Lago di Pilato

May 11, 2011 / Places
Lago di Pilato, Le Marche

If I were to choose one hike to represent Umbria– heart-stopping views, a proximity to fabulous food, and a bit of historical mystery– the breathtaking trail up Mount Vettore in the Sibilline National Park is a shoo-in.

The path begins in the Piano Grande plateau near the tiny hamlet of Castelluccio (famed for its tiny, flavor-packed lentils, sheep cheese, and charcuterie from nearby Norcia); from this vast tapestry of wildflower-dotted meadows ringed by the dramatic Sibilline Mountains, the trail begins to rise along the hillsides on the southern rim of the plain.

Once over the saddle at Forca Viola, the path descends the opposite slope through Alpine scenery into the valley of Monte Vettore; a last steep climb under the sheer rockface of Pizzo del Diavolo (Devil’s Peak) brings you to Lago di Pilato (Pilate’s Lake) at the bottom of the glacial basin (which is officially in the Marche region).

This Ice-Age lake is unique both for the tiny prehistoric russet-colored crustacean which calls it home, and for its checkered past. Legend holds that the Roman emperor Titus Flavius Vespasianus, after having destroyed Jerusalem, brought the captured Pontius Pilate back to Rome and had him publicly executed. Pilate’s body was put in a rough sack and tossed on a cart driven by oxen which were left to run freely. The careening path of the beasts ended at the top of Cima del Redentore (Redeemer’s Peak–the highest point in Umbria, which towers over the basin), where they upset the cart and Pilate’s remains fell into the lake below. The traitor’s bones are said to still lay in its depths, and the lake takes its name from this legend.

Fact or fiction? You can take your time to mull it over while you picnic near its shores, soak in the otherworldly silence among the mountain peaks, and rest up for the hike back down to the Castelluccio plain.

– Photos courteously provided by Marco Calzolari. Thank you!

Rebecca Winke

by Rebecca Winke

Owner of Brigolante Apartments, a restored 16th century stone farmhouse / guesthouse in the heart of Umbria near Assisi, and blogger of life in Umbria. For tips and insider information about visiting Umbria, download her Umbria Slow App and see her writings on her personal website!

15 Responses to “Lago di Pilato”

  1. giuseppe spano (jojo)
    giuseppe spano (jojo)

    Marche is a very unique region, I especially like the basic style of sauce foe ravioli (here I go back to food)

  2. Joann Holden

    I am curious – what is the “prehistoric crustacean” Scientific name is fine. I’d also like to see the ravioli sauce – my heritage is San Marino/Modena – and I think what I make is pretty basic, with a bit of America thrown in.

  3. Paula (Giangreco) Cullison

    This is such a beautiful area. I am putting it on my list of additional places to go. La bella Italia always surprises.
    My hiking boots are ready :-) grazie …ci vediamo

  4. Nora DeWitt

    What spectacular country! Next time I visit friends who are lucky enough to live in Umbria, I’ll try the hike.

  5. Marina

    I really enjoyed this tale of Pilate’s body! What an interesting piece of Italian trivia!

  6. Domemic Piccolomini


    Thank youu for this note. My family and I (11 of us)are going to do the hike to Lago Pilato on June the 14th. My Father was born in the near by village of Pretare in 1904. I remember him telling me about hiking to the lake when he was a teenager. My wife and I go to Pretare and Castelluccio nearly every year. For years I have wanted to do this hike and this year my Fathers children, grandchildren and great grandchildren are going to due it. A bonus this time of year mid June will be the Beautiful view of the flowers in bloom on the Castelluccio Plain.
    Thank You! Domenic Piccolomini & Family

  7. Anne Robichaud

    Domenic..sounds as if you will be there for the lentils in flower!..and speaking of flowers, if in Umbria June 26th, do not miss the Infiorate in Spello! Wonderful to hear about your family “roots”

  8. Rebecca at Brigolante

    Thanks, everyone, for your wonderful feedback. Joann, the crustacean is called Chirocefalo del Marchesoni. It’s about 3-5 mm long and you have to get your nose right up to the water to spot it…but you can see it with the naked eye.

  9. Mac McLean

    Great trivia and pictures Rebecca, I have never heard of what happened Pilate. I thought he just retired to some Italian villa in retirement as most “governors” did after their service. I guess you couldn’t make big mistakes back then; gives a whole new meaning to “responsible for your actions”!

  10. Dave Pope

    unfortunately you need to check your legends correctly. Pilate was dumped into Lago di Pilato after the Roman Emperor found that He had killed himself. He first was dumped into the Tiber river then he was exhumed and dumped into the Rhine. Then he was exhumed again only to be dumped into Lago di Pilato. Why???? Because everywhere he was dumped the evil spirits in him caused major turmoil. His wife was dumped into the adjacent lake.


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