The 13th-century ex-glass factory of Piegaro is now the beautiful Museum of Glass. This is one of Italy’s oldest glass factories, which continued to produce until the 1960’s. The building is fantastic, the interior is constructed in small red bricks, with vaults, arches, very high ceilings, underground passage ways and tunnels, large windows with views of the picturesque historic center and the countryside.
When the factory closed down, some of the jobless workers, in coordination with the mayor of Piegaro, formed a cooperative and opened a modern glass factory in the plain below the village. Today this factory, with its thousands of bottles produced daily, is one of the most important contributor to the local economy.
Chiara, the museum director, is available to organize activities for children and adults, including weaving straw around bottles (“impagliatura”), glass decoration, and “il gioco dell’operaio” (the game of the worker), which re-enacts the stages of glass production. It is also occasionally possible to watch an “impagliatura” demonstration. This old technique is slowly disappearing, but the women of the village have created an association and are again teaching the craft to the younger generations. You can also buy their bottles to help sustain the association. Tel. 075 8358525.
Kids summer day camp: during the summer the Colle San Paolo agriturismo hosts the Arte al Sole summer arts and cultural and soccer day camps in English from 9:30-3:00. Kids can make new friends amid the international and Italian children, learning about the unique heritage of the region through art, craft, nature walks, cooking, and sport. www.artealsole.com
Walks with donkeys (children ride, adults walk) with the nice vet and donkey breeder, Stefania Ricci, in the woods below the town of Panicale. From 2-hour walks (€10 per person) to full-day trekkings from Panicale to the Castle of Mongiovino. Tel. for bookings 075 837648 – 348 6929958. www.laviadiporsenna.it.
Take horseback riding lessons (for beginners and advanced) and go for 2-hour walks in the countryside at La Rosa Canina, Fraz. Casalini, near Panicale. They also have ponies for children, and can organize trekkings for adults from 1 to 3 days in the area. Tel. 075 8350660. www.larosacanina.eu.
Town of Tavernelle di Panicale:
Swimming pool center: 5 pools, slides, and diving boards for children over 8 and a swimming pool with slides and water fountains for small children. Very nice. Lawns, umbrellas, deck chairs, a bar (that serves lunch), and sports fields. A good weekly day camp (in Italian) is organized in July and swimming lessons are held daily in July and August. Avoid Sundays! www.piscinetavernelle.it.
Chiusi (just across the border in Tuscany):
The pretty town of Chiusi has a famous Etruscan Museum (Museo Archeologico Nazionale), which is very interesting and not too large (and therefore not too tiring for children). Included in the price of the ticket (€4) is a visit to the Etruscan tombs “del Leone” e “della Pellegrina”, in the countryside, about 10 minutes away by car. The caretakers at the museum will accompany you (if possible, they prefer to ride in your car, and you will then need to accompany them back to the museum after the visit); however, the frescoed “Tomba della Scimmia” instead needs to be booked ahead for an extra cost of €2. Visits are permitted from 11.00 a.m. to 15.30 in the afternoon (16.00 in the summer) on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Tel. 0578 20177.
Underneath the town of Chiusi is an interesting Etruscan underground system of former water channels that can be explored (not for the claustrophobic!). These passageways are also known as the “Labirinto di Porsenna” because for many years it was thought that they might be part of the labyrinth protecting the legendary Tomb of the Etruscan king Lars Porsena, of which Pliny the Elder speaks. Entrance is from the Museo della Cattedrale. At the end of the visit, you will go up a spiral staircase from an underground Etruscan/Roman cistern to the base of a 12th-century bell tower that you can climb to enjoy beautiful views of the town, the countryside, and the lake of Chiusi.
Città della Domenica amusement park: Created in the 1960’s by Mario Spagnoli as a place where his employees and their families could relax on Sundays. Mario was the son of woman entrepeneur from Perugia Luisa Spagnoli, who founded the Perugina chocolate company (of Baci Perugina fame, now bought out by Nestlè) and the high-quality clothes company named after her. Not much renovation has been carried out since, however, even if a bit shabby in appearance, it is a great favorite of children: ride around the beautiful 45-hectare grounds (helm-oak woods populated with deer) in a little train to visit a fairytale village, a small zoo, playgrounds, a botanical garden, a pony-riding center, and especially the excellent Reptile House. Via Col di Tenda 140, Perugia. www.cittadelladomenica.it.
Perugina Chocolate Factory and Museum: a musem and gift shop + a chocolate school. Free guided visits last about one hour, tel. 075 5276796 for bookings. There are usually 2 guided visits in English per day. At the end, you will actually be walking on a glass passage way and observing under you the production line of the Baci Perugina! To be sure to see the factory you must visit between Monday and Friday (on Sat the factory may be closed). For the chocolate school tel. 800 800907: 3-hour workshops on chocolate making cost €40, for adults and children over 6 accompanied by an adult. Via San Sisto 42, San Sisto (Perugia). www.perugina.it.
– author Sabina Triulzi works for I Casali di Colle San Paolo, her family’s agriturismo (holiday homes in historic farmhouses) near Tavernelle di Panicale. During the summer I Casali di Colle San Paolo hosts “Arte al Sole”, a day camp for international children based on the art, culture, and natural science of this beautiful area during June-July. See www.artealsole.com for more information.