For a pleasant day trip from Benano, I’m always happy to take a drive around Lake Bolsena. There are any number of wonderful ways to circumnavigate the lake. Here’s a description of how Paul and I did it a couple of years ago, and the map below shows how Lynn and I did it most recently:
We started in Tuscania, just south of Lake Bolsena and about an hour’s drive from Benano. We parked easily in the lot outside the old city gates and walked around the lovely city center with Jim Flege, the cousin of a Cincinnati friend. Jim lives in Tuscania (lucky man!) and is a terrific tour guide (lucky us!).
There are stunning views of the valley and ancient sites across the valley. These ruins mark the site of the original village that dates back to Etruscan times. The city center moved several times over the centuries to its current location.
We had lunch at Da Alfreda, a small local restaurant near the elevated park. The food was very good and reasonably priced. There is outdoor seating just waiting for the weather to improve.
After lunch, we wandered more of the city’s small streets and quaint alleys without any real chance of getting lost. We love the city, and I know I’ll come back. I hope to visit Jim again, and would heartily recommend the small rental apartment in their house to any Tuscania-bound travelers.
Leaving Tuscania, we headed back to the lake and drove east along the shore. We stopped a few times for photo ops. There are beautiful views of the lake, the islands in the lake, and the surrounding valleys.
Our next stop was Montefiascone, which is on the Via Francigena, the ancient route faithful pilgrims took to get to Rome. What a beautiful town this is! What a setting! What history! The Fortress of the Pope, dating to the 1400’s, is at the top of the hill, and there are great views of a beautiful Duomo from up there.
The very steep center of town is a good place to wander in admiration of ancient architecture while observing the locals going about their daily business.
It would make perfect sense, itinerary-wise, to head straight back to Benano through Castel Giorgio. We didn’t do that, though, because we had a date with the Rome Philharmonic in Orvieto’s glorious Duomo. Uto Ughi was the soloist / conductor of the beautiful concert. But who am I kidding? That explanation is just an excuse to post this photo, taken just before the concert began:
Paul has mastered the art of wandering around on vacation. Now that he’s here, long-ignored questions like “wonder what’s there?” are being pursued. The resulting cruise is usually interesting, delicious, or both.
One day, we started our ramble in Bolsena (on the north shore of Lake Bolsena) and found a sure sign of summer’s approach – Bella Pizza, the shop that advertises pizza a taglio, was open! Taglio means “cut,” so this is pizza by the slice.
Bella Pizza is a worthwhile, if inelegant, stop. The varieties are plentiful and interesting and the pizza very fresh. If the server asks “caldo?,” nod your head and she’ll heat it up for you.
Bella Pizza is located a few blocks up from the lake and just below the town’s historic center, which we hadn’t yet explored. So we climbed the hill after our lunch to see what was up there. We weren’t disappointed by the narrow cobblestone streets, the castle, and requisite historic church.
Then we looked for a way to drive around the lake. Part of the route is a dirt road, and all of it was beautiful. We drove through olive groves, commercially cultivated flowers, and campgrounds that are no doubt busy during the summer. Judging by the signs on the closed snack (and beer) bars in one section, we guessed it to be a favorite spot for German visitors. We stopped to stroll around Capodimonte and Marta, a couple of small towns right on the lake.
We left the lake at Montefiascone, which is a beautiful hill town with a rich history as a papal possession. Those popes lived well. A walk around the castle shows just how well. And what’s a picturesque Italian town without its own wine? Montefiascone’s is Est! Est!! Est!!!
Our last stop before heading home was the Bosco dei Mostri (“Monster’s Grove”) in Bomarzo. What a sight! And what a beautiful respite on a warm afternoon. It’s difficult to describe Bosco dei Mostri. A Renaissance amusement park? Lush gardens interspersed with mossy grotesques? If you have time to watch a video, you’ll get the idea.
A grieving husband dedicated these fantasmagoric gardens to the memory of his late wife, who, by the looks of the place, must have been a piece of work!
Here’s what our route looked like: