Between Umbria and Tuscany: hills, lakes and medieval villages

Who I am
Martí Micolau
@martimicolau
SOURCES CONSULTED:

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

Author and references

Sometimes you don't need to go too far from home to spend a pleasant weekend on the road. Tuscany and Umbria, in the heart of our Italy, are two regions that have a lot to offer in terms of beauty, discovery, history, art and nature!
This diary tells of a long weekend between the province of Arezzo, in lower Tuscany, and that of Perugia, around the suggestive Lake Trasimeno. These resorts they are easily accessible from all over Italy and are absolutely perfect for a warm spring weekend with friends.
I take you with me to discover ancient medieval villages, amazing natural landscapes and mouth-watering food!

1 day

Our weekend starts from Cortona, a picturesque medieval-style village located in the province of Arezzo, in a truly strategic position: from this beautiful town you can reach many places? tourist in the province of Arezzo, Siena and Perugia; you can therefore think of using it as a convenient starting point for your trips out of town. Cortona, for ?,? much more ?!
In fact, after leaving our things at the accommodation in the late morning, we immediately set off to discover the village, which seems small but which, in reality, has many beautiful attractions to visit.
By car, we immediately go to the Eremo de Le Celle, north of the village. It is a Franciscan convent, founded by San Francesco in 1211, and restored in 1969. The complex houses the monks' lodgings, a small church, beautiful gardens and the Franciscan Cell, where the saint spent his time praying. Despite the drizzle, we were extremely impressed by the beauty, the tranquility? and from the spirituality? of the place, immersed in an enchanting natural setting, between a forest and a waterfall.
After, we moved east of Cortona to start visiting the village. There? enjoyed getting lost in the streets, alleys and squares of this part of the country, and then we took the road to the Basilica of Santa Margherita. The climb ? really tiring (and somewhat slippery in the rain) but, once we got to the top, we realized it was worth it: the outside of the church? wonderful, but the interior took our breath away! The internal walls are almost completely covered with frescoes, drawings and decorations, creating a truly unique and suggestive effect. Go and visit it, you will not regret it!
After a brief stop at the Fortress of Girifalco, we return to the car, park it on the other side of the village and enter the village through Porta Sant'Agostino, one of the many entrances obtained from the mighty and well-preserved medieval walls.
Inside the village, we immediately jump into one of the restaurants recommended by our hotelier: the Trattoria Dardano, in the street of the same name, where we tasted pici with duck sauce and Florentine steak. Then, off to the discovery of Cortona!
Despite the rain, the village there? loved it. ? It was really pleasant to walk through its cobbled streets, practically all sloping, and photograph all the hidden alleys, flanked by flower pots and colorful paintings. The heart of the country? Piazza della Repubblica, seat of the marvelous Palazzo Comunale; beside c '? Piazza Luca Signorelli, with the homonymous theater and Palazzo Casali, seat of the Museum of Etruscan art (MAEC). The main street (and perhaps the only one not sloping!)? Via Nazionale, where there are many shops, pastry shops and very nice places. At the end of the street you reach Piazza Garibaldi, from which you can enjoy an excellent view of the wonderful Tuscan countryside, the Church of San Domenico and the delightful Parterre Gardens.
In the rest of the village, there are many other attractions to visit! Among the civil buildings, there are many beautiful buildings in medieval or Renaissance style, such as Palazzo Cristofanello, Palazzo Passerini or Palazzo Vagnotti. Among the churches, however, there are two unmissable ones. The Church of San Francesco is located right in the center of the village; it was built in 1245 and adopts the classic Franciscan style, with a single, wide nave and a trussed ceiling. Inside there are various paintings and some relics of St. Francis, such as a habit and a decorated cushion.
The other unmissable church is, of course, the Duomo: the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, a little decentralized and built starting from the 6th century. The facade? gable, in Romanesque style, while the Renaissance interior? very beautiful and full of paintings. Just in front of the Duomo, don't miss the Diocesan Museum (the reduced costs only 1445 euros for two): we managed to visit it in the late afternoon, just before closing, and we didn't regret it at all! The small museum contains some wonderful works, which will surely please even non-art lovers. The first room houses the colorful and beautiful paintings by Luca Signorelli, a painter born here in Cortona in , while the next room houses a very famous Renaissance masterpiece: the Annunciation by Beato Angelico. There? that upset me more ?, however ?,? the Church of the Ges ?, a room built in the basement by the Company of the Good Jesus. The frescoed walls and ceilings will leave you speechless, sure !!
For dinner, we opted for another typical restaurant in Via Dardano, the Trattoria Toscana: local food and good wine! We ended the day with a nice walk along Via Nazionale, pleasantly lively on a Friday? evening.





2 day

Let's start the day by discovering our accommodation: we slept at the Monastero di San Silvestro farmhouse, just outside Camucia, a fraction of Cortona. I would not be able to find negative sides of this place: the building, a former monastery from the 1400s, offers a dreamlike atmosphere, with stone walls, terracotta floors and an immense and very green garden. Donato, the owner,? he was very kind and helpful throughout the weekend, and we slept very well in a place of peace and tranquility, just 5 minutes from Cortona!
To give a sprint to the day, we have a hearty breakfast at the Vannelli pastry shop in Camucia, and then we leave for Lake Trasimeno. First stop: Passignano sul Trasimeno, a pretty village on the north coast of the lake. Here, we simply wandered aimlessly through the streets and stalls of the lower part of the town, and then we climbed up the medieval village. After seeing Cortona, in my opinion Passignano appears a little neglected and less "bright" (despite the sun, finally!), But there are still enchanting views. At a cost of 5 euros for two, we entered the Rocca that dominates the town: climbing to the top, can you? enjoy a crazy view of the lake and Isola Maggiore! The Rocca also includes the Museum of Boats and a small but wonderful photographic exhibition with the lake, its flora and fauna as main subjects.
After a walk along the lakeside, pleasantly warmed by the sun, we got back into the car and moved to Castel Rigone. Notice: to reach it, it takes about 5 km of hairpin bends in the middle of the green Umbrian hills. The sight ? incredible ... but luckily I don't suffer from car sickness! :)
Castel Rigone? a village that we discovered a little by chance: a simple name on the map which, however? turned out to be one of our favorite weekend destinations. The country ? tiny, but delicious: a real gem, silent and deserted but somehow cheerful, and perfectly preserved. After a visit to the beautiful Church of the Madonna dei Miracoli (from the th century), there are no other attractions, but even just a walk through the narrow streets will vary. worth it!
Let's go back to the valley, take a trip to Magione, which doesn't excite us at all - let's just take a short walk and take some pictures at the Torre dei Lambardi - and then head towards Corciano. We start to get hungry, and more? it starts to rain: the restaurant Il Convento, housed in a former Franciscan residence of the thirteenth century, seems to us the best solution? obvious! We fill our bellies with exquisite typical Umbrian dishes, and then we visit the village.
Corciano is part of the circuit of I Borghi pi? beautiful of Italy, and I can easily understand why: after passing the imposing Porta di Santa Maria with its Torrione, it seems to be catapulted directly into the Middle Ages! The village? a continuous ups and downs, a succession of houses in stone, terracotta squares hanging on the walls, ladders that lead who knows? where, squares with white stone wells, ancient buildings, hidden and flowery corners. For me, a great lover of small villages, this place? a feast for the eyes !! In addition to strolling and admiring every corner, we took a look at the Town Hall (former residence of the Della Corgna dukes), the Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo, the Palazzo dei Priori and the Church of Santa Maria Assunta, which houses a beautiful painting of Perugino. Before leaving, we took a short walk along the Sentiero dei Mandorli, a dirt road that runs along the walls, from which you can? enjoy a beautiful view. We wasted some time playing with a really funny cat :)
Let's go back already? towards the lake, we take some panoramic photos from Montecolognola, and then we decide to circumnavigate the lake, driving along the entire southern coast. Under the rain clouds and the rays of sun that filter through, the Umbrian hills are green and very sweet, and we travel this stretch of road with great pleasure!
? now evening, the last stop of the day awaits us: the Antica Querciaiola Baths in Rapolano Terme (SI). It is a large complex consisting of two indoor pools and several outdoor pools, filled with the warm and sulphurous waters of the nearby thermal spring. On Saturday, the center? open until 01.00, and entry from 19.00 costs only 12 euros per person. We have completely abandoned ourselves to relaxation after the kilometers traveled, and were we like that? good that we also forgot to have dinner! :)



3 day

We conclude the weekend with two beautiful destinations on Lake Trasimeno: Isola Maggiore and the beautiful village of Castiglione sul lago.
In the morning, we go to Tuoro sul Trasimeno and wait for the boat which, in about 10 minutes of navigation (6 euros per person), takes us to the dock of Isola Maggiore. Again, we begin to wander a bit aimlessly: we discover that the island has the appearance of a fishing village, burned by the sun and lived on the water. The wide main street (via Guglielmi), the elderly on the benches, the wisteria above the doors of the houses, the flower pots on every step. Despite the many tourists, we seem to have landed on such an island? simple, authentic and genuine to seem almost invented!
We push ourselves along the lakefront, then we begin to climb towards the center of the island, almost completely covered by woods and olive groves, how wonderful! Between one path and another, between the shade of a tree and a slice of sun, we discover the Church of the Good Jesus, that of San Salvatore and San Michele Arcangelo (all closed!). We also discover the places that testify the passage of St. Francis, who remained on this island in solitude and prayer for an entire Lent, in 1211. You can still see the "cave" where he remained in hermitage and the shrine built at the point where he landed, as well as a statue dedicated to him. On the top of the island, c '? also the Church of San Francesco, with very ancient frescoes. We visited it for 4 euros in two: in the same ticket? including a visit to the Casa del Capitano del Popolo (which we didn't have time to see) and the Lace Museum, unfortunately visited in a hurry before returning to the mainland.
After half an hour of aimless car wandering to discover the landscape, it's time for Castiglione del Lago and the initial goal of this weekend: the Tulip Festival!
Castiglione? simply wonderful, isn't there? much to add. This also ? between the villages pi? beautiful in Italy, and to see well! We parked in the lower part of the town, took a relaxing walk along the lakefront (with a beautiful lawn where the locals play and relax), and then we started climbing towards the heart of the village. On the occasion of the Tulip Festival (admission costs 7 euros each), the entire historic center is filled with brightly colored tulip petals: decorations on the doors, windows, arcades, trees and plants, on the benches and on the walls. Here and there, small flowery art forms and, everywhere, lots of cheering people, bands and majorettes, boys wearing medieval clothes in an interesting historical reenactment. The Festival was born 50 years ago and, since then, has also included a beautiful parade of floats (one for each district) completely covered with tulip petals, which follow one another joyfully along Via Vittorio Emanuele, the main one of the village. The wagons require three months of work, but the result? amazing; in addition, this year's theme was the Disney masterpieces: I think being able to admire Dumbo, Winnie the Pooh, the Little Mermaid and others "in tulip version" is a beautiful show for anyone!
In addition to the party and despite the crowd, we also managed to visit the village itself: the mighty medieval walls overlooking the lake, the alleys, Piazza Gramsci with the gardens and the Belvedere, the nineteenth-century Church of the Maddalena with a beautiful dome and, above all, the complex of the Ducal Palace and the Rocca del Leone, which can be visited with a single ticket (5 euros). The Doge's Palace (or Della Corgna)? composed of various rooms, all one pi? beautiful of the other why? sumptuously frescoed. My favorites are the Major Hall and the Throne Room! From the building,? It is possible to pass through the narrow walkway on the walls, complete with slits, to reach the Rocca. It? composed of 5 sides of crenellated walls and dominated by the Tower, 39 meters high and with a curious triangular shape. Stroll along the walkways? beautiful, especially thanks to the wonderful view of the lake on three sides!
We ended the day on the lakeside lawn, and then enjoyed a last dinner at the La Capannina Restaurant, with very nice environments and delicious dishes based on lake fish.
It ends like this? our weekend: a short trip but full of wonders! We filled up with nature, beautiful landscapes, picturesque medieval villages and relaxation. Tuscany and Umbria really know how to do it!




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