By Alexandra Redisch on Isola Maggiore
Once upon a time there was a convent. This convent was very old and tired, its walls were falling down and the roof had many holes. The convent was sad because no one lived there anymore. And it was used to having many occupants: the nuns of the Confraternity of Saint Mary of the Disciplined had lived there for many years, and St. Francis himself had even stayed there once. But the nuns were long gone, and the convent thought it would never be lived in again. It was all terribly upsetting.
But one day, the Marquis Giacinto Guglielmi of Civitavecchia came along and bought the old convent. He mended the holes in the roof and replaced the walls that were no more, and soon the convent was born again as Villa Guglielmi; a beautiful palace on Isola Maggiore, surrounded by Lake Trasimeno.
Marquis Guglielmi and his wife now lived in the convent, along with their daughter Elena. The convent was happy, but still it wanted more. Three people were surely not enough for such a large house. Elena felt the same way too. She was often bored, and she wanted to socialise with other girls in the fishing villages along the coast. She also wanted to do some good for the community, so she started teaching local girls how to make lace.
Lace making became very popular, and soon all the girls came to Villa Guglielmi to participate. One year they had thirty students who came daily to the villa to make crochet-hook lace. The convent was very happy now. There was energy bouncing off the walls, and the convent could feel this deep within her stone walls. The students were happy too. They made table cloths and dresses and all kinds of beautiful lace creations that they sold to rich girls from Florence, Rome, and Perugia.
The school became so popular that a specialist in Irish lace came all the way from Turin to train girls at Villa Gugliemli. The convent was very proud to have such a special guest under her roof. Signorina Elvira Tosetti was the first to learn this new art of lace making. She started showing it to other girls in the nearby fishing villages, and when they grew up they taught their daughters how to make lace as well.
Sadly, the Guglielmi family didn’t stay very long in the convent. Elenas children didn’t want to live on such a small island, and once again the convent was left to itself. It was scared that the walls would start crumbling again, but happily it didn’t stay this way for long.
Even though no one lives there anymore, the convent is still happy, because it is now used as a lace museum where you can see examples of the lace that Elena and her pupils made. But the convent would love even more visitors to bring energy to her old stones, so perhaps you could make the journey next time you’re in Italy? If you go there, follow the Via Guglielmi to the old convent, and you will see women making lace in front of their houses along the way. This old tradition is very important on Isola Maggiore, and the convent feels very proud to be a part of it, and is certainly not sad or lonely anymore.
Landscape surrounding the former convent.
Disclosure: On Isola Maggiore, I was a guest of Trasimeno Tourist Office and Umbria Regional Tourism Board. As ever, all opinions are mine, all mine.
Now that’s a nice story, and with a happy enough ending!
Italy has so many hidden treasures like this. It imust have been a special experience to go there.
What a lovely story although would have been happier if the lace making classes were still hapenning
So intricate – I can’t even imagine the time and skill it takes to make those pieces
It’s a perfect place to turn in to a museum because it will be maintained now for years to come.
Such beautiful, colorful photos 🙂
The convent was huge – no wonder three people rattled around in it. It is beautiful – not what I would associate with nunneries. Lovely lace work too. I would never have the patience to make that!
What a beautiful story but most of all I loved your story telling and lovely writing. I definitely like to keep the convent happy and will keep it in mind next time I visit Italy.
who knew lace could be so interesting?
What a lovely way of telling the story. It sounds like a beautiful place to visit.
I loved this story and would really enjoy visiting the museum! I’d probably bring some lace home as a souvenir too 🙂
Beautifully told, Alexandra. I’m sure I’ll remember this the next time I see lace.
Love the creative telling of the story of the lace museum – you have definitely made me want to visit! The lace work looks exquisite!
What a lovely convent and I love how you told us its history. I’m glad they made use of it as a lace museum. I was fascinated with all the lace in Burano so it would be wonderful to visit this museum. This would definitely be a worthy stop.
What a lovely story and the lace is gorgeous. Such fun visiting places like this where you uncover little known facts.
I really like how you told the story from the convent’s point of view, Alexandra. The pictures of the lace are so beautiful that I was all ready to go and buy something until you told me it’s now a museum. Hopefully, there’s a gift shop. Looks like an interesting place.
Fabulous story! And with happy ending 😉
I would love to have yards and yards of that lace. It is so beautiful. I adore Italy, was actually thinking of booking a ticket there next month!
My husband Scott and I went on a house hunting trip in June of 2018, to find the perfect old Tuscan retreat.
Although we were planning to buy in Tuscany, we stopped at a few Villages along the way, as we drove from Rome’s airport (FCO). Charming Spellos and lively Spoleto were unforgettable walled Villages. By the time we got to Passignano, we thought maybe we need to see some homes in Umbria too. Roberto became our realtor. He showed us a couple of lots with views of Lake Trasimeno. Then a home that needed way too much renovations. But then Roberto showed us a ‘new-build’ home, that still needed a complete kitchen and other finishes. It did have a view of Lake Trasimeno, but we were still hoping to find that old Tuscan retreat.
So we continued on our Tuscan itinerary. But either the homes were too remote, needed too much renovations, or too expensive. And we kept comparing each home to the one in Passignano with the view of Lake Trasimeno. Well needless to say, we bought the ‘new-build’, and finished it with an old world look, and we love it.
Buy the time our house was paid for and complete, it was January of 2019. We had been so busy buying appliances, furniture, linens and kitchen wares, that we hadn’t seen much of our own town. So when our first guests arrived the week after Easter, we decided to take these good friends of ours on the ferry to explore Isola Maggore. It was a beautiful ferry ride and the island was lovely. But since we never knew about the convent that was turned into a lace museum, we didn’t know to ask anyone where it was. So we enjoyed the spring, summer and fall of our fist year, (2019) of entertaining our friends and family. But then came 2020… and we have not been back to Italy in 2 years.
But we have booked flights! And plan to arrive in Passignano by Sept 23 2021. Our first excursion will definitely be to take our family on the Lake Trassimmeno ferry ride to Isola Maggore, down Via Guglielmi to find the Villa Guglielmi Lace Factory.
So glad I read this article just two weeks before we depart.
Sounds amazing! Good luck with your Italian adventure!