Musings from Perugia: A Secret that Wants to Stay Secret

Perugia is one of the most Medieval towns I have ever been in. While it is still considered one of the most beautiful cities in Italy, especially by the Italians themselves, it maintains an air of mystery. A place undiscovered, enhanced by its lack of accessibility.

Indeed, while staying here for the first time, I was lucky to find a place at the heart of its historical center. That’s the Perugia that you really need to see. It really feels like time has left the city relatively untouched. In fact, modernity has no place here. All throughout the city, you see abandoned spots where once was a store, or a shop that did not last.

And as you walk the streets, particularly in winter nights, you feel as if you’re meeting ghosts all the time. I had a similar feeling in Turin. Yet, Turin is a modern city. Here in Perugia, you are the ghost. You are the invader, with your modernity that has no place here. Your phone won’t get any reception through the thick stone walls of most houses. The most the city allows is a mini metro and escalators. But they are well hidden and not so easy to find. Google won’t help you either.

The truth is, Perugia is a secret that does all it can to stay secret. Thankfully, the lack of accessibility makes me hope that no wealthy foreigner will invade it with his own flag – a Starbucks or a McDonalds – anytime soon. Perugia lets you peek at its beauty, and you will swear that you can hear Perugino making business in a bar, and the wind blow a Francesco Morlacchi aria through you ear. You might even hear Gerardo Dottori’s plane hovering over your head, if you listen carefully.

You will also hear locals tell you how frustrating it is to live two hours from the nearest international airport. Hardly any train leaves from the main train station and the main line goes to another historical epicentre – Florence (perhaps to facilitate Perugino’s business dealings??).

Yet, as I write this, I am a few days away from leaving Perugia and it saddens me to the verge of tears. I want to be a recluse within its invisible walls. I want to stay on top of this hill for all time and wander around its streets, occasionally locking eyes with fellow ghosts and breathing its inebriating air. I am at peace here, I am proud here. I feel safe in its wilderness. If a world war starts, Perugia will live.

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