The lonely convent

By Alexandra Redisch on Isola Maggiore

Italian lace

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.

Italian 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.

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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.



About Alexandra Redisch

One of the kids in ‘travel with kids’, avid traveller, mystery writer, chocoholic, currently working on a WWII biography.

18 Responses to “The lonely convent”

  1. Andrew Graeme Gould 8 May 2013 0113 #

    Now that’s a nice story, and with a happy enough ending!

  2. Jenna 8 May 2013 0220 #

    Italy has so many hidden treasures like this. It imust have been a special experience to go there.

  3. Nat 8 May 2013 0628 #

    What a lovely story although would have been happier if the lace making classes were still hapenning

  4. Andrea 8 May 2013 1201 #

    So intricate – I can’t even imagine the time and skill it takes to make those pieces

  5. Salika Jay 8 May 2013 1430 #

    It’s a perfect place to turn in to a museum because it will be maintained now for years to come.

  6. Muza-chan 9 May 2013 0932 #

    Such beautiful, colorful photos 🙂

  7. budget jan 9 May 2013 1120 #

    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!

  8. [email protected] 9 May 2013 1656 #

    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.

  9. eileen at FamiliesGo! 9 May 2013 1758 #

    who knew lace could be so interesting?

  10. Leigh 9 May 2013 1800 #

    What a lovely way of telling the story. It sounds like a beautiful place to visit.

  11. I loved this story and would really enjoy visiting the museum! I’d probably bring some lace home as a souvenir too 🙂

  12. Marcia 9 May 2013 1954 #

    Beautifully told, Alexandra. I’m sure I’ll remember this the next time I see lace.

  13. Lisa Goodmurphy 9 May 2013 2054 #

    Love the creative telling of the story of the lace museum – you have definitely made me want to visit! The lace work looks exquisite!

  14. 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.

  15. Johanna 10 May 2013 1422 #

    What a lovely story and the lace is gorgeous. Such fun visiting places like this where you uncover little known facts.

  16. 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.

  17. Agata from NullnFull 7 April 2014 1157 #

    Fabulous story! And with happy ending 😉

  18. Alexandra 26 June 2014 1020 #

    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!

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