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Montefiascone, Province of Viterbo, Lazio

Montefiascone is situated 15 km from Viterbo, along the Via Cassia leading from Rome to Siena, and then to the north of Italy and the rest of Europe - an itinerary known as the Francigena route.

From its position on a high hill along the border of a volcanic basin that formed Lake Bolsena, the town offers a breathless view from the Thyrrhenian Sea to the Cimini mountains, the town is surrounded by vineyards producing the celebrated "Est!Est!!Est!!!" Moscatello wine.

Info

  • Altitude: 590 m a.s.l
  • Population: about 13,000 inhabitants
  • Zip/postal code: 01027
  • Dialing Area Code: +39 0761
  • Patron Saint: St. Margaret of Antiochia, celebrated on 20th July
  • Frazioni & Localities: Le Cosse, Le Grazie, Le Mosse, Zepponami.
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Provinces of Lazio

History

The name of the city derives from the Falisci, an ancient population that probably had a citadel here. It was later under the Etruscans who according to the legends had here a temple, Fanum Voltumnae, a spiritual centre where the chiefs of the Dodecapolis (the twelve main Etruscan towns) met for their reunions. The name Montefiascone is mentioned in 853 AD, as a possession of the bishop of Tuscania.

The periods of highest splendour were the 13th and 14th centuries, when the castle was often a residence of Popes, and in the Avignon period it was the residence of the Pope representative in Italy, Cardinal Albornoz. A slow decline began afterwards, and the situation worsened after the 1657 plague and an earthquake some decades later in 1697. In 1870 also Montefiascone, as the whole Church of the State with the exception of Vatican City, was united to the Kingdom of Italy.

What to see

  • The Renaissance Cathedral of Santa Margherita, dated 1519 and ascribed to architect Michele Sanmicheli, with a majestic 8-sided dome completed in the 16th century by Carlo Fontana, the third largest in Italy after St Peter's in Rome and Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence preserving inside a fine marble representing St. Margaret, the work of Arnolfo di Cambio (1240 - 1302)
  • The Rocca dei Papi, a castle of Etruscan origin which was changed in the Middle Ages into a mansion for popes and cardinals.
  • The church of San Flaviano, a peculiar Romanesque temple of the 11th century, consisting of two churches one upon the other but in opposite directions; the facade built in 1262 has three Gothic portals, surmounted by a 16th century lodge. Inside also frescoes of the 13th century, among them an interesting "Incontro dei Tre Vivi e dei Tre Morti", and at the centre of the vault a wide opening connecting to the upper church.
  • The lower church hosts the tomb of a German bishop named Johannes Defuk, a renowned enologist, who while going to Rome in 1113 AD, sent his valet around the town to find the inns which served good wine, and write the Latin words "est" (meaning there is) on the doors; the valet was so enthusiastic about the local wine that wrote "est" 3 times, with 6 exclamation marks, and the expression became the name of the wine. Coming back from Rome Defuk drank too much of the wine, and died, leaving however a legacy to the town of 24,000 silver coins, on condition that on the anniversary of his death a small casket of wine would be poured on his tomb, where an inscription says: "For the excessive EST! here lies my lord Johannes Defuk".

Events and Festivities

  • 30 July to 15 August: the Fiera del vino, with a historical re-enactment with a costume parade of over 150 characters, in memory of the legend of Defuk. The parade is particularly impressive, being held at night, to the light of torches, along the narrow lanes of the historical centre. During the days of the Festival there are also other medieval games, dances and shows with flag bearers
  • 20 July, feast of patron Santa Margherita, with flower fair, musical bands, fireworks.

Where to stay