Umbria Blog | Visit Civic Museum in Montefalco

Montefalco “Mount of the Falcon” is a town of churches and convents. This hamlet is situated 11 km north west from Foligno and is perched on a hill top, boasting magnificent views over the green hills. Montefalco is also known as the balcony of Umbria. Outside the Gate of St. Augustine there’s ample parking. Enter the gate and proceed up the Corso G. Mameli with its small shops and restaurants to the Piazza del Comune.

The area around Montefalco is famous for its Sagrantino wine. This wine is made of 100% Sagrantino grapes which have been cultivated for centuries on the hills of Umbria. Following the wine route “Strada del Sagrantino” one can stop by some local wineries to  taste and buy the local wines.

Besides the famous Sagrantino wine the medieval walled town offers a mix of picturesque streets and historic churches and museums. A must see in Montefalco is the museum in the Chiesa di San Francesco, the church of Saint Francis. You can reach this museum by walking down from the main piazza to the Via Ringhiera Umbra. This museum is divided into three sections: the church, the gallery and the crypt.

The church houses important works of the Renaissance painter of Florence Benozzo Gozzoli, il Perugino, Melanzio and some other painters. The famous painter Gozzoli, painted in the apse of the church brightly coloured frescoes all on the life of San Francesco. These frescoes in the chapel are of great importance and are comparable with the cycle by Giotto in the church of Saint Francis of Assisi.

Pietro Vannucci, also known as Il Perugino, made two master pieces in the church: the “Nativity scene” and the “Annunciation with the Eternal in glory between angels”. Tiberio d’Assisi instead painted the frescoes “Madonna and Child with saints”  and “The descriptive Madonna del Soccorso”. All are interesting works by artists known all over the world.

Video Civic Museum Montefalco.

In the basement of the church is  a medieval wine cellar where monks brought their locally grapes, pressed them in wine presses and prepared wine for local consumption.

The gallery contains important works and wooden sculptures of the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries.

The entrance for this museum is 7,00 Euro. Children from 6 to 14 years pay 2,00 Euro each and children under 6 years are free. With your entrance ticket you can visit other musea in Umbria for free. This offer is valid for two weeks after the date of your visit to the Civic Museum in Montefalco. For more information visit this website: Umbria Terre Musei.

From Montefalco you can head up to the medieval walled town of Bevagna. The distance is about 8 km, a 10 minutes drive.

Ristorante della Mura is situated on the Piazza Garibaldi 14a in the centre of Bevagna. In this restaurant they serve traditional local Umbrian dishes. Really recommended!

La Scarzuola

La Scarzuola is one of these places in Umbria where not many tourists go, but it is very worthwhile the detour. Guests of ours in Todi House wanted to visit this very particular former abbey and its gardens. They asked us to book it for them and we decided to join them.

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The former abbey is situated near Montegiove well hidden in the green Umbrian hills. The abbey and its church was founded by the counts of Marsciano honouring Saint Francis who stayed here in 1218. It is said that Saint Francis planted a bay bush and a rose and on this spot a spring with fresh drinking water appeared. (It is more likely that he simply discovered the already existing well…). The spring still exists and the water is filtered naturally making it clean drinking water.

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Saint Francis stayed here for a while and built a hut for himself from a marsh plant called “scarza”. The abbey of Saint Francis was founded next to this well. The church was built later by the counts of Marsciano. One can now see an old fresco of Saint Francis in the church made during his life. This is one of the very few fresco’s left of Saint Francis from that time. The halo surrounding his head was designed later.

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What makes this abbey stand out from the many other abbeys honoring Saint Francis is its more recent history.

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In 1957 the architect Tomaso Buzzi from Milan bought the abbey (or what was left of it) and its surrounding grounds. Next to the abbey he created his personal vision of his ideal city made up of many theaters. The combination of bizarre theaters, ponds, steps, buildings, and ingenious architecture makes this a unique place to visit. Some free mason elements, the vicinity of the abbey, the uncontaminated nature surrounding the area all make up for a very special experience while walking around here.

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Tomasso Buzzi died in 1981 and his heir Marco Solari continued the work following designs and diaries left by Tomaso Buzzi. Also the abbey’s church was restored.

Nowadays one can visit La Scarzuola, but only after reservation. The tour is for a minimum of 8 people, but if you are less the organizers will add you to one of the existing groups. The entrance is euro 10 per person and children can go in for free. There are very entertaining tours in English by an English gentleman and the owner himself gives the tour in Italian. The website of La Scarzuola gives more information.

There are also two friendly dogs walking around. Guests that bring their dog will have to leave the dog outside. They would otherwise upset the dogs of La Scarzuola.

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– posted by Saskia van der Bolt –

Isola Maggiore and Ristorante Oso

Last week we went to our favourite restaurant on the island Isola Maggiore on Lake Trasimeno: Ristorante l’Oso. The  boat trip to get to the island, the island itself and the excellent food always make up for a day to remember when we have guests, especially on a sunny day.

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This time we decided not to take the usual ferry, but we wanted to try the taxi service on the lake run by Maurizio. With his little boat he goes up and down from the beach of Tuoro to the island. It costs 1 euro less then the usual ferry. The ferries go on a fixed time schedule and also in the evening during summer, whilst Maurizo you can call and he will make sure you get to the island and back. He can take a maximum of 10-12 people on his little boat and it surely is a less professional service, but hey, that is probably the charm for most of us? His telephone number is +393355619409, only Italian spoken.

The ferry:

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And the boat taxi to the island:

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We were taken straight to the restaurant where also private boats can stop. What a luxury! Mind to book a table, especially over the weekend. It was crowded when we went. We usually go here to eat fish from the lake, but they also serve other dishes (no pizza). The owner is Eduardo and he goes fishing regularly to make sure he has fresh fish for his restaurant. The service is friendly and the head waiter not only speaks Italian, which is handy if you do not speak Italian. We had tegamaccio, a fish soup with eel from the lake, pasta with a ragout from fish and our guests preferred the fried persico (perch). As always, it was all of good quality.

The island itself is not big, in an hour at the most you’ve walked around. There is a handful of people living on the island and some of the women you may encounter making Irish lace, an embroidery specialty that was introduced here by the wife of the senator Guglielmo who bought the castle on the island around 1900. It was a way for the women on the island to make a small living for themselves and be less dependent on their husband’s income. How forward thinking at that time! On this website you can read more about the lace and embroidery made around Lake Trasimeno.

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At the other side of the island there is a weather beaten wooden statue of Sain Francis who is said to have lived on the island during the lent period in the year 1211. Supposedly he was alone with the animals on the island, which is rather unlikely since the island is very small and at the time there were many more people living here. Now there are several churches on this tiny island and one is dedicated to Saint Francis. It was built shortly after his presence on the island and now belongs to the castle.

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Until some years ago one could walk around the castle and one of the elderly ladies of the island would sit at the church’s door with the key. For little money she would let you into the church and the inner court of the castle. The church has beautiful bright blu fresco’s, but apart from that it has been robbed from its treasures. From the inner court of the castle she would also show you the private theatre where there still was an old wooden piano. Unfortunately the castle was bought by some real estate developers who  went bankrupt. Nowadays the castle is completely closed off and falling into ruins. One can only see it from the lake.

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– Posted by Saskia van der Bolt –