It is still unclear when the first Umbrian settlers occupied the hill on which Perugia stands today. Between three and four thousand years ago is a reasonable assumption. At some stage, however the Umbrian village must have been replaced by an Etruscan occupier and transformed into a powerful city-fortress. The remains of a thick line of fortifications at the summit of the hill of Perugia, along with the richness of the tombs left by the Etruscans, are indications of the importance of the city in those times.
A number of different burial grounds dating from between the 5th century BC until Roman times are scattered around Perugia. It is reasonable to assume that the burial grounds closest to the city were used by the inhabitants of Perugia itself, while those located further off were for the inhabitants of other nearby towns.
Although not all the burial grounds are open to the public, those that have been discovered along the main roads include Palazzone, Ipogeo dei Volumi, Ferro di Cavallo and Madonna Alta, all dating from the Hellenistic period. Their contents are visible in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale of Perugia.
The most interesting are the Ipogei dei Volumni, the Necropoli del Palazzone, the Ipogeo di San Manno and the Ipogeo di Villa Sperandio.
Ipogeo dei Volumni
Going out of Perugia along Viale Roma, this site stands roughly 7 kilometres outside the city. A small, 19th century building erected as a kind of vestibule to the hypogeum, stands just before crossing the railway line. Discovered in 1840, this large chamber is one of the most important examples of an Etruscan tomb during the Hellenistic period. It belonged to the Velimma family, which translates into Volumni in Latin, and dates back to sometime in the second half of the 2nd century BC.
Necropoli del Palazzone
This burial ground is developed around a central hypogeum surrounded by a number of burial chambers dating from between the Archaic and Hellenistic periods. It takes its name from the nearby villa of the Baglioni family, who also owned this land before it was expropriated.
The Vestibulum contains a number of funerary urns containing ashes, brought here from other burial grounds nearby. They are almost all in travertine marble, save some in terracotta and one in sandstone.
A modern staircase hewn from the earth leads to the lower level of the hypogeum, which mirrors the layout of a typical Roman dwelling. The entrance is made up of a single travertine slab to close the opening of the tomb. Within, a number of cell-like rooms open onto the central entrance chamber.
Seven urns containing ashes, one in marble and six in travertine, have been arranged in the Tablinium.
Ipogeo di San Manno
6 kilometres from Fontivegge railway station, following along Via Cortonese and then along the Statale 75 bis towards Lake Trasimene. At Ferro di Cavallo there is a 20th century development of houses around the ancient small church of San Manno. Remains of frescoes dating back to the 13th century adorn the interior of the church, along with a large fresco by Scilla Pecennini.
In the Middle Ages the church was bought by the Knights of Malta, who built a fortified monastery around it. A number of materials unearthed from the hypogeum of San Manno are still visible here. The crypt of the church itself was once an Etruscan tomb. Sadly the hypogeum is not open to the public.
Ipogeo di Villa Sperandio
Porta Sant'Angelo is roughly 15 minutes from the hypogeum, outside the city walls in Via Sperandio. The hypogeum is in the grounds of Villa Sperandio and was part of a burial ground that served the inhabitants of Perugia. Discovered in 1900, the hypogeum is 5 metres deep. Everything found here is kept at the archaeological museum of Perugia.
For visits to the Ipogeo dei Volumni and the Necropoli del Palazzone, Via Assisana - 06087 (frazione Ponte San Giovanni - PG), call 075/393329.
Opening times: weekdays and holidays 9am - 1pm / 3.30 - 6.30pm July
(except May 1st, Christmas Day and New Year's Day) - August: 9am - 12.30pm / 4.30 - 7pm
July – August: 4.30 – 6.30pm
Entrance: € 2
For information on the Ipogeo di San Manno and Villa Sperandio call 075 5736458.
Museo Archeologico Nazionale dell’Umbria Piazza G. Bruno 10, Perugia.
Opening hours: every day 8.30am-7.30pm, closed Monday mornings. Opens Monday afternoon at 2.30pm. Closed May 1st. Cost € 2 full, €1 reductions. Free for under 18s and over 65s.