The capital of Italy's green-swathed Umbria region, Perugia is a historic town filled with ancient architecture. Surrounded by centuries-old defensive walls, the city's centre is a maze of streets lined with Gothic religious buildings and ornate palaces full of Renaissance art. This is the place to amble along the cobbles or munch on some chocolate (made just outside the city) while you people-watch in the buzzing Piazza IV Novembre.
There are plenty of Perugia hostels in unique buildings. Sleep under the ornate ceiling frescoes of an old villa, or in a converted 11th-century church with vaulted ceilings and a quirky bar decorated by local artists. Away from the city walls, you can stay in farmhouses amid the cypress trees of the Umbrian countryside, including a working organic farm with horses and a pool. You can expect a Perugia hostel to have the modern essentials such as free Wi-Fi and air con, as well as luxuries like outdoor terraces and free breakfasts.
The Old Town, enclosed by 5th-century BC Etruscan walls, is the heart of the region. The centre that was once split into five areas is now largely divided by its main street, Corso Vannucci. You'll find this pedestrianised boulevard lined with original buildings housing cool cafés and modern shops. It leads to the busy main square, Piazza IV Novembre, which was the area's political centre during medieval times and is now a favourite spot to watch street performers and opera singers.
Bursting with history, the city is filled with things to see. There's the medieval fortress Rocca Paolina with its maze of underground passages. You can marvel at the marble interior of 10th-century Basilica San Pietro, or take in Chiesa di San Pietro, one of Italy's oldest churches. Art lovers should head to see the Renaissance frescoes at the richly adorned Nobile Collegio del Cambio, as well as the Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria, which is inside the Palazzo dei Priori. Go just beyond the edge of the city to attend workshops at the Casa del Cioccolato Perugina chocolate factory and museum.
To reach the city centre from Perugia San Francesco D'Assisi – Umbria International Airport (formerly known as Perugia Sant'Egidio Airport), take the local bus that runs a few times each day or the ACAP-SULGA shuttle. Both buses take 30 minutes, with the shuttle stopping at the city's train stations Perugia Ponte San Giovanni and Stazione di Perugia. You can explore the area by taking local transport out to Foligno, Assisi or Petrignano in under an hour.