Etruscan Arch

City Gate and City Walls in Perugia

Etruscan Arch
CC BY-SA 3.0 / Bibopg79

Perugia was one of the principal Etruscan towns, with its external walls, dating back to the third century BC (with some parts from the fourth century BC), still standing as a testament to its historical significance. The entire perimeter of these walls is about three kilometers (1.5 miles) long, with many sections still visible, while others have been incorporated into later buildings. The Etruscan walls undulate with the terrain, and in the lower areas, they fold inward, giving the overall shape a clover-like appearance.

The Town Wall Planning

Perugia’s strategic design featured six major gates, connecting it with other towns like Gubbio, Rome, Orvieto, Chiusi, and Cortona. Minor gates, known as “postierle” in Italian, were used by pedestrians or to channel waste water.

The ancient town planning featured two main axes:

  • Cardo (North-South): This axis followed a straight line, linking the two main gates, the Etruscan Arch and Porta Marzia.
  • Decumanus (East-West): This axis connected Arco dei Gigli (Arch of the Lilies) and Porta Trasimena (the gate towards Lake Trasimeno).

The town walls were constructed using travertine blocks shaped like squares or trapezoids, arranged in rows without mortar. Some blocks still bear Etruscan quarry marks, indicating their destinations within Perugia. The source quarry was located in Santa Sabina, about 10 kilometers (5 miles) from the city center. Historical records note that in 310 BC, the defensive walls of Perugia halted the army of Consul Fabius Maximus Rullianus during his campaign against the Etruscans.

The Etruscan Arch: The “Beautiful Gate”

On the north side of the walls, where the Via Amerina (the road to Amelia) left the town, stands the Etruscan Arch, known as “porta pulchra” or “the Beautiful Gate” since the Middle Ages due to its imposing and refined architecture. Both the Etruscan Arch and Porta Marzia were reconstructed in the mid-third century BC, likely in conjunction with the extension of the Via Amerina to Perugia.

The Etruscan Arch is flanked by two trapezoidal towers, each about 20 meters (60 feet) high, protruding from the walls. The arch span is slightly oblique to the walls. Above it, a frame is adorned with shield-shaped circles and half pilasters with Ionic capitals. This shield motif was later replicated in the Palazzo dei Priori. During the civil war in the first century BC, the arch above the main opening (now filled with bricks) may have housed a war device. The wide, dark gray stains under the vault mark the fire that devastated Perugia during this conflict, ultimately leading to victory for the young Octavian, who would become Emperor Augustus.

From the square in front of the Etruscan Arch, you can follow Via Cesare Battisti, tracing the old wall perimeter marked by its large travertine blocks.

The “Conquerors” on the Etruscan Arch

Inscribed on the main arch are the Latin words “AUGUSTA PERUSIA” (“Perugia, owned/protected by Augustus”), with remnants of red pigment still visible. This inscription commemorates the town’s conquest by Octavian (later Augustus) in 40 BC. Below it, another inscription reads “COLONIA VIBIA,” indicating the period when Perugia was granted the status of a Roman colony during the short reign of Emperor C. Vibio Treboniano Gallo (251-253 AD).


Perugia’s Etruscan walls and the Etruscan Arch are remarkable examples of ancient engineering and urban planning. These structures not only highlight the city’s historical significance but also its enduring legacy as a center of Etruscan and Roman civilization. Exploring these ancient remnants offers a fascinating glimpse into the past and the sophisticated ingenuity of the Etruscans who built Perugia.

The Etruscan Arch appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Perugia!

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Visiting Etruscan Arch


24 Hours



Address: Etruscan Arch, Via Ulisse Rocchi, Perugia, Province of Perugia, Italy
Duration: 20 minutes

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