Perfect Picnic Places: Il Lago di Aiso (Bevagna)
Here’s watcha wanna do, watcha wanna do is this:
I’m especially proud of this picnic spot, not so much because it’s extraordinarily beautiful (though charming it is) or particularly hard to find (though you’ll have to follow my directions carefully), but simply because I had to do some serious recon work to find a place that I liked enough to share. After a long day of driving around more or less chasing wild geese and rejecting contenders with a growing sense of defeat, this tiny lake came out of left field and surprised me with its quiet grace.
But first, victuals. This is a perfect excuse to take a stroll down the main corso of pretty Bevagna, where in the space of four or five blocks you can find all you’ll need for a meal al fresco. Begin at Tagliavento on Corso Amendola…here you’ll find a tempting selection of handmade salame, prosciutto, dried sausage, and other traditional Umbrian charcuterie side by side with some local cheeses and the ubiquitous porchetta. Umbrians have been coming here for their cold-cuts for three generations, so take your time and choose with care—or let Marco and Rosita suggest something special.
From there, cross over the piazza toward Corso Matteotti; along the Corso you can stop by the greengrocers at number 53, the grocery market at number 49, and the Polticchia bakery right around the corner at Via Fabio Alberti, 9. And you can’t spit in Bevagna without hitting a wine shop, so stock up on some local Sagrantino as long as you’re there. This is how small town shopping is done and—when not pressed for time—it’s a pleasure to finish up laden with an anachronistic array of bundles, bags, and packages from four or five different stores.
Now to reveal to you my secret spot: From Bevagna, take the provincial highway SP 403 following the signs towards Capro and Cannara. About two kilometers outside of Bevagna, you’ll come to an old brick bridge that runs parallel to the road (where there’s a new bridge now) which has been closed and made into a picnic spot (one of the rejects…too much traffic noise). Where this bridge begins you’ll see a small road on the right with a sign indicating Il Convento dell’Annunziata (another reject…pretty view but no place to sit. I’m telling you, I cased the Bevagna countryside). Turn here, but rather than continuing uphill towards the convent, take the road which continues straight along the plain marked by an arrow reading Lago di Aiso. After about a kilometer, you’ll come to the small fenced lake ringed by poplars and picnic tables. For the prettiest view, walk around to the table at the far side, where you’ll have a view of Assisi.
This spring-fed lake is small but deep—around 15 meters—and flows into the nearby Topino river. Though unassuming, it has a wonderful legend surrounding its origins which has been traced back to the 1600s. It is said that at this very spot there once stood a large farmhouse owned by a wealthy but impious and miserly farmer named Chiarò. One year he decided to thresh his fields on the feast day of Saint Anne (the 26th of July), despite it being traditionally a day of rest. His wife, known for her piety and charity, begged him not to work on this holy day to no avail. As soon as he had finished threshing the last stalk of wheat, the house and surrounding fields suddenly sank into the ground and the deep pit immediately filled with water, drowning the farmer and his fieldhands.
His wife—warned by an angel of what would soon be the fate of her husband–was able to escape with their baby son, but a small stream of water followed her and drowned the farmer’s offspring as well. The nearby natural spring called the Asillo marks the spot where the infant drowned. Every year, on the night of Saint Anne, those who visit the lake can see the house of Chiarò under the water at the bottom of the lake and hear his cries as he urges on his threshing horses.