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Characters of Perugia

An opinion piece by Daniella Zoller
Before coming to Perugia, it is hard to get a sense of what the city center will be like on a day-to-day basis. It seems intimidating and overwhelming. But you will quickly learn your favorite spots, the best places to get aperitivo, and of course, the personalities you will see on your way to class or the grocery store. The following includes a list of my personal favorite characters that I have encountered so far in Perugia, and I’m sure that this list will grow as I finish up my time here at the Umbra Institute.

The Infamous Dog With the Watch
Francesco was one of the first friendly faces I encountered here in Perugia. My new friends and I were walking up to Umbra for the first time when we came across him lying on the steps. We thought it was so funny that he was wearing a watch. He was adorable and we were instantly in love with him! Over time, we learned that he lives right behind the steps that he’s usually hanging out on, and that he’s very well known throughout the city center – even the police know him by name. If you come across Francesco on the staircase on Via Bartolo, make sure to say ciao!

You may also spot Francesco stopping traffic in any of the piazzas, or even see him wandering around near the grocery store. He’s an incredibly friendly boy and he does love to bark on occasion. On warm and exciting days, he’s always out and about getting involved in the community. This year, during the Carnevale celebration, he was roaming around Piazza IV Novembre with confetti all over his face, having the best day ever.

All of the Umbra students adore him. One student, Gwyneth, referred to him as “a bundle of joy” and I think that is the perfect description. I could be having a tough day and then once I see Francesco, my day is brightened. He is such a silly and fun token of Perugia.

Kebab is one of the essential parts of being a student in Perugia. It is one of the most popular forms of “fast” food or takeaway foods all around Europe. Kebab may not be exactly what you think it is. It is not meat and vegetables that come on a skewer like we’re used to at American barbecues. The main focus of this dish is shaved meat that comes straight from a rotisserie in-store. Then, you customize your kebab with sauces and vegetables (and even French fries!), and it gets all wrapped up, typically in pita bread. There are multiple shops throughout the city center where you can purchase kebab. My personal favorite is on Via Ulisse Rocchi – Ararat Kebab. Amarate is the owner of this fantastic kebab shop. The store is open quite late, and it is a great stop on your way home on a night out. Amarate is friendly and kind, always taking the extra steps to make his customers laugh.

During your time in Perugia, you will likely spend a few nights hanging out with your friends at Marla and/or Dempsey’s. Andreas, a fellow American, is the owner of both of these fantastic bars. He is a very friendly person and is always open to having a chat. In fact, all of the Marla and Dempsey staff members are incredibly kind and personable.

Marla is an incredible hangout spot for students filled with art and live music. You can go to Andreas’s bar to dance, sing along, chill with friends, or meet locals. Many people hang out on the couches at Marla, offered on both the first and second floor, as well as outside chatting. Dempsey’s is a bit smaller, less for socializing in big groups, but still has a great environment and a great staff. All the college students of Perugia love his two locations.

In conclusion
These characters are just a few of the faces that will become increasingly familiar to you throughout your time in the city center. I have given you the smallest glimpse into the people you will encounter and the types of relationships you will form, but these connections truly are personalized. In my opinion, Amarate runs the best kebab stand, but not all students go to Amarate’s, and some students don’t even know his name. You will come across so many different people who you will learn to greet when you see them. Just being able to wave and nod to someone who you have met in passing makes your time in Perugia feel that much more rewarding, and these connections are everywhere. Don’t be afraid to practice your Italian while you’re out and about or to stop and take a moment to chat with the owner at your favorite spot

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