Sunday, 30 June 2013

Visiting Lake Trasimeno from Borgo di Vagli

A few weeks ago, I outlined some of the many attractions of the Val d'Orcia. Another excursion popular with our hamlet owners is visiting Lake Trasimeno from Borgo di Vagli. So, today, a few pointers on what to include on a trip to the lake and its environs.

Visiting Lake Trasimeno
View of out over Lake Trasimeno
Firstly, I have to say that we are very lucky to have such a large lake near Borgo di Vagli - indeed, Lake Trasimeno is the largest lake in Italy outside of the northern Italian Lakes District. It's only slightly smaller in area than the Lake of Como but of course much shallower and therefore with murkier water. For this reason, the lake is not suitable for swimming nor for strolling along the shore which consists mostly of reedy marshlands. The accessible parts of the shoreline can be crowded in summer. My recommendation is therefore to visit some of the charming villages on the hillsides above the lake by car and to enjoy the beautiful panoramic views out over the lake.

By the way, Lake Trasimeno is not only a destination for the views, cool breezes and enjoyable villages, it's also of significance to history buffs. During the Second Punic War, the Battle of Lake Trasimeno (Trasimene) took place here on the 21st of June, 217 BC (April in the Julian calendar). Hannibal's Carthaginians defeated the Romans led by the consul Gaius Flaminius in one of the largest and most successful ambushes in military history. In less than four hours, the Roman army was annihilated. When you visit the battle site near Passignano, take a good guide book to help conjure up the past!

Back to the present. Of the towns on or near the lake, my favorites are Castiglione del Lago and Panicale.
Castiglione del Lago and Lake Trasimeno
Castiglione del Lago and Lake Trasimeno
Castiglione del Lago has almost intact town walls and is dominated by the ruins of its massive castle, the Castello del Leone, built for the Emperor Frederick II by Elia di Cortona and finished in 1247. The town has an atmospheric piazza and a surprising number of Umbrian food speciality shops. The views out over the lake from the top of the castle tower are worth the climb! Not surprisingly, Castiglione del Lago has been elected to the club of most beautiful towns in Italy and is also a member of the Città Slow movement.

On the slopes of the surrounding hills, not far away from Castglione del Lago, are Panicale and its neighbour, Paciano. Panicale is a well-known Umbrian destination while Paciano is described by the guide books as "without interest". I beg to disagree! Both Panicale and Paciano are well worth a visit, the latter not least for its over-the-top 14th Century Chiesa della Concezione e di S. Giuseppe. Inside the gates of Panicale, two or three concentric streets spiral in to the Piazza Grande. Although documented as early as 907, Panicale in its current forms dates from the 15th Century when it came under the sway of Pope Martin V. The best starting point for visiting Panicale is the Church of Saint Sebastian which houses Perugino's very beautiful fresco of Martyrdom of Saint Sebastian. This fresco takes up the entire rear wall of the Church. The landscape with lake in the background of the painting is the same as that visible from outside the church and is very similar to the background of Perugino's Adoration in Città della Pieve not far away to the southwest. Panicale is also home to the charming Teatro Caporali, dating from 1690 and one of the smallest theatres in Italy.

Panicale near Lake Trasimeno
View over Panicale towards Lake Trasimeno
More castles are located all around Trasimeno, many in the centre of small towns while others are isolated and in ruins. In addition to Castiglione del Lago, Passignano, as well as the islands of Magione, Maggiore, and Polvese are all the location of picturesque castles, while the Castello di Zocco, the Castello di Montali and others are situated on hilltops overlooking the lakes.

There are numerous restaurants and trattorie dotted through the little lakeside towns. Among them are some real gems and, in general, value for money is better than one might anticipate in such a popular area.

The nearest part of Lake Trasimeno is about 25 minutes by car from Borgo di Vagli.

Lago Trasimeno

Borgo di Vagli restored mediaeval hamlet in Tuscany
Borgo di Vagli has been authentically restored as a Tuscan vacation hamlet. The residences can be bought in the form of fractional ownerships, making a holiday home in Tuscany possible at modest cost.

Fulvio Di Rosa
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