The town of Magione is situated on Lake Trasimeno to the west of Perugia and towards the west of the Umbria region, in central Italy. In ancient times Magione didn’t have a city wall but relied instead on a defense system based around the ‘Torre dei Lombardi’ (Lombardy Tower), located to the north of the town. Magione is based around two streets which, starting from the church of San Giovanni Battista, rise towards the “Torre dei Lombardi”, not far from the castle and which once controlled the major roads – the tower was located on the important road that linked Perugia with the Lake Trasimeno and Tuscany.
The castle of the Knights of Malta in Magione dates from the years 1150-1170. It was born as a hospitium (shelter) for the pilgrims on route to Rome and Jerusalem and who travelled along Via Francigena leading to Santiago de Compostela. The original structure consisted of only two sides (L-shaped) and included a bell tower and a chapel dedicated to St. John the Baptist. However, for reasons of security, privacy and isolation, the hospitium assumed a castle-like structure and the original “L” plan was later renovated with the addition of two strong outer walls with two corner towers.
The current structure is the result of several changes during the centuries but due to two main modifications. The first was an enlargement in 1367 which consisted in the raising of the structure and the second, in 1471, brought about the existing quadrangular castle shape with the addition of round corner tower, the construction of the brackets, the battlements, an internal colonnaded courtyard surrounded on three sides by porticoes with three tiers of superimposed arches and later, in 1644, a stone cistern was made from a pre-existing one.
In the oldest part of the castle is held the church dedicated to St. John the Baptist in the Romanesque style with vaulted ceilings, and containing two frescoes of exquisite workmanship most likely from the pinturicchiesca school of the 16th century that represent on the left the Nativity, composed of a central Virgin and Child, and on the right of the entrance a composition with St. John the Baptist, patron of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, and St. James the patron saint of pilgrims. It is thought that these frescoes were commissioned by Cardinal Giovan Battista Orsini, commendatory of the Castle Magione in 1502. Over the centuries illustrous people as Popes and Kings stayed at the castle on route between Perugia and Tuscany. Moreover in 1502 a noted conspiracy hailed by some of the Italy’s nobility against Cesare Borgia, referred to as the “diet alla Magione nel Perugino” the very one which Machiavelli refers to in “The Prince” was held at the very castle. Today the castle holds the business headquarters of the estate and remains the summer residence of the Prince and Grand Master of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.
Among the religious buildings in Magione, the Our Lady of Grace Church is of medieval origin and inside you can still see a 14th century fresco attributed to Andrea di Giovanni of Orvieto called the “Madonna Enthroned”. The Church of St. John the Baptist was also built by the Knights of Malta, in 1571. The interior has a Latin cross plan with a nave, and contains a cycle of frescoes by Gerardo Dottori (1884-1977), a great Futurist painter and prominent member of the so-called “aeropittura” (Aeropainting) movement. Enthusiasts of futurist art can see more notable works by Dottori in the Town Hall, also dating from the nineteenth century.