A boat trip to Isola Maggiore, Trasimeno Lake

May 12, 2014 | Things to do in Umbria | 17 comments

Since I have been living in Umbria, I always wanted to visit one of the islands on Trasimeno Lake. There are three islands: Isola Polvese, Isola Maggiore and Isola Minore. Between the mainland and the islands, there are regular connections by the Trasimeno Navigation Service. The ferry timetable can be downloaded from the website of Umbria Mobilità (only in Italian).

The largest island on the lake is Isola Polvese. This is mainly a nature reserve and is a good place for a quiet walk around or just to chill at the beach. The Isola Minore cannot be visited, it is a private island. Isola Maggiore is the second largest island of the three and the only island with a handful of permanent inhabitants.

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Friends of mine were on holiday in Umbria, and I loved visiting the Isola Maggiore with them. On a sunny morning we took the ferry boat from Castiglione del Lago to Isola Maggiore. Very good idea!

Isola Maggiore is a fishing island on the lake. Here you can eat the typical “queen” carp! But also other typical fish dishes, like tench and pike. A good restaurant to taste the fish from the lake is Ristorante L’Oso. The owner goes out fishing himself and they have a lovely terrace out in the garden overlooking the lake.

For a quick bite, there is a small bar, and a kiosk at the entrance of the small village but also “All’antico Orologio” is a good place for a quick stop.

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As we arrived, we walked through the main street uphill. Isola Maggiore is a village with houses dating back to the 14th and 16th centuries. On the top of the hill stands the church San Michele Arcangelo. It is a church from the 12th century and has fine Umbrian school paintings.

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The islanders specialized in making Irish lace. There is an Irish lace museum and there are opportunities to buy things too. The Irish lace dates back to around 1900 when a Roman senator built a castle for his wife on the island, which at the moment cannot be visited. His wife was from Ireland and taught the production of Irish lace to the women on the island. To this date, this somewhat unusual tradition on a tiny Italian island is kept alive.

Isola Maggiore is known for one famous visitor: Saint Francis. It is said that he passed the lent period on this island in 1211. In his honour a beautiful small church was built around 1300, bought by the Roman senator who built his castle around it.

We have seen the entire island. It was a beautiful walk of about 1 hour (slow, also for kids) with nice views over Trasimeno Lake. In the afternoon we took the ferry boat back to Castiglione del Lago.

I enjoyed visiting the Isola Maggiore as if I was on holiday myself! Drinking coffee on a nice terrace with a view, strolling around the island. I think I’ll go back again, just to relax and enjoy the calm surroundings!

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17 Comments

  1. Eliza Waters

    Sounds like it was a wonderful excursion and the weather looked perfect!

    Reply
    • villainumbria

      The weather was excellent for a boat trip! It is Springtime in Umbria.

      Reply
    • villainumbria

      The lake is wonderful right now. The weather is sunny and there’s no wind..excellent moment for taking a stroll.

      Reply
  2. gunnardeckare

    I love islands! I wonder if we could go to some of them when we are in Umbria next May?

    Reply
  3. Mark Hinshaw

    I want to surprise my wife with a visit to the island and the museum. Your article is very evocative. However, I was told by a friend who lives in Umbria that there are actually no shops there that sell locally-made lace. And I cannot find any entries on line for such shops. Did the tradition die out and all that’s left is the museum? Or maybe shops are to be found on the mainland? If you can recommend any outlets, please let me know. Mark

    Reply
    • Villa in Umbria

      Dear Mark,
      Your friend may be right. Until recently there were some elderly ladies that on warm afternoons would sit in front of their door and show their work. It is impossible to know whether they will be there when you visit. There are no real shops selling the lace.
      Regards, Saskia

      Reply
  4. Gary Staines

    Hi does the ferry to Isola maggiore only run until Sept 25 this year? The timetable seems to suggest that. Thanks

    Reply
    • Villa in Umbria

      Hi Gary, the ferry also runs after Sept 25, but the timetable will be different. It may not have been published yet. Best, Saskia

      Reply
  5. Kim

    Hello!
    I did this a few years ago when I was with my husband’s family! It’s beautiful! I am coming back to Umbria with my mother and I am in charge of getting us to places this time! I tried to click the link for the ferry schedule as we would likely come from Castiglione del Lago also but the link isn’t working for me. Any other locations you have found the schedule? Thanks!!

    Reply
  6. Karla

    Hi, I and 3 of my friends are visiting Lake Trasimeno for the day and want to take a ferry to Island Maggiore. Does the Ferry operate daily in May? we will be there May 15th. and any suggestions on food and wine.. Not looking for a fancy restaurant but more of a sample of wine and local food.

    Reply
  7. Henriette

    Hi, is there a beach and can you swim in the water?

    Reply
    • Villa in Umbria

      Hi Henriette,

      There are beaches all around the lake, but mind it is a lake only fed by rain water. And not like in the North with water coming from the mountains. Consequently, this is not a deep lake and ideal for birds. At the beaches you will find that entering the water, there is a lot of clay ground, and no sand. Trasimeno is part of Unesco’s living lakes. At the beaches you can rent canoes and pedal boats, do stand up paddle and more.
      Have fun!
      Saskia

      Reply

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