High-density hill town / city

Net density     Approx. 250-275 dwellings per hectare (plus retail)
Height             Four to seven storeys


At the Augustan gate
A sliver of light passes over the enormous stone battlements that defend the historical city of Perugia. A fountain by the Etruscan gate. Cars circle the walls.


Early morning
The city is quiet. Shadows move across stone.




The Palazzo dei Priori
A scattering of people pass from Corso Vanucci through the Piazza 14th Novembre.


Piazza 14 Novembre
It’s going to be a hot day and an exhibit of electric cars is arranged with free drives offered around the upper streets of Perugia. 


Cathedrale di San Lorenzo
Stallholders lend a hand to erect the market stalls as the devout
pass down the steps of the Cathedral.


Corso Vanucci
The market is complete and the ridge road of Perugia is thronged with pedestrians. Clusters of people sit on the walls to watch the passing parade.


The steps of the Palazzo dei Priori
People are sprawled over the steps as a newly married couple passes from the cathedral across the square to climb the steps of the splendid Town hall


The arcades
Soccer is played.


On the terraces
People rest and talk in the shady green.


A view of Assisi
At the top of an escalator which climbs the daunting slopes there is
view of Assisi 19 kilometres distant. The plains seem endless.


A distant view
Assisi is a dense stone coloured patch visible at the foot of Mount
Subasio. After the proximity of busy stone streets, the view of
manicured vineyards and fields in the breathless calm of this day imparts a blissful feeling. Nothing moves…it is warm and all is calm and serene.


Sunset on a Templar church
The sun withdraws through the arches of Perugia.

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Sun on soft brick and piles of baked roof tiles. House-martens circle. The distant plains are equal parts mist and green. The vertical church spire contrasts with the housing and city walls that ramble along the hill’s contours.


View of the countryside
A veritable Claude Lorrain. The only thing moving is time.

The glowing embers of the city are reassuring

Why Perugia was chosen
Perugia is a hill town on a grand scale, which has become a hill city. It was founded more than 2200 years ago and is now the capital of Umbria and a centre for university education. Perugia is popular with urban designers, tourists and also with writers and readers of the “My Year in Umbria” lit.

Urban design, open space and landscape
Massive stone battlements ring the crown of the hill rising 500 metres above the Umbrian plains. Seven gates in the city walls lead to five ancient quarters within. Corso Vanucci runs along the ridge of Perugia linking the primary civic and cultural spaces. At one end is the Piazza 14 Novembre on which the Town Hall and the Cathedral stand; at the other green terraces overlook the plains.


2013:10:21 - Perugia Section

The hilly topography is used to improve environmental conditions within the buildings. As per modernist town planning principles; taller buildings are on the top of the hill, with lower buildings further down giving all buildings more access to light, ventilation and views.

Materials and architectonics
The use of two types of marble for the major buildings in Perugia’s civic areas support the harmonious environment. The unfinished bulk of the cathedral’s pink and white marble flank wall faces the Palazzo die Priori in its uniform white marble. The Palazzo Dei Priori is a fascinating building; town hall, art gallery, a stock exchange. It adapts to the sloping square with grace and appropriateness. Its flush jointed stonework and crenellated parapets are fortress-like. Pierced with cast iron remnants of obsolete adornment and crowned with a magnificent cast bronze griffin and a lion, it is the symbol of Perugia.

Perugia is an important cultural centre. The week before I arrived there was an event by the architecture magazine Abitare. While I was there a blues festival and an energy conference were held in the main street. There are film, jazz and chocolate festivals. Events occur in the main square and in the Corso Vanucci by day and night. No venues are needed, it all happens in public. And because of the lack of vehicle traffic when you have a conference in the main square, you can hear the discussion.

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2013 Perugia Festival of Energy

Having expelled cars from the city centre, Perugia ensured transport connections by installing escalators and a carefully routed Mini-Metro.

Comments and Conclusions
Perugia possesses the attributes required of a city by urban designers. It has defined limits and local and regional urban design and has been managed aesthetically. This is a pedestrian city with controlled vehicular traffic. Street furniture, signage and lighting do not deface its beautiful aspect. Pedestrian infrastructure is handcrafted. The absence of cars in Perugia allows vibrant human and cultural interaction. Anchored by magnificent ancient architecture, served by modern infrastructure, graced by a rich programme of cultural events; Perugia is a symbolic and actual landmark.  The dense, tall, ancient centre of Perugia has been maintained and integrated into the province, and is part of the bigger world, not a living museum. This ancient high-density living city glows with the polish of ages.

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Density Comparison TableScreen shot 2013-12-09 at 5.18.00 PM

Michael Zanardo; project mentor and source of knowledge.
Justin Brickle; video editor of Zeitgeist Films –

Footnotes and Bibliography
Perugia Section – background image
Google Inc. 2012, Google Earth Version, (8th July, 2012) Perugia, Italy
43°06’32.31″ N 12°23’17.65″ E, Eye alt 1.52 km, Last viewed: 5th March, 2013

Timelapse Music
Tord Gustavsen Trio (2007) Where We Went, Being There

Kieran McInerney, May 2013.