Day 37 of our Via Francigena pilgrimage took us from Aquapendente to Bolsena. Distance: 15 miles. Weather: sunny, temperature: mid-80s.
I’ve mentioned it before, but the most reliable way to get a stamp for a Pilgrim Passport is not at a church. If you REALLY want a stamp, go to the tourism office or a bar along the route.
We’ve been keen to collect at least one stamp at every major town we pass. I feel guilty about asking for something without giving something in return. (I’d be very surprised if the bars didn’t count on this sentiment.) In any case, I buy something small anytime I ask for a stamp.
Since I didn’t feel like a brioche, I instead purchased a miniature bottle of Sambucca, with assurances to the archly smiling cashier that it was for much later. Perhaps I was too young at the time, but I don’t recall miniature liquor bottles being sold in Italy. I think that speaks to Italian generosity and their philosophy when it comes to food and drink.
Miniature bottles are for an individual; full-sized bottles are meant to be shared.
Here in Italy, you share.
The Walk to Bolsena
Today’s walk was very pretty. There was so much variety that the hours flew by quickly. The first six miles passed through farmland on wide, mostly flat roads. We heard the excited baying of hunting dogs and watched as shirtless men in tractors turned up soil in neat, precise lines.
Whether they are tractors or Ferraris, Italians drive the same way – nonchalantly and with flair.
The steep climb uphill began almost immediately after we departed the fields. We stopped for a quick snack at San Lorenzo. Our Belgian buddy was already seated at the bar and waved a friendly hello.
Five minutes after we resumed walking, we were treated to our first panoramic views of Lake Bolsena.
We were all floored by the sheer size of Europe’s largest volcanic lake. I hadn’t imagined the lake would be so enormous. It measures a whopping 13.5 km by 12 km (8.4 miles by 7.5 miles), with a depth of 150 meters. The lake was formed some 370,000 years ago when a volcanic eruption created the caldera. Rain water filled the caldera over thousands of years and created the lake.
The instant I saw this gorgeous vision I had another unholy moment of doubt and pulled up the maps again. For some reason, this route does not touch the water.
It’s very hard for me as a human being to believe that Sigeric the Serious saw these views and did not go to the lake! Did someone edit the Archbishop’s journals to remove any suggestion of a lakeside detour?
His gorgeous route through Switzerland hugs the shores of Lac Leman (Lake Geneva) at several points.
Why was he comfortable with Switzerland’s Lac Leman, but not Italy’s Ligurian Sea or Lake Bolsena?
There’s something definitely mysterious about this path.
Arrival in Bolsena
The last few miles were an absolute delight. We got several views of a sapphire-colored Lake Bolsena set against olive trees and beautiful meadows. I can only imagine how rich in nutrients this volcanic soil must be. As if that were not enough visual stimulation, we got another hike through the woods.
This time, we saw signs for wild boar hunting.
We also ran into our fast-walking Ukrainian friend. I walked with her a couple of miles, and we agreed to meet in the evening for drinks.
The final approach into Bolsena felt like a fairytale. The entire area is wonderfully well-preserved. Just before town we slipped inside a small church with gorgeous centuries-old frescos.
When you’re in Bolsena it absolutely feels as though you’ve stepped back in time.
I like the place we are staying at. It’s warm, cozy, and feels as though you are staying with a benevolent grandmother. It is very clearly a multi-generational compound. It’s also one in which the activities of one space directly impact the surrounding buildings.
Soon after we arrived, the power went out. A woman in the apartment below asked how many appliances we had put in. (We had started the washing machine.) It seems all activities need to be coordinated in advance. 😆
After dinner, I met up with my Ukrainian friend. We shared wine and a cheese, olive, and prosciutto board outside. Sharing a meal together is one of the very best parts of the pilgrim experience, and it’s definitely something I’m going to miss once we complete the walk.
As I walked back to the compound, looking through a window at a family dinner still going strong at 9:45 p.m., all I can say is what a lovely, likeable town Bolsena is!
Tomorrow, it’s off to Montefiascone.
Breakfast: Supermarket snack
Lodging (per person): €31