Montefiascone is a spectacular town perched high over Lake Bolsena. It offers a stunning view of the lake, even on a day of looming clouds.
Montefiascone is becoming increasingly well-known as a stopping-off point on the Via Francigena pilgrim trail, Italy’s answer to Spain’s Camino trail to Santiago di Compostela. This is celebrated by a dramatic statue of walkers, the Monumento al Pellegrino, overlooking the lake.
The statue bears the stirring epigram ‘Forget the steps you have taken, remember the marks you have left’.
After Montefiascone, the next leg on the road to Rome is Viterbo. Tired pilgrims who have descended from the high starting point of Rocca dei Papa can stop off on the way to bathe at the thermal baths of Bagnaccio, a series of ponds of hot water emitting a sulphurous smell.
Montefiascone was home to several popes during the middle ages, and the high vantage point of Rocca dei Papi is the site of the Popes’ summer residence.
The Rocca offers a magnificent view of the 14th-century Duomo and the plains far below.
Nearby is the Enoteca Provinciale, where tastings of the local wine and educational tours are available – and you can get a ticket to visit the nearby Torre del Pellegrino, now also a well-reviewed restaurant, and an architectural museum devoted to the work of Antonio da Sangallo Il Giovane (1484 – 1546).
Montefiascone gets its name from the Falisci, an Italic people who lived in what is now northern Lazio, on the Etruscan side of the Tiber River (Mons Faliscorum, ‘Mountain of the Falisci’). This name has also been borrowed and adapted by the Falesco winery, which produces Est! Est!! Est!!! di Montefiascone. This wine is said to owe its name to the fact that a 12th-century Catholic bishop on his way to Rome sent a servant ahead to find places with the best wine for the bishop to enjoy. The servant would scrawl Est (Latin for ‘There is’) on the door of the places he found to have good wine for the bishop’s party to visit. Legend has it that the servant was so impressed with the wine being served at a Montefiascone inn that he enthusiastically scrawled Est! Est!! Est!!! on the door.