Passignano sul Trasimeno is a hamlet located right on the shore of Lake Trasimeno. The area was inhabited by the Etruscans and the Romans, and it was where the troops of Hannibal stopped (217 BC) to finish off the Roman troops previously defeated in the battle of the Trasimeno. Other population such as the Goths and the Byzantines battled for the control of this territory.
This borgo (hamlet) in the northern Trasimeno riviera is often a favourite for visitors. Placed on a steep promontory sloping down towards the lake, it is protected by a series of hills where vineyards and olive trees grow naturally and extensively. Throughout history the castle of Passignano contended for a higher relevance with Perugia's but eventually had to give in. In Passignano the signs left by history are clearly visible and it's important to find them as these themselves reveal phases of its formation which began with the construction of the fortress and continued until the 20th century when, stimulated by the establishment in 1923 of the Society Italian Air Force, large parts of the shores were built on and then converted into shipyards.
The inhabitants of Passignano like to link their village’s origins to the god Janus. In reality the toponym does not come from the existence of a "sign of Janus", rather from the Latin person Passinius (or Passenius), a landowner who owned a villa in the current territory of the hamlet during Roman times.
Once in town you could start your tour from the new parish church facing the lake; you enter the historic center to reach the sixteenth-century former oratory of San Rocco, with Renaissance forms and an unusual double door. After, you'll run into the former church of San Bernardino, one with a 1573 sandstone façade overlapping the oratory of the Santissimo Sacramento, to form a single building. At the top of the village is the fortress, probably of Lombard origin (5th-6th century). It was the first nucleus from which the subsequent castle expanded from, to later reach the shores of the lake. Long sections of this structure’s walls are preserved, along with the fourteenth-century triangular tower of the west (which later became the clock tower) and the remains of the round ramparts. The fortress, now restored, houses the museum of Italian inland waters. From the tower, 22 meters high, you can see the whole territory up to Tuscany.
The sanctuary of Maria Santissima of Castel Rigone, erected at the end of the fifteenth century following a miracle, also makes for a nice visit: it has a sandstone façade marked by horizontal bands, embellished by the major and minor door and the rose window.
During the last week of July, the Palio delle Barche every year recalls the struggle between the Baglioni and Oddi families of Perugia at the turn of the Middle Ages and Renaissance and it does so with a boat race, open taverns, and fire and fireworks by the old castle and the lake. The town gets busy and it is a great time for trying out the restaurants and their lake fish dishes.
Cover photo credits © iStock/monteggia
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