The typical softly rolling hills of the Umbrian-Tuscan landscape, with their beautiful views over the lake, are dotted with innumerable ancient villages and towns rich in history, art and culture and give this area its particularly fascinating allure. Over the centuries, these ageless places have hosted great events and even greater personages.
The Etruscans began settling in this area between the 10th to the 8th centuries BC and evidence of their settlements can still be found, starting in Chiusi, just south-west of Lake Trasimeno. Towards the end of the 5th century BC the Etruscan king Porsenna, famous for the siege which encircled the already powerful city of Rome, ruled here. The archaeological museum in Chiusi houses many Etruscan-Roman artifacts and one can still visit the amazing Porsenna labyrinth. If we go from Chiusi to the Lake and then follow the footsteps of pre-Roman civilization heading eastwards we find Perugia, one of the first of the twelve Etruscan cities. The city is still encircled in many places by ancient Etruscan walls, gateways and other structures: the Etruscan Arch, Marzia Gate and the Etruscan well. Outside of the city one can visit the Volumni underground Etruscan tombs in Ponte San Giovanni, the largest and most important necropolis in the outskirts of Perugia.
Heading towards the Lake again from Perugia, one passes through Corciano, Magione, Passignano and Tuoro. The Etruscans also left their mark on the hilltops around the Lake, as witnessed by the fascinating religious artifacts that have been found there, many of which are now housed in the archaeological museums of Perugia and Corciano. For the Etruscans, Lake Trasimeno was an important place that connected Cortona, Perugia and Chiusi, and it was characterized by small settlements of which today funerary urns, country homes and churches that have been built over old Etruscan cult buildings can still be seen. A fine example is the Church of Santa Maria Ancaelle in Sant“Arcangelo di Magione. The flat and fertile area around Castiglione del Lago is where most of the important artifacts were found.
But it was in the Roman Era that the Trasimeno area, with its flourishing agriculture and the riches of the Lake (which were not limited to fish), became an important military and economic centre. It was then that observation towers (the original nucleus of the Monte Ruffiano Castle), fortifications and villas (as evidenced by the recently uncovered remains of a rustic Roman villa in Quarantaia) were constructed in Passignano. This was also the era in which Tuoro, at the northern end of the Lake, played an important role in Roman history as the site of the Battle of Trasimeno. The battle saw one of the most extraordinary victories of the Carthaginian army headed by general Hannibal over the Romans during the 2nd Punic War.