Panicale is the classic hilltop Umbrian castle town. Some people call it the balcony on Lago Trasimeno. It just hovers up over the lake. Floats really. Incredible walled village. And our home away from home. Social life all out of proportion to its size. We are always trying to make up for lost time there and pack so much into our small Umbrian vacations. We’ve taken to calling it Panic Alley because we get so swept up in all its social swirl. Small, but as the county seat of this part of Umbria, it has everything: A Theater that looks like a mini La Scala, grocery stores (3) hairdressers (3) flower shops, restaurants (3, again) police, medical clinic 24 hours, pharmacy, four cafes for your daily cappucchino fix, a piazza with marble fountain, churches and on and on.
Our favorite thing is to hold still for long periods of time at a sunny table in the piazza, near the gate to the town outside Aldo’s Café. It is like being at the theater and at any given moment, the show you least expect will start. A wedding party of hundreds will arrive. An antique race car rally will appear with people with tables and forms and stop watches and luscious red Alfas. Tables with flowers, candles and linens will appear and there will be music in the piazza by moonlight.
Heads of Umbrian cheese are raced down the streets, the day after Easter, Wine harvest festival floats parade around the village walls. And then come around again in slightly different and more ribald form. And, what fun, they are REQUIRED to dispense Umbrian wine to one and all. And the most fun on a daily basis is the simplest. Just meeting yet another interesting new friend, someone to share a cup of coffee and local gossip with.
The whole population must come and go through the few streets of this walled village on foot as these streets are almost too small for cars. And there’s just one gate at each end of town interrupting the massive walls. Going a few feet to the café for coffee can consequentially take all morning – as you see everyone. Looking for the plumber? Go get a cup of coffee. He’s either there or will be and Aldo will tell him to come find you. Almost easier than using the phone, plus, you get another cup of coffee. And just doing that can be where the fun often starts, just being open to whatever happens to be going that day. Perhaps the biggest lesson we’ve learned in Italy: living in the present and enjoying the moment.
If you are interested in renting in the area check out some of our area favorite places to stay!