Road Trips: Lakes (part I – volcanic)

used to think that the famous Lake District in Cumbria, England had the most lakes per region (13 in all), followed by the area in north Italy with their great lakes Garda, Como and Maggiore, which often get bunched together, however they are each in different regions. Lake Garda is in Veneto,  Como in Lombardy and Maggiore in Piedmont. In actual fact Lazio takes third place in Italy, with an incredible 21 lakes in a region which is almost half the size of Piedmont (who have 25). Due to volcanic activity thousands of years ago there are several clumps of crater lakes throughout Lazio. Bolsena, Vico, Bracciano and Martignano are all within 90 minutes or less, of each other; Albano and Nemi are neighbouring lakes.

Of these 25, 8 are volcanic crater lakes, starting from the largest to the smallest: Bolsena, with two small islands – Bisentina and Martana – which were formed by underwater eruptions; Bracciano, second largest lake in Lazio after Bolsena and one of the major lakes in Italy; Albano, known in Roman times as Albanus Lacus not far from the ancient city of Alba LongaVico, whose primary outflow is Rio Vicano; Nemi, site of the famous naval battles of Caligula; Martignano, just over the hill from lake Bracciano – in ancient times known as Alsietinus Lacus; Mezzano, formed 400,000 years ago. It is tiny and right up near the Tuscany border.

Natural lakes: Posta Fibreno, situated in a territory rich in underground springs; Rascino, which is a reservoir for rain and snow; Salto, supplied by the Salto river; Turano, with inflow and outflow from the Turano river;

Then there are the lagoons of Lazio, which are transitional waters and are partly saline (sea-water): Fondi, Lago Lungo.

The Volcanic Lakes

Bolsena – in the northern most part of Lazio in the Viterbo province, also known as Alto Lazio or Tuscia has 5 main surrounding attractive towns all quite different from each other. Marta is a pretty fishing village with a great little coffee producer called Fida and great pizza (‘a taglio’) to take-away called Edoardo on the main high street; Capodimonte – which literally translates as head of the mountain (promontory) and not to be confused with the other Capo di Monte – also has a small tourist port and a privately owned fortress called Rocca Farnese; Montefiascone is the largest and stands higher than the rest, offering amazing views of the lake plus plenty of shops and a few local wine sellers. Try the delicious cheese shop called La Grotta on Via Bandita. You’ll find the church of San Flaviano on Via San Flaviano, where the body of Defuk is buried (historical figure relating to the naming of the famous Est! Est!! Est wine!!!). Each year there’s the Est Film Festival, which falls 24-13 July, with a selection of short and full length films and documentaries. Gradoli – is most well known for its purgatorial beans!; Bolsena, whose ancient name was Volsini Novi and originally inhabited by Etruscans. During the 13th century (1263) a German priest, Peter of Prague, stopped at Bolsena on a pilgrimage to Rome. While celebrating Holy Mass above the tomb of St. Christina, blood started to seep from the consecrated Host and trickle over his hands onto the altar and the corporal. Many pilgrims and tourists journey to St. Christina’s Church in Bolsena to see the place where this miracle occurred and inside the Chapel of the Miracle, are stains on the paved floor, said to have been made by the blood from the miraculous Host. ValentanoSan Lorenzo Nuovo,

The lake offers sailing, swimming, a gorgeous Umbrella Pine-lined avenue where you can take a relaxed stroll, or reach one of the private areas which hire out deck chairs with access into the water.

Accommodation & places to eat: we like Palazzo Frigo and their Cafè-Bar in Montefiascone, Paradise Beach has a nice grassy area with sunbeds for rent, along the shore below Gradoli, Relais Villa Lina and La Canonica both have a Bohemian feel and are owned by  the Igliori family (descendents of the Lante Montefeltro della Rovere) and Anna Fendi respectively. On the lake front there is a small ice-cream booth which has lactose-free as well as regular ice-cream (gelato).

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