Abbadia San Salvatore

Abbey of Sant'Antimo



Archipelago Toscano




Badia di Coltibuono

Barberino Val d'Elsa

Bolsena Lake


Brunello di Montalcino




Castel del Piano



Castellina in Chianti


Castelnuovo Bererdenga

Castiglioncello Bandini

Castiglione della Pescaia

Castiglione d'Orcia

Castiglion Fiorentino



Chianciano Terme




Cività di Bagnoregio

Colle Val d'Elsa


Crete Senesi

Diaccia Botrona

Isola d'Elba



Gaiole in Chianti



Greve in Chianti


Lago Trasimeno

La Foce



Massa Marittima

Montagnola Senese


Monte Amiata

Monte Argentario





Monte Oliveto Maggiore








Parco Naturale della Maremma







Radda in Chianti



San Bruzio

San Casciano dei Bagni

San Galgano

San Gimignano

San Giovanni d'Asso

San Quirico d'Orcia


Santa Fiora













Tavernelle Val di Pesa

Torrita di Siena




Val d'Elsa

Val di Merse

Val d'Orcia

Valle d'Ombrone






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Lake Bolsena | Lago di Bolsena


Lake Bolsena | Lago di Bolsena


Everyone has heard of Lake Como and Lake Maggiore, but few know about the beautiful lake and historic region that lies in the heart of Italy, not far from the popular Tuscan and Umbrian tourist spots and it remains one of Italy's best kept secrets.
Located on the borders of Tuscany and Lazio, the lake is formed in the crater of an extinct volcano. The waters are crystal clear and teem with fish, and are ringed with crescents of fine volcanic sandy beaches. The capital of the Lake is Bolsena itself. Once the Etruscan settlement of Volsini and medieval town of miracles, it is famous for its gardens and annual flower festival.

Lake Bolsena (Italian: Lago di Bolsena) is a crater lake of central Italy, of volcanic origin, which was formed starting 370,000 years ago following the collapse of a caldera of the Vulsini volcanic complex into a deep aquifer. Roman historic records indicate activity of the Vulsini volcano occurred as recently as 104 BC, since when it has been dormant. The two islands in the southern part of the lake were formed by underwater eruptions following the initial collapse of the caldera.

The lake is supplied entirely from the aquifer, rainfall and runoff, with one outlet at the southern end. A sewage treatment plant filters most of the raw sewage from the surrounding communities. Constructed in 1996, it features pipelines transporting the sewage from every major community around the lake to the treatment plant on the Marta River; that is, no effluents enter the lake.[4] Fertilizers are a second source of contamination. However, the chemical content of the lake is monitored at several stations around it.

Lying within the northern part of the province of Viterbo that is called Alto Lazio ("Upper Latium") or Tuscia, the lake has a long historic tradition. The Romans called it Lacus Volsinii, adapting the Etruscan name, Velzna, of the last Etruscan city to hold out against Rome, which was translocated after 264 BC, and its original location today has not been securely identified. The lake is bordered on one side by updated forms of the Roman consular road Via Cassia. In addition to the historic sites of all periods, Lake Bolsena is currently surrounded by numerous tourist establishments, largely for camping, agrotourism and bed and breakfasts.

One third of the lake was donated to the Church by the noble family Alberici of Orvieto. In recognition of the donation the Alberici family was honored with a ceremony three times a year performed by the Bishop of Orvieto.


The lake has an oval shape typical of crater lakes. The long axis of the ellipse is aligned in a north-south direction. The bottom is roughly conical reaching a maximum depth at a point in the middle. The entire lake is surrounded by hills on the flanks and summits of which are the comuni. The watershed was home to 22000 permanent residents in 2004, 35000 in the summer season.[4]
Elevations on the north of the lake are the highest, with a maximum of 702 m (2,303 ft). As the lake is at 305 m (1,001 ft), no hill is more than 397 m (1,302 ft) higher than it. On the northern rim of the caldera is San Lorenzo Nuovo ("New Saint Lawrence"), which was moved from an older site (a hypothetical San Lorenzo Vecchio, "Old Saint Lawrence") further down the slope to avoid malaria. The northern shore of the lake once featured marshes, breeding grounds for the mosquitos that carry the disease. Currently it is agricultural. At the site of old San Lorenzo are Etruscan antiquities. To the north of San Lorenzo Nuovo and the caldera rim is Acquapendente.
The hills to the east are 600 m (2,000 ft) to 650 m (2,130 ft). Bolsena extends upward on the northeast shore, with Orvieto 14 km (8.7 mi) further to the northeast, at the edge of the volcanic region. On the southeast of the lake is Montefiascone at an elevation of 633 m (2,077 ft), up on the ridge of Montefiascone caldera. To the south of the lake is Marta, on the right bank of the Marta River, sole effluent of the lake. The shore there is straight and developed. Elevations are within 100 m (330 ft) of the lake. Next to Marta are Valentano and Capodimonte, the latter being built on and around nearly the only headland on the lake, which forms a protective harbor. About 15 km (9.3 mi) to the south are Tuscania and Viterbo, the latter being the regional capital.
From Valentano north is the Latera caldera, a shallow crater perhaps half the size of Lake Bolsena, with Lake Mezzano (usually too small for the map) at the western end. On its north rim is Latera. The floor of the caldera is mainly agricultural although the uncultivable rocky lava flows have been left forested. Although the hills on the west side of Lake Bolsena are only slightly higher than those on the south, the terrain is somewhat too rough for settlement. Fields extend as far as they can into v-shaped valleys and there is no flat shore.
The hills to the north loom over the lake. At their western edge are Grotte di Castro and Gradoli.

Islands of the lake

With an area of 17 ha (42 acres), Bisentina is the largest island, and is accessible via a ferry service from Capodimonte. On the island are groves of evergreen oaks, Italian gardens, and various monuments: the church of Saint James and Saint Christopher with its cupola built by the architect Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola; the Franciscan convent; the Rocchina, a small temple dedicated to Saint Catherine. The latter was constructed in an octagonal floorplan by Antonio da Sangallo, over an Etruscan colombarium previously erected on a rocky outcrop on the lake. Another monument, the chapel of the Crucifix, contains frescos of the fifth century. The Malta dei Papi, a former prison for ecclesiastics found guilty of heresy, was shaped from a small cave with a trapdoor placed at a height of 20 m (66 ft).

The Etruscans and the Romans left few traces of their stay on the island. In the 9th century it provided refuge from the incursions of the Saracens.
About 1250, it became the property of the lord of Bisenzio, who abandoned it and burned it following disagreements with the inhabitants of the island. In 1261, Urban IV reconquered it. The island was destroyed again in 1333 by Louis IV of Bavaria, accused of heresy and excommunicated by the pope. The property of the Farnese family from 1400 onwards, it had a period of prosperity and was visited by many popes. In 1635, it was governed by Odoardo Farnese, duke of Castro, who entered into conflict with the Church, resulting in the total destruction of Castro. The two islands returned to the Church's control but were soon ceded again. The princess Beatrice Spada Potenziani, wife of the duke Fieschi Ravaschieri, is the current owner.

Isola Martana

Located opposite the town of Marta, the island of Martana is reputed to have once guarded the relics of Saint Christine to keep them from falling into the hands of the barbarians. Later, it is said that, during the dominion of the Goths, the Gothic queen Amalasuntha was assassinated there.

The island is currently private property and no visitors are permitted.

The emissary Marta, which leaves Lake Bolsena to the east of the community of Marta, is a river emptying into the Tyrrhenian Sea. After passing through Marta, Tuscania and Tarquinia, it reaches the sea in the area of the lido of Tarquinia. There between the mouth of Marta and that of Mignone was created the natural reservoir "Saltworks of Tarquinia".
Civita di Bagnoregio
Comuni bordering the lake

The following comuni are situated on the shore of Lake Bolsena:

* Bolsena
* Montefiascone
* Marta
* Capodimonte
* Valentano
* Gradoli
* Grotte di Castro
* San Lorenzo Nuovo

Each has a designated length of beach for summer swimming. Some of these have facilities such as cafes, restaurants and boat hire.

Other nearby towns are Sorano, Pitigliano, Acquapendente and Orvieto, with Onano to the northwest.

Only a few miles from the lake lies Bagno Regio civita - "The Dying City". There is no way in other than across the pedestrian causeway. The Citadel itself has its own secrets and is a wonderful place to explore, and the beginning of a wonderful walk in the surrounding moonscape countryside.


Holiday accomodation

Rocca di Tentennano
Podere Santa Pia
Podere Santa Pia
Rocca di Tentennano

San Quirico d'Orcia

Orvieto, Duomo

Civita di Bagnoregio was founded by Etruscans over twenty-five hundred years ago, but has seen its population dwindle to just fifteen residents over the course of the 20th century. Cività was the birthplace of Saint Bonaventure, who died in 1274. The location of his boyhood house has long since fallen off the edge of the cliff. By the 16th century Civita was beginning to decline, becoming eclipsed by its former suburb Bagnoregio.
At the end of the 17th century, the bishop and the municipal government was forced to move to Bagnoregio due to a major earthquake, accelerating the old town's decline. At that time the area was part of the Papal States. In the 19th century Civita's location was turning into an island and the pace of the erosion quickened as the layer of clay below the stone was reached in the area where today's bridge is located. Bagnoregio continues as a small but prosperous town, while Civita became known as il paese che muore (in Italian: "the dying town"). Civita has only recently been experiencing a tourist revival.
The town is noted for its striking position atop a plateau of friable volcanic tuff overlooking the Tiber river valley, in constant danger of destruction as its edges fall off, leaving the buildings built on the plateau to crumble. As of 2004, there are plans to reinforce the plateau with steel rods to prevent further geological damage. The city is also much admired for its architecture, some spanning several hundred years. Civita di Bagnoregio owes much of its unaltered condition to its relative isolation: the town was able to withstand most intrusions of modernity as well as the destruction brought by two world wars. The population today varies from about 12 people in winter to over 100 in the summer.
The town was placed on the World Monuments Fund's 2006 Watch List of the 100 Most Endangered Sites, due to the threats it faces from erosion and unregulated tourism.

Sorano | Entering the territory of Sorano from the surrounding plains, you feel as though you have entered another world. The erosions caused by water, the crumbling of the tufaceous cliffs, together with the work of man, have created a unique fantasy landscape - something almost unreal which transports the visitor beyond time and space. Dozens of tufaceous bluffs and peaks, of varied and bizarre shapes, are scattered along the valley of the Lente river. On one of those peaks rises the town of Sorano, stretching crosswise out over the valley, resembling the wall of a dam. Over the centuries, the blocks of tufaceous rock from which the houses are built have taken on the same color of the bedrock on which the village stands so that the houses appear to have been carved from the rock by a the hand of a giant sculptor. Down below flows the Lente river, calm and crystal clear- home to herons greedy for fish and sweet water shrimp. Sorano
In the valley, today an archaeological park, hidden in the woods of oak, chestnut, and ilex trees, colossal masses of tufaceous rock thrust up among the branches, rock walls end in a sudden plunge, the rock face is hollowed out with the silent eye-like openings of the ancient tombs where wild boar and goats seek refuge. Half hidden by thick foliage proffering a thousand shades of green, by the bright yellow of the broom in flower, by lilacs - safe shelter for the many hedgehogs and foxes that have made their dens here -- are dozens of terraced slopes planted with fertile gardens, vineyards, and olive groves. Sorano
Here the Etruscans carved their monumental roads. It is a moving experience today to follow those roads, still full of magic - and permeated by a natural, archaic, and powerful sense of the sacred. As you wander, you can sense the Etruscans' great love for life, not yet divided between the "sublime spirit" and "vulgar matter." They knew how to penetrate the mysteries of the great mother earth with an almost instinctive intuition which we call divination. Then, when their time was up, they joyously accompanied the body on its return to the immense womb. Sorano
This would seem to have been the function of these splendid roads uniting the city of the living and the city of the dead, which lay beyond the river. But with the Etruscans you can never be sure of anything. They were careful not to leave indelible traces. Indeed they seem to have passed through these places with a soft tread and a delicate and sensitive touch. Little remains - but their benevolent presence still lingers, along with an aura of protection, and above all their enigmatic smile. It is this same - almost challenging smile - appearing on the lips of the Etruscan Apollo and of many of their statues and frescoes which has survived through time, despite all the invasions, to reappear more discreetly on the lips of the Mona Lisa. You still see it today, on the faces of their descendants, beneath their high cheek bones. Sorano
This penchant for carving out the womb of the earth- no longer the mother goddess- has survived through the centuries - perhaps in obedience to a tradition, or out of necessity, or maybe because the rock here yields more easily. Hollowed in the rock here you find not only the famous tombs, but entire areas of rock dwellings, hermitages, and convents, ceramic and carpentry workshops, dovecots, sheep folds, and barns for donkeys, once the indispensable companions of man's labor. Today the grottoes that line the roads to the village have been transformed into garages for "apetti," buzzing three-wheeled vehicles. You'll see them set off early in the morning for a days work, with a peasant driving and often his wife beside him, a hunting dog in the back, only to return again in the evening, heavily laden, the donkey of our times, carrying firewood, or grapes in the time of the grape harvest, or fruit, vegetables, or flowers picked in season from the gardens.

Walking in Tuscany | Sorano and the rock settlement of Vitozza

Coming from the direction of Sovana, two kilometres from the village of Sorano, we meet the well-marked sign to the necropolis of San Rocco and its church. We cross the bridge that brings us to the indicated area, where we can admire the necropolis and the splendid balcony that looks over the village and, right behind the church, we descend the via cava di San Rocco, that leads to the bottom of the valley below Sorano.

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Vitozza La Chiesaccia
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