Following Perugino’s footsteps was not easy and often led to circles around Lake Trasimeno. Pietro Vanucci, known by all as Perugino, was a famous Renaissance painter who lived in the wooded villages near Lake Trasimeno in the 15th century.
Born in Citta della Pieve in Umbria around 1446, the little town lays claim to one of Perugino’s grandest works in the Chapel of Disciplanati of Città della Pieve – “An Adoration of the Magi”. This masterpiece was said to have been created around 1505 and is attributed in great part to the work by Vannucci’s pupils. His most famous pupil was the famed Raphael, who would later surpass Perugino in greatness during the High Renaissance period.
Perugino also founded the Umbrian School of Art in Perugia, (the main city of Umbria and hence, his nickname).
Perugino was best remembered for his serene and docile faces of the saints and angels poised in bucolic landscapes–a perfection of light and color.
Later in life, Perugino would be commissioned by Pope Sixtus IV to paint fresci (frescoes) on the walls of the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City (Roma), alongside Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni, commonly known as Michelangelo.
Perugino died peacefully in 1524 in Fontignano; his tomb lies in the La Chiesa dell’ Annuziata in the sleepy Umbrian hillside town.
Circling back around the lake, once again, I discovered a lovely Etruscan hilltop village called Castiglione di Lago. This quaint hamlet is said to be governed by the “law of threes” — three gates, three piazze (town squares) and three churches.
Quite by happenstance, I discovered Palazzo del Commune, (Town Hall), now a museo (museum) and gallery. Renaissance fresci adorned the main gallery and many side rooms. For only 5 euros, I was transported back in time through the heavenly fresci and commanding views that stretched over Lake Trasimeno to the distant hills of Cortona.
Palazzo del Commune is connected to Castello del Leone (Fortress of the Lion) by a long covered passageway. The fortress was erected as a strategic military outpost, high above Lake Trasimeno, in 1247 by Emperor Frederick II and has survived centuries of battles.
The only other building of particular note is an imposing cathedral at the town’s far gate. La Chiesa di Santa Maria Maddalena is unusual as it was constructed on a Greek-cross plan.
The brillant whiteness of the church is stunning as are the neo-classical pronaos and panel painted in 1580 by Eusebio da San Giorgio.
Pranza (lunch) at Paprika Ristorante was delightful, although the wines in this area were a bit disappointing.
Colli di Trasimeno is the local varietal wine, made from the Sangiovese grape, but sadly, the micro-climate was not conducive to producing great wine.
I vowed to give the local wines a second chance as I wandered into La Dispensa del Lago Norcineria where the wine tastings were only one euro. While the enoteca (wine bar) was well-stocked with a wide variety of local wines and exquisite hand-crafted olive wood bowls, fine cheeses and freshly cured meats, the wine still left something to be desired.
The local wines that I sampled in the Lago Trasimeno area had little depth and paled in comparison to the wines of nearby Montepulciano and Montalcino, which I had tasted days earlier. It was hard to believe that Sangiovese could taste so different depending on the terroir.
That being said, I headed back to Il Poggio in Celle Sul Rigo, where even the Sangiovese house red wine, Il Poggio IGT, was infinitely better!