Somewhere along the lake shore towards the rambling village of Tuoro, probably at Sanguineto (“the Place of Blood”) or Ossaia (“the Place of Bones”), is the spot where the Romans suffered their famous clobbering at the hands of Hannibal in 217 BC. Hannibal was headed for Rome, having just crossed the Alps, when he was met by a Roman force under the Consul Flaminius. Things might have gone better for Flaminius if he’d heeded the omens that piled up on the morning of battle. First he fell off his horse, next the legionary standards had to be dug out of the mud, then – and this really should have raised suspicions – the sacred chickens refused their breakfast. Poultry accompanied all Roman armies and, by some means presumably known to the legionnaire in charge of chickens, communicated the will of the gods to waiting commanders in the field. Hannibal lured Flaminius into a masterful ambush, with the only escape a muddy retreat into the lake. Sixteen thousand Romans, including the hapless commander, were killed. A hard-to-find drive and walkway have been laid out, starting and finishing just west of Tuoro on the road to Cortona, which take in salient features of the old battlefield; the information office on the lake shore can arrange guided tours.

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