Lake Bolsena, Lazio, Italy

Lake Locations:

Italy - Lazio -

Also known as:  Lago di Bolsena

Held in the volcanic crater like a jewel in its setting, 28,032-acre Lake Bolsena sparkles in central Italy. Over hundreds of thousands of years the crater’s walls have softened gradually, eroding to flat beaches and gently rolling hills holding medieval fishing villages. The rich volcanic soil supports hillsides patch-worked with vineyards, olive groves and wheat fields. Clean, clear water filled with fish set against the beautiful pastoral backdrop of the Alto Lazio region of Italy combine with a history as old as time itself to form the perfect tourist destination. Fortunately for visitors, however, one of the only things that Lake Bolsena doesn’t have is a lot of tourists. Still relatively undiscovered, the lake shines like a gem just waiting to be enjoyed.

Lake Bolsena, or Lago di Bolsena in Italian, is a volcanic crater lake that formed approximately 370,000 years ago when the volcano’s caldera collapsed into a deep aquifer. Part of the Vulsini Volcanic Complex, the volcano, according to Roman records, was last active in 104 BC. The Romans called the lake “Lacus Volsinii,” and it is the largest volcanic lake in Italy. The two islands, Bisentina and Martana, in the southern half of the lake were formed by underwater eruptions.

Like most crater lakes, Lago di Bolsena is an elliptical-shaped lake stretching 8.1 miles long and 6.8 miles wide with a maximum depth of 500 feet. The lake is in the northern part of the Province of Virterbo, not too far from Tuscany. It receives most of its water from the aquifer and also from rainfall and runoff. The only outflow from Lake Bolsena is the Marta River at the southern end of the lake, east of the Village of Marta. The Marta River flows on into the Tirreno Sea.

Settlers around the lake have been regulating water levels since before the time of the Etruscans, and today, a sluice gate helps regulate levels. Lake Bolsena fills very slowly and has an extremely long water residence time. It takes almost 121 years for the lake’s water to completely turn over, so great care must be taken to ensure contaminants don’t pollute the lake. The villages around the lake have worked to minimize runoff from agriculture and to make sure no effluent makes its way into the lake. As a result, Lake Bolsena is a clean, clear lake with good water quality.

Many of the villages around Lake Bolsena, particularly the port village of Marta, are fishing villages. There are pike, perch, eel, royal bass, largemouth bass, pumpkinseed and catfish in the lake, any of which could be caught in the morning and served on a plate at one of the area’s many restaurants for dinner. Anglers need a permit to fish and can find guides and boats for hire on the shore of the lake. Lake Bolsena is large enough to support fishing boats, motor boats, water skiers, sail boats and even wind surfers. Several services offer lake tours, and there is a ferry to both of the islands.

At 42 acres, Bisenta is the larger of the two islands in Lago di Bolsena. The ferry from Capodimonte takes visitors to the island to explore the evergreen oak groves, monuments, Italian gardens, and churches. The island was settled by the Etruscans, conquered by the Romans, burned and settled again. Its architecture shows layers of the civilizations that came before. Cresent-shaped Martana is 25 acres and was said to have guarded the relics of St. Catherine. The island is privately owned and not available for tours.

Several villages and lakeside communities ring Lake Bolsena, including the agrarian Grotto di Castro or “Castro’s Caves” Village and the Village of Bolsena. Originally an Etruscan village, Bolsena was conquered by the Romans and eventually settled by the Christians, each group flattening the village before they built again. Villages offer volcanic sand beaches for swimming and sunbathing, cafes and restaurants, self-catering holiday villas and vacation rentals, plus hotels and bed and breakfast accommodations. Opportunities for Agritourism exist in the hills surrounding the lake. With a history extending back 2,500 years to the time of the Etruscans, several ruins and museums celebrating the area’s history are scattered around Lago di Bolsena.

A few miles north of Lake Bolsena, the Riserva Naturale di Monte Rufeno is a 7,413-acre reserve near Acquapendente. The reserve has trails for walking, hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding and abundant wildlife. Part of the reserve includes the Francigena Way. The ancient route was a pilgrim trail through Bolsena from Siena to Rome.

Each Village around Lago di Bolsena has its own history and flavor. With the museums, restaurants, cafes and Agritourism, visitors to the lake are sure to find something to delight them. Add the clean, clear water, abundant fish and fantastic boating, and Lake Bolsena shines like a a treasure waiting to be discovered.

Things to do at Lake Bolsena

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Water Skiing
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Museum
  • Ruins

Fish species found at Lake Bolsena

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Catfish
  • Eel
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Perch
  • Pike
  • Pumpkinseed
  • Sunfish

Lake Bolsena Photo Gallery

Lake Bolsena Statistics & Helpful Links

divider

Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Surface Area: 28,032 acres

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 1,000 feet

Average Depth: 270 feet

Maximum Depth: 500 feet

Water Volume: 7,458,561 acre-feet

Water Residence Time: 121 years

Drainage Area: 62 sq. miles

Spread the word! Share our Lake Bolsena article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!

Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.