Saturday the 21st of February and Sunday the 22nd the international day of tourist guides was celebrated in Italy. In many places free guided tours were offered. Also in Umbria. On Saturday there was a guided tour in Monte del Lago at Lake Trasimeno. During this tour also the Villa Palombaro, or Villa Aganoor Pompilj could be visited. Hence why I participated. I had been to Monte del Lago several times, it is a very authentic little village, but this villa is usually closed. After a full week of bright sunshine, Saturday we had a very cloudy day. Unfortunately that’s rather obvious from the pictures I made.
The tour was organized by Altra Umbria, also Umbria Tour Guide, and the theme was “The Poetess of the lake and the advocate of Trasimeno: Vittoria, Guido and their romantic and tragic love story”. To complete the tour several of Vittoria Aganoor’s poems were read and a couple dressed as if from the early 20st century walked around in the background to give it all some extra atmosphere.
Who were they, Vittoria Aganoor and Guido Pompilj?
Vittoria Aganoor and Guido Pompilj got to know each other when they were already in their forties. Neither of them had been married before, nor had had children. Vittoria Aganoor was extremely sad and depressed after her mother’s death. Her mother had always stimulated her to write and publish her writings which in the end actually happened and Vittoria became one of the very few and most famous poetesses of Italy.
She met her future husband in Naples, though she was from Padova. Guido Pompilj was a Roman senator, a statesman, and important advocate of the union of Italy. At the time Umbria was part of Italy only since 1861, when the unification of Italy was declared by the king. Guido Pompilj was born in Monte del Lago and his own father was poisoned (with a cup of coffee) by followers of the Pope just a couple of years before the unification. At the time Umbria was part of the Papal state, the Vatican.
Around the same time it was seriously considered to reclame the land on the lake and dry out the whole area. It was thought that this would be the only way to get rid of the malaria mosquito. Guido Pompilj, when senator in Rome, became an important advocate to save the lake and with his studies and well thought arguments he managed to save the lake. By the end of the 19th century the already existing canal that can be opened in time of high water was enforced and the lake became an important touristic attraction.
There are writings of the early 19th century that describe the lake area as particularly poor and filthy, its inhabitants half criminal. Our guide read a letter from Andersen who travelled trough the area at that time and stayed in an inn in Passignano sul Trasimeno, describing the filthy state of the inn, without pavement, doors that had to be closed with cords rather then keys and plates that were washed with spit (!). By the end of that same century, thanks to Guido Pompilj, the area had known quite some development and became a resort area for many wealthy people from Perugia and surroundings. The first foreigners appeared building their summer residences around the lake. At Monte del Lago itself there is another important villa, the Villa Schnabel from an Austrian Jew that passed his summers here until he went to live in the United States, sensing the disasters the Jews were to live through in Europe shortly after.
Vittoria Aganoor and Guido Pompilj were married only about 10 years. Unfortunately she died of cancer and he, very dramatically killed himself, just hours after her death. This is surely worth a film ! Also because we learned that the senator appears to have had some affairs while in Rome for longer periods. He was either beloved or hated by the people at the time. Vittoria Aganoor herself was from a colorful family and became one of the most famous poetesses of her time in Italy.
Below are some pictures of the villa. We could visit the roof terrace and the ground floor, once stables. The floors in between are now inhabited by the family Palombaro. At the time one of these floors had an enormous private collection of books, about 10.000, that are now kept in the libraries of Magione and Perugia.
– Posted by Saskia van der Bolt –