Panicale, whose name, of uncertain etymology, seems to derive from the conspicuous cultivation of a cereal, the panìco, once practiced in this area, is a medieval village situated on the top of one of the hills overlooking Lake Trasimeno.
In the Middle Ages its castle represented one of the few safe settlements in which to seek refuge; its strategic position and characteristic elliptical plan with concentric circles, which still characterizes the historic center, defended it from the numerous and exhausting sieges of neighboring towns.
In 1037 Panicale elected itself a free commune, one of the first in history, but it would obtain its first statute only in 1316: the castle now enjoyed great prestige in the Perugian countryside and was called "the granary of Perugia" because of the large supply of grain it was able to guarantee to the city. In the 15th century, although subjected several times to the oligarchic power of some powerful Perugian families, Panicale experienced economic and urban development and an artistic flourishing that later determined its aesthetic appearance.
ART, CULTURE, ENVIRONMENT
The village, spirally perched on a hill, has a splendid view of Lake Trasimeno. It is accessible from two gates: Porta Fiorentina from which three different roads depart, which, according to the trend of the typical elliptical plan of the castle, converge in Piazza Umberto I, which has always been the beating heart of the village itself. The same square can be accessed from the opposite door, the door, precisely, Perugina.
The protagonist of this main square is the 15th-century octagonal travertine cistern, transformed into a fountain only in 1903. It still bears, carved on one of its sides, the coat of arms of Panicale: a tower framed by two ears of breadfruit. As you approach it, you can still see, along its edges, the grooves left by the chains that, until the late 19th century, were pulled to retrieve water from the basins.
The Collegiate Church of St. Michael Archangel, named after the city's patron saint and probably of Lombard origin, is accessed by crossing and ascending the square: inside it is preserved, in the last chapel on the left, an Adoration of the Shepherds, an altarpiece from 1519 and evidence of the artistic maturity of the painter Giovanni Battista Caporali, son of the better-known Bartolomeo Caporali, who was the head of one of the most productive workshops in Perugia.
At the castle's highest location, Piazza Masolino, stands the 14th-century Palazzo del Podestà in Lombard-Gothic style. The Panicalese call it the "Campanone," because its bells, even today, toll the hours.
At the Church of San Sebastiano, just outside the walls, there is a masterpiece by Perugino: the fresco The Martyrdom of St. Sebastian from 1505: here again it is the lake's sheet of water that dominates the panorama.
Wandering further into the narrow streets of the village, we come across one of the smallest theaters in Italy, the Cesare Caporali Theater, founded in 1692, still the seat of the village's cultural activity.
Leaving Porta Fiorentina, we can pay a visit to the Tulle Museum named after Anita Belleschi Grifoni (1889-1978) an enterprising woman who in the early twentieth century founded a school of embroidery on tulle, Ars Panicalensis, in Panicale, providing work for many Panicalese women.
From the museum, leaving the castle walls to the west, one arrives at the 17th-century Church of the Sbarra. From there, walkers can conclude their visit by taking the steep street to the left of its facade to reach Paciano, which, with its climate and landscape, is another cosy medieval village on Lake Trasimeno.