Monday, May 12, 2008

Lago di Bolsena

The train left us out in the evening light of the coastal town of Ladispoli on the eve of May Day, a national holiday in all of Europe. The campgrounds we have encountered so far are one of two flavors -- those frequented by primarily Italians and those by Northern Europeans. This one was of the Italian variety. Small trailers are parked year-round on small sites, and have constructed around them entire structures, including canopies, small sheds with stove and fridge, and tiled decks. Large familial groups come together play on the beach and share meals. We occupied one of the rare squares of grass between this metropolis of caravans. Since it was a holiday, the campground was packed. Kids were playing everywhere, running between sites and playing soccer in the roadways. The Italians don't eat their evening meal until 8pm, and the barbeque right next to us was fired up just as we were ready to roll into bed. It was a frenzy of activity, as if the vacationing Italians transferred the intensity of their home cities to their weekend getaway. After our travels in Rome and Naples and this little city of campers, we were ready to head out into the country side and start biking in earnest.

From Ladispoli we went north along the coast to Tarquinia. Nearby are some of the best Etruscan tombs in Italy, and we spent the morning of our exit from Tarquinia visiting them. The tombs date from around the 6th century BC, and more than 6,000 tombs have been located in the region surronding this town. The tombs are subterranean, and the site we visited has constructed about 20 shelters with stairs leading into the tombs. Behind glass in a climate-controlled environment are the colorful frescoes, amazingingly vivid for their age.

It is spring, and the wildflowers are blooming all around us. In California the golden poppy is the state flower, and during its peak blooms it colors the hillsides orange. But here the poppies are a bright red, appropriate for the bold colors the Italians favor in their design motifs.

The contrast of the old and new throughout the country continues to amaze us. Above John rides by an aqueduct from the early 18th century.

As we moved eastward into the interior of the Lazio province, we headed towards two large lakes indicated on our map -- Lago di Vico and Lago di Bolsena. Both are formed in the calderas, much like Crater Lake in Oregon. It was a long, hot climb to get to the rim of Lago di Vico, and an exhilirating descent back down to lake level. We traveled on country roads with light traffic in an area not frequented by foreign visitors. Lago di Bolsena is the larger of the two lakes, and Bolsena is a medieval fortress town on its east shore.

Rain kept us there an extra day, and we spent time exploring the narrow streets. We noticed several sculptures and planters around the town of Bolsena with a distinctive human head form. Later we came acoss the studio of the artist and his small shop from which he sells his work.

It was a peaceful day in Bolsena, our transition from the city to the country, from the ancient to the medieval.
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