Take in the view
Sit on the terrace at La Gioia and take in the spectacular view over Lake Bolsena. From sunrise to sunset, and even at night when the stars are out, the view is magical, spectacular, everchanging.
'Centro Storico' of Bolsena
The old town centre of Bolsena is just over 1km away. Thick stone walls of over 4km circle the old buildings. Enter through one of the archways to discover atmospheric narrow cobbled streets, stepped alleyways and arched passages leading up to the castle.
Continue from the 'centro storico' along the avenue which leads down to the lake. Here you will find beaches, restaurants and cafes with views over the lake, the small harbour from where the boat tours depart and tree lined promenades for that gentle morning stroll.
Lake Bolsena (12km long, 14km wide)
is Italy's largest lake of volcanic origin and is renowned for the transparency and cleanliness of its waters (so much so that its nickname is 'Lago che si Beve' or the Lake where one Drinks).
Coregone (pronounced 'corray-GOAN-ay')
Coregone is the fresh water fish found in Lake Bolsena and on many of the menus in the lakeside restaurants. This white fish only survives in very pure water - a fine indication that these waters are as pure as they can be. Often served roasted with a sprinkle of rosemary.
The weekly open-air market is part of Italian life
Stalls laden with produce, scents and smells filling the air and a crowd of Italians - finish the morning's shopping with a coffee in a bar. Bolsena's market takes place on Tuesday.
In any town or large village, especially on a weekend or holiday, everyone congregates in the main square in the early evening. They sit and chat with their friends, go for a stroll, sip an aperitif in one of the bars, or stop for an ice cream... It is the perfect time to people watch!
Relax on the terrace at La Gioia with a glass of the local wine. Catch up on all the books you have been meaning to read for ages or take a dip in the pool.
Enjoy the scenic drive around the lake. Stop when you feel like it, wander around a village, have a leisurely lunch somewhere, the choice is yours.
Follow the S2 lakeside road due south Bolsena to arrive in Montefiascone. This lovely hilltop town affords great views over the lake and is also home of Est! Est! Est!, the renowned local white wine. If you are there in August, join in the wine festivities.
The story behind Est! Est! Est!
In the year 1000, a bishop travelling to Rome instructed his manservant to go ahead in order to select the best places to stay and drink. He was to indicate his approval by writing Est! on the door of the inn. Upon arriving in Montefiascone and tasting the wine, he found it to be so good that he wrote Est! 3 times on the door. The bishop was certainly happy as he returned to the village to live there there until he died.
Festa delle Ortensie (Festival of the Hydrangeas)
During the last weekend of June, Bolsena town is transformed by a colourful display of hydrangeas. People come from all over Italy to turn the streets and piazzas of the town into an immense flowering garden. A most civilised and vibrant festival.
The Umbrian town of Orvieto is only half an hour's drive away and well worth visiting. It is situated on the flat summit of a large butte of volcanic tufa and is a stunning sight both from afar and close up. Explore the underground tunnels, the classy shops and restaurants and marvel at the 'Duomo', the façade of which graces many a postcard.
The Eternal City of Rome
Catch the train to Rome. The nearest train station is Orvieto (18km) and the journey takes approx 1hr. Going by train is certainly the best way to arrive in Rome, avoiding the nightmare of driving into the centre and trying to park!
Martana and Bisentina - the islands on Lake Bolsena.
No visitors are permitted on tiny Martana but you can visit larger Bisentina by boat. It has some romantic gardens, a small church and a 5th-century chapel.
Lago di Vico
Like a secret hidden lake, Lake Vico (due south) is on a smaller scale to Lake Bolsena. Formed in the crater of an old volcano, it is surrounded by forest-covered slopes. The area is a nature reserve, and lots of possibilities for walking. For those who prefer to drive, take the Via Ciminia, which is a scenic road along the top of the crater's ridges.
Near to Viterbo is the 16th C Villa Lante, famous for its beautiful gardens. Set in a park covering 20 hectares, keen gardeners will delight in the grounds, which are truly spectacular. Fountains, grottos, stone terraces and staircases, sculptures, wooded areas, outdoor dining areas, parkland, all of this can be found here in what has been described as a fine example of the best period in the history of garden design: the Mannerist phase of the Italian renaissance.
Pitigliano in Tuscany
Head west from Bolsena for ½ hr and you will reach Pitigliano, a fascinating hilltop town dating back to the Etruscan era. From there, continue west along the S74 until you reach the sea and the Promontorio dell'Argentario (1hr 45mins drive).
The abandoned town of Civita di Bagnoregio, 13km east of Bolsena, is a spectacular sight. This 'dying' village sits atop a domed hilltop and is reached by a long and steep causeway. Only a few people live here now thanks to its precarious location on soft, easily eroded rock!
Volsinii and the Mercatello Amphitheatre
The Roman town of Volsinii is not on the scale of Pompeii but worth an hour of anyone's time. It is off the Bolsena - Orvieto road. Few people know about it and so it often empty. You can see the ruins of villas, a forum and basilica, Etruscan wells and tombs. Follow the cobbled stone roads and you reach an amphitheatre. Unexcavated but still visible - a flat oval pan covered with scrubby grass. The tiered seating is completely concealed by trees.
Basilica di Santa Cristina
The basilica in Bolsena is dedicated to the early Christian martyr who simply refused to die. Santa Cristina survived being thrown into the lake by her father, boiled alive, put on the rack, whipped and bitten by snakes, but was finally dispatched by arrows. The Basilica also houses catacombs and a Longobard cemetery whilst Della Robbia maiolica masterpieces lighten up the rock façade
'Misteri di Santa Cristina'
The 'Misteri di Santa Cristina' take place July 23 & 24, in honour of the martyr. The various torments are depicted in a series of tableaux around the town, played by the local people. The tradition is that once you have a place in a particular tableau, it is yours for life.
Fishing, cycling, swimming, walking
There is a wide variety of fish in the lake and fishing is popular. Ask at the tourist office for the required permit. As the terrain around the lake is mainly flat, cycling is very popular. To hire bikes, ask at the tourist office. Clear waters and numerous beaches make swimming in the lake a delightful, albeit refreshing, experience. And finally, there is plenty of scope for walking in the area.
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