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Bisentina Island, jewel of Italy's Lake Bolsena, reopens to visitors

Mysterious island opens to visitors on Saturdays from July to October.

Bisentina, a tiny privately-owned island in the heart of Lake Bolsena in central Italy, will open for guided tours on Saturdays from 2 July to 8 October.

Long inaccessible to the general public, Bisentina is one of two islets in Europe's largest volcanic lake and has been inhabited since Etruscan and Roman times.

Over the centuries the island has acted as the refuge of popes, nobility and religious orders.

In the ninth century it provided refuge from the Saracens and in the late 14th century it became the property of the powerful Farnese family, a dynasty that included Pope Paul III.

During the Renaissance era the island and its seven chapels  - including the octagonal chapel of S. Caterina attributed to Antonio da Sangallo the Younger - became a place of pilgrimage.

The island subsequently passed through the hands of the noble Spada and del Drago families, and in recent decades public access was only granted on a sporadic basis.

Lake Bolsena with Isola Bisentina, to the left, and the privately owned and inaccessible Martana to the right.

In 2017 Bisentina was sold by the grandchildren of Princess Maria Angelica del Drago, who often stayed on the island, reports Rome newspaper Il Messaggero.

Bisentina was bought by the Rovati family, behind the Italian pharmaceutical company Rottapharm, who over the last five years have carried out extensive restoration works there in collaboration with local heritage authorities.

This summer the public will have the chance to explore the mysterious island and three of its chapels, set amid centuries-old gardens, olive groves and lush vegetation.

The other four chapels are undergoing restoration work and are expected to be included in guided tours in the future.

Over the summer the island's buildings and natural beauty will be enriched by displays of contemporary art including specially commissioned site-specific installations.

Bisentina can be visited at weekends from July to October

Visitors are reminded that Isola Bisentina is a "sacred place" and that all who land there must respect the rules of conduct, according to the island's website.

Those visiting are also encouraged to bring a bottle of water and wear appropriate clothing and footwear for walking through "wild nature".

How to visit Bisentina

On Saturdays from 2 July to 8 October, boats will travel to the island from Capodimonte at 10.15-12.45 and 17.00-19.30.

From 7-28 August there will be Sunday visits from Bolsena too: 10.00-12.45 and 15.00-17.40.

The combined cost of the guided tour and return boat trip (provided by private company) is €42 for adults and €35 for children aged six to 15. The fee for disabled visitors is €42, with free access for accompanying person.

Lago di Bolsena is located about an hour and a half drive north of Rome.

For full details, in English, of how to get to Bolsena and how to visit the island, see Isola Bisentina website.

General Info

Address Isola Bisentina, 01010 Capodimonte, VT, Italy

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Bisentina Island, jewel of Italy's Lake Bolsena, reopens to visitors

Isola Bisentina, 01010 Capodimonte, VT, Italy

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