Every historical village has its secrets and enchanted stories of ghosts and witches to tell. Città della Pieve is not an exception; it is the birthplace of Filippa, one of the most famous witches of Umbria. She was accused of magic spells and then burned at the stake in the mid-1400s. The only thing we know for sure about her is the way she died. The Chief Magistrate of Perugia sentenced her to death in the year 1455.
Only a few academics of modern history who have focused their studies on the “witches’ hunt” know her name, her unlucky life and fate. Her life was brought back to light in the summer of 2018 when the employees of the Tourist Information Centre of Città della Pieve made a research in order to discover all the town’s secrets. Her life was quite easy to track down thanks to the original text of her death sentence published in Latin in the Bulletin of the motherland Umbria in1987.
It was during the event “Zafferiamo 2018” when her story was told in public for the very first time. So, let us find out more about the story of Filippa from Castel della Pieve, and her trial. She was accused of witchery like all her colleagues; she was deliberately found guilty after she begged another witch of Castel della Pieve, Claruzia di Angelo, to teach her all her tricks and spells. Probably the judge made up this story simply because he wanted to make her situation worse. The chief magistrate convicted her for being aware of the fact that she wanted to become a witch. In April 1455 after her spontaneous confession, she was sentenced to death after admitting that she was seeking the devil and had naked herself in front of him and tempted him with her loose hair; but her intention was not to seduce him; all she wanted was to be stronger and more powerful than him. She was also accused of being a sorcerer who enchanted spirits and devils and who used to drink children’s blood.
She was compelled to pay a very high court fine (about 4000 pounds) within 10 days before her death sentence if she wanted to save her life. That was impossible for her and the other women like her at that time due to the lack of money; for this reason she was burned alive. Her execution took place in Perugia; while conducted to the gallows, she was exposed to public insult and mocking.
If you join one of our guided tours called “the secrets of Città della Pieve” you will have the chance to see the places where Filippa and other mysterious characters from Città della Pieve lived and operated.
The guided tour “The secrets of Città della Pieve” takes place every year during the town’s main events, or you can reserve a guided tour at the discovery of the historical centre by clicking on the link here below:
Every historical town has its own local, traditional handicraft that is preserved and passed on from generation to generation, like pottery, iron and wood. Panicale still preserves something more delicate and female oriented; the art of embroidery on tulle with the name of Ars Panicalensis.
The weaving of tulle spread from the early 1800s thanks to the improving of mechanic looms, the evolution of the technique of lace with needle and thread made of cotton or silk. The nuns of the convent of the Collegio delle Vergini and their pupils already practiced embroidery up to the the year 1872, when the convent was shut down.
It was then in the 1930s, when a resident of Panicale whose name was Anita Belleschi Grifoni wanted to bring this tradition back to life, improving the art of weaving, simplifying stitches and introducing more elaborate patterns. Anita Grifoni believed in the economic and social power of this art; for this reason, she founded a real embroidery school. She also created the brand Ars Panicalensis that soon became popular all over the world. Her intuition was right, since the year 1936 her school started to cooperate with the ENAPI (Ente Nazionale per l’Artigianato e le Piccole Imprese/ Public Authority for handicraft and small enterprises), getting in touch with artists who created original designs and patterns. Her school was a real success! The “Ars Panicalensis” became prestigious and counted among his customers royal names and families, such as the Savoia family and the Princes of Torlonia. Apart from its mere commercial aspect, the school’s main purpose was to help women be independent and socially emancipated. The Ars Panicalensis has survived the death of its founder Grifoni and the closing of the school; Even if the school is closed, a group of embroiderers has kept the tradition alive up to now. A collection of items manufactured by Anita Belleschi Grifoni and her pupils can be admired at the Museum of Tulle in Panicale, in the church of Saint Augustine, Square Regina Margherita. The museum, opened in 2001 has a collection of private embroidered items that belonged to families who had previously bought them and then donated to the museum. Since 2013 the Municipality of Panicale together with the GAL Trasimeno-Orvietano has organised a new event with the purpose of promoting the “Ars panicalensis”, FILI IN TRAMA that takes place every year in September. It is a great occasion for exhibitors and embroiderers from all over Italy and the whole world who meet and organize exhibitions, workshop, shows and book presentations.
If you want to discover the museum, then reserve a guided tour following the link here below:
Panicale, apart from its great position overlooking the Trasimeno lake and its valuable art masterpieces, is also the birthplace of one of the most notorious warlords of all times: Boldrino from Panicale.
Boldrino, whose real name was Giacomo Paneri, was born in Panicale in 1331 from the marriage of Francesco Paneri and Lucrezia Ceppotti.
According to the art historian Fabbretti he was renowned for his “athletic and strong appearance”. He was very tall for his period, between 1 metre 95 and 2 metres 10 centimetres, that was enough to scare all his enemies. He had a strict look, and was ambitious, brave and greedy. After the murder of his dad, his only wish was to have an immediate revenge; so when he was still a teenager, he decided to move to Perugia, where he learnt how to handle a weapon. He soon excelled in his group for his commitment, his vigour and skills. In the following years he got involved with a group of mercenaries led by l’Acuto (the Italian translation for J. Hawkwood), from whom he learnt to be sly and and irreverent.
He soon left this group in 1376, and formed one of his own, made up of about 3000 men. He was a cruel warlord and his enemies would not even mention his name without having fear. Thanks to his cruelty, he soon gained a reputation for being: “A proud warlord, always victorious, very good towards his friends, very bad towards his enemies”. These words are still visible on his memorial marble plaque that hangs on one of the walls of his house in Piazza San Michele Arcangelo, in Panicale. Like all mercenaries, he defended those who offered him more money, for this reason he sometimes found himself against a city or a lord he had previously already served. His life was a never-ending sequence of battles, raids and public decorations. One of his victories is still visible on the historical curtain of the Theatre Caporali in Panicale. Mariano Piervittori painted the canvas in the year 1835. He depicts the Church Prior of Perugia who delivers the keys of the city to Boldrino, it was a way to show him how grateful he was for having defeated the Bretons and defended the city of Perugia from the invaders.
His life and death are worth a mention. It was in 1391 when Boldrino found himself in the region of Marche trying to conquer castles and lands on behalf of Pope Bonifacio IX. Once he had conquered them, he decided to keep them for himself and his son, so Castel Ficano in the province of Macerata (MC) became his house. Anyway, it never became his official home as he lacked any kind of royal title. The Pope’s brother, Andrea Tomacelli, made him pay for what he had done; with the excuse of the swearing-in ceremony of San Severino Andrea invited Boldrino to the castle of Rancia, the last place where Boldrino had been seen alive. Unaware and unarmed, while sipping some water, Boldrino was stabbed with a dagger and then beheaded. When his soldiers learnt of the fact, they started butchering and devastating the local population, until they managed to get back his corpse. They all gathered in reverence around his dead body. According to the legend, even after his death his soldiers used to take his mummified body to war with them, as he was still able to scare all his enemies. Independently of his good or evil deeds, he has become a fascinating character for both adults and children.
It is possible to reserve a guided tour by clicking on the links here below in order to admire the theatre curtain depicting Boldrino and his military actions:
Paciano, was ranked among the most beautiful historical centres in Italy. It is the ideal place not only for those who want to turn back time in its alleys and picturesque views, but also for those who love walking in contact with nature. This natural environment allows you to go on an excursion on a trail that links Paciano to Panicale, that are situated in two opposite slopes of the Mount Petralvella.
Going through the gate porta Rastrella you exit the centre of Paciano and take the uphill towards Panicale. The first part of the path goes through a typical Mediterranean wood, with chestnuts, oaks, bushes, junipers and wild roses. You carry on along a alley with pine trees until you reach the picnic area of the Mount Pausillo at 617 metres above the sea level. The trekking trail goes back then to get the peak of the Mount Petrarvella. From the top of the mountain, at about 638 metres above the sea level, you will enjoy a wonderful view of the lake Trasimeno, and will be amazed by the beauty of the landscape that inspired the great Perugino in all his works.
The trekking trail ends in the western side of Panicale, on a country path where you can also spot the Nestore Valley and the slopes of the Mount Arale.
For a more passionate experience, you can walk this trail on your own or you can be guided by an expert outdoor guide. You can reserve it just by following the link here below:
Panicale, situated at 441 metres a.s.l., is the most beautiful “terrace” overlooking the whole surface of the lake Trasimeno.
The origin of the name “Panicale” is still uncertain, even if it may have derived from the Latin word pan colis, “the place where “panico” is grown”; Panico is a type of grain,very similar to millet, whose spikes could be the ones that are visible in the town’s coat of arms.
Panicale has got a unique urban structure, composed of circles all along a steep hill, where the first people settled. Strolling around the narrow streets of the centre, joined together by alleys and flights of steps is a real plasure for every visitor. With no rush, everyone can enjoy its fantastic views, colours and its historical heritage.
The first place to be settled was the top of the hill, a small and picturesque square where the Palazzo del Podestà stands; The Palazzo was built in the 1300s and is made of sandstone. This is one of the most picturesque corners in Panicale, where you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the lake and the green and gentle hills around it. The blue water of the lake and the green lands blend together and turn into different colour shades, according to the time of the day, the day and the season.
Going down a narrow street we walk along the birthhouse of the fearsome Boldrino Paneri. The house is situated in Piazza San Michele where the Church “Collegiata”, renamed after the same Saint, stands. The church dates back to the X and XI centuries and underwent several renovation works during the centuries, until the last renovation, that took place in the late 1600s/early 1700s, when it gained its Baroque style. Inside, among the baroque stuccoes it is possible to admire “the Annunciation” painted by Masolino from panicale and “The Adoration of the Shepherds “ by Giovanbattista Caporali.
Down again, when you reach the main square in Panicale, piazza Umberto I, you can see the XV century fountain that reminds us the “Fontana Maggiore” in Perugia, with its beautiful decorations and the town’s coat of arms. From this square, walking along a street covered with a roof you reach the Theatre Caporali that is considered one of the smallest theatres in Italy. It still preserves its original structure and stage. Going through the Gate Porta Perugina, we keep going on towards Via Belvedere. With its leafy trees, benches and a large sidewalk, via Belvedere is the ideal place for those who want to admire the lake Trasimeno. But that’s not all, it also leads to the Church of San Sebastiano, where you can see both the famous wall painting by Perugino “The sacrifice of Saint Sebastian” and the “Madonna with Angels who are playing some musical instruments”, which was attributed to Raffaello.
You can visit Panicale and its historical streets either on your own or with a guided tour, that you can reserve and buy directly on our website “Terre del Perugino” just following the links here below:
We decided to rename our “brand” after him, because he was and still is one of the greatest Italian Renaissance painters. Let us find out something more about him, his life, his works that are still admired today and about his character that used to have a great influence on all his contemporary artists and painters. Pietro Vannucci, known as il Perugino, was born in Castel della Pieve, probably in the mid 1400s, in a house located on the top of the strada del Vecciano (today Via Roma), as mentioned in some old official papers and died when he contracted the bubonic plague in Fontignano (PG) in 1523. He is worldwide known thanks to its artist name “Perugino”. He had chosen a bigger city like Perugia rather than a smaller place like Castel della Pieve because his purpose was to give his paintings a precise geographical origin. It is said, even if there is no evidence of it, that his first teacher would have been a certain Francesco da Castel della Pieve, a local painter who worked on a big “Crucifixion” from 1449, that is still visible in Paciano, at the art gallery owned by the Confraternita del SS Sacramento of Paciano. According to the art historian Vasari, he could have been a pupil in the school of Piero della Francesca in Arezzo, from whom he learnt the use of perspective, while in Florence he trained at the workshop owned by the multitasking artist Verrocchio. It was there, where he learnt grace and harmony in drawing.
He was a prolific artist of a great fame and opened two schools: one in Perugia and another one in Florence. He was so much appreciated for his talent that in the year 1481 was commissioned the painting of the walls in the Sistine Chapel, together with his contemporary painters like: Cosimo Rosselli, Sandro Botticelli and Domenico Ghirlandaio. There is no doubt at all that in this period he reached the top of his fame and prestige; his paintings were a mixture of lyricism and surreal figures.
The late 1400s represented the end of his golden age and the early 1500s the beginning of his downfall. It was probably due to a radical change in taste and styles in art, while he showed a lack of renovation. For this reason his style was labelled as monotonous, static and old-fashioned. He was therefore forced to leave those bigger cities like Rome and Florence where he made a fortune and come back to the surrounding area of Perugia, where he was still appreciated as an artist.
He showed his talent when he painted the wall painting “The Adoration of the Magi” in 1504 at the Oratory of Santa Maria de’ Bianchi in Città della Pieve and the following year “the Sacrifice of Saint Sebastian”, in the church renamed after Saint Sebastian in Panicale. In 1508 he also painted “Sant’Antonio Abate between the two Saints Paolo Eremita and Marcello” in the church of San Pietro always in Città della Pieve and afterwards the two altar canvas “Madonna in glory with the Saints” and the “Christening of Jesus Christ”, inside the Cathedral of Città della Pieve.
Back in Città della Pieve, when he was old and almost blind, Pietro painted in 1517 the Church of Santa Maria dei Servi, today the Civic Museum owned by the Diocese. The painting was supposed to be a cycle of frescoes focusing on the main events of Jesus’ life. The “Lowering of Christ from the cross” is an essential and mature work and it is the only one that is still visible. He died after having contracted the bubonic plague in the year 1523, when he was almost 80 years old.
Although Vasari criticised him a lot, we should not forget that Perugino taught pupils like Pinturicchio, Raffaello, Giovanni Spagna, Eusebio da San Giorgio, Giannicola di Paolo, Giovanni Battista Caporali and today he is considered one of the most famous Italian painters.
You can see his works in Città della Pieve and Panicale either on your own, or with a guided tour that you can book and buy directly on our internet site “terre del Perugino”, following the links here below:
In a short piece of land on the borders between Umbria and Tuscany, across the Chiana Valley and the Trasimeno lake, there are four medieval centres worth to be mentioned: Città della Pieve, Panicale, Paciano and Piegaro; they all have one thing in common: thanks to the beauty of their views they became a great source of inspiration for the famous Italian painter Pietro Vannucci, also known as “Il Perugino”.
Perugino himself who was born in Città della Pieve and whose works are still safeguarded in churches, museums, art galleries and Oratories all over Italy and Europe, brought fame and prestige to this part of Umbria.
With this blog, that is linked to our internet site “Terre del Perugino”, we want to show you all the local traditions, local art and the beauty of these places, where it is still possible to lead a quiet life, eat good food and being surrounded by nature.