Chosen somewhat randomly as our short vacation destination, Lake Trasimeno turned out to be relaxing, interesting and fun. We had five days to spare, in mid-October, and with my family we chose to take a trip to Umbria. Come sede del nostro weekend lungo abbiamo scelto Passignano sul Trasimeno, dove abbiamo scelto l’hotel. From Passignano we then moved on to explore the towns overlooking the Umbrian body of water, with a couple of long excursions into the city of Perugia. A vacation I also recommend to those who, like me, travel with young children in tow. Between unexpected discoveries and welcome confirmations, I can say that Umbria is a family-friendly region.
Our arrival is ahead of schedule. So much was the desire to get away from it all after a busy summer of work that we decided to leave almost at dawn. It is not at all necessary: from Versilia to Passignano on Lake Trasimeno takes just over two hours, and when we arrive our room, of course, is not yet ready. We are not discouraged at all; on the contrary. We leave our luggage at the hotel and, with the car, go down to explore the country.
Actually, the car would not even be needed, except that Flavia is small and with her you have to get around in a stroller: she takes her first steps, gets tired often… From the hotel to the center of Passignano is 5 minutes. And the whole town is a little gem that, on foot, you can get around in no time.
Passignano sul Trasimeno
What we immediately like about the village is its lakefront promenade. Large, spacious, airy. La giornata è soleggiata, il cielo limpido: andiamo subito in cima al molo per ammirare la splendida vista del Lago Trasimeno. In the center we can clearly see the islands, suggestive. In the water several, sailboats and someone venturing out with the sup. And an impressive silence. Broken only, unfortunately, by the sound of a few cars passing behind on the road.
Diego and Flavia also like Passignano immediately. They find, right on the shores of the lake, a large, well-equipped and well-maintained playground. In fact, there are actually two. There is a small pedestrian alley in fact that connects two play areas full of children’s equipment. Difficult, it will be on the first morning and it will be every other time we visit the park, to be able to take the children…
A short distance from the park are two kiosks, with a smattering of tables outside. In the morning there are only a few people sitting. It will then be at cocktail hour, we will later discover, that those two small venues come alive and fill to bursting. The peace of Lake Trasimeno, in those moments, gives way to music and chatter. But the atmosphere is still quiet and pleasant. And enjoying the last rays of the sunset over the lake while sipping an aperitif is something priceless. Indeed it does, but much, much lower than the standards I am used to in Versilia or Rome. With three euros, to give an example, you get a medium beer on tap.
Passignano is one of the main villages on Lake Trasimeno. The historical part climbs the hill. Tiring, truth be told, to visit with children. High above rises the Fortress, built between 1500 and 1600 while the city center dates back even to medieval times. Beautiful view as you drive up above Passignano on the hill behind it planted largely with vines.
It is said that in the evening, when the wind ripples the surface of the lake and blows through the branches of the trees on the island, one can hear the heartbreaking wail of the nymph who is still searching for her beautiful prince.
After finishing the small morning excursion to the village, we return to the hotel. The choice fell on Villa Paradiso Village. A beautiful, 4-star facility where we stay for four nights. The hotel certainly offers its best in summer with its swimming pools, sports field, and outdoor children’s area. The days we encounter on those days are warm, but we are still talking about October so we just look at the pool from the outside.
The hotel is a large renovated and very well-maintained villa set in a park with dozens and dozens of olive trees. The cuisine – we had half board with dinner included – also satisfied us: plentiful and very good buffets, with many typical Umbrian dishes. The children enjoyed it, both the hotel and the room and the kitchen. And Flavia obviously made half the wait staff fall in love. The offer we had found is confirmed to be a good one.
In the afternoon, after a nap for the children, we returned to Passignano. Still a nice walk along Lake Trasimeno to admire the details. Like the pier from which the ferry to the islands departs and docks. The two monuments-one temporary, one permanent-that have been installed in the water: on one side a large frying pan, the attraction of a recent village festival. On the other a war memorial.
Origin of Lake Trasimeno between history and legend
The shores of Lake Trasimeno have known many peoples and have seen several battles, including the famous one between Hannibal’s Carthaginians and Roman legions in June 217 BC.
An Etruscan legend, however, places Trasimento among the ‘mysterious’ places in central Italy. In fact, it is said that the nymph Agilla was madly in love with a handsome prince, Trasimeno, son of King Tyrrhenian, whom she managed to lure with her seductive singing near Polvese Island. Here love blossomed between the two young people, who married. But their happiness lasted the time of one day. Trasimeno decided to take a bath in the lake and suddenly ended up underwater, without resurfacing. The nymph continued to search for him day after day, until, exhausted, she ended her days on a boat in the middle of the lake. It is said that in the evening, when the wind ripples the surface of the lake and blows through the branches of the trees on the island, one can hear the heartbreaking wail of the nymph who is still searching for her beautiful prince.
Day 2 and 3
On the second day we definitely change locations. We take advantage of a day off from my sister-in-law Daniela who is arriving from Rome with my two nieces Elena and Viola and my parents. A ‘reunion’ (missing only my brother who remained in Rome for work) for a special occasion: a visit to the city on Sunday. A special day that deserves its own story on DoveVado: I will write it soon.
The beautiful family day among games and animals ends back in Passignano where we meet for a sunset aperitif. Fascinating are the colors that the last rays of sunlight give as the sun goes to disappear behind Lake Trasimeno. The children, meanwhile, enjoy the double playground. In the evening they return to Rome, we go back to the hotel, exhausted but happy.
The third day of our Umbrian vacation also sees us moving away from Lake Trasimeno. And again, I will tell later about the wonderful experience I had in the city of Perugia, between the minimetro, EuroChocolate and the child-friendly technology museum.
Day 4 – Castiglione sul Lago, Isola Maggiore and… Picasso
A beautiful morning greeted our penultimate day in Umbria. We decide to visit Castiglione sul Lago early in the morning. There we find a small market and a surprise that children will enjoy. In the afternoon, after a good lunch in Passignano, we instead take the ferry to discover Isola Maggiore and its friendly inhabitants.
Castiglione on the lake
The village is very pretty. It immediately appears beautiful when you begin to glimpse it by car, built on a spur from which you can see almost the entire profile of the lake. We leave the car at a public parking lot we find at the foot of the village and set off. The climb is made less difficult by the presence of a few market stalls. But the (relative) effort is worth the show. In fact, at the top of the town is its main tourist attraction, the Lion Rock.
It is a fortress erected by Emperor Frederick II of Swabia in the first decades of the 1200s on the remains of an older building, accompanied by a parish church, dedicated to Sts. Philip and James, of which only a few ruins remain. The real stronghold consists of the extreme appendage of the rampart, the last fortification. We do not miss the opportunity to visit it. And we do well because for me and my wife the show is unique, and the children have a great time. Indeed, one passes from one side of the buildings to the other either by external balustrades or through the tunnels built within the walls of fortifications. “Dad, can I run here?”, Diego immediately asked when he was confronted with a long brick tunnel. With him, imagining having to defend ‘the castle’ we had fun and how.
If that was not enough inside we also found a display of works (vases, plates) by Picasso. And, again to the delight of the children, a room where they could delight in expressing their art with markers and pencils directly on the walls. “Dad, can I really write on the wall?” asked Diego in amazement, before letting himself go….
Having finished visiting Castiglione, a place that will remain in my heart and in which I indulged with photos, we returned to Passignano for lunch. Then we take the ferry to the Big Island. The price of the ticket is repaid if only by the view of Passignano from the lake, the panorama offered by the islands that you slowly approach, and the spectacle of the seagulls that follow the boat throughout the journey.
The first records of the Isola Maggiore date back to 817, when Emperor Ludwig the Pious (813-840) granted the city of Perugia and Lake Trasimeno with its three islands (Maggiore, Minore, Polvese) to Pope Paschal I: in 1117, its inhabitants came under the direct protection of Perugia
The island is very small. According to official data, 14-15 people live there. But if you talk to any of them they actually explain that in the evening many take the last ferry back to land. There are two small kiosks, historic villas and churches (some of them accessible and very beautiful, overlooking the lake), a small B&B. And narrow streets overlooked by fishermen’s houses, with their nets left out in the open to dry. The special feature of the island is that it is walked around, and to roam free there are various animals, and especially numerous pheasants. Of course, the children spent the time chasing the birds from one street to another, and the day passed in merriment.
So the return, again by ferry, this time with the colors of the sunset to greet us as we headed back toward Passignano.
Day 5 – Torricella, San Feliciano, Umbertide
The vacation is drawing to a close, and after days spent back and forth we decide to take it easy. In the morning we go not far from Passignano. We visit both San Feliciano and Torricella, two small villages that at first glance, even from the well-stocked boathouse and marina, appear to be villages predominantly inhabited by fishermen or enthusiasts of boating on the calm waters of the lake. Perhaps in summer it comes alive a bit: we barely found an open bar for breakfast. But it is a beautiful day, and we enjoy a long walk along the lake’s banks and the view from the pier over the lake.
The landscape is postcard-like, or rather picture-like. Hanging from the trees, we actually find a frame: the picture inside is the lake view itself. We also note another curiosity: the lakefront is adorned with many small objects–benches, chairs–made from recycled materials while plants are contained in old boots repurposed as pots–heartier.
In the afternoon we move to Umbertide. A very pretty town, which we reach after almost an hour’s drive (passing through very beautiful landscapes), whose first settlement, on the banks of the Tiber River, dates back as far as the Bronze Age. It is precisely the presence of the Tiber, as a Roman, that intrigued me and prompted me to go and see this country. The city proper was built between the 9th and 10th centuries, under the name Fratta: its present name was given to it under the reign of Umberto of Savoy. The village is full of small stores, bars and restaurants. A true urban center, pleasant to walk around. There is no shortage of history and art, however, with the central Palace taking center stage. What intrigued us, however, was the convenient and easy walkway recently built on some tributaries of the Tiber River.
Walking, even with the stroller with no problem, we reached the confluence with the river that passes through Rome, through a well-maintained nature trail, amidst the old houses of Umbertide still inhabited today.
The walk actually continued for several more kilometers, but it was getting late for us, and it was time to go back. A return with a promise: we will be back!