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Lago Trasimeno

Lake Trasimeno also referred to as Trasimene or Thrasimene in English, is a lake in the province of Perugia, in the Umbria region of Italy. The lake is south of the river Po and north of the nearby river Tiber, has a surface area of 128 km2 (49.4 sq mi) and is the fourth for surface area in Italy. (It is slightly smaller than Lake Como.) Only two minor streams flow directly into the Lake and none flows out. The water level of the lake fluctuates significantly according to rainfall levels and the seasonal demands from the towns, villages and farms near the shore.

Origins and early history

Three million years ago, there was a shallow sea in this part of Umbria. A depression formed by geologic fractures allowed the present-day Lake Trasimeno to form.

Historically, Trasimeno was known as the Lake of Perugia, being important for northwestern Umbria and for the Tuscan Chiana district. In prehistoric times, this lake extended almost to Perugia. Trasimeno is a mythological figure, joined with Agilla, a nymph born in Agello, now a hill midway between Perugia and Trasimeno, formerly an island in the lake.

The first civilization to inhabit this area was the Etruscans; three of the main Etruscan cities - Perugia, Chiusi, and Cortona - are within 20 kilometres (12 miles) of the lake. Little physical evidence remains from the period of Etruscan or later Roman settlement. Castiglione del Lago, has some Roman ruins and its main streets are structured like a chessboard in the Roman style.

The Battle of Lake Trasimeno occurred on the northern shore of the lake in April 217 B.C. during the Second Punic War. The exact location of the battle is unknown because the lake then extended further north; the battle could have been fought between Cortona and Tuoro. Near Cortona, there is a place called 'Ossaia', in Italian meaning ossuary. Another place with reference to the battle is the place named Sanguineto, whose name is connected with the Italian term "sangue" meaning blood or, probably, bloody place.


There are three islands in the lake. The largest of these islands is Isola Polvese, almost 1 km2. The second largest, Isola Maggiore, is the only inhabited one. The small fishing village, which reached its height in the 14th century, today has only around thirty residents. Most of the buildings, including the ruins of a Franciscan monastery, date from the 14th century. Maggiore is a 'hill', whereas Polvese is a more complex structure with plains and hills, and Minore resembles a sloped table. Minore is now uninhabited, but in the past had a village with over 500 residents. Many centuries ago, a castle with a pentagonal structure stood near the shore, near an Olivetan monastery. The castle still remains, and the ruins of the church and the monastery are almost totally preserved.

Minore Isle, near Maggiore, is now uninhabited, totally covered by local vegetation except for a small anchorage. In ancient times, there was a separation between the two communities, because Polvese was far away from Maggiore-Minore. According to local stories, the two communities fought against each other but the real problems were from the regional 'powers' that fought over this lake for centuries.


Strict regulations apply for the navigation on the Lake. A protected strip is established for the entire perimeter of Lake Trasimeno for a distance of 150 meters from the shore of the lake and the shore of the islands. In the protected strip navigation is only permitted for craft having a maximum length of 9 meters at the waterline, propelled by oars or by sail, at a maximum speed of two knots. Exceptions apply to authorised boats propelled by motor only in the water in front of port areas or authorized landing places. There are ferryboats, 3 small, 2 medium, and two big (two decks) called Perusia and Agilla II, based in Passignano Port, also two dredges. There are ports in Castiglione del Lago (recently totally rebuilt), S. Arcangelo, S. Feliciano, Tuoro, and several minor anchorages.