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Lake Bolsena is a volcanic caldera lake supplied entirely from the aquifer, rainfall and runoff. A Caldera is a cauldron like hollow formed following the evacuation of a magma chamber as opposed to a Crater which forms following an eruption around a volcanic vent.

Roman records indicate activity of the Vulsini volcano occurred as recently as 104 BC but it has been dormant since then. The two islands in the southern part of the lake were formed by underwater eruptions following the collapse that created the caldera.


Bisentina Island

With an area of 17 ha (42 acres), Bisentina is the largest island, and is accessible via a ferry service from Capodimonte or you can rent a boat. On the island are groves of evergreen oaks, Italian gardens, and various monuments: the church of Saint James and Saint Christopher with its cupola built by the architect Jacopo Barozzi da Vignola; the Franciscan convent; the Rocchina, a small temple dedicated to Saint Catherine. The latter was constructed in an octagonal floorplan by Antonio da Sangallo, over an Etruscan columbarium previously erected on a rocky outcrop on the lake. Another monument, the chapel of the Crucifix, contains frescos of the fifth century. The Malta dei Papi, a former prison for ecclesiastics found guilty of heresy, was shaped from a small cave with a trapdoor placed at a height of 20 m (66 ft) The Etruscans and the Romans left few traces of their stay on the island.


Martana Island

Located opposite the town of Marta, the island of Martana is reputed to have once guarded the relics of Saint Christine to keep them from falling into the hands of the barbarians. Later, it is said that, during the dominion of the Goths, their queen Amalasuntha was assassinated there.

The island is currently private property and no visitors are allowed.