Anne's Blog

Feasting in Purgatory

Date: May 31, 2012 - categories: , , , - Leave your thoughts

Leaving Gradoli, picturesque Latium hilltown on the western shore of Lake Bolsena, you might miss that old stone ruin on the left, but if you stop – as a friend and I did recently – you can feast in Purgatory.

Il Purgatorio – once a monastery, now a restaurant


That is, at Il Purgatorio. Once a 15th-century monastery in ruins (old arches still remain), una cooperativa of five men – co-workers and friends – rented the building from the Comune di Gradoli and opened their restaurant about twenty years ago.

The main dining area has a huge barrel-vaulted ceiling and arched doorways of lavic stone, reminiscent of the monastery refectory but in good weather, diners prefer the outdoor tables lakeside, where ducks a playful nutria or two entertain as you await the feast here at il Purgatorio.

Stefania at the grill, seasoning il corigone


Gianni and Roberto serve at table while in the kitchen, Carlo keeps an eye on the risotto di pesce and the clam sauce. But the specialty is Lake Bolsena’s whitefish, il coregone, grilled over the coals under the watchful eye of kitchen assistant Stefania.

You know all the fish is fresh – whether from the sea or the lake – as you watch Angelo, seated at a table outside the kitchen, cleaning a mountain of anchovies.

At one of the lakeside tables, a jovial group enjoyed the grilled coregone and others reveled in a sauce of lakefish eel. We opted for homemade tagliatelle with a delicate sauce made of coregone and garden fresh piselli novelli (“new peas”) followed by a side dish of baked eggplant, peppers and zucchini.

And here at Il Purgatorio, you can’t pass up the fagioli al purgatorio, the small white beans of the lake area, cooked in boiling water with garlic, sage and bay leaf and then seasoned simply with local olive oil, salt and pepper.

The name of these fagioli has ties to a cherished late 18th-century Gradoli tradition still celebrated every year on giovedi grasso (“fat thursday”), the beginning of pre-Lenten Carnevale. On that day, members of la Fratellanza del Purgatorio (“Purgatory Brotherhood”) in brown tunics with purple hooded capes solemnly walk the narrow Gradoli backstreets begging for foods.

Fagioli del purgatorio and local red wine: a feast


The foods are auctioned off and the proceeds assist needy families and will be used for the pranzo del purgatorio on Ash Wednesday.

When founded in the late 17th-century, the task of the Fratellanza was to succor souls in Purgatory through prayers, the celebration of Masses and good deeds. Their association with il Purgatorio nowadays is a culinary one: the preparation of the traditional Ash Wednesday pranzo del purgatorio for over sixteen hundred Gradoli villagers. Tables are set up in the Cantina Sociale, the area wine cellar, and each diner brings silverware, napkin and placemat. This year, ninety confratelli cooked the feast in less than five hours! The menu di magro (“thin”, i.e, simple and without meat) always includes a risotto made with the broth of tinca, a Bolsena lakefish, fish stews and fried fish – and of course, the tiny white beans of the Gradoli area, i fagioli del purgatorio.

Every spoonful of “purgatory beans” convinces you that you have died and headed to Heaven……..not to Purgatory!

Read about a favorite eating spot in Bolsena, lakeside
Read about why we love Hotel Eden
Read about Bolsena’s many treasures.
To read about Lake Bolsena’s July Living Tableaux, click here.
Read about a memorable day at Lake Bolsena
Don’t MISS our favorite Bolsena gelateria!
Read about the “singing washerwomen” in Bolsena







Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Privacy Policy

Privacy Italian Legislative Decree n° 196/2003 Under Article 13 of the Italian Legislative Decree no. 196/2003, regulations with regard to the Protection of Personal Data, this is an informative report to all interested parties on the modality of the treatment of personal data, arising from interaction with our website
THE PRINCIPAL FOR DATA TREATMENT During site consultation, personal data referring to identified or identifiable persons can be processed. The principal for data treatment is Anne Robichaud Pian della Pieve Assisi 06081 (PG) Italy. The data will be mainly processed at the mentioned head office by the people responsible for the website or by other people appointed for occasional maintenance operations, provided that their actions conform to of the guarantees enshrined in the Legislative Decree 196/2003.
Web navigation The information systems and software procedures required for the functioning of this website, acquire some personal data during their normal service, the transmission of which is implicit in the use of web communication protocols. This information is not collected with the purpose of identifying interested parties, but due to its very nature, the information could lead to user identification through processes and relations with data held by third parties. In this data category there are IP addresses or domain names belonging to computers used by users who connect to the site, addresses with URI (Uniform Resource Identifier) notification of the requested resources, time of the request, used method in submitting the request to the server, dimension of the file obtained in replying, the numeric code mentioning the reply status given by the server (successful reply, error, etc?) and other parameters referred to the operation system and to the user’s information environment. This data is used with the sole purpose of obtaining anonymous statistical information on the use of the site and to check the correct functioning; immediately after processing, the data is erased.
Data voluntarily supplied by the user The voluntary optional and explicit e-mail transmission to the addresses mentioned in this site implies the subsequent acquisition of the sender’s address, necessary to reply to the queries, as well as the other eventual personal data registered in the message.
OPTIONAL PERSONAL DATA SUPPLY Except for the above mentioned navigation data, the user may be asked to supply his own personal data through queries or messages to the email addresses shown in the contact pages. Failure to provide such data may be the cause of the inability to obtain the requested information from the company.
TREATMENT MODALITY The personal data is treated in compliance with the Legislative Decree no. 196/2003 and held only for the time necessary to achieve the aim for which it has been collected. Specific safety measures are taken to prevent any data loss, illicit or incorrect use and unauthorized access.
RIGHTS OF THIRD PARTIES The data subjects are at any time entitled to obtain confirmation as to whether or not data relating to him are held, to know the contents and the origin, to check the correctness, to ask for integration, updating or change (art. 7 Decree Law 196:June 2003). In accordance with the same article, they are entitled to obtain the erasure, conversion into anonymous form or freezing of all data used in breach of the law, to object, on legitimate grounds, to the processing of data relating to him. All requests have to be transmitted to the e-mail address

Agenzia Viaggi Stoppini in Assisi handles all technical support for my guided visits (bus transportation, organization of meals, etc)