The provincial capital, PERUGIA is the most obvious, if not the most picturesque, base to kick off a tour of Umbria. Although the centre of town is still medieval, it's surrounded by ugly suburbs and a considerable amount of industry. In summer, the streets become claustrophobic and exhausting, so you probably won't want to spend a lot of time here. On the other hand, there's at least a day's worth of good sightseeing, and it's not a bad place to base yourself if you want to explore the surrounding area: it has big-city amenities and trains run to all the major highlights, complemented by fast new roads and an extensive bus network.
The town's main cultural draw in summer is Umbria Jazz, Italy's foremost jazz event – tickets are best acquired well in advance via the website (Web: www.umbriajazz.com ).