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Rock of Polvese Island

Isola Polvese and its fortress

Set in Lake Trasimeno, Isola Polvese is the largest of its three islands. It holds an authentic treasure of historical monuments and natural landscapes.

To reach it, visitors can board one of the regular ferries that leave from Castiglione del Lago and San Feliciano.

Once on the island, it is possible to explore it on foot along dirt roads that pass through olive groves and holm oak groves, skirting lake reeds, where coots and herons can be seen. We recommend devoting at least half a day to visiting its fortress, the Porcinai Pool, the monastery of S. Secondo and the church of S. Giuliano, and then enjoying a gastronomic break, with a marvellous view of the lake, with a picnic in one of the specially equipped areas near the beach or at one of the restaurants.

The island represents an example of environmental management according to sustainability criteria and since 1995 has been a didactic-scientific park within the Trasimeno Regional Park. For culture lovers, it is known for the science festival “L’isola di Einstein” (Einstein’s Island).

Those who decide to leave the island at sunset on one of the evening ferries can enjoy an exciting sunset, now famous among tourists, amidst the red of the sky and lake and birds soaring overhead.

The history of Isola Polvese

The island was explored by the Etruscans and inhabited by the Romans, as shown by some archaeological evidence. The most significant is the example of walls in Opus Reticolatum, which can be admired in front of the Church of San Giuliano.

The origin of the name “Polvese” is traced back to Etruscan-Roman times, from the mythological story of the tragic love between the nymph Agilla and Prince Trasimeno, who are said to lie at the bottom of the lake, having the island as a cushion (“pulvinar”), or more probably from the word “polvento”, indicating a sailing area sheltered from the wind.

In the Middle Ages it came under the protection of the Municipality of Perugia, by decision of its 500 or so inhabitants, and the famous fortress was built. This comprises five towers connected by a walkway and a sixth tower, which in the past gave direct access to the lake.

It was built merely as a defence for the population; in fact, it did not have the structure of a lordly residence, although for a brief period, before the occupation by the Grand Duchy of Tuscany in 1643, it was the seat of the governor of the lake.

It was used as a military garrison and refuge to defend both the population and the Olivetan monks settled on the island. Still visible today, in the keep, are the machicolations used to defend against assailants by throwing, perhaps, boiling oil, as was the custom at the time.

In the 17th century, the island went into a phase of decline: malaria and the humid climate forced the Olivetan monks to leave the monastery even before the 1643 occupation by the troops of the Grand Duchy of Tuscany.

Numerous structures were destroyed and the Polvese island, which by then had a small number of inhabitants, began to pass into the hands of various noble families. In the 19th century, Count Pianciani di Spoleto created a hunting reserve there, rich in pheasants and hares, and organised hunting parties attended by all the Umbrian and Roman nobility. In 1939, the new owner, Biagio Biagiotti, built several buildings and planted his numerous olive trees.

Today it is a “Wildlife Protection Oasis”, owned by the provincial administration of Perugia.

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