Island #2: 7 churches built onto it
photo by Antonietta Kies

Lake Bolsena is the largest lake in the northern part of the region of Lazio in Italy and the largest volcanic lake in the whole country, having a circumference of 43km. It is known for a strange phenomenon, known locally as “sessa”, which causes tidal-like movements in the lake. Its formation began 370,000 years ago following the collapse of a caldera of the Vulsini volcano, which stayed active until 104 BC. The two islands in the southern part of the lake were formed by underwater eruptions.

Getting there

By car Lake Bolsena can be easily reached from Rome by taking the Cassia bis road. It can also be reached from the main A1 tollway (Autostrada) that connects Rome and Florence, by exiting at Orvieto.

The towns of the lake are served by buses that depart from the bus station at Viterbo.


  • Bisentina is an island in Lake Bolsena. It is accessible via a ferry service from Capodimonte. A curiosity is its evergreen oaks. There are also Italian gardens, a couple of churches and a convent. The Malta dei Papi, was a prison for priests found guilty of heresy, created out of a small cave.

  • Bolsena. The town that gives its name to the lake is now mainly famous for an apparent miracle that occurred in 1263. A consecrated host bled onto a corporal, the small cloth upon which the host and chalice rest during Mass. The appearance of blood was seen as a miracle to affirm the Roman Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation, which states that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ. The Corporal of Bolsena is now kept at Orvieto cathedral and is venerated because the red spots on the cloth appear to show the profile Jesus Christ.

  • Capodimonte. Not to be confused with the Capodimonte near Naples that gives its name to the famous porcelain, this Capodimonte has an interesting castle that used to belong to the Farnese family. It was mainly a fishing village.

  • Montefiascone. Interesting cathedral and some famous white wine.

Things to do

There are several places where it is possible to go swimming in the lake.


Lots of restaurants close to the lake offer dishes cooked with fish from the lake. Well worth trying. Dishes of eels from the lake may also be available.

Get out

Nearby cities of interest include Orvieto and Latera.

Contact & location

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The photos displayed on this page are the property of one of the following authors:

Antonietta Kies, Roberto Ferrari, rdesai, Marieke Kuijjer

Some photos courtesy of: . The photos provided by Flickr are under the copyright of their owners.

This travel guide also includes text from Wikitravel articles, all available at WikitravelView full credits

Roundtheworld, Texugo.

This travel guide also includes text from Wikipedia articles, all available at WikipediaView full credits

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