If you ask me to name a few beautiful cities of Italy, Montefiascone is surely on my list. Not only because it is the city of Luigi, but also I consider it underrated and overlooked as a beautiful city to visit by many people. Montefiascone is one of the true hidden gems in Italy and it is very much near Rome. The idea of sharing my Montefiascone travel guide with you has been for a long while. Finally I’m going to do it now! Excited!!! Get ready with it, because you can never imagine such a small city can offer so many stories and beautiful places.
A Brief of Montefiascone
Montefiascone is a small city in Lazio region of Italy. “She” is over 1000 years now as the earliest mentioning was documented in 853CE. The city has a population of approximately 13 thousands – absolutely not a small town as the Italian standard. Before you dive into my Montfiascone travel guide, there are a few highlights to show you.
Highlights of Montefiascone
- The city’s history is deeply bounded with the Popes and the Holly Romano history, especially in the medieval time. Thanks to the Popes’ presence in the past, nowadays we can visit the Duomo di Montefiascone – one among those with the biggest domes in Italy, without the crowds neither paying a ticket!
- When the lovely Italian summer arrives, Montefiascone becomes the boutique vacation destination for many Italians and Europeans. The old stone city is on top of the hill with a fantastic view of the volcanic lake, Bolsena. The lake is so big that you can enjoy the sea-blue water and endless waves.
- The tourists come not only for the lake vacation but also the feast. The most important to the locals are their Montefiascone Est Est Est wine. It is a local-made white wine, semi-dry and full of parfume. This DOC white wine also has its tale with the German bishop in 12th century.
Montefiascone Est Est Est
The German bishop was going for a meeting with the Pope in Vatican, however he was a wine lover. He sent his servant to travel ahead of him. One task for his servant was to discover and mark the fine wine. How to tell the bishop? Smart! The servant marked “Est” simply on the door of the wine shop, the inn or the winery which has the fine wine. “Est” in Latin language means “There is”. When the servant arrived in Montefiascone, he discovered such a great local white wine and marked 3 times as “Est Est Est”! Of course, the bishop was very impressed by the wine and he just enjoyed drinking in the town and probably he forgot his business with the Pope. The “happy” ending was the bishop never succeed of leaving Montefiascone for Vatican!
Even nowadays, when you visit Montefiascone, the locals are proud of this tale and their Est Est Est. You can even visit the tomb of this bishop in one of churches there.
When To Visit Montefiascone
Summer Is For The Festivals
Throughout the whole year, July and August are the two best months in Montefiascone. In general, it is warm and dry with plenty of sunshine. With the shadows in the stone town and the breeze along the largo or the strong wind from the hills in the night, you might need a thin jacket. The temperature during summer season is from around 13 degree to 32 degree. Summer is the busiest season for both locals and tourists. Many outdoor events are organized, for example, yearly wine festival in middle August, beer festival, steak festival in September and so on.
Winter Is Magical
How To Reach Montefiascone & The City Centre
If you have been to Italy, you must notice that many Italian cities are still not easy to reach! Hidden gem like Montefiascone, I definitely recommend to rent a car. The city is reachable by motorways. It is only 100km from Rome, and to reach from Viterbo, it is only 20km around. Parking is cheap in the city and you can always try your luck of the free parking slot. The antique stone town is not big, therefore to park a bit outside and visit the city on foot is absolutely practical.
By Train & Bus / Taxi
Montefiascone has only one train station and as I remember, they’ve got only one platform too! There are frequent direct trains and one-stop-connection trains from Rome to Montefiascone. You can get the information and buy the tickets online easily. Unfortunately, the Montefiascone train station is located around 4km away from the city centre. When arriving at the station, the local buses or a taxi are the only options except you decide to hike (Not my option for a non-sports day). For the local bus, there is a timetable right outside the station. Or, try Cotral bus here. There is only one taxi in Montefiascone and call-for-service is highly required. Just in case, you are planning a ride, check here for the call number.
Where To Stay In Montefiascone
To enjoy this beautiful medieval city, I will suggest to check out the hotels around the old city gate or in the city centre.
Palazzo Frigo is right on the main square of the old Montefiascone city. The rooms are mostly spacious and some of them enjoy a super awesome view of the city and even the Bolsena lake. They don’t have restaurant but they do have a big bar in the same building.
Things To Do In Montefiascone
Visit Rocca dei Papi & Parco della Rocca
Rocca dei Papi and its public park are the must-visit if you are going to Montefiascone. There is a museum to tell the Dome-making architecture and local history. With an entrance ticket of only five euro, you have all the access with an audio guide.
The old castle was the house and the office of the Popes during early medieval time. But it was abandoned when the Popes moved to Viterbo. When Basilica of Montefiascone was being rebuilt in 15th century, they broke down the castle and reused its stones. Walking up to the tower, there is a beautiful view of the Bolsena lake. Definitely recommend to hold your hat!
Parco della Rocca are even prettier! It is the place where a few local events take place but normally it is good for a relaxing walk.
Visit The Oldest Churches
Basilica Santa Margherita (Montefiascone's Catherdral)
Basilica of Santa Margherita is the most important church of Montefiascone. Its dome is among those biggest domes in Italy. It is seeable from most of the cities of Viterbo areas. The church is separated into the lower part and the upper part. The lower part is much older with the stone structure while the upper part is more modern with rich decorations. Inside the church, there are the relics of Saint Lucia Filippini and the tomb of Montefiascone’s Cardinal who ordered the reconstruction of this church.
San Flaviano is even older! It has a Romanesque style with all stones. The age of this church could be dated to 11th century. The walls contain many precious frescoes and the famous German bishop is still lying in the crypt. During my recent visit, it seems that they moved the tomb from the crypt to a more obvious location in the church! And now you can even see the relics of this bishop in front of his tomb.
Wander In The Stone City & Have A Coffee Or Gelato In The Square
When the sun is out, take an outdoor seat in the square near Palazzo Frigo’s caffe is the best enjoyable thing to do in Montefiascone. In the old city, I’m never lack of a good gelato or an espresso. Unlike other “abandoned” stone cities in Italy, Montefiascone is still full of energy, especially in the summer season. I can simply walk around for an hour or more. Just check out the cute boutiques and take some photos of the lovely flowers from someone’s balcony or door-steps.
Enjoy A View Of Bolsena
Outside one of the city gate, there is a public viewpoint for the Bolsena lake. It is called Terraza Giadino. We always go there for the fresh and the open view with plenty of farm lands in front of the huge lake. In the summer, this little garden is busy too because the tall trees there provide the best shadows for everyone.
The other viewpoint is the tower of Rocca dei Papi, however it is not free. As I just shared, an entrance ticket is needed but you can combine the visit of this castle if you visit Montefiascone for the first time.
Wake Up Early & Have A Breakfast At Bar Giusti
Waking up early for a lazy Italian mountain and lake vacation is not easy. I know! But, maybe just one morning is deserved. Bar Giusti is next to the old hospital and it is the perfect place for a lake-viewing breakfast. In the warm days, people just enjoy their coffee and chatting in the terrace of this bar. You just cannot resisit the golden and silver sparkling from the lake Bolsena. The bar also offers really nice cornettos and cappuccino.
Visit Bolsena Lake
Bolsena lake is the famous summer camping and vacation site for Italians and other European tourists. This volcanic lake is so big that you will misundertake it as the sea. In the summer, the locals would spend 24 hours a day on the lake if they can! There are a couple of bars and restaurants along the lake, and a few water sports are open for renting in summers as well. The locals love their beach volleyball playing. My favorite is simply diving into the fresh water without worrying about the awful salty taste. On the way from Montefiasonce to the lake, there is the horse-riding site for consideration.
Where To Eat In Montefiascone
Ristorante Albergo Dante, is the NO.1 of Montefiascone restaurants. Not mentioning the tourists, I only know that it is THE ONE “canteen” of all locals. In a night there, you can find a group of teenagers and a table of old gentlemen! It is truly beloved by everyone. The restaurant is normally super busy in the weekend, even in the winters. Their menus are hand-written on “the notebooks from the primary school”. The menu is simple and you can always ask what is the off-menu options from the two sons of the owner (They are working in the restaurants too). The owner is a lovely energetic “gentleman”, who always shows up from the kitchen at the midnight. He will sit with his old guest friends, drink a glass of grappa and take a cigarette or two with them. Be careful, the potion is impressive! The most common thing is, you ask them to prepare the potion for 4 or 6, they just give you a potion for 8 and charge as you asked.
If you are looking for Roman style pizza, La Rotella is the place! It is not in the old city but right outside the city gate. They serve their pizza directly on a piece of paper on your table. Why? Because the pizza is big! The place is really down-to-earth. So be causal and enjoy the pizza.
Borghesi Gelato is 100% artisan gelato shop. It is not in the city centre again, but from the back street, there is an up-hill street into the old city. I simply love the gelato-licking moment in their little outdoor terrace when it is the hottest summer day. However, it seems that they remain closed in the winter season.
Il Cono Gelato
Il Cono Gelato has a more friendly location – Right down at the city wall. And they are open in winters. In the late afternoon or after-dinner hours, you can always find a little queue in their shop. The locals come out for a quick gelato run or bring a big box back home. Even the winter, the situation remain unchanged.
Where To Shop In Montefiascone
I added this section specially for wine lover. There are some souvenir shops, ceramic shops and normal shops for clothes and shoes shopping. However, what I want to recommend is Enoteca Rubeca. It is a local wine shop from where people buy wines, liquors and even water. The local restaurants stock up their wines from this shop too! For sure, you will find a rich selection of Montefiascone’s Est Est Est, but they’ve got some nice red wines from nearby winery and cantine.
The other special shop is Mercato Del Vecchio near the church San Flaviano. It is a workshop and a flea market of antique furnitures. Most pieces there are very old and full of stories. When you visit, the owner and his workers will just leave you to walk around freely while they focus on their repairing tasks.
As a half-resident of Montefiascone, I have too much to say and to introduce to you, however, I know it is time to take a break today. Just end a bit more information. Montefiascone is well connected with a few famous cities like Viterbo, Orvieto, Civita di Bagnoregio. All of them require a drive within 30 mins. The underground hot spring water resource is rich near Montefiascone as well. No lake, no mountain, there is another option: Italian’s Terme SPA!
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