It was a warm autumn afternoon, with mostly cloudy skies, when we meandered down the old Roman road, Via Cassia, (with its 21st century pavement) to the medieval village of Bolsena. Perched on a steep hillside, Bolsena, with its ancient castle towers, overlooks Lago Bolsena. The lake is a crater lake, formed in the center of an extinct volcano, and is surrounded by sandy beaches the color of dark slate.
It’s a beautiful, clean lake – its shores dotted with trattorias (serving flaky, whitefish from the lake), gelaterie, novelty shops and quaint lakeside stands that rent sailboats and rowboats in summer.
But a special treat awaits on the lovely lane that runs straight as an arrow, for about 1/2 a kilometer, from the town down to the lake shore.
On this day, we parked our car towards the end of this lane – closest to town – and began our walk towards the shore. We were on our way to eat lunch at a charming trattoria that juts out over the water, but lunch would have to wait a bit. The plane trees had our full attention.
Dozens of majestic, centuries-old plane trees line this avenue on both sides, their massive trunks – some nearly 2 meters in diameter – twist and turn elegantly up towards the sky. The sidewalk, built to accommodate the colossal, bulging trunks, allows up-close access. So we touched and caressed and marveled our way down to the lake shore – stopping now and then to photograph these incredible beauties.
If only they could be interviewed, these plane trees! For centuries (who knows how many) they’ve been silent witnesses to so much history – and so many secrets! Popes, cardinals and royalty, along with their servants … bandits, soldiers and explorers … artists and poets … city-folk and country-folk – they’ve all walked this lane.
But the trees aren’t talking.
So we were left to wonder, imagine and admire (while we ate our wonderful lunch at the trattoria on the lake) the secrets and magnificence of the plane tree lane of Bolsena.
Pamela Haack is the founder of Off the Beaten Strada where she creates and organizes personalized experiences and specialty retreats in Tuscany and Umbria, Italy, for travelers who wish to be immersed in the history, culture and traditions of the regions.