Lakes, miracles and fairytales
Lake Bolsena and Lake Bracciano, the first and second largest crater lakes in Italy.
What do the lakes of Bolsena and Bracciano have in common, other than their location in Lazio and their volcanic origin?
Firstly there is the size of the lakes (the perimeter of Lake Bolsena measures some 43kms, that of Lake Bracciano 32 kms); secondly, the presence of ancient settlements, built by the Etruscans and, later, by the Ancient Romans; thirdly, the unspoilt nature of a lakeside perfect for trekking; and, finally, water which is both clean enough to drink and ideal for any number of aquatic sports.
The first stop on this lakeside itinerary is Bolsena, the town which gave its name to Italy's largest volcanic lake. It was here that the Miracle of Bolsena is reported to have occurred in 1263, in the Collegiate Church of Santa Cristina'''.
Legend has it that, whilst a Bohemian priest (who had expressed doubts concerning transubstantiation) was busy consecrating mass here, the host in his hands suddenly began to bleed.
Word of the mysterious event soon spread and resulted in Bolsena being included on the Via Francigena, the pilgrim route which, from Canterbury, led all the way to Rome.
Today, on Corpus Domini, the Bolsena Infiorata festival, featuring a 3km long procession of floral compositions, is held in remembrance of the miracle
Est! Est! Est!
With some of the most beautiful views of Lake Bolsena, Montefiascone is located some 600 meters above sea level, on the highest summit of the Volsini mountains. From here, and from the gardens of the town's castle in particular, there is a spectacular panorama embracing the whole of Viterbo's Tuscia area.
Since the 8th century, when Montefiascone became a papal possession, many impressive religious edifices have been built in the town, including the Rocca dei Papi fortress, the Romanesque Church of San Flaviano and the Cathedral of Santa Margherita, the immense dome of which is second in dimension only to that of St Peter's in Rome.
Montefiascone is famous for wine and olive oil and it is here that Italy's highly prized Est!Est!Est! white wine and the DOP Tuscia olive oil are produced
The ideal city
From San Lorenzo Nuovo the view of the lake is, again, quite breathtaking. The new town was built in the 18th century after the malaria infested old town was abandoned for health reasons.
San Lorenzo Nuovo was built according to the then Pope, Clemente XIV's, personal interpretation of the Utopian city. The main, octagonal shaped piazza, is dominated by the Church of San Lorenzo, inside which canvases by Vasari and a bust of Pope Pius VI, attributed to Canova, take pride of place.
Bracciano, shares its name with the lake which washes its shores. Towering above the lake, the beautiful Castle Odescalchi was built between 1470 and 1485.
This ancient residence of the Orsini family attracts thousands of visitors each year, all eager to join a tour of the castle's rooms, admiring furnishings many of which are miraculously unaltered by the passage of time.
In recent years, the castle's magnificent halls have hosted glamorous weddings, including that celebrated between Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes
Another of the Orsini family's strongholds, only the ruins of which remain, is situated in nearby Trevignano Romano.
The Etruscans were responsible for Trevignano's most important artworks, the majority of which were found in the necropolis of the ancient town of Sabatia and are now on display in the Antiqurium museum housed within the Palazzo Comunale.
Hotels in the area
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Montalto di Castro
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Città della Pieve
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Campagnano di Roma
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Città della Pieve
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