Perugia’s monumental Fontana Maggiore was built in the late 1270s by the father-son team of Nicola and Giovanni Pisano as part of a city-wide urban renewal project to celebrate Perugia's newly completed aqueduct. Many symbols sculpted on the fountain underscore this civic pride by depicting scenes of the founding of Rome and symbols of the city, as well as Old Testament stories. To fully understand the elaborate sculptures and reliefs decorating the sides of the fountain’s two basins, it’s best to visit as part of a walking tour of Perugia’s historic center with a guide who can help identify and interpret the figures and scenes. Day trips to Perugia often include a stop in the nearby medieval towns of Assisi or Spoleto, as well as stroll through the resort town of Passignano on Lake Trasimeno. Chocoholics can opt for a Perugia tour that includes a tasting of artisan delights from Italy’s chocolate capital.
Things to know before you go
- The fountain is encircled by a protective wrought-iron fence, but can be approached on foot or with wheelchair. The historic center of Perugia is quite steep and paved with cobblestones that might be difficult to navigate on wheels.
- Walking tours require a significant amount of time on your feet, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes and dress for the weather.
- The fountain is located on the highest point of Perugia’s main thoroughfare and is the perfect spot to photograph the city’s beautiful historic center.
- There are a number of cafés and restaurants lining Piazza IV Novembre, perfect for a snack or meal.
How to get there
The Fontana Maggiore is located in Perugia’s main Piazza IV Novembre, at the very beginning of the wide, pedestrian Corso Vannucci. Perugia is the capital of the region of Umbria, and there are direct trains from Rome and Florence.
When to get there
Perugia holds an important jazz festival each year in July, when Piazza IV Novembre is transformed into a vast, open-air performance area. Time your visit to coincide with the festival to experience the vibrant side of the city, which can be quite quiet and dour during the winter months.
Perugia’s “Wedding Cake” Fountain
The Fontana Maggiore is made up of two rounded polygonal basins stacked like the tiers of a wedding cake and decorated with a total of 50 bas-reliefs and 24 statues. The lower basin is lined with reliefs depicting rural life, the zodiac signs, Biblical stories, and the history of Rome. The upper basic is decorated with statues of allegorical, historical, and sacred figures. A bronze basin tops the fountain, crowned by three nymphs symbolising the virtues of faith, hope, and charity.