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Bolsena Lake and Environs

Roofs in Bolsena
Roofs in Bolsena. Ph. ka jo on flickr (flic.kr/p/7SvMJa)

Bolsena, Italy – Town of the Hydrangeas

During the last weekend of June the splendid town of Bolsena, Italy is immersed in the perfume and multitude of colors of some of the most unique and rarest species of hydrangeas which originated in the Far East and was introduced in Europe during the VIII century. You can see and admire all the varieties of this flower, which will transform Bolsena into a colored and wonderful garden with shades from white to blue, purple, and pink, in June, when the Hydrangea Festival takes place, in which this flower is the only protagonist. Its name has a noble origin: some plants coming from the Indies were named Hortense by the French plant hunter Philibert de Commerson after the daughter of the Prince of Nassau.

The flowers, coming from the most important garden centers of Italy, are exhibited along a path that crosses the oldest streets of the historical center, from Piazza San Rocco to Piazza Matteotti, and goes on towards the lake’s shores. You can also visit Principe Don Giovanni del Drago’s private gardens, open to visitors only for this event.

The hydrangeas have been present in Bolsena for a long while and they are part of the natural green decoration of the lake and of the characteristic areas of the town; they will be the leitmotiv in the collateral events such as meetings with experts and collectors, shows, floral compositions, and paintings.

bolsena map
Paolo’s house is located near the center of town and is noted with a dot

Special guests of the fifth edition are Dottor Luc Bale-mans, president of the Belgian Hydrangea Society. Besides the pleasure of admiring the characteristic places of Bolsena, you can taste the typical local products such as the liquor of hydrangea leaves, a rarity.

Exploring the Lake through Sport and Culture

There are many ways to explore and know all about the splendid Lake Bolsena. This small heavenly spot offers quite a wide opportunity of sports: snorkeling, sailing, canoeing, fishing, windsurfing, but also mountain bike riding, trekking, and horse riding. The union sport and culture is always possible. Scuba diving in the waters of Lake Bolsena is a fascinating experience, it is a must both for an expert and a beginner; you can admire the landscape, that recalls at times the moon and at other times the desert, but you can also swim through submerged antique ruins of these fascinating waters unique and rich in history. So if you are a scuba diver passing by Bolsena or if you are attracted by this sport don’t miss the chance to live a once in a lifetime experience.

The lake of Bolsena from a hilltop with the city below
The lake of Bolsena from a hilltop with the city below

More about Bolsena, Italy

If your passion is sailing, you can rent a boat and sail on the crystal clear waters enjoying a splendid view of the buildings and of the English gardens of Bisentina Island, you can admire the wild beauty of Martana Island, the lavic cliff that stands out on the enchanting bay. You could also decide to have a canoe tour, tracing the routes of the old inhabitants of the place who, on a wooden pirogue, set out for the fishing. A tour in a kayak is a completely different experience because it allows you in a short time and in complete autonomy to reach those places quite often inaccessible for other boats, immersing you entirely in the environment in direct contact with nature.

Lake Bolsena and its many visitors
Lake Bolsena and its many visitors

Following the coasts of the basin, you can reach the archaeological site of Monte Bisenzio, land on lonely shores or you could coast the headland of Capodimonte. For those who feel like setting sail, you could go towards Bisentina Island in absolute tranquility. By mountain bike, you can have an archaeological tour and go along the natural paths arriving at those places where the Etruscans set their sites and at the same time appreciate the view of the breathtaking lake.

Taking Pleasure in Wine

During your stay in Bolsena remember to find time to dedicate to the sweet nectar of the gods. On the green hills around the lake, the vineyards find a suitable environment. They are part of the popular and world-known production area of the Est! Est! Est!, that you can taste in the historical Mazziotti cellar and at the Villa Puri farm. And how about visiting those places where the wine is produced? In the S. Cristina wine cellar, you can find many types of wines to buy and drink once back home recalling Bolsena.

Saint Cristina’s Mysteries

Appointment at Bolsena, Italy on the 23 and 24 of July. Among all the traditional events that take place in Bolsena, the most popular one is Saint Cristina’s Mysteries. Every year in these two days of July Bolsena recalls Diocleziano’s final persecution at the beginning of the IV century, during which the young martyr, Cristina, had to suffer atrocious tortures which she overcame uninjured. In the evening of the 23 of July, at 10 p.m., the statue of the Saint is carried in procession along the streets, from the Church dedicated to her to the Church of Santissimo Salvatore. On the morning of 24, at 10 a.m., the statue comes back to the Church. In the five squares of the characteristic historic center, on wooden stages, some scenes of Saint Cristina’s martyrdom are played by local actors, without speaking and moving.

In particular, the scenes performed are the one Saint Cristina floats on the lake waters, the wheel and kiln torture, the prison, the devils, the flogging, the snakes, the death by arrows, the deposition of her sepulchre. The same thing takes place the following day when the procession returns to the Basilica. The inhabitants participate with enthusiasm at the representation of these living pictures; they are proud of their own role and aware of reviving a tradition of the 16th century. Dated back to the 5th century, the text of Cristina’s “passion” had a great literary fortune; based on that first history, many sacred representations were created and then represented even in the Middle Age.

Bolsena. Ph. guido612 on flickr (flic.kr/p/5LmgSt)

To view more on the Religious aspects of Bolsena, check out this article: Via Francigena

By Roberto Basili, Bolsena Tourism Councillor

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