Isola Bisentina. Lago di Bolsena

Art Pavilion

Saturday, May 27 at the Art Pavilion opens the exhibition Isola Bisentina. Lago di Bolsena: through images, maps and videos, it is possible to trace the history of this place in the center of Lake Bolsena, a naturalistic oasis that holds a cultural heritage in the interweaving of history, ancient architecture, sacred art and mysteries. Reopened to the public last summer after more than 15 years, the Bisentina Island is presented in the spaces of the Fondazione Luigi Rovati before the new opening on June 20.


Bisentina is the largest island of Lake Bolsena, which, located in the Viterbo area, is the largest lake of volcanic origin in Europe and the fifth largest lake in Italy. The predominantly flat island preserves numerous tree species and forests with centuries-old trees and is dominated by Mount Tabor, whose name deliberately recalls that of the hill of Galilee because of the presence of a chapel that preserves a fresco of the Transfiguration. Frequented since the Bronze Age, it has been a place of Etruscan presence-because of its proximity to Mount Bisenzio on which stood one of the cities of the dodecapolis-as evidenced by several objects found here and now preserved in museums and private collections, related to sacred ceremonies. Inhabited since the 9th century AD by coastal populations who took refuge there to escape Saracen raids, from the end of the 14th century the island became part of the domain of the Farnese family.

The exhibit also includes the foundation stone of the Church of Sts. James and Christopher engraved with the cardinal's coat of arms of the patron Alessandro Farnese.


Excavated in Mount Tabor, the famous Malta dei Papi, a long tunnel leading to a circular cavity in the vault of which a 30-meter vertical conduit flows into the woods, is mentioned by Dante in Paradise as a perpetual prison (Canto IX, vv. 52-54). Its original function may have been as a cistern for collecting water, but from the 13th century it is said to have been used as a prison for those accused of heresy. Open to the public for the first time, its visitors will be taken on a tour of discovery of this still mysterious place through a journey of water, fire, earth and air.


On the occasion of the exhibition, on Wednesday, May 31, at 6 p.m., there will be a meeting with Sofia Elena Rovati, art historian and head of the Isola Bisentina project, Margherita Eichberg, Superintendent in charge of Archaeology, Fine Arts and Landscape for the province of Viterbo and Southern Etruria, and Barbara Barbaro, official in charge for the same Superintendency, who will talk about the history of the Island, its natural ecosystem and the project of restoration and preservation of the buildings launched since 2019. The meeting is free admission with prior reservation on the website.



Isola Bisentina. Lago di Bolsena

May 27-September 3, 2023

Art Pavilion - Fondazione Luigi Rovati

Corso Venezia 52, Milan

Free admission