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Perugia, Perugia

Umbria, Italy, Europe: Perugia, Umbria's capital, is the region's most sophisticated city.
Tourist info: 18 Piazza Matteotti
Italy 06122
Tel: 39 075 573 6458's insider take:

The regional capital of Umbria isn't nearly as famous as the big art towns in neighboring Tuscany. So instead of battling through tourist crowds like you would in Florence or Siena, you'll largely be exploring this cultured, historic town in the company of friendly, laid-back locals. If you're driving, you'll need to negotiate a confounding maze of one-way streets, so it's best to leave the wheels behind in the well-marked Piazza dei Partigiani parking lot and take the escalator up past the subterranean remains of medieval streets and houses to Piazza Italia, a leafy square with panoramic views.

From there, the café-lined pedestrian street of Corso Vannucci (don't miss the historic bar-pasticceria Sandri) leads conveniently to both of the city's major sights. First comes Perugia's massive Gothic town hall, Palazzo dei Priori, which houses the Galleria Nazionale dell'Umbria, a one-stop display of the best art from regional masters like Perugino and Pinturicchio alongside a few Tuscan interlopers like Piero della Francesca and Fra' Angelico (19 Corso Vannucci; 39-075-574-1413). Just beyond is Piazza IV Novembre, dominated by the Fontana Maggiore, a gorgeous fountain built in the 1290s by father-and-son team Nicola and Giovanni Pisano.

The city's cosmopolitan air is partly due to the presence of the Università Italiana per Stranieri, which runs courses in Italian language and culture for foreigners. Perugia is also the venue for the country's most important jazz festival, Umbria Jazz, which takes place in July, with a short winter reprise in Orvieto at the end of December (39-075-573-2432;

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