Do you want to visit this wonderful lake, but don’t know which things are worth your attention? Follow me and I will help you understand what to see at Lake Trasimeno!
Between the green hills of Umbria and the lush valleys of Tuscany lies the wonderful Lake Trasimeno. It is a little-known pleasant place, set in the green and populated by exceptional flora and fauna, making it the ideal place for excursions and cultural visits.
This is a lake of tectonic origin in the province of Perugia in Umbria, bordering the Val di Chiana and very close to the Val d’Orcia (declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site), both in Tuscany. It has got a surface area of about 128 km² and is in fact the largest lake in central Italy! The same cannot be said of its depth, which is scarce, suffice it to say that the deepest point barely reaches six metres.
The area around the lake has been inhabited since prehistoric times. It was also part of Etruscan territory and during the period of Roman rule was the scene of the Battle of Lake Trasimene, where General Hannibal Barca defeated Roman legionaries in 217 BC.
The name of the lake has uncertain origins. There are three hypotheses, one of which is based on a legendary love story. The protagonists are Agilla, a nymph of the lake, and Trasimeno, a prince son of the Etruscan king Tirreno.
The Trasimeno legend
Legend has it that the young nymph with her singing attracted the prince to the centre of the lake and here the two fell in love and shortly afterwards married. But their happiness was short-lived, for while Trasimeno was bathing in the lake, watched by Agilla from the shore, he suddenly disappeared under the waters, without re-emerging.
The beloved searched for him on every boat, but shortly afterwards, exhausted, she died on a boat in the middle of the lake, right where the two had fallen in love. From that day on, the lake was named after the prince who lost his life there. It is said that the breeze flying over the sea, when listened to, reminds one of Agilla’s lament, still searching for her love. While, when the lake ripples and a wave threatens to capsize the boats, the nymph is said to believe she has found her Trasimeno.
It is certainly a very fanciful story, but I hope you enjoyed it! Turning instead to more probable hypotheses, the name of Lake Trasimeno could derive from a gift Tirreno gave to his son or from the geographical position of the lake itself. In fact, Trasimeno means “beyond Mount Imeno”, a name given in pre-Roman times to the mountain bordering the lake to the north.
Among the attractions of Lake Trasimeno, there are its three islands or, in order of size: the Isola Polvese, Isola Maggiore and Isola Minore.
Furthermore, to enhance the wonderful landscapes of Lake Trasimeno, the Lago Trasimeno Regional Park was founded in 1995. Today, it is the habitat of many species of birds, amphibians, fish and reptiles. The area includes the municipalities of Castiglione del Lago, Magione, Passignano, Tuoro and Panicale.
So, follow me because in this virtual tour I will help you understand what to see at Trasimeno Lake! We will analyse its surroundings, charming villages and every activity worthy of note, not forgetting of course the food and wine!
This place lends itself to a day trip, a weekend or a longer holiday, whether with family, friends or a couple… It is suitable for all needs!
What to see at Lake Trasimeno?
My itinerary starts with the magical islands, then continues with the enchanting villages overlooking the lake and the most exciting activities that this wonderful stretch of water can offer. I will give you all the advice you need to enjoy this spectacular place. Let’s cut the chatter, it’s time to begin!
When visiting Lake Trasimeno, its beautiful islands are definitely at the top of the bucket list, and I’ ll tell you about them now. Remember that there are convenient ferries to reach the Trasimeno islands in the main towns.
1. Polvese Island
It is the largest island on Lake Trasimeno and is part of the Trasimeno Regional Park. For this reason, it offers visitors lush nature, characterised by millenary olive groves and a great variety of animal species. But there are also a large number of attractions, such as the Rocca, built in the past for the defence of the island’s inhabitants, the Church of San Giuliano, a small church dating back to the 11th century, or the Porcinai pool, a pool surrounded by a garden composed of small pools, called nymphaeums, where a wide variety of aquatic plants grew. Finally, we find the monastery of San Secondo, located on the top of the island. Today, only the outer walls of this Romanesque complex, originally occupied by Olivetan monks, remain. The monastery is currently under renovation, so it is not possible to access it.
2. Isola Maggiore
It is the only inhabited island among the three and offers visitors a number of amazing attractions, such as the Guglielmi Castle, now under restoration, the Church of San Salvatore, the Church of San Michele Arcangelo, and finally the Chapel of San Francesco with the Saint’s bed inside. Incidentally, an interesting curiosity concerns St. Francis of Assisi: the Isola Maggiore was a place dear to him, where he stayed and meditated during Lent in 1211.
3. Isola Minore – “the little island”
This island is currently uninhabited. It was populated until the 15th century, but then the inhabitants, tired of the constant raids by marauders, moved to the mainland. Today, this island is private, belonging to the Counts Baldeschi of Perugia, and cannot be visited. Among other things, it does not even have a proper pier for mooring or regular ferries connecting it to the mainland.
The Picturesque Villages
1. Passignano sul Trasimeno
It stands on a promontory on the northern shore of Lake Trasimeno and is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.
The Rocca was built in the Middle Ages, while the surrounding settlement developed in modern times, between 1500 and 1600. Having withstood even the Second World War, the Rocca offers the public a panoramic view of Lake Trasimeno and the surrounding hills… A beautiful sight! The Rocca also houses the Museum of Boats (Museo delle Barche), where boats from Lake Trasimeno are exhibited.
Perfect for a romantic stroll is instead the lakeside promenade of Passignano, which offers visitors numerous activities to spend a wonderful day!
This wonderful village consists of a part on the plains, Vernazzano Basso, and Vernazzano Alto, which lies on the northern hills of Lake Trasimeno.
This hamlet is known for its Torre Torta. Also called the Leaning Tower of Vernazzano, this tower tilted sharply in 1750, following an earthquake. Today it still remains in that position, supported by metal cables… An incredible sight, I assure you!
The tower can be reached via a path starting from the old part of the village.
3. Castiglione del Lago
This small town is surrounded by medieval walls with three gates: Perugina, Senese and Fiorentina. In 1247, the medieval Rocca (“fortress”), also called Rocca del Leone, was built. Today it is one of the most interesting examples of Umbrian architecture from the Middle Ages. Over time, the inner space of the Rocca was used as an amphitheatre for open-air shows and cinemas, while the patrol path offers a splendid view over the lake. Another beautiful attraction is the Palazzo Della Corgna dating back to 1560: the only small “royal palace” in Umbria. Today, the rooms host temporary exhibitions of modern and contemporary art, as well as some of the Etruscan remains that have been found in the area.
We now move to the north-west of Umbria, to Magione, a small village dominated by the majestic Castle of the Knights of Malta. It is remembered for the spectacular sunsets that can be admired from the eastern shore of Lake Trasimeno.
The Castle of the Knights of Malta is the main attraction of the place. It is, in fact, one of the most beautiful places in the region. Perfectly preserved, it can only be visited by appointment and has got a splendid inner courtyard where many cultural events take place.
The ancient Lambardi Tower, erected between the 12th and 13th centuries by the Knights of Jerusalem as a defence system, is also worth a visit. It stands high above the city and offers a splendid panorama.
5. San Feliciano
Until not so long ago it was a fishing village, now it offers tourists the chance to visit the Fishing Museum, dedicated to the history and ancient fishing activities typical of the lake. This is also the perfect place for exciting walks along the lakefront at sunset… It is so beautiful that San Feliciano has been nicknamed Sunset Country.
6. Torricella, Monte del Lago & San Savino
Starting from Torricella, a hamlet of Magione, it occupies a particularly strategic area within the lakeside territory that always attracts many tourists. On the other hand, Monte del Lago was built overhanging Lake Trasimeno, making it a truly exciting place with breathtaking views! Today, among other things, the walls built in the 14th century are still visible.
Lastly, San Savino stands just a few metres from San Feliciano. It is a typical medieval village that still preserves its castle and tower from that time.
7. Tuoro sul Trasimeno
Situated between Umbria and Tuscany, it is a medieval village overlooking the northern shores of Lake Trasimeno. In this magical village, you can admire the Palazzo della Capra and the Church of Santa Maria Maddalena, both very beautiful structures! In addition, Piazza Garibaldi is home to a museum, which is the Documentation Centre on the Battle of Trasimeno and Hannibal. This is a place absolutely worth visiting, to remember a very important event that marked the entire Trasimeno area!
While visiting this corner of Umbria, you absolutely must include these villages, because they are truly special!
Visiting Lago Trasimeno and its surroundings
Now let’s talk about Lake Trasimeno and its surroundings:
Panicale is a municipality in the province of Perugia. It stands on a hill at the foot of Mount Petrarvella in the Roman Val di Chiana, between the Trasimeno Lake valley and the Nestore Valley. You should know that Panicale is one of Italy’s most beautiful villages and is also famous for its Fishing Museum, a place suitable for adults and children alike, to discover many techniques and stories surely unknown to many.
Città della Pieve
If you are visiting Lake Trasimeno and the surrounding area, this stop is a must! Città della Pieve is a fortified village located a short distance from Tuscany and Lake Trasimeno. Because of its strategic location, in the past it guarded the border between Perugia and Siena from its hilltop position. In fact, you can enjoy a great panorama from here! At the beginning of the 14th century, the Rocca was built to house a military garrison, which can still be visited today and is clearly visible in the centre of the town.
Its position makes it the destination of an important tourist flow, especially in summer, on the occasion of the Palio dei Terzieri. This event re-enacts processions and challenges between the various factions of the town, including a bull hunt (obviously in a non-bloody form) with bow and arrows.
It is a small medieval village set in an area rich in woods, olive groves and vineyards, founded by the Romans in 290 BC. In the historic centre of the village, one can admire the Antica vetreria di Piegaro (Old Piegaro Glassworks), home to the Piegaro Glass Museum. It testifies to the importance of this activity, present since the Middle Ages and still a fundamental resource for the village’s economy. Also worthy of note are the Church of San Silvestro and the Church of the Madonna della Crocetta.
Moving on to the village of Paciano, also included among the “Most Beautiful Villages in Italy”, this medieval town is located on Mount Petrarvella, where in ancient times there was a temple consecrated to the god Janus. In fact, it is to the god Janus that, according to some historians, the origin of the name can be traced: “peace of Janus”.
In the historic centre, we find the ancient Palazzo Baldeschi, seat of TrasiMemo, the “memory bank” of the Trasimeno trades… A truly original place!
The most beautiful churches in the area include the Church of Santa Maria, dating back to 1014, and the Church of San Giuseppe, which houses a Madonna della Misericordia, a painting dating back to the late 15th century by Fiorenzo di Lorenzo.
It is the “Land of Painted Walls”! You might be wondering why this nickname… It all started with a man who, in order to combat the depopulation of the town, created an open-air museum, a town characterised by murals and frescoes, now considered true works of art. It is a truly suggestive place that I recommend you visit if you are around Lake Trasimeno!
In addition to the painted walls, there is also the town’s castle, which is also very fascinating to visit.
Montepulciano, a municipality in the province of Siena in Tuscany, could not be omitted from the list of charming towns in the Trasimeno area. We find it straddling the Valdichiana and the Val d’Orcia.
The town has got Etruscan origins and a long history to tell. In particular, its lands are so rich that they have given birth to one of the best known and most consumed wines in Italy, the Vino Nobile di Montepulciano DOCG. It is the perfect place to enjoy nature, its fruits and fragrances… Here you can walk among the vineyards that give life to this magnificent wine!
To conclude our tour of Lake Trasimeno and its surroundings we find Cortona, a municipality in the province of Arezzo, Tuscany.
If you find yourself in this wonderful medieval town, you cannot fail to stop and visit the beautiful Cortona Cathedral, the town’s main place of worship. However, there are numerous churches in the small historic centre: among these are the Basilica di Santa Margherita, dedicated to the town’s patron saint, and the Church of San Francesco.
What to do at Trasimeno Lake?
The activities available in the area are truly endless… So if you’re wondering what to do at Lake Trasimeno, I’ll help you!
Starting with a visit to the picturesque villages mentioned above, to the castles and historical artefacts preserved, or to the art collections that can be visited (such as the works of art by Perugino), this place is also perfect for nature and photography lovers, with the many panoramic viewpoints it offers!
In addition to all this, there are also several activities that can be done in the lake, such as fishing or water sports.
Lake Trasimeno also has got some wonderful beaches, characterised by fresh green grass, perfect for picnics or aperitifs overlooking the lake. Here are some of the best-known names:
- Caloni beach
- Sualzo beach
- Zocco beach
- La Merangola sports beach
These are wonderful places, suitable for both adults and families with children!
If you are a nature lover, you absolutely must know one thing: in the area of Lake Trasimeno you will find the Oasi la Valle, a protected nature reserve with various animal species, especially migratory birds. Guided tours or workshops for children are organised here, but there is also the possibility to do activities such as birdwatching or excursions of different kinds!
Another nature activity I recommend is visiting the islands, thanks to the ferries provided by the municipalities.
When deciding what to see at Lake Trasimeno, I recommend including these outdoor activities to fully experience its nature.
Fear not… if you are a sports lover, I have not forgotten you! Among the sporting activities that Lake Trasimeno offers are hiking (also among the vineyards), truffle hunting, walks, which can also be done by bicycle or on horseback, Vespa tours, and water sports such as sailing or kayaking. In addition, there is a beautiful cycle path surrounded by greenery… Here you can fully breathe in the scents of nature!
Food & Wine
Umbrian food and wine is famous throughout Italy for its goodness, but it is not only meat-based… In fact, here lake fish is the undisputed protagonist! These include the Regina in porchetta, i.e., queen carp stuffed and cooked on a spit as if it were porchetta, and the Tegamaccio, a special fish soup that takes its name from the terracotta pot in which it is prepared.
In addition, the area has always been cultivated with vineyards and olive groves, and its products include extra virgin olive oil, certified and guaranteed by the PDO Umbria mark and the geographical mention “Colli del Trasimeno”. While speaking of wines, Colli del Trasimeno DOC wine seems to have been around since Etruscan times!
In fact, the territory is crossed by the “Strada del Vino Colli del Trasimeno” (Trasimeno Hills Wine Road). The route is divided into four tourist itineraries, where, in addition to the wineries, it is possible to get to know the area around the lake.
It is clear, therefore, that Lake Trasimeno, for its wonderful places as well as its food and wine, lends itself perfectly to Umbrian cooking courses, picnics, lunches and dinners in the vineyards, visits to wineries and many other activities!
In short, there are many activities and I hope I have answered your question about what to do at Lake Trasimeno.
Here are some of the most important events in the area:
- The Palio delle Barche: held in the last week of July in Passignano. This event re-enacts the last act of hostilities between the Baglioni and Oddi noble families of Perugia.
- The Trasimeno Blues Festival: in the municipality of Castiglione del Lago from 20 to 24 July, five intense days of music and culture will enliven the historic centre.
- The Tulip and Spring Festival: from 18 April to 1 May in Castiglione del Lago, there is a parade with floats decorated with tulip petals.
How to get to and around Lake Trasimeno
There are several ways to reach Lake Trasimeno and its beautiful surroundings: by car, by train as there are several railway stations in the towns near the lake, or by plane thanks to Perugia airport.
Once near the lake here you can move around by bicycle or by means provided by the municipality such as buses or ferries.
My virtual tour ends at this point, I think I have given you all the information you need to organise your trip in Umbria… So, now that you know what to see at Lake Trasimeno, run off and book!
Have fun 😉