In summertime, Italians and tourists alike flock in droves to the seaside. Meanwhile, we go to the lake.
Perhaps it’s because my husband and I both grew up in the northern reaches of the United States – he in up-state New York, me in northern Wisconsin – where nearly everyone has a cabin or a camp on a river or a lake. In any case, we love hanging out around fresh water in summertime, and Lago Bolsena is our favorite.
Located in the northern reaches of the Lazio region (near the borders of both Tuscany and Umbria), Lago Bolsena is the largest volcanic lake in Europe. The water is clean and clear and the sand is gray – more like a dark charcoal when wet.
Here and there along the shores of the lake are charming “bath houses” that offer little cabanas (for changing clothes and storing things), lounge chairs with umbrella tables, and a vast variety of water toys – including kayaks and paddle-boats. Naturally, a restaurant or snack bar is always on site, as well.
We frequent a bathhouse in the town of Bolsena, located on the northern end of the lake. There is an inviting avenue, lined with centuries-old plane and pine trees, that runs from the center of the medieval village straight down to the lake. At the water’s edge the avenue meanders, paralleling the lakeside promenade with its old-fashioned souvenir shops, gelaterie, and spectacular displays of hydrangeas. (Click here to view photos of Bolsena’s hydrangeas!)
Arriving during morning hours leaves plenty of time for getting settled, walking a lakeside pathway or wandering about town a bit. Then it’s all about relaxing, swimming or reading a good book. Ahhhhh.
For lunch there are a number of trattorie along the shores of Lago Bolsena that offer an assortment of local specialties, including coregone (a delicious whitefish from the lake) served up roasted over a wood fire, pan-fried or oven baked with potatoes from a nearby farm.
Of course, there are plenty of fun things to do, if you can tear yourself away from the sandy beach, such as taking a ferry ride around the lake’s two historic islands, visiting the town’s imposing castle (now an archeological museum) or renting bicycles to explore the surrounding area.
But I’m afraid we find it difficult to do any of those things. The clear, cool waters of the lake can keep us happily captivated well into the evening hours. Bella, bella Bolsena.
Pamela Haack is the founder of Off the Beaten Strada, where she creates and hosts small group tours that are a combination of the very best of Italy: the exciting and the peaceful, the popular and the secret, the talked about and the never-heard-of-before. From art experts and operettas to authentic cooking classes and ancient Etruscans, Pamela helps visitors experience the spectacularly beautiful, endlessly interesting cities and countryside of Italy in an up-close and personal way.
She is also the author of Top 10 Favorite Etruscan Sites, as well as her popular blog, Off the Beaten Strada in Italy.
Pamela lives with her husband, Lou, in Umbria, Italy.