Every time I see the name of this village, my eye immediately focuses on the word “fiasco.” Moreover, “fiasco” adequately represents my Day 4 journey as I walked 18 km from Bolsena to MonetiaFIASCOne.
First, I left the Bolsena’s village by way of a shrine that I confidently knew was there for the pilgrims of today. Little did I know that I made a wrong turn as I hiked 5 km uphill in the opposite direction. After not seeing any Via Francigena signs for a couple of kilometers, I stopped two cyclists. The thoughtful men explained to me, in very slow Italian, that I needed to return to Bolsena. I tried to stay positive and appreciated my downhill return to the village. Returning to my original starting place, I set out for Montefiascone in the correct direction and two hours later than my initial beginning.
I enjoyed the walk through the forests, however, as the sun broke through the clouds, the woods became meadows, and the warm-midday sun radiated through the clear skies. Continuing to climb, I finally reached Monefiascone, with its unmistakable silhouette sitting 600 m above sea level, making it the highest town in the Province of Viterbo.
After my arduous trek to this town, I was eager to learn about its origin. I discovered that the city derives its name from Mons Faliscorum, Mountain of the Falisci. Falisci is an ancient Roman name for those who inhabited this area. But, my translation is still Mountain of Fiasco.
As I approached the village, a giant castle appeared. During the Avignon Papacy (1309-1376), this castle was the primary residence of the Papal legate, Cardinal Albornoz. Throughout the next centuries, the castle decayed after the plague of 1657 and an earthquake in 1697. In 1870, the area became part of the new Kingdom of Italy. During World War II, the village received damage from two Allied bombingsAlso appearing on the horizon, the Montefiascone Cathedral emerges, with one of the most massive domes in Italy with a diameter of 27 m. (In comparison, the diameter of Brunelleschi’s dome on Florence’s Santa Maria de Fiore measures 45.5 m, the Pantheon’s diameter is 43.4, and St. Peter’s Basilic dome’s diameter measures 41.5 m.) The church, dedicated to Saint Margaret (Santa Margherita), the church became popular when Pope Urban V established the Diocese of Montefiascone in 1396.
Perhaps among contemporary pilgrims Montefiascone is best known for a wine named Est!, Est!!, Est!!!, produced in the region since 1966. The curious name of the wine region dates back to a 12th-century tale of a German Bishop traveling to the Vatican to meet with the Pope. The Bishop sent a prelate ahead to survey the villages along the route for the best wines. The ‘wine scout’ had instructions to write ‘Est’ (Latin for ‘There is’) on the door or the wall of the inns he visited when particularly impressed with the quality of the wine served. At a Montefiascone inn, the prelate was reportedly so overwhelmed with the local wine that he wrote Est! Est!! Est!!! on the door. Today, there is a tomb in San Flaviano believed to be the resting place of the Bishop. The monument bears the Latin inscription: “Est est est – Propter nimium est – Johannes de Foucris – dominus meus – mortuus est,” which translate to “because there is too much – John Foucus – lord – is dead”