About Panicale

Panicale Paciano Excursions Further Reading

Panicale is one of the thousands of fortified town that today have become villages in the Umbrian and Tuscan landscapes. These villages contain artistic and architectonic treasures from the middle ages and the renaissance. Treasures that people stuck on tourist trails and unaware of their existence, never get a chance to see. If you do not want to be part of the tourist trail, read on about the town and area in which we have apartments for rent.

Clickto view photos andto enlarge them.

Introduction
Shops and Restaurants
History and Sights
Festivals, Celebrations, and Events
Further reading



Introduction

Panicale is a typical mediaeval Umbrian hill top town. Neighbour to the Tuscany and the Lake Trasimeno's south shore, it boasts 500 inhabitants. During the summer months, this number inflates to about 800. These occasional residents, mainly from Rome and Florence, return for the summer holidays to their hometown, populating houses that have been owned for generations by their ancestors. Panicale is in fact my father's hometown. The town is within short driving distance to Perugia (where many of Panicale's residents are employed), Orvieto, Montepulciano, Assisi, Cortona, Todi, Deruta, Siena and other well known towns worth visiting. To match these known towns are even more unknown towns, which regardless of their anonymity have much to offer in terms of cuisine, art and culture.

Shops and Restuarants

At a one-minute walk from the Panicale apartments (10 minutes if you are staying in the Casa Tanaquilla), you will find three grocery stores selling everything from fresh vegetables to pasta, salami and cheese, a butcher who if he has run out, will make sausages while you wait, and a bakery, where fresh bread and onion and salvia pizza may be purchased starting at 6 am. Linda, in her Bottega will cut your prosciutto by hand (The way it should be sliced), as well as sell you truffles and fresh mozzarella. A barber will give you a hair cut and a shave, or if you want to catch up with the latest gossip, drop by the hairdresser. A tourist information office, a real estate agent, a pottery shop, a drug store as well as other shops selling odds and ends are all within walking distance. On Fridays, there is a mini market on the main piazza, and in the summer months, foreign papers are available at the local Tabacchi (Tobacco) store.

The post office is open Monday through Saturday and the banks Monday through Friday. The bank had for over ten years promised to install an ATM machine. They kept their promise in 1997, as soon as a competing bank opened a local branch, preceding them with the installation of the first ATM. For some time, there where two ATMs. People might grumble and complain, but they tend to change husbands and wives more often than they change banks. ... So the count is now back to one as the new bank withdrew giving room to the tourist office. They did keep the ATM, however

Unfortunately, Burger King can only be reached after a two hour long drive, and the local Chinese take out (30 km away) went bankrupt a couple of years ago. One has to rely on mamma Bruna's home-made pasta followed by an excellent fried guinea fowl in the Da Masolino restaurant. Attilio's four cheese pasta or his pizza can be tasted in the ristorante Le Grotte di Boldrino. Lillo Tatini is yet another restaruant in the town walls, where they will come out and grate the Truffles over your courses. Oh, and there are two bars providing you with everything from an espresso or a cappuccino to a beer or an ice cream. If you get on friendly terms with the locals, they might invite you to one of their private clubs.





History and Sights


Panicale's origin dates back to archaic times. As early as 2000 B.C. Indo-European herdsmen called Acherni and Italic people lived on the hill. Some 1000 years later, Etruscan farmers took over and were later joined by the Romans. Historians believe that the name of the Castle comes from the Latin words Pani calet, i.e. "to be in the heart of the god Pan", the patron of nature and forests. The names of the surrounding areas and villages are all of Latin origin. They include Gioveto, the god Jupiter, Missiano, The messenger of Janus, and Ceraseto, the place of Ceres. Many more can be counted. In the 9th century A.D. Panicale was already a Castle, and 500 years later, a constitution ruled the life of its people. Its defence walls still stand after numerous wars against Florence, Rome, Perugia, the Vatican State, and other neighbouring towns in the area.

Between war and peace times, popes and soldiers of fortune all lived or passed through the Castle on their way to Perugia, Assisi, Florence or Rome. Some left still visible traces of their more or less friendly visits. Around the 17th century, dwellings were permanently built inside or leaning on the walls. As late as 1898, the old moat was filled with gravel leaving space for gardens and a ring road. The southern part of the ring road is called Fosso Largo (Wide Moat), while the northern part Fosso Stretto (Narrow Moat). Parts of the moat were turned to gardens that were leased for 99 year to the owners of the houses. The lease expired in 1997, and to a mistake of the local council, they forgot to extend it. That meant that the property of the land automatically went over to the leaseholders. Truth is (Well, at least rumours have it) that some of the people in the city council responsible for the renewal of the lease were themselves owners of a house and leasing the garden, and by forgetting the renewal, they assured themselves of their garden. On a side note. If you understand a little Italian and want a good laugh, try to attend one of the council meetings. They are open to the public, and at times, you can hear the shouts and arguments all the way to the bar! It is not for the faint of heart.

Back to the history. The village can be entered through two gates: Porta Fiorentina, used when arriving from Florence, and Porta Perugina used when arriving from Perugia. There are a total of seven churches. With a population of 500, not all of them are regularly used. The largest church, San Michele, is used on Sunday mornings for celebrating mass in Italian, and in the afternoon for song and prayer. The church contains The Annunciation of the Virgin, a fresco made by the famous Renaissance painter Tommaso Fini, also known as Masolino da Panicale (1383 - 1447). He was a friend and possibly a teacher of Masaccio. When it comes to art, however, Panicale's pride is Pietro Vannucci, known as Il Perugino (1446 - 1524). His family originated from Panicale, but moved to the neighbouring town of Citta della Pieve. Il Perugino is probably best known for being Raphael's teacher. His Martyrdom of San Sebastiano, which was recently restored, is located in the San Sebastiano church. San Sebastiano is a small, romantic and extremely beautiful church right outside the walls. It is today mainly used for weddings. The Sant' Agostino church has been deconsecrated, restored, and is now a lace museum, showing off Panicale's lace tradition by day (Popes and Kings have ordered lace from Panicale). Occasional art shows, concerts, and mute cinema projections take over by night.

Panicale's newly restored theatre was originally built in 1690 by some of the area's most prosperous families. Today, it hosts concerts and plays from local and travelling ensembles. Panicale's local theatre group is still going strong, playing both classic and modern pieces. Attending a concert or a play (Regardless on if you understand Italian) is a must that will transport you 200 years back in time. Of the 200 seats in the theatre, only 20 are located under the stage. The rest are in booths on three levels. Prior to a show, everyone is looking in the other booths, gossiping, wondering over who is cultivated enough to go to the theatre and who isn't. And every one is as usual angry over the fact that the mayor has once again been given the best seats. Of artistic value in the theatre is the curtain painted in the early 1800's by Pier Vittori. It shows the Panicale born soldier Boldrino Panieri receiving the keys of Perugia. (The Boldrino apartment in his house is available for rent). The San Sebastiano church and the Caporali theatre are usually locked, but visits can easily be arranged through the tourist office.

If you think this is it, you are wrong. There is much more to see in the village. A way around it is to find more in the books and articles have been written on Panicale. Unfortunately, the only book published in English (and Swedish!!), is called Panicale, a piece of Italy. It is a guidebook which takes you into the daily life of Panicale's inhabitants, exploring the festivities, local politics, wines, cars, food, religion, customs gossips and other secrets. The book was originally written in Swedish by my brother, and translated and updated in 1998 to English by my mother. Both versions are available at the tourist office (My brother is older and larger than me, so I had to write this. But then again, the book is well written, and well worth reading, so I am not saying this just to be nice to him. I warmly recommend it). At the tourist office, you will also find Luciano Lepri's traditional guidebook on Panicale, and recently deceased historian Caprini's Pani Calet, a piece of fiction featuring all of Panicle's famous people, talking about the history of the village. The latter two are also pleasant reading if you know Italian.

Festivals, celebrations and events

Religious and cultural festivities are common in Italian rural villages. In Panicale, they include local religious festivals such as the feast of San Pellegrino, Panicle's very own saint, or more traditional festivities such as the Easter procession. Cultural festivals include the wine festival, held in September. The wine festival takes place right before the harvest starts, and features food, dance, and a procession where every contrada in town, under a lot of secrecy (and spying on the other contradas) puts together an allegoric chariot which is then processed around the town walls. During the chestnut festival, held every November, you can taste the Mosto, the grape juice which will eventually be put in barrels to ferment and become wine together with freshly grilled chestnuts.

Political events include the Communist Unity feast. Don't worry! This is yet another opportunity for people visiting in August to taste great home made food and drink cheap red wine. All sold at a nominal cost. Bands (rock, blues, jazz, classical) often play for free in the recreation area, and the village celebrates what once used to be an attempt to gain votes. Every one is welcome, regardless of political beliefs and backgrounds. No vodka, smelly fish eggs or military marches will be forced upon you. Just good spirits and the desire to have fun, with the older generation giving nostalgic looks at the red flags with the hammer and sickle, a site you otherwise so rarely see around today.

In the summer months, free concerts are held within the city walls inside churches and outside on the different squares. They include jazz, classical and medieval music concerts. It is needless to describe what it feels like sitting outside in a piazza listening to good music when enjoying a glass of wine. Especially when the band is using the area around the 15th century fountain as a stage and the background curtain is a 16th century church or an illuminated medieval building.

In the winter months, plays and concerts are often held in the theatre and churches, even if at a lower pace than in the summer. The Pan Kalon association, a local association run by locals aiming at maintaining the historical roots and beauty of Panicale, helped raise funds for the restoration of the Organ in the San Michele church. They often organise concerts there. Should nothing be happening in Panicale, look around and ask. The chance that it is in one of the neighbouring villages is large.

Here, I could go on. The rest, however I will leave to you to explore on location. The streets, churches and buildings are filled with details of the people, famous and unknown, which at one time or another lived or visited the village. The surrounding areas offer everything from historical sites, beautiful landscapes, and outdoor activities. Festivals often take place, and in-between them, peace and quiet take over. A peace and quiet which can not be described, and thus has to be experienced.

In Panicale, we have a wide selection of properties available for short and long term rentals. They range from one to two bedroom apartments in the town center to rustic farmhouses just outside town. All properties are owned by friends of ours, so we know they will take great care of you, giving you a warm Umbrian welcome and making your stay special.

Excursions in the area

The south Trasimeno area is an excellent base to visit the hilltop towns in the tourist trails of Umbria and Tuscany. They include Assisi, Orvieto, Cortona, or Sienna. Or how about a day trip to Rome or Florence? Aside from these towns and cities however there are even more anonymous ones offering restaurants, markets, wineries, walks, churches, and other sights not included in the guidebooks. With a little sense of adventure and curiosity you will be rewarded with unforgettable experiences and wonderful memories. This page gives you suggestions to get you started in the hope that your explorations will take you even farther. Click for more...

Activities

Why not take a break from exploring the secrets of Umbria and Tuscany using one of our activities to better understand the local culture? Take a cooking course and learn how to make your own pasta or create that complete Italian dinner you've dreamt about. You could take Italian lessons or how about some art classes? We can even help you with getting married! All the activities are close to our rental properties and can be booked in conjunction with your accommodation... Click for more...

Restaurant Reviews

Here is a list of our favourite restaurants in the area. There is nothing like a free lunch, so I will only give you their names and the town they are located in. It will be then up to you to find them. Do not get scared by our irony and have courage, because they are all worth a visit and the experience. You can start dieting when you get home, because when in Umbria, do like the Umbrians do. Live to eat, and not eat to live... Click for more...

Contact Us for more information on the area, properties, and bookings.