The storms promised happened in the early hours and so by the morning, despite the low clouds in the valley, it promised to be a sunny day. We decided to visit Castiglione del Lago and the town was busy with groups of American and British tourists. It is a shame we missed the Picasso ceramics exhibition earlier last month, at the local museum, as it looked really interesting. It is a pretty little town but the shops are aimed at visitors with numerous delicatessens and wine bars offering tastings of local wild boar salamis and Chiantis, interspersed with boutiques and jewellers.
As lunchtime approached we continued our drive around the lake to Passignano del Lago and a fish restaurant recommended by someone we met at a recent wedding. The restaurant, Da Lucciano, turned out to be quite a posh and expensive affair but my starter of three sashimi style appetizers with sauces was so fresh and tasty. For my main course it had to be the poached turbot. The restaurant was directly across from the quay where boats to the two islands on Lake Trasimeno leave. It was a beautiful sunny afternoon so we decided to see if after lunch we could enjoy a leisurely boat trip. Luckily the ferry was waiting at the quay so we jumped aboard and the half hour cruise stopped along the lakeside, went around the small island of Isola Minore and then finally docked at Isola Maggiore.
We climbed to the top of the island and the tiny church established by St Francis of Assisi. This tiny, simple building had been used as a plague hospital during the 17th century where victims were sent from the mainland. The walls were limewashed during this time and it was only in recent times that restoration and the careful removal of this white layer has revealed incredible 13-14th century frescoes. Much has not survived but the survivors are so beautiful and the colours vivid that this tiny building must have been quite a special place of worship despite its remoteness.
We followed the path back down the hill to the other side of the island and Daisy dog had several swims in the lake to cool off. Lake Trasimeno is a fresh water lake fed by rivers and streams but does not have an outlet (it is endorheic, for the geology geeks).
An ice cream at the port and then time to catch the return ferry. Some 35 people actually live on the island which must be quite remote out of the tourist season. The island’s only town reached its height in the 14th century, after the establishment of a Franciscan Monastery is 1328. Most of the towns buildings date from this period.
By the 1800s the town had a population of 700 and was in decline. Many properties are holiday houses and we were pleased to see that several buildings were being restored and hopefully the island doesn’t become entirely fossilised.
The journey back to Passignano across the lake as the sun set was like a summer’s evening and so we stopped at Panicale on the way home to get a perfect view over the lake and surrounding countryside. Panicale was gearing up for their music and opera festival. The town is tiny and the theatre really small but if we can still get tickets it would be a great opportunity. Sadly all tickets were sold so maybe next year.