umbria-jazz-2013Umbria Jazz held in Perugia is more of an annual happening than what you would call an out-and-out festival.

This being Italy, there’s no camping out in muddy fields or any risk of contracting e-coli; you may occasionally be hit by freak storms but the climate is generally quite reliable and much better suited to being exposed to the elements.

There are big daily concerts every evening at the Arena at Santa Giuliana. This year’s attractions include Keith Jarrett, Jan Garbarek, Marco Biondi and Gilberto Gil with the price of the best seats ranging from €45 to a whopping €120 (for Jarrett). John Legend dispensed with seating altogether and made everyone pay €40 for the privilege of watching him while standing (dancing?).

Being on a budget of €0, I ignored all of these star names, preferring the cheaper and to my mind more enjoyable experience of soaking up the lively street atmosphere downtown.

Buenas Costumbres were just one of many lively busking bands playing in Perugia and attracting audiences of all ages!

The layout of the city is perfect for a mixture of ad-hoc and pre-planned free performances.

The main drag is the promenader’s paradise of Corso Pietro Vannucci with the spectacular views from Giardini Carducci at one end and the elegant Piazza IV Novembre at the other.

Off this pedestrianized street are numerous inviting alleyways and narrow roadways. You hear music everywhere – from bars, restaurants, galleries, homes and, of course, from the buskers.

Large crowds in such a concentrated zone are famously prey to pickpockets or anti-social drinkers. Despite the very low-key police presence, I saw no evidence of either. Jazz aficionados are a different breed than rock fans, but ,even so, you might expect high spirits or opportunists to spoil the fun ; maybe I just caught the event on a good night but I get the impression this is the norm.

I have to say that most jazz still leaves me cold although in a live, open air setting on a warm, balmy evening it makes more sense.

I may even be back for number 41.