Slow Museums: September 21, 2016 – Isola Maggiore, Lago di Trasimeno – Museo del Merletto

I took my Drawing students on a field trip to Isola Maggiore, one of three islands in the Lago di Trasimeno, south of Cortona. The island is tiny, with only a few houses lining one main street, fifteen permanent residents, two restaurants, a couple of cafès, and a handful of churches. It also has a ruined 19C castle that was built over a monastery founded by St. Francis, and some fascinating and tragic history from the time of the second world war.

One of the tourist attractions on the island is the Museo di Merletto, or the Museum of Lacemaking. The daughter of the castle’s owner, the marchesa Elena Guglielmi, wanted to give the island’s women (mostly the wives and daughters of freshwater fishermen) a skill that could help them earn income for their impoverished families. Noticing that the women were already adept at repairing fishing nets, Guglielmi founded a school of Irish lacemaking for them. Very, very few women still practice this art on the island, and they are all very elderly. When the weather is good they bring their chairs out into the sunny street and hope that tourists will buy the small pieces they produce.

elderly woman knitting in front of the Museo del Merletto on Isola Maggiore in the Lago di Trasimeno