In the first place, what is a Orange Flag Burg?
The Orange Flag is a prize, a quality mark, assigned by Italian Touring Club to every little village characterized by enviromental conservation, development of cultural heritage, quality of touristic accomodations and typical products.
So, imagine the best italian burgs…. and ther are so many burgs in Italy! The extraordinary thing is that every single burg deserves a visit, for one reason or another. It’s useless to repeat: italian territory is a true openair treasure.
This year we chose Bolsena and its lake, only one hour away from Rome, as the destination to celebrate this day.
We were lucky: a wonderful day, full of sun, that made everything better, and few people on the roads.
According to information I found before leaving, two things made special this city: the lake and the Eucharistic Miracle.
But… no. No, no. There is much more. There is the castle with its amazing view, there are the little pebbly streets dominated by the ancient walls, there are colors, and the curious scattered stone heads…
Born as an etruscan city, with the ancient name of Volsinii, was one of the twelve most important etruscan city, rich and blooming, but in 264 b.C. Was destroyed and conquered by romans who took it as one of their municipality.
Today the town is a charming maze of street and walls of the medieval look, guarded by the castle’s towers, wich slowly slips towards the lake, and being warmly welcomed between its banks.
Here also passes the famous Francigena way (the road which used to connect Rome to central Europe), which connects the castle and the burg to the lowest part of town.
As soon as you arrive, from the lower part, you find yourself facing Saint Cristina Cathedral, Bolsena’s most important church.
Here the Eucaristhic Miracle, which changed church’s opion on Jesus presence in Eucaresty, happened. Peter from Prague, a bohemian priest, in 1263 moved towards Rome, to placate his doubts about the real presence of God in the consacred Host and Wine, and strenghten his faith. Arrived in Rome he prayed on St. Peter’s grave and, reassured, went on his way home. He decided to stop in Bolsena for a stop, where the doubts took him again. He celebrated Mass in Saint Cristina church, and, in the moment of Consacration, the Host started to bleed. Frightened, he tried to hide what was happening and went right away to Pope Urbano IV, in Orvieto, to tell him what happened. After the needed tests the Pope declared it a miracle and, from that moment on, the Church started to celebrate the Corpus Domini, to celebrate the real presence of Christ in Eucaristy.
Today, the stones with the blood stains are preserved in the Miracle’s Chapel on the innermost part of the Cathedral of Saint Cristina, and that’s another interesting place to visit. Saint Cristina is one of the most common cults in the catholic world, and her cathedral goes back up to romanic age, even if the facade is from the Reinassance. On the inside of the cathedral, in addition to Miracle’s Chaple, there is Saint Cristina’s cavern and the saint’s statue. 20132014 is also the year of Eucharistic Jubilee, of which the cathedral is the fulcrum.
I don’t know if for you it’s the same, but to me I like to visit thos cavers in the cathedrals mor than the cathedrals themselves. They’re more authentical, more sincere, they smell like history, but also of stories to tell… they carry the heavy breath which bears the weight of years, centuries, and that weight is felt on the skin of those who enter… but it is a pleasant weight, it makes youfeel part of History.
From religion to military architecture with Monaldeschi of Cervara Stronghold, and this gives an idea of the many things that this burg has to offer.
The stronghold was wanted by roman emperor Adrian IV, when he decided to strenghten all the burgson Cassia street. The stronghold was made with one only tower, the two other were added later, in 1295, when the orvietans took the control of the burg and the fortress handed to Monaldeschi. It is in the Castle district, the ancient of all Tuscia, and nowadays hosts the Bolsena lake territorial museum.
Worth of visit are the Dragon Palace, at the foot of the stronghold, one of the best preserved sixteenthcentury building in the Lazio region; Saint Cristina catacomb and miracle-watered Fountain of San Rocco, that is blessed every year on August 16.
Speaking of nature, this is the best area of Bolsena.
The lake was born more than 300.000 years ago and – that discovery astonished me – it’s the biggest and the cleanest volcanic lake in Europe.
Its shores are anything but monotonous: the coast is interrupted by spikes and a little peninsula, on which alternates black sanded beaches, typical of volcanic lakes, and olive groves, vineyards, orchards, forests of willows, oaks and chestnuts. The nature in its most beautiful variety.
Two phonomenons are typical of this lake: the “sesse”, similar to the tides, but unpredictable, and the freakwaves that sometimes crash on the coast.
The 90% of the lake is bathable and the very cleaned water (the fishermen say this is “the lake you can drink”) allowed the formation and conservation of a lot of fishes and vegetable species, vanished from other lakes or rivers. Among the various species of fishes which inhabit the lake, you can find: eels, tench, perch, whitefish, pike, carp, smelt… and much more.
You can admire the best panorama of the lake from Montefiascone.
It is a place rich in colours, scents, flavors, as you cand find in few other villages and lakes in the world.
Clearly the typical dishes of Bolsena is mostly composed of lake’s fish. The traditional dishes are: whitefish meuniere, where the fish is cooked with butter, dusted with flour and then seasoned with lemon and vinegar;Vernaccia eel, where the eel is completely emptied and cleaned, cooked with garlic, sage, salt, pepper, olive oil and rosemary, then gilded and covered with Vernaccia (a typical italian wine); grilled smelts; soup tench. The most traditional dish of all is the “Sbroscia”: fishes (different species) reduced in pieces are put together in a clay pot, along with potatoes, herbs, olive oil, pepper, garlic and onion. Water is added, depending on how many dishes you want to prepare, then boiled. Tomato is then added and finally the soup is put into bowls with toasted bread.
Colors, history, nature, tastes … if you love these things, it is highly recommended to visit Bolsena!