The area around Lake Trasimeno has much to offer for Umbria family holidays. Families will find kid-friendly farm stays, and a wide range of fun activities within 30-45 minutes drive. Here are a few family-friendly tips for visiting Umbria with kids.
Lake Trasimeno with Kids
Lake Trasimeno:Castiglione del Lago on Lake Trasimeno has a well-kept beach with umbrellas and deck chairs, pedal boats, and canoes for rent, a bar, and a playground, along with a few sailing clubs. It’s also nice to rent bikes and ride the bike path that runs along the lake. The castle in the historic center is very beautiful. The entrance is through a 16th-century frescoed palazzo, connected to the castle by a closed narrow passage way. The walk along the castle walls will take you up to the top of a 30-meter high tower with beautiful views of the lake.
The Lake Trasimeno Islands can be reached via small ferry boats departing from the towns of Castiglione del Lago, Tuoro and Passignano. The Isola Maggiore has a very characteristic town of small stone houses (and 35 inhabitants!), a couple of restaurants (often full, especially on weekends), bars, an old church visited by St. Francis, and a trail around the island amid olive trees, holm oaks, pine trees, cypresses and poplar trees; The Isola Polvese is a natural park, with a large wetland covered in reeds, where different species of birds and amphibians take refuge. There is an agriturismo on the island serving meals, and a very nice beach where you can rent a canoe to tour the island. Giovanni is available also to accompany you from San Feliciano to the island and back, or canoeing around the lake. Tel. 347 3794578. Phone number for info on the ferries: 075 827157.
“La Valle” Nature Reserve: The park entrance is along the road connecting San Savino and San Feliciano. Managed by the Legambiente environmental association, this natural park is home to a great number of aquatic birds. A wooden boardwalk among the reed thickets will take you to an observation point for bird-watching. Entrance: €3 per person (binoculars for adults and children are provided). Best times for bird-watching are early morning and late afternoon. Very interesting guided tours lasting 2 hours can also be organized for groups of minimum 10. (Unfortunately, the guide speaks Italian only). Tours include a brief presentation about the reserve, bird-watching, and a demonstration of the scientific technique of bird-ringing. Advance reservations are required. The cost is around €6 per person. Phone Maddalena 328 3055083 or 075 8472865 for more info.
Piegaro and the Museum of Glass
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.
The museum director can 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.
Umbria Kids Summer Camp
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.
Horseback Riding Lessons
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
Tavernelle di Panicale
Piscine Tavernelle Water Park: In Tavernelle di Panicale there is a kids water park with 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!
The pretty town of Chiusi (just across the border in Tuscany) 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 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” needs to be booked ahead for an extra cost. 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: Città della Domenica was 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.
Perugina Chocolate Factory and Museum: The Perugina Chocolate Factory hosts a museum and gift shop as well as 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). To book a 3-hour workshop at F chocolate school call tel. 800 800907, available for adults and children ages 6+ accompanied by an adult. Via San Sisto 42, San Sisto (Perugia).
– 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.