Updated July 29, 2022: I love the Lake Bolsena area. The nearby city of Montefiascone is my other home in Italy when I’m not in Rome. The largest volcanic lake in Europe and an easy two-hour drive north of Rome, Lake Bolsena is where we run away to on the weekends to play in the lake and hike in the forests, soak in thermal waters, shop for delicious food and beverage products, and wine and dine.
Close to the borders of both Tuscany and Umbria, the volcanic soils around the lake also support a burgeoning natural wine movement with plenty of experimentation and creativity to explore.
I originally wrote this post at home in a pandemic red zone in March 2021 while dreaming of all the travel to come post-COVID. I’m happy to be updating it today from Montefiascone itself and that we are all free to move about the world again.
These are my favorite places in the Lake Bolsena area for food and wine.
Where to eat
The unassuming La Rimessa dei Pescatori (the fisherman’s shed in English) in Marta, opened seasonally from April to September, serves only fresh-caught lake fish prepared in all sorts of delicious ways, from pasta with lake fish ragù to la sbroscia, a traditional local lake fish stew. There is no actual restaurant, just a shack, a couple of tents, and some tables with umbrellas on the lawn. It’s perfect. The wine list is natural and local. Can we also pause and reflect on how climate-friendly serving only local fresh-caught wild lakefish is? I love this place.
Languorino in Montefiascone is a relative newcomer and bravely opened at the end of 2020. Many of the ingredients are locally sourced. The food is exceptional and highly creative and the wine list is natural with many local options. I rarely write restaurant reviews but I was so excited after eating here for the first time that I wrote a blog post. Check it out. I got a bit kooky over the farro pasta with lentils, eel ragù, and guanciale, but then when we next got take out, I got equally kooky over this salted cod maritozzo (a Roman sweet bun normally filled with whipped cream, not fish) with raisin puree and red onion icing. Yum.
The sophisticated Osteria Piazzetta del Sole in Farnese is a bit of a drive from Lake Bolsena, but I love eating here. The food is delicious and the wine list is great, although I often notice most diners ordering the owner’s own wine, Geremi Vini. They make interesting natural wines with local grape varieties. I mean how delicious does this pastry with cauliflower look?
Antico Borgo La Commenda is literally in a castle. Check it out in their photo gallery. They serve thoughtful food which veers toward the elegant along with their own organic wines. Bonus — you can use the outdoor swimming pool if you eat here in the summer too. You can go for lunch and then spend a couple of hours lounging poolside.
I took this picture of the lake before walking into the old school Da Paolino Al Miralago. It’s a no-frills smoky delicious grilled meat kind of place, but I’ve also enjoyed a tasty polenta or two here as well.
Where to drink and snack
La Rimessa dei Pescatori is actually not one shack but two. Next to the restaurant is a second shack with more tables on the lawn which is a bar with the same local, natural wine list as the restaurant. The aperitivo snacks are often tasty and there is a delicious lake fish burger for more substantial eats. When it’s not too busy, you can also sometimes convince the waitress to let you order from the restaurant menu next door. We sometimes order the fritto misto, or mixed fried fish plate, when we get lucky.
Beer Shock in the nearby city of Viterbo is a favorite stop for Italian craft beers from Lazio, like Hilltop Brewery and Terre di Faule and local natural wines. They also have impressive snacks, especially the cured meat platter.
Only opened in the summer, Il Muretto brings the full beach effect. It’s a good place for a late afternoon spritz or to snag an umbrella on the beach for the day. You can also take paddleboard lessons or sign up for paddleboard yoga or for paddleboarding day trips, including to one of the two islands in the center of the lake.
While it seems to have switched management a few times in the last few years, resulting in mixed quality of service and offerings, the seasonal La Rana Muta is well-positioned for watching the sunset over the lake with a spritz.
I’m updating this list in summer 2022 with Caffè Centrale on the top of the hill in Montefiascone. It’s changed management in recent years. It’s in a convenient location and the cocktails are good and the aperitivo is big.
Andrea Occhipinti in Gradoli makes experimental wines from native grapes, Aleatico and Grechetto Rosso. While Aleatico is often associated with sweet wines, it can be used to make delicious dry wines and rosati too. I love both Occhipinti’s creative Alea Bianco, a white wine made from 100% Aleatico, a red grape, and his Alea Rosa, a rosato macerated on the skins and aged in concrete.
We buy Il Vinco‘s biodynamic wines made with local grape varieties by the case. We particularly love the Mistione, a rosato made with local grape varieties, Canaiolo Nero, Procanico, Rossetto, and Malvasia Bianca Lunga, as well as their Biancoperso made from Procanico, Rossetto e Malvasia Bianca lunga.
Le Coste in Gradoli produces a wide array of original biodynamic wines with zero sulfur. I’m also always happy to see the familiar label with the image of Lake Bolsena and have enjoyed a number of their wines made with Aleatico, Procanico, and even Ciliegiolo.
In Montefiascone, Poggio Bbaranèllo, an all-female run winery produced its first vintage in 2019. They make wines from Trebbiano Toscano, Rossetto and Malvasia Lunga Toscana.
Cantina Ortaccio in Latera works with local grape varieties, Procanico, Grechetto, Aleatico and Roscetto, and buys parcels of old abandoned vineyards. I’m a big fan of their 100% Procanico Bianco Dritto.
As a Vermonter, the fact that La Villana is made by a fellow former New Englander caught my attention, as did her wine labels which often have cute cartoon sheep. I spied the sheep offhandedly in various restaurants and bars before finally getting my hands on some. I like the elegant Rosso Uovo which is made from 100% Grechetto Rosso and aged in a concrete egg.
Stefanoni is admittedly not like the others but I stop by their cantina often to stock up and enjoy their wines. I once saw a German couple load up the back of a station wagon with more jugs of wine than I could count. Stefanoni makes solid wines. I especially like those made from local grape varieties, such as the Roscetto.
Where to shop
Da Cacalloro in Montefiascone, is one of my favorite places to shop. The women who work here are so friendly and happy that it’s infectious and the cured meat selection is top-notch. They also have great porchetta (classic fatty pork roast from central Italy) on the weekends. If you arrive at the right time on a Saturday morning, you can treat yourself to a warm meat-filled calzone fresh from the oven while you shop. Bliss.
Montejugo‘s goat cheese is award-winning and it’s not hard to understand why. We frequently buy too much cheese here and have no regrets. Our fridge is rarely without the caprino nobile (it’s great in everything (soup, salad, pasta) and on its own) and the creamy stracchinato is one of my favorite cheeses. But I think we love all their dairy products. They also have a new restaurant on the premises too that I have yet to try but which is on my list.
Luisa‘s in Montefiascone specializes in buffalo milk cheeses. We go for the mozzarella and the yogurt and they make a good ricotta salata too. They also have a dining room that is open on the weekends and for takeout.
We like to stop by Stefanoni (not the same as the winery. Stefanoni is a common name in the area) for fegatini (liver paté) and ciascuolo (soft spreadable, smoked and dry-cured pork sausage). The fresh sausages are delicious too. They also have porchetta, and it seems an excellent place to buy a whole pig should you ever need one.