Monday, May 4, 2015


The winter and early spring brought rain to Umbria overflowing the banks of Lago Trasimeno. The lake is quite shallow and the color of the water changes from day to day. The surface can be quiet and mirror like or churned up with wind driven white caps, all adding to it's magic. From our vantage point in Panicale the vista of  Trasimeno and the plain of agricultural land that surrounds it becomes part of our daily panorama.

This lake has a long history, some of which is rather brutal, and includes names like Hannibal, Napoleon, and The Knights of Malta.
World War II left a scar. But that is a story for another time. This is about discovering the lure of the lake.

The first few times James and I stayed in Panicale we rarely came down to the lake, we were always busy finding art in Florence, Perugia, Siena, and a long list of other places. A few years ago we began to connect to the lake spending time drawing there and visiting it's unique islands, Isola Polvese and Isola Maggiore.
Artists have always been charmed by Trasimeno. I am talking the likes of Perugino ( 1450-1523)  and his "school" that brought along Raphael. The Perugino fresco that is in the church of San Sebastiano in Panicale, clearly shows Lake Trasimeno in the painted landscape.

Martyrdom of St. Sebastian
Pietro Perugino
Chiesa San Sebastiano, Panicale.

 Somehow food always enters the picture here in Umbria. Our friends Janelle and Johnny told us about a restaurant they thought we would like in San, since their tips are always good we decided to go. Osteria Rosso di Sera is not the easiest place to find, so we all went together the first time and  James and I have returned several times since.

The Osteria is right on the lake in a marina, not for your upscale yachtsman! On this day boats were being put into the water for the season. The dining room is simple and the owners and chef are very friendly.

And the food........

Gnocchi pepe e cacio,  my choice, was a bowl of pillows tossed in a silky sauce. 

James loves burrata  and carciofi so he decided on this ravioli made with grano duro flour.

On another visit I had a lentil soup, made from  local small lentils. It was delicious.

The food here pays attention to the idea of local and seasonal and that is what is on the menu. Being on the lake, it also features "lake"fish, and their specialty is "tegamaccio" is a fish soup cooked in a crock pot, continuing in a tradition that goes back to the Etruscan civilization that inhabited this region.

Fisherman fish in small boats that dot the lake as they check their nets and weirs for the day's catch.

It is mid Spring and wisteria is in full bloom with a fragrance that lightly perfumes the air around it. Walking back to the car it is sweet.. "dolci" to walk beneath the pergola. and linger for a few minutes.
A hum of bees at work can be heard.

One thing leads to another and soon James and I find ourselves back in the car and........making a stop at a small borgo the we have heard about many time, Monte del Lago.
Following our lunch a walk through this charming lakeside town, build on the side of a hill keeps us from the urge for a nap!

The ruin of a crenulated tower of a castle ( rocca) reminds us of the lake's strategic importance. The southern side of Lago Trasimeno is largely farm land with fields that extend to the edge of the lake. On the more northern shore there are a number of small towns, like San Feliciano which is one of the towns where there is a ferry landing.  The largest town is Castiglione del Lago which dominates the western shore with its medieval  Rocca del Leone overseeing Trasimeno.......the castle or rocca thing again! 

See.....what did I tell you........" sempre salire".....always up here in Italy!

There are three islands in the lake, two of which can be visited by ferry. On a still day the ride is across the water is glorious.
Isola Maggiore is inhabited full time where some of the residents continue in the tradition of lace making.
St. Francis came to this island to spend time in reflection and prayer. Why here? Perhaps he became mesmerized by the water or the quiet broken only by bird song or wind through the trees and the isolation.

Isola Polvese does have a handful of residents, a beach and a bar. It too has a rocca and ruin of a castello. James and I have walked the trails there and spent time drawing in this quiet place.

Back in Panicale a group gathers at Bar Gallo and it is time for a Spritz and later maybe a lake view with a sunset before dinner.
The beauty of doing nothing!

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