Small Island, Big History

November 7, 2008 / Places
Lago Bolsena
The Isola Bisentina which sits in the middle of the crater (now lake Bolsena) of this ancient volcano gets its name from Bisentium, a flourishing center with a turbulent history all throughout its Etruscan, Roman and medieval periods.

Over the years it served as a refuge from Saracen raids, the location of a town then burnt and razed to the grounds by its rulers to punish the “ungrateful” islanders, a fortress, a Papal summer vacation spot, and a prison (where among others both the Abbot of Montecassino as well as the Grand Master of the Templars were imprisoned in the 13th century).

Today it is a natural park with lush vegetation that contains tombs and pottery from settlements dating as early as the 6th Century B C. The island, the Renaissance Church of San Giacomo and San Cristoforo, as well as the seven small chapels (which pilgrims who couldn’t make it to Rome during Holy Years could visit in order to receive plenary indulgence) are all open to the public. Take the ferry from Capodimonte before or after your lunch along the shores of the lake to discover this lovely little hidden and now very quiet spot.

Evanne Brandon-Diner

by Evanne Brandon-Diner

Chronicler of local village life in Northern Lazio, and property restoration and purchasing consultant.

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