"Great place for a picnic" Montefiascone by iandsmith

Montefiascone Travel Guide: 11 reviews and 14 photos

Then there's that dome

No matter what direction you come to Montefiascone, sooner or later you're going to notice that dome. That big thing sticking up in the middle of the town is, in point of fact, only second to St. Peters in volume.
Montefiascone's position on an old volcanic crater overlooking Lago di Bolsena means it has splendid views around the countryside and , best of all, right on top of the hill is a park.
What a great place for a picnic I thought. Adjacent to a castle, a duomo handy and then there's that lovely view over the lake. At 10.00am in the morning, with my footsteps the only ones appearing in the snow, it seemed that no-one else was imbued with the same sentiments as myself.

A potted history

The city is situated at an altitude of 640 meters. From this privileged position, there is a reputed incomparable view (if you get a clear day), which goes from the Tyrrhenean Sea, where you can see the outline of Argentario and of Isola del Giglio, to the Maremma and, nearby, Lago di Bolsena with its pretty little islands, Martana and Bisentina. The latter is famous because of the tombs of the Farnese and, the source of various operas of Antonio da San Gallo il Giovane and of Vignola can be found there. To the Etruscans Montefiascone was a sacred area, maybe the center of the legendary Fanum Voltumnae. It has been inhabited since the Bronze Age (III century B.C.). In the late ancient era and in the Dark Ages, there's already mention of Burgus Sancti Flavian; this results from some deeds present in the "Regesto di Farfa" dated 801 and 837 AD. In the year 853 AD Pope Leone IV wrote a letter to the Bishop of Tuscania to confirm the entrustment of the diocese's property and he mentions Mons Flasconis. From this moment on, there is mention of two centers, very close to each other, Borgus Flaviani, on the Cassia, and Mons Flasconis, situated in the valley, looking out onto Lake Bolsena. In the early 11th century Montefiascone gained more importance, thanks to its easily defendable position and so the population started to settle there, in preference to Borgo S. Flaviano, which ultimately was destroyed in 1187 by Clementine III and his troops, the attack designed to weaken the resistance of Count Ildebrandino, who was presiding over the Montefiascone Castle. From the year 1058 to almost 1600, over thirty Popes, various emperors and other notables were in the town. They conducted parliaments or they just simply came to find relief from the summer heat, just as tourists do today. In 1111, the Emperor Henry V passed through Montefiascone on his way to his coronation in Rome by the Pope. Among his court there was a certain nobleman, Giovanni Deuc, who had a great passion for wine and who brought the wine of Montefiascone to fame with the name EST! EST! EST!
Federico Barbarossa also came to Montefiascone in 1185, having understood the strategic importance of the place. He left an important document where, besides the privileges given to the population, he describes the form of government of the town that was entrusted to three officials chosen amongst the noblemen, the warriors and the "good citizens"; one of the number representing each social class. During those years, imperial authority was represented by his Aulic Councilor, chosen from among the local noblemen by Barbarossa himself, a certain Gualtiero. From this moment on, Montefiascone really became the center of history, just as Patrimonio di S. Pietro, governed by the Rocca of the town, was in the center, between the kingdom of Sicily and northern Italy. In 1210, Ottone IV occupied it and in 1222 St. Francis of Assisi, passing through Montefiascone, left his "rule" to the citizens. In 1227, Onorio III officially established the boundaries of Patrimonio and confirmed the city seat of the rector. In 1240, Federico II occupied the Rocca and the rest of the town. In 1261, Pope Urbano IV occupied the Rocca and had a new tower built. Then, in 1280, Pope Clemente IV had an adjoining building built to the Rocca for his court.

Later, Pope Martino IV, elected in Viterbo, chose Montefiascone as his base and he entertained his favourite king of Sicily, Carlo d'Angio and Tommaso of Hereford who subsequently died there in 1282. It was on the door of S. Flaviano that he had his Bull affixed, in which he threatened to excommunicate King Pietro III d'Aragona after the famous revolt of the "Sicilian Vespers".
In 1315, there was a period of great rivalry between Guelphs and Ghibellines. The rector of Patrimonio di S. Pietro was Bernardo di Cauchy at the time and it culminated in a battle within the city walls and which was won by the Ghibellines. To humiliate the losers, the Ghibellines celebrated by riding on mules around the entire village. In 1321, Pope Giovanni XIXII set up one of the few mints of the Pontifical State. Another important Pope for Montefiascone was Urbano V (1368) who had his summer estate here and in 1369 he gave Montefiascone the title of "city" and, with a Papal Bull, founded the diocese (Bolla Cum illius). On August 4th, 1368, Benedictines and Dominicans had a dispute over the custody of the mortal remains of St. Thomas Aquinas. It was settled by Martino IV in favor of the Dominicans. In 1377, Gregorio IIX consecrated the cathedral of S. Margherita. After him came Urbano VI in 1379, Bonifacio IX, Innocenzo VII in 1405, Gregorio XII in 1412, Martino V in 1420, Eugenio IV in 1432, up until Pope Pio II Piccolomini in 1463 who had S. Flaviano restored and also enlarged the bishop's palace. On September 2nd, 1471, Sisto IV approved the statutes, the regulations and the reformations. 1495 saw Antonio da Sangallo il Vecchio come to Montefiascone to respond to the needs of Pope Alessandro VI and Duca Valentino who had taken refuge in the castle. Much of the work done to the Rocca was ordered by Leone X, who called upon the skills of persons such as Michelangelo Bembo.
During these years, Montefiascone had moments of great splendour. The architect Michele Sanmichele, who projected the church of S. Margherita, came to work in the city, along with il Vignola (see Bomarzo and Bagnaia) and Antonio da Sangallo il Giovane who was elected "Captain of the Population" in 1522. Before that, during 1498 to 1519, the Bishop of Montefiascone later became Pope Paolo III. On April 20th, 1530, Montefiascone entertained the emperor Carlo V accompanied by the Cardinal Carafa, future Pope Paolo IV and Ferrerio.
The two plagues of 1527 and 1657, along with a terrible earthquake in 1695, signified the decline of Montefiascone as Papal residence and the Rocca was abandoned and used as a quarry. In 1867, after the arrival of the Cardinal Barbarigo, Montefiascone had another period of glory when he transformed the small seminary into one of the major Italian cultural centers, where illustrious figures such as Pompeo Frangipane (archeologist), Giuseppe Bianchini (writer), Giovan Battista Casti (Caesarean poet) and Sartini (Latinist) studied. The seminary was richly furnished with a library, still available for visits today.
In 1719, the marriage between the Princess of Poland, Clementina Sobieski and John Stuart, next in line to the British throne, was celebrated in Montefiascone. On September 11th, 1870, Nino Bixio and his troops attacked Montefiascone, which didn't offer any resistance. With the conquest of the Pontifical State, Montefiascone returned to normality and its history became intertwined in the overall history of the Kingdom of Italy.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:Picturesque setting, no crowds (when I was there)
  • Last visit to Montefiascone: Nov 2009
  • Intro Updated Jan 19, 2010
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iandsmith

“The shortest distance between two people is laughter (note sign in picture)”

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