Lake Bolsena is the largest volcanic lake in Europe. This huge basin (covering 270 square kilometres) is not the remains of a single large crater, but formed over thousands of years as a result of repeated land subsidence, caused by eruptions from numerous smaller vents. Two of these vents gave rise to the islands of Martana and Bisentina. Nowadays, viewed from the green hills all around, Lake Bolsena still presents the visitor with the same beautiful natural scene that attracted “travellers” in the past. These included the poet Petrarch, the German writer Goethe, the English painter Turner, and the French composer Berlioz, who described the lake as “a delightful Eden”. Bolsena was on the route of the famous “Via Francigena”, which, from Mediaeval times to the Romantic era, served as the main artery carrying armies, pilgrims and Jubilee celebrants from all over Europe to the mythical city of Rome. Bolsena has a historic centre with narrow winding streets and alleyways, and is dominated by the Monaldeschi Castle, from which you can enjoy a beautiful view of the town and lake. The town is known for the legend of Saint Cristina, who miraculously emerged from the lake where her father had thrown her; and for the miracle of the bleeding Host, which occurred in the very church dedicated to the saint: the ‘Basilica di Santa Cristina’. The Castle houses the Regional Museum, which includes some important Etruscan and Roman finds. The quaint mediaeval quarter was the first inhabited section of the current town of Bolsena. It was constructed in the sixth century A.D. as a result of numerous incursions by the Lombards, who forced the population to take shelter on this small crag. Bolsena also has much evidence of its distant past, with the remains of many important buildings. In addition to many archaeological sites of Etruscan origin, the imposing walls of the ancient Etruscan-Roman town of Volsini are also well preserved. These are notable for their length, extending for at least 4 kilometres.
Cultural and natural attractions in the area
Viterbo-Tuscia, in the north of Lazio, is a huge territory that borders Tuscany and Umbria, and is certainly equal in beauty to these two regions which are so close by, and, in some respects, so similar. Tuscia provides you with evidence of the ancient Etruscans, and of pilgrims on the Via Francigena, together with castles and medieval churches, and many traditional flavours from the past. The beauty of the historic buildings is complemented by the natural and scenic attraction of the area, and its many assets in terms of archaeology, folklore and culinary tradition. Alto Lazio, for those who do not know it, is the realm of the ancient and still mysterious Etruscan people, of landscapes made up of rolling hills and lush green plains, and of villages perched on hilltops which are a constant joy to explore. The Valle dei Calanchi is about 10 km from Bolsena, and Civita di Bagnoregio is certainly the most characteristic village in the valley and a unique wonder of its kind. Only attached to the “mainland” by a long, narrow bridge, it has been known for many years as the “dying town” because of the slow decay of its tuff walls, and is now inhabited by very few families. Inside the village, you can see various mediaeval houses, the Church of San Donato, the Bishop’s Palace, a sixteenth-century mill, the birthplace of St. Bonaventure and the gate of Santa Maria.