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Report 472: Back to Uni to Learn Italian - A Month in Perugia

By Pamela R from Sydney, Australia, Fall 1998

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Page 19 of 31: Saturday 19th September - Lago Trasimeno, Isola Maggiore, Castiglione

Peter collected Margaret at 8.15 and when they returned to the Piazza Fortebraccio bus stop the rest of the contingent was already there. We numbered six, including Debbie and Roland and Maureen.

At the station we soon had our tickets, andata e ritorno, and were joined on the platform by Carolina and Alina, two delightful young Polish girls from the Secondo class, who were heading to Florence for the day. There was a minor drama when the inspector came through the train and found that they hadn’t validated their tickets. They gave him their most charming smiles and after a long pause, he spent an interminable time writing something on the back of their tickets before moving on, with an admonition not to let it happen again. Well that seemed to be the drift of what he said.

Alighting at Passignano sul Trasimeno, we crossed the tracks into town and found it was market day. Walking down the main street we browsed among the stalls and Pamela bought an old marriage certificate with beautiful writing documenting the union, in Tuoro in 1871, of Feliciano Masorri and Margherita Cortonicchi, both coloni, tenant farmers.

Cutting through to the lake’s edge, we found another stretch of market stalls, including the porchetta van where this time Peter was not about to be denied. We bought a couple of delicious seasoned roast pork rolls and, further on, some fruit which kept us going as we walked back to the ferry wharf.

We bought tickets to Castiglione del Lago on the western shore, including a stop off at Isola Maggiore. The day was beautiful – warm and sunny – so we all sat outside on the top deck and enjoyed a leisurely ride on the calm and sparkling waters of Lago Trasimeno, the fourth largest lake in Italy.

First stop was Tuoro (scene of Hannibal’s defeat of Consul Flaminius in 217 BC, where the lake was said to have run red with the blood of the 16,000 Roman soldiers killed in the battle). The battlefield extended from the village of Ossaia (place of bones) in Tuscany to Sanguineto (the bloody one).

Next stop was Isola Maggiore where we disembarked for a 20 minute wait for the connecting ferry to Castiglione. We walked along the main and only street of the town, where local women sat outside their houses doing embroidery and lace work for the tourist market while the men mended their fishing nets which were draped against the walls of the picturesque stone houses.

We would stop here for a longer time on the way back when we could do a bit of exploring – climbing up to visit the charming stone churches which we had seen from the ferry.

Castiglione was a proud-looking town, set up high on a chalky promontory beyond a stone wall rising above olive groves on the slopes from the lake’s edge. We set off up the steep, narrow lanes till we found a gate and walked along the main street with its appealing shops, suddenly realising we needed lunch. Maureen was keen for fish and chips or pizza, but we couldn’t find any such shops, though we did notice a nice looking restaurant through an imposing gate in a stone wall.

Continuing towards the 14th century castle looming ahead, we came upon a wedding party, the bride and groom posing for photographs in a pretty garden. We stopped to watch – who could help it? – and were amused when the groom suddenly darted away from his bride to assist when he became aware that we were having difficulty giving directions to some cyclists who had stopped to ask us how to reach the castle. The directions from the bridegroom involved a circuitous route necessitating entry from a completely different direction, and realising that, as we had wanted to go there too, we certainly wouldn’t have time to get there on foot (as well as having lunch), we decided to return to the nice-looking restaurant.

But not before watching the bride and groom being hoisted by the willing arms of their guests into a trailer which was towed by a four-wheel drive vehicle. The trailer was draped in red and white bunting and sported large branches of olive leaves and a bench seat for two. Safely stowed, they were driven slowly back through the town, the car horn tooting all the way and everybody waving and cheering.

Eventually we did return to the trattoria which didn’t serve pizza at lunch time but did have a leafy courtyard with a delightful outlook. The tables near the view were already occupied but we had a nice cool spot under a pergola with overhanging creeper and we enjoyed a good meal, marred only slightly by a rather curt waitress.

Returning by ferry to Isola Maggiore, we had 50 minutes to spend this time and Debbie and Pamela were keen to walk to the top and see the churches. The others opted to stay in the garden of the bar near the wharf, where Peter and Roland managed to put away a beer or two. The walk was reasonably steep and we’d been told the full circuit took two hours, however Pamela and Debbie strode off and were back with still time for a gelato before our boat arrived.

The church at the very top was the only one open. It was being renovated but one could still appreciate its beauty, and wonder at the fact that the island has three churches and apparently only about 50 inhabitants. The others were small solid stone buildings, each quite distinctive and charming in its own way. The view from the summit of the island was serene and expansive, looking out across the dense vegetation to the lake’s distant shores – with barely a sign of habitation.

Partridges pecked the ground among the old gnarled olive trees alongside the narrow path which ran between the few farmlets that make up the island.

Back at Passignano we thought about staying on for a meal but the consensus was for returning to Perugia, so after another look around the markets which still showed no signs of closing for the day, we crossed the tracks back to the station where we had a fairly long wait for the train.

By the time our bus from the station reached Piazza Italia it was 7.15 and we were all starving. We decided to check out the new pizza place just off Piazza Danti. We felt the waiters were a bit off-hand but the pizzas were great. It was very busy, with people standing in the entrance and out in the street waiting for tables, so instead of lingering, we moved on to the Irish Pub. On the way Peter tried unsuccessfully to knock over a granite block on the road and he bore the resulting bruise on his shin for ages. Apart from a few Guinness posters around the walls, it didn’t feel particularly Irish, but it seems English and Irish pubs are flavour of the month in Italy at the moment. Margaret left around 10 o’clock and we lasted another half hour before we admitted to being ready to call it a day.

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