|Lake Trasimeno or Trasimene (in Italian: Lago Trasimeno), is the largest lake in the Italian peninsula with a surface area of 128 km, slightly less than Lake Como. The Tiber River flows some thirty kilometers to the east of the lake, but the lake and the river are separated by hills: no major river flows directly into nor out of Lake Trasimeno, and the water level fluctuates significantly according to rainfall levels and the seasonal demands from the towns, villages and farms dotted round the shore.
Origins and early history
Historically, Trasimeno was known as The Lake of Perugia and this name makes it easy to understand the importance that the lake has always had for the whole of north-western Umbria and for the Tuscan Chiana district. In prehistoric times, this lake was extended so as to almost reach 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 Battle of Lake Trasimeno, took place on the north shore of the lake in April 217 B.C.E. during the Second Punic War. It's still debated where exactly where it happened, because the lake extended further and deeper at that time, so it could had been fought between Cortona and Tuoro. Near Cortona, there is a place called 'Ossaia', perhaps in memory of the bones found after that battle. Many legends were told about this battle, as the golden chariot of Flaminio, sunk in the middle of the lake.
The first civilization to inhabit this place was the Etruscans, and it's said that they found Trasimeno similar in shape to a liver. The Etruscan presence is not surprising, because when the lake was bigger, Perugia, Chiusi and Cortona, three of the main Etrurian cities, were all within 20km of the lake. Practically nothing remains from the Etruscan period, and only some traces of the Romans are found. Castiglione del Lago, has some Roman ruins and its main streets are structured like a chessboard in the Roman style.
The vegetation includes pines, willows and poplars all around the shores, many over 30m tall.
All around the lake there are old small towns, and isolated castles, like Zocco castle, now in ruins, and a tower near Passignano. Monte del Lago was originally built to control the road from Trasimeno to Perugia.
Trasimeno's aviation history
Once this airport was almost as big as Castiglione. The mild climate and perfect visibility still allow the use of this airport for air meetings, even if the structures were left in ruins 60 years ago. There is a social center in this former airport, also crossed by one of the most important water courses, the Paganico torrent, that separated airport from the town.
Because of increased traffic, about 30 years ago a highway was built over the Passignano's road to Perugia. This highway passes near the north and the east shores of Trasimeno and goes to Perugia and Assisi. Many smaller roads, such as the statal 75, are also present, especially on the western side of the lake. The A1 Autostrada passes five km to the west of the Lake.
There are ferry boats, 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.
The fishing in the lake used a particular technique called 'Toro', a very complex system that consisted of a wooden trap in the water and a circular structure to hold the net around it. The nets trapped the fishs and they were brought to the village to be dried. This system worked with a high water level, but was abandoned when the level dropped. A mock up of this system was built several years ago near Polvese Isle's port.
To fight this problem, some small fish that voraciously are mosquito larvae were imported from USA during the 1950s. These fish are widely scattered even in the lakes near Trasimeno. But despite billions of larvae eaten, there are still many mosquitoes and other insects.
In its history Trasimeno has known many crises. This lake is only 4 meters deep on average. Draining it was proposed to solve the problems of malaria and depth changes, but luckily they were rejected. At the end of the 19th century, the level changes were solved by building a channel near San Feliciano. This also lessened the malaria problem.
In 1929, there was a really cold winter, that totally froze the surface, so even cars could be driven over the ice. It was said that a car, by mistake (because the snow), reached Maggiore Isle. Also in 1957, there was another cold winter, so that Trasimeno's surface froze and there was heavy damages to the olive trees nearby. In 1985 another very cold winter froze Trasimeno and the olives as well for over 20 days. A less severe freeze happened in 1991. In 2002, the lake froze again, during very cold and dry winter. Finally, a strong easterly broke up the ice after 30 days. This is quite rare, given the latitude of this lake.
The Trasimeno climate is quite warm, with moderate winters. Summers can be very warm and humid, but in general the lake moderates the climate both in cold and warm conditions because even swallow water gives a moderate thermic inertia. From May to September, the temperature is warm enough to allow swimming.
Human activity is involved in this problem. It was calculated that maize cultivation alone was equivalent to 5cm of water level per year, 1% of the overall evel. The large growth of the towns in the last 5 to 6 years all obviously require more water. There are ponds all over for agricultural use, many quite large, an additional problem for water resources.
Trasimeno is a great natural resource that should be rigorously protected and promoted. The inhabitants of the communes around Trasimeno and the Umbrian people have been successful in safeguarding their lake, whose waters are fit for swimming and whose valleys and islands are intact environments, providing a mirror of the past and a theme for a present suited to discovering a new means for man to interrelate with his habitat.
The best preserved part is the eastern and the southern walls one, while the rest of the walls are mostly demolished or fallen down. One of the southern towers has two enormous cracks with the middle.
Vernazzano pending tower (around 20 m height) is perhaps even more sloped than the famous Pisa's one. This unic remains of an ancient castle was built before 1089, when the whole castle was donated by Marchiones family to a monastery of Città di Castello. In 1202 began under control of Perugia and so this city gained the control of Northern Trasimeno. It was built on M.te Castiglione, near two turrents. The castle and the small city all around, called Vernazzano, were damaged by wars in 1400's and two century lather, by a strong heartquake (fullowed by others with the time). The erosions made by turrents caused the inclination of the tower in XVIII century. Vernazzano was rebuilt in the valley, away from this place, effective for the territory control, but not well suited to live in. So the Pending Tower is abandoned by almost 300 years. To avoid her breakdown, a steel armour was recently added, with plates and wires even thicker than 2-3 cm. The Tower, not well known as she is away from main streets (is visible from away, but with no immediate links to reach her), can continue to exist after 1000 years from her building.