Questions are like itches and some just have to be scratched. The centre of Perugia, around the Piazza IV Novembre exudes medieval antiquity; however, as you walk up the Via dei Priori to the Piazza Italia you sense a change. The buildings have the massive presence of the 19th century which does not sit easily with the rest of the centro storico. The question is what has happened here? To find the answer, walk past the Piazza Italia on your left and then descend on the escalator that you will see by the building on your left into a medieval wonderland.
You are in the area that used to be known as Borgo San Giuliano. In 1540 the free city of Perugia was defeated by Papal forces – the Pope commissioned a famous architect, Antonio Sangallo the Younger, to build a fortress and stamp his Papal authority on the city. In order to achieve this the area had to be demolished and the waste material was used to build the substructure for the citadel above. Where useful, buildings were left and integrated into the structure and the street layout still remains. The pervading sense of the bizarre is heightened by the contrast with the modern buildings above and the moving stairway that gives access.
This all raises another question that has to be addressed. So what happened to the fortress above? Well, let it not be said that the Perugians have short memories nor that they do not know how to bear a grudge. In 1860, with the unification of Italy and the liberation of central Italy from Papal control the citizens decided that the symbol of oppression had to go and it was demolished to make way for the buildings you see today.