Italy // Rome and Lazio //

Lago di Bolsena

North along the Via Cassia from Viterbo, LAGO DI BOLSENA is a popular destination, though rarely overcrowded; its western shore is better for camping rough, and more picturesque into the bargain. On the northern shore of the lake, BOLSENA is the main focus, a relaxed and likeable place that’s worth a brief stop. The town itself is set back from the water, around the main square, Piazza Matteotti, off which run medieval nooks and alleyways to the deconsecrated thirteenth-century church of San Francesco, which occasionally hosts concerts and exhibitions. The adjacent sixteenth-century portal is the entrance to the medieval borgo, with the well-preserved thirteenth-century Monaldeschi castle perched over its western end. Inside is the local museum, with modest displays on underwater archeology and Villanovan and Etruscan finds, plus stunning views from the ramparts. East of Piazza Matteotti, the twelfth-century basilica of Santa Cristina conceals a good Romanesque interior behind a wide Renaissance facade added in 1494. Cristina, daughter of the town’s third-century Roman prefect, was tortured by her father for her Christian beliefs, eventually being thrown into the lake with a stone round her neck. Miraculously the rock floated, though Cristina was martyred soon after. Adjoining the chapel is the Grotta di Santa Cristina, once part of early Christian catacombs.

There’s a nice stretch of free beach by the Naiardi hotel, about 750m north of the main town.

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