Panicale, Italy: Wild Times in a Medieval Village

Man on scooter in village square
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Panicale, Italy is a comune located in the Province of Perugia in the Italian region of Umbria. This great tourist environment is comprised of a medieval hilltown with streets arranged in an oval pattern. In the heart of town, just off the main piazza, there's great food, wine, and apartments available. Notable landmarks preserved include the city wall, towers, the church of Saint Michele Arcangelo, the Palazzo Pretorio, and the Palazzo del Podesti. Masolino da Panicale, an Italian painter, was born in Panicale in 1383 and is known for his notable fresco work in the Branacci Chapel (1424-1428) as well as the Massacio: Madonna with Child and St. Anne (1424).

A Story of Panicale, Italy

Some things you do with friends and lovers— and travel may be one of them.

6 km south of Lake Trasimeno is a little Umbrian hilltown named Panicale, where, in 217 BC, Hannibal was making a name for himself by ambushing Roman legions along the banks. Over 15,000 legionnaires died, and the Romans were not pleased. Today, the natives are over their loss and welcome visitors with open arms.

While Panicale was likely inhabited since Etruscan times, it was a medieval castle built on the peak of the hill that formed the city into what you see today. The town's narrow roads form concentric ovals around the Piazza Podesta at the hill's peak, as a defensive measure when they were built.

Piazza Umberto 1: Gallo's Bar

The main event happened in the Piazza Umberto 1, the big piazza on the south edge of town. This is where Gallo's bar is located. Aldo Gallo makes a mean cappuccino in the morning, and every Thursday night during the summer, there's an evening jazz concert sponsored by the Gallos. If you rent the apartment the Gallos own across from the bar, they'll make you a special pitcher of "long drinks" to go with the free music, too.

Jazz is common in these parts of town, where Umbria Jazz has made its mark. In fact, the Italians will go nuts over any American who sings or plays in their Thursday night jam sessions.

Panicale Culture and Destinations

Although it wasn't Carnegie Hall, there's still something entrancing about living in a place and participating in the everyday events that make a little town of 500, which swells to 800 in the summer, different than one in the U.S. It's small enough that you might not want to make a special long drive to see Panicale, as cute as it is. However, art lovers may want to check out the famous fresco by Il Perugino, depicting the Martirio del Santo in the Chiesa of S. Sebastiano.

The fact is, just about every Umbrian or Tuscan hilltown is charming. Many Italian rental places and agritourismos are located on dirt roads way out of town, but Panicale has rental places in historic houses right in the historic center, where the visitor can feel that they are a part of a little community. Thankfully, the Gallos go out of their way to make this a reality, and they do it without speaking English. That's something you won't experience every day.

Besides, Panicale is central to some pretty impressive tourist destinations, including Perugia to the Northeast, Tuscany's Chiusi just 16 km to the west, and Lake Trasimeno right to the north. Access to Rome or Florence is easy by car, and you can drive to nearby Chiusi and take the train just about anywhere in Tuscany or Umbria if you fear driving in Italy.