Rome, Milan, Florence, Venice, and then you will probably also visit the famous Cinque Terre, Sicily, Naples and Positano, and even Puglia. However, after seeing these renowned tourist cities and regions in Italy full of famous Italian landmarks, where else will you go?
The answer is, there are plenty of other places to visit in the Italian countryside and mountains. The real history and beauty of this country, Italy, is in the lesser-known towns. You will never regret making an effort to get to some of these off-the-beaten-path Italian destinations because they always have more to surprise you with, and I have one town in my mind. Its name is Montefiascone.
Montefiascone has a long history and a beautiful landscape that includes mountains and a lake. There are many things to do in Montefiascone, from cultural visits to outdoor activities. It also has fantastic cuisine and local wines as well. So, I made this 2 Day Montefiascone Itinerary for those who are visiting Montefiascone for the first time, or who simply want a relaxing weekend escape in Italy.
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Using the map of Montefiascone, you can explore all the days and stops.
On the first day, you will start with a typical Italian breakfast and the perfect lake view in Montefiascone. As today is more about culture and history, you will visit the Cathedral of Montefiascone and the older church where the relics of the German bishop who started the legend of Montefiascone lies.
You will also enjoy the best two local restaurants in Montefiascone's city center, from traditional Roman cuisine to the best Roman pizza.
Montefiascone is a quiet and laid-back Italian city with a large senior community inside the old stone town. The new city is outside the city gate. Don't be surprised to find people hanging out for their breakfast and cappuccino around 10 AM. It's part of the Montefiascone lifestyle.
So, the first thing you should do once in Montefiascone is to head to a local cafe with a great view. Bar Giusti Pasticceria is precisely this place.
Once here, grab yourself a cappuccino or an espresso, and a cornetto (Italian croissant). If you like, you can choose the cornetto filled with jam or cream. All these pastries are the same price, so don't worry about that. The Italian breakfast is usually sweet, but they do have salty paninis (sandwiches) as well.
Unfortunately, the countryside in Italy doesn't make their coffee in an international way like in Rome or Milan, which is why if you venture outside of the famous Italian cities you should read up in advance on how to drink coffee like an Italian.
You should be able to find a table relatively easily on their terrace, which is under a roof. From here, you can enjoy the slower pace with a beautiful view of the volcano lake down the hill and the extended green fields filling up the gap between the lake and the city.
Leaving the cafe, cross the street and turn onto Via Indipendenza (What a name! Independent Street). From here, walk uphill to pass a small city gate and arrive at the old Montefiascone city center. This centre is also where the fountain is. Legend says that when Montefiascone held their beloved wine festival in the summers, people poured red wine into this fountain and made one big party for everyone.
Montefiascone city center is small and easy to explore, even though there are quite a lot of narrow stone streets like a "spider web". Walking through Piazza Vittorio Emanuele (the first King of Italy), you will find a small Tourist Information Center (in case you need more help and local information). From here, continue to turn left onto Via S.Lucia Filippini.
If you know the city structure of a typical medieval city in Italy, like Florence and Siena, you probably know what a ring city means. Via S.Lucia Filippini is one of the major ring-roads around Montefiascone's old town. Follow it, and you will find almost all the city gates and important city properties.
Basilica di Santa Margherita is also right on this street. It is the main cathedral of Montefiascone and has the third biggest dome in Italy. Its dome is even seeable from most of the cities in the Viterbo area. The church is free to enter, and you will start from the upper part first.
The upper part of this church was built in the late 17th-century when Montefiascone’s Cardinal ordered the reconstruction of the church after a big fire. When you follow the stone stairs beside the church (outside) and walk down, you will find the entrance to the lower part.
The lower part was built almost 200 years before the upper part, and you can see the difference. The bottom section has a simpler design and is made of huge blocks of stones, while the upper part embraced renaissance art and beautiful decoration.
The lower part is still in use nowadays by the local people. For example, they hold the ceremonies for new-born babies here. Also, at the bottom, there is the tomb of Montefiascone’s Cardinal and the relics of Saint Lucia Filippini, which is viewable from the transparent grave.
Life in an Italian town without many tourists and only locals means you will have to prepare well for a huge lunch. In Montefiascone, “Dante” is the ONE restaurant you cannot miss. Montefiascone residents of all ages go here.
“Dante” is the shortened name of the restaurant, with the full name being “Ristorante Albergo Dante”. Yes, it is also a hotel, but more like a hostel. Must-try dishes here include the Carbonara and Paradelle al Ragu. No worries if you don’t like these two pasta dishes, any pasta on their hand-written menu will be good, I promise!
For main dishes (if after pasta, you can still “fight” with the chef), the very traditional Roman meal, Coda, or the newly-added Steak, including the famous Fiorentina steak, are the best choices. Don’t forget their special Panna Cotta dessert with Nutella on top - the best of the best!
San Flaviano is the oldest church in Montefiascone. It maintains the Romanesque architecture with its stone materials. You might notice that it's not as aesthetically-pleasing like other works from the Italian Renaissance period. Still, you will find that it has a very irresistible and interesting story, especially for those who are wine lovers. The church is from the 11th century, and you can still see some frescoes on the chapel's walls.
When you enter the church, on the right-hand side, is a big stone tomb with a transparent box of relics. This tomb was recently retrieved from one of the church's crypts while they were doing maintenance. The tomb belongs to a German bishop. This bishop wanted to go to the Vatican to meet the pope. However, as he was a wine lover, he sent a servant to find and mark down all the great Italian wine-shops and wine-makers by writing the sign "Est" on their doors.
Once the bishop arrived in Montefiascone, he noticed 3 "Ests" on many doors, and because of this, he decided to stay here to enjoy the local white wine without moving on to other places. He ended up spending the rest of his life in Montefiascone and abandoned the idea of ever meeting the pope in the end. This is the famous story of Montefiascone Est! Est! Est!
Isn't it awesome?!
Before leaving the church area, you can stop by Mercato Del Vecchio, which is a vintage furniture shop. They collect old pieces, polish and preserve them, and resell them as well. The shop is not big, but you will find that it is like a rabbit-hole. So, enjoy the treasure-hunting game here.
At the back of San Flaviano, you can walk up Via San Flaviano to Giardino Pubblico, which is right in front of Piazzale Roma of Montefiascone. You can walk in this public park and enjoy the late-afternoon sun, or even watch the sunset in the winters.
Piazzale Roma, for the younger generation of Montefiascone, is where the nights start for them. You can go to Bar Vittoria for a glass of a classic Italian cocktail, like Aperol Spritz, Campari Spritz, or a Bellini, or you can try a glass of Montefiascone Est!Est!Est! freshly from the fridge!
For dinner, I suggest “La Rotella” close to Piazzale Roma. It is a very friendly, family-style pizza restaurant (“Pizzeria”). Their pizza comes on a piece of paper directly, and they make it in an authentic Roman style. It’s crispy and light, but never lacks mouth-watering toppings!
The second and final day will start with a visit to the Montefiascone castle and fortress, Rocca dei Papi. Visit this early-medieval fortress with a mini-museum inside featuring information about the architecture of domes from around the world.
In the afternoon, you will relax and spend some time at Largo Bolsena - a beautiful and colossal volcano lake near Montefiascone. Relaxing by the lake is the best way to experience life like a local here.
Start the day with a simple Italian breakfast at Palazzo Frigo. You can sit outdoors where you will be facing the fountain and the central square of Montefiascone's old city. In the winter, a cup of hot chocolate here is lovely, too.
Also, there is a newspaper stand next to the cafe, so if you have a bit of time to spare, grab a paper to read along with your hot drink to catch up on some current events because in Montefiascone, you don't really feel that the time is passing by.
Rocca dei Papi is a must-visit site for any Montefiascone trip. It is located on the top of the old city and overlooks the nearby volcano lake, Largo Bolsena. The entrance ticket costs 5 euros, and it includes an audio guide.
Rocca dei Papi was a strategically important fortress in earlier medieval times. In the 14th century, the pope even used it as his resident house in the summers. In the 16th century, the pope moved his strategic position to the nearby city, Viterbo, and Rocca dei Papi became a stone material source for the renovation of the main church, the Basilica di Santa Margherita.
Inside Rocca dei Papi, you can still climb up the preserved fortress town to get a bird's-eye view of the city and the volcano lake nearby. On some days, you can even clearly see Viterbo and the other small towns situated around the lake. There is also a big "water-tank" inside that shows how people preserved water back then.
You can also explore Museo Dell' architettura di Antonio Da Sangallo Il Giovane (Museum of Architecture of Sangallo the Younger). Here, you will find the original drafting and design of many Catholic churches and their massive domes, including the ones of St.Peter's, Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, and more.
A lazy day near Largo Bolsena is what everyone should do during a trip to Montefiascone. Heading downhill to the lake, a chill afternoon here can start with a seafood lunch at Ristorante Isola Blu.
There is nothing fancy here; it is just a traditional seafood restaurant in an Italian town beside a huge lake. I highly recommend starting with the deep-fried mixed seafood though, and then the gnocchi with the pinkish-colour shrimp sauce. You can also try the sweet-water fish that is captured freshly from the lake. The grilled one simply dressed with salt and lemon juice is the best.
In the summers, Largo Bolsena on the side of Montefiascone is a popular spot. You will find almost all the locals here sunbathing, playing with beach balls, swimming in the lake, playing beach basketball, and more. The lake water is always fresh, even on the hottest days, which is very refreshing!
There are bars that serve sliced pizza, chips, drinks, and ice cream. It’s absolutely comfortable to spend a couple of hours here.
Coming back from the lake, you can have some refreshments or go for another relaxing walk in the old city for some souvenir shopping. I like to visit the hand-craft ceramic shops or local grocery stores with agricultural products that you won’t find in a big city.
For the last dinner before leaving, I suggest Trattoria Pizzeria Da Pancino. It’s a traditional local restaurant serving everything. They have Roman-style pizza with an even thinner pizza base, but also have all the conventional Roman dishes you can think of.
Montefiascone is a hidden gem Italian town near Rome, Viterbo, Orvieto and many other bigger and smaller cities, so you really have no excuse not to visit!
Nonetheless, I hope you enjoyed my 2-day Montefiascone guide!
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