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Saturday 18 May 2024
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The Old Town and the Surrounding Area

Passignano sul Trasimeno

Palio delle barche
An early Etruscan settlement, this town later came under the influence of Rome. But the importance of Passignano sul Trasimeno grew in the centuries since it was along the obligatory route from the north to Rome itself. The Gauls passed here on their way to sack Rome, as did Hannibal after his victory over Caius Flaminius at Lake Trasimene in 217BC. And so on with the Goths, the Longobards an dthe Byzantines, until eventually this area came under the dominion of Perugia in roughly 1000AD, when the city state was looking to extend its borders at the expense of nearby Chiusi.

***image3right***Originally built by the Londobards, the fortress dates back to the 5th or 6th century and functioned as the nucleus of a much larger castle that grew in three different moments to such proportions that it extended to the water’s edge. Today there remains only the 14th century triangular clock tower, some of the bastions and large sections of walls. In 1488 this castle was the setting for the concluding episode in a long and bloody feud between the Oddi and the Della Corgna families, an event that is still remembered today in the Palio delle Barche in the last Sunday of July. Driven out of Perugia, the Oddi took refuge at the castle of Passignano. When the Baglioni and Della Corgna families besieged the fortress, the family attempted to escape on boats that had been sent for their rescue from the islands. When the boats sent by the islanders were driven off the shore by the troops of the besieging families, the Oddi had no choice but to opt for the less dignified solution of sneaking out of the castle carrying their own boats on their shoulders.

Veduta dal pontile
The churches in town worth visiting are the late-15th century San Bernardino, which has a particularly fine sandstone doorway, and the 17th century oratory of San Rocco, which also boasts an unusual double doorway in sandstone. San Cristoforo, next to the cemetary, dates back as far as the 10th century, even though it underwent considerable modifications in the 19th century. The walls of the nave are decorated with a cycle of frescoes by various local artists from between the 11th and 14th century.

Along the road to Tuoro, which runs next to the town, stands the sanctuary of the Madonna dell’Uliveto. Consecrated in the early 17th century, the building was erected on the ruins of the previously existing monastery of San Vincenzo, to honour a sacred image of the Madonna with Child and Two Angels attributed to Bartolomeo Caporali. The sanctuary contains a fine holy water trough by Ascanio da Cortona (1602), as well as some canvases by Salvio Savini and Virgilio Nucci. The majestic corinthian altar, with its polychrome marble decorations, is by the Cortona artist Mariotto Radi. The sacristy contains a collection of fine church furnishings.

In the following valley, still along the road towards Tuoro, an imposing avenue lined with cypress trees turns off the main road and leads to the Fattoria del Pischiello. This villa was built by order of the Marchese Uguccione Ranieri-Bourbon di Sorbello, in the 18th century, in the middle of the vast tracts of land that once belonged to the fortified manor of Bastia Corgna. The manor and its land had been created in the 14th century by Perugia, as a defence for its northern borders. The villa itself takes its name from the water spring that supplies water to the large tank beneath the entrance stairway. Behind the villa there is a small hamlet for the serfs who worked on the land. There is the house of the farmer, the blacksmith, the oil mill and the chapel of San Damiano.

Coming along the highway from Perugia-Magione, exit at Torricella and follow the road to the turning for Castel Rigone.

Ruderi Terme Romane
The Romanesque church of San Vito is not far off. The church stands against an unusual bell tower, perhaps once a Byzantine signalling tower. Not far off there are some ruined Roman baths.

The road then winds upwards towards the town of Castel Rigone itself, at 653 metres above sea level. Once a powerful fortress, today there remains the main tower along with three bastions, a good section of walls and two of the entrance gates.

In mid August there is the Giostra di Arrigo, the only event of its kind in Italy to be held in Gothic dress. A lieutenant of the Goth king Totila, Arrigo (or Rigo, hence Rigone) used the castle as a base for his siege of Perugia in 547.

Maria Santissima dei Miracoli
But Castel Rigone is better known for the church of the Madonna dei Miracoli sanctuary, built in 1494 by the Comune of Perugia in thanks for the miracles allegedly performed by the image of the Madonna during the 1463 and 1475 outbreaks of plague. The building is considered one of the masterpieces of Umbrian Renaissance architecture, marred only by the ungraceful bell tower that was built in the 19th century to replace the former tower that had been destroyed in an earthquake. The entrance and half moon window are by Domenico Bertini da Settignano (1512). The broad nave is lined with four altars. Above the second altar to the left is the “Incoronation of the Virgin”, painted by artists in the workshop of Caporali. The “Madonna of the Rosary” on the right hand altar is by the Florentine artist Bernardo di Girolami Rosselli (1558). Two elegant stone chapels fill the arms of the transept. The left hand chapel contains the 14th century “Madonna with Child” that allegedly performed the miracles during the plague. The right hand chapel contains a wooden crucifix that has been worked into a fresco attributed to Bernardino di Lazzaro da Perugia (1528), which acts as a magnificent backdrop to the imposing painting of the “Adoration of the Magi” (1528-1534) by Domenico Alfani.

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