The fortress of Rocca Paolina in Perugia is a place that you absolutely should visit during your holidays in Umbria, especially in Christmas.
Perugia is located in Umbria, considered one of the wildest regions of Italy. The hills, the medieval villages and the religious sites give this area a rural and silent atmosphere, linked to past customs that are still alive despite the centuries.
Thanks to its geography, Umbria is perfect for a summer holiday. Yet, Christmas gives to the historic towns an even stronger appeal.
Among all the experiences that you can live in Umbria during Christmas, one should be at the top of your wish list. It’s the underground Christmas market in the Rocca of Perugia.
Let me tell you something about the beautiful city of Perugia.
First of all, it’s the regional county seat of Umbria.
Its foundation dates back to the 10th century BC, by the Etruscans. But it’s during the Middle Ages that it became larger and more important. In 1531 it was annexed as part of the Papal State.
All these events has influenced the appearance of Perugia and I think that much of its charm is due to the variety of architectural styles, from Roman to Gothic. Every corner of the historic center hides a beautiful sight or something interesting.
Another noteworthy thing about Perugia is that, besides being a city of art and history, it is also a lively city. It hosts the famous Umbria Jazz Festival and Eurochocolat, a fair dedicated to chocolate.
Among all its historical buildings, the most popular is the Rocca Paolina.
Rocca Paolina is a monumental fortress on a hill overlooking the center of Perugia.
It was built around year 1540 by the will of Pope Paul III Farnese – that’s the origin of its name.
The incredible thing of the Rocca is that it is not just a single building, but a sort of a city within the city.
Let me explain.
They had to build the fortress, but there were a preexisting neighborhood. Instead of demolishing the buildings, they decided to incorporate them into the fortress. They simply covered the streets with vaults of bricks and rocks. And now you can walk in an underground medieval town!
You might think that such a place is just an attraction for tourists. Actually, residents of Perugia hang out there, as well as tourists, in particular for special events.
One of these is the Christmas market.
For more than 20 years the Rocca Paolina is hosting the event “Natale alla Rocca” (Christmas at the Roca)
The main attraction is the Christmas market in the old underground town inside the fortress.
You can find both traditional and creative gifts and watch the master craftsmen while doing their job. But you can also follow the perfumes coming from the food stands and indulge in some traditional dishes.
Of course, the unique location makes the experience memorable.
The underground Christmas Market in Perugia is fantastic also for children. They can meet Santa Claus, whisper him their wishes, take a picture with him, or watch a Christmas movie or a play at the theater that is set up inside the underground town.
First of all, the entrance to the Rocca Paolina is completely free!
The Rocca can be accessed through the entrance of Porta Marzia, in via Bagliona, open from 7 AM to 8 PM.
However, I suggest you to leave the car at the parking lot at Piazza dei Partigiani and take the escalators that bring you directly into the fortress. The escalators are working from 6.15 AM to about 2.00 AM.
This year “Natale in Rocca” and the underground Christmas market will start on December 8th and end on the 24th.
Once you’ll have enough of the underground Christmas market in Rocca Paolina, you can return to the open air and enjoy all that Perugia has to offer during the most magical time of the year. There’s a lot to see.