A ferry brings travelers to this island, populated with more olive trees than people. The small downtown is a mixture of over-touristed and sweet. The charm of this island comes from its history. This is where St. Francis lived as a hermit in the 1200s. I felt his spirit here more deeply than in the great cathedral in Assisi, that really has very little to do with St. Francis's message of simplicity and the universal presence of the divine. From Isola Maggiore you can look across the water to the town of Tuoro, the scene of Hannibal's bloody defeat of the Romans. Across the water in the other direction lies Passigiano (where you can catch the ferry). In World War II, residents of Passigiano fled to Isola Maggiore to escape the Nazi army. This little island has been witness to tragedy, prayer, quiet, and solitude. Break away from the roaming tourists and find a seat. It's a great place to do a little reflecting of your own.
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The Case of the Missing Lace.
I wanted to visit Isola Maggiore after I read in Frances Mayes’ book, "Under the Tuscan Sun" that ladies sit out in the sun making lace. Cool! The only time I have ever seen that before was also in Italy – last year in Anghiari. It was a step back in time to watch the detailed work.
Of course, Isola means “island” and to get to it, my 5-year-old daughter Lulu and I took a ferry across Lake Trasimeno, Italy’s largest, but lesser known than its more well-known and more written about cousin lake, Como.
Once a thriving fishing and agricultural village, Maggiore is now more populated by tourists than by year-round residents. Fewer than 70 people live full-time on the island.
So, what did we find?
An 18th century palazzo named in honor of Lulu’s real name, Isabella.
Unfortunately it was closed for remodeling. We only got as far as the rusted metal gate.
We also found a private beach.
And the weather was still warm enough to entice Lulu, not me, to strip and wade in.
We discovered an ancient stone carving that denoted the fraternity of the “happy dead.” Their mission to give even poor people a proper burial.
And Lulu found a nice shady place to rest.
But no ladies and lace. We'll invite Frances to come with us next time.