, and scenes from their life on the sides.

Vaulted ceiling in the Rocca
  And then there were the spear points and stone tool artifacts so reminiscent of those I have seen in American Indian excavations.  There were also pieces of three bronze parade chariots from the Etruscan bronze age (570-520 B.C.).  Then I got to walk back UP to the Centro Citta.

 

Wanting to get off my feet for lunch, I stopped at the Café Perugia, which was suggested in some of the literature I had read before the trip.  Had a pizza and soft drink, then successfully managed to not get ripped off when the waitress brought back my change.  I had been short-changed by €1.  I had read that this might happen, so I very politely smiled as I told her the change was “non correto.”  No argument, she just went back in and got my euro.

 

The Cattedrale di San Lorenzo is located on Piazza IV Novembre, the main town square.

Hallway in the Rocca
  Because it was Sunday, services were being conducted in the Cattedrale, and tourists were discouraged from entering unless they stayed for mass.  I took a quick peak inside, then left.

 

Perugia was originally an Etruscan city, so my next visit was to the Posso Etrusco (Etruscan Well), the main source of water for the Etruscans.  I located the entrance in a little alcove across from the cathedral, paid my entry fee, and hiked down the steps … and down, and down, and down.  The well was built in the 3rd century B.C.  It is 121+ feet deep and 18+ feet wide.  I couldn’t help but feel I was descending through time as I descended to the level of the well.  And then I had to climb those stairs back out.

Rooms in the Rocca. Some now used for art gallery.
  There is just simply no way to get around the town without having to negotiate stairs.  Oh, my aching calves!

 

A wedding was taking place inside the Hall of Notaries, located across the Piazza from the Cattedrale.  I took a quick peak, amazed at the beautiful art work on the ceiling and rafters, then left.  The bride and groom’s wedding “carriage” was parked in the plaza, adorned with white net bows.

 

A major feature of the Plaza is the Fontana Maggiore, built to commemorate the completion of the new aqueduct between 1278 and 1280.  It is made up of two concentric polygonal basins, a bronze bowl rising out of the upper basin, and is topped by a bronze statue of three nymphs carrying an urn from which water spurts.  The lower basin features bas-reliefs of the 12 months of the year, accompanied by the signs of the zodiac and other allegorical symbols.  The upper basin is made up of 24 panels divided by religious and allegorical figures.  Unfortunately, the fountain was not spurting while we were there.

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The Rocca Paolina, 16th Century
The Rocca Paolina, 16th Century
Porta Marzia into the Rocca
Porta Marzia into the Rocca
Entering the Rocca from the Porta …
Entering the Rocca from the Porta…
Vaulted ceiling in the Rocca
Vaulted ceiling in the Rocca
Hallway in the Rocca
Hallway in the Rocca
Rooms in the Rocca.  Some now used…
Rooms in the Rocca. Some now use…
Borgo Bello (beautiful borough) fr…
Borgo Bello (beautiful borough) f…
Convent of San Domenico Cloister, …
Convent of San Domenico Cloister,…
Cloister
Cloister
Cinerary urns
Cinerary urns
Posso Etrusco (Etruscan well)
Posso Etrusco (Etruscan well)
Wedding in the Hall of Notaries
Wedding in the Hall of Notaries
Wedding carriage
Wedding "carriage"
Fontana Maggiore in Piazza IV Nove…
Fontana Maggiore in Piazza IV Nov…
Perugia
photo by: Shannon_atl