Lake Bracciano (Lago di Bracciano), north of Rome
Lake Bracciano is a large fresh water lake north of Rome in the Lazio region. The main town is Bracciano with its historic castle.
Despite its proximity to Rome, mass tourism has yet to discover Lake Bracciano. The unspoiled countryside around the lake is protected by a large natural park which includes the smaller Lake Martignano (Lago di Martignano). Explore this lovely area on foot, by bike, on horseback or by car. Footpaths cross meadows and woodland, where you can see rare birds. Stop for a picnic along the lake or eat in a trattoria in one of the towns. Try the regional cuisine, washed down with a good local wine. Sit at a bar in one of the typical little squares and enjoy a gelato, espresso or cappuccino before moving on.
The crystal-clear waters of Lake Bracciano are the delight of sailors (small boats only, up to four people), wind surfers, canoeists, pedalò, anglers or those wanting to swim and sunbathe with no noisy motorboats. (Motors can only be used by the fishermen who supply the restaurants with pike, whitefish, eel, whitebait and other freshwater specialties.)
Lake Bracciano is 15 km from the sea (20 minute drive) where there are several nature reserves (Tarquinia Salt Marsh Nature Reserve, Macchiatonda Nature Reserve, Macchiagrande Oasis, Torre Flavia Marshland Nature Reserve).
Lake Bracciano an ideal base for exploring Rome without being trapped in its urban chaos. The half-hourly train service from Bracciano reaches Rome in 40 minutes, via a direct line to St Peter's and Trastevere, with bus and metro links to all major sites. Or drive to the outskirts of Rome and take the Metro. No wonder lots of Romans have abandoned the city and now commute to work from this area.
Lake Bracciano is 40 minutes from the main Rome airport (FCO) so is an ideal destination for the start or end of a trip to Italy. Spend a week here before heading north to Tuscany or Umbria.
When to Visit
This peaceful, smiling lake and its surrounding parks is wonderful in every season. Many Romans have their vacation homes in the Lake Bracciano area, as the ancient Romans did 2,000 years ago, and come here on week-ends year round. Many stay here from late March to the end of October - which is also the popular time for tourists to visit.
Lake Bracciano is a good base for visiting Rome in the hot summer because the weather is cooler than in Rome and on those really hot days you can skip Rome and head to the lake.
Visit the Historic Towns Nearby
You need a car to bring several notable places within easy reach - Sutri, with its Roman amphitheater, the tiny medieval stronghold of Calcata perched high on a tufa outcrop, and further north, Bagnoregio a personal favorite of Prince Charles and travel writer Rick Steves. Viterbo is a very important medieval town.
Don't miss the beautiful towns of Oriolo Romano, Blera, Vetralla, Capranica, Tuscania and Tarquinia - each of these villages has one or two historic frescoed churches, an historic main street and a palace of the Governor which was once owned by the Prince or Feudal owner of the area (in past centuries this area was owned by the powerful families of the popes).
Visit Nepi (closely related to the Borgia family - Lucrezia, il Valentino and their father, Cesare Borgia alias Pope Alessandro VI), Villa Lante in Bagnaia, Bomarzo and the Monster Park, Caprarola with the Villa Farnese, Castel Sant'Elia with the Benedictine Sanctuary of Santa Maria ad Rupes, Civita Castellana and, on the coast, Santa Severa and its castle by the sea built on Etruscan ruins.
Walk Through History
First there were the Etruscans whose area stretched from Lazio to Tuscany. They left unique masterpieces of architecture, painting, carved ivory, pottery, inlay and, notably, gold jewelry. You will find traces on display in the municipal museum in Trevignano on Lake Bracciano. A few miles away at Cerveteri, on the coast, you can enjoy an unforgettable walk through the vast necropolis beneath umbrella pines, visiting the famous burial tombs which represent the interiors of wealthy Etruscan homes. If you want to swim or relax on the beach, the sea is just down the road from Cerveteri.
Slightly further north Tarquinia's necropolis contains many exquisitely frescoed Etruscan tombs. South of the lake is Veio (site of the ancient Etruscan town of Veii), where the famous statue of Apollo was discovered (now housed in the Etruscan Museum at Villa Giulia in Rome), a must-see for anyone interested in the superb legacy of this mysterious civilization.
After the Etruscans came the Romans. The Lake Bracciano area is dotted with traces of Roman civilization. You will find ancient Roman villas, roads and the aqueducts which still carry water from the lake down to Rome. The ancient Romans built thermal baths where soldiers returning from missions abroad would come to bathe in the mud and hot sulfurous springs. See the Roman baths at Vicarello, the natural springs of the Caldara in the Manziana Woods (Macchia Grande di Manziana) and Canale Monterano, preserved in a natural park.
There are modern hot springs spas with all the mod cons at Terme di Stigliano in Canale Monterano and Terme dei Papi in Viterbo, not just for today's Romans but for foreign visitors who like the idea of a healthy holiday relaxing in water at 37°C.
In the Middle Ages the most powerful families vied for possession of this area, one of the finest strategic locations around Rome. Their legacy is still there to admire in Bracciano, where you find the powerful Orsini family's 15th century castle overlooking the lake (Castello Orsini-Odescalchi), still intact and open to visitors, and in the tiny stronghold at Trevignano Romano, the other lakeside village.
Visit the Museo Storico dell'Aeronautica at Vigna di Valle, which houses a valuable collection of aircraft, tracing the history of flight from Leonardo da Vinci to the present day. Another must-see is the garden of San Liberato created by Russell Page around an old country house, its chapel now a favorite venue for upmarket weddings.
A Few of My Favorites
Restaurants in Bracciano
- Vino e Camino, Piazza Mazzini 11
- Al Fresco, Via Fioravanti 46/48
- Pizzeria il Grillo, Piazza Don Cesolini 32
Restaurants in the area
- Between Bracciano and Anguillara: La Mucca Golosa, Via Vigna di Valle 57
- Montevirginio (between Manziana and Canale Monterano): Ristorante Pizzeria La Tavernetta, Piazza S. Egidio
- Trevignano: Grotta Azzurra, Piazza Vittorio Emanuele 4
- Trevignano: La Casina Bianca, Via della Rena 86
Tours of Rome
- Romaround: I suggest Romaround for a good tailor-made tour of Rome.
- 3 Millennia: Tours of Rome.
- Context Travel: Tours of Rome.
There are plenty of accommodations in this area, from campsites, to small family run hotels, to a variety of vacation rentals (holiday homes, farm houses, villas with swimming pools). The atmosphere is welcoming and the visitor is made to feel a privileged guest. Lake Bracciano is ideal for couples, families or anyone looking for a relaxing, cultural holiday within easy reach of Rome.
The people who choose to stay in vacation rentals in this area are looking for a relaxing, independent accommodation in the countryside, with the possibility of doing some day trips to Rome. Most like to be close to the lake and the village, possibly with a nice view and a pool.
Welhome Offers Vacation Rentals On and Near Lake Bracciano
I created Welhome to offer accommodation at my villa and in several of my friends' houses. Welhome offers a small but selective choice of accommodation around Lake Bracciano and in other parts of Italy, perfect for visitors interested in living the authentic slow life.
I live in Bracciano after having spent 20 years in Rome (I am originally from Padua in northern Italy). I know all the Welhome accommodations and am available to give information about the area to our guests.
In my Cottage By Lake (studio, sleeps 2+2) people enjoy the atmosphere of an exclusive villa with a private pool, a flowered garden overlooking the lake, a barbecue and an outdoor terrace - but for much less than renting a whole villa because this is a casetta beside my villa. This fully equipped little "nest" is a good base for day trips to Rome, for enjoying sunbathing and swimming and for exploring the Lake Bracciano area.
More photos of Lake Bracciano. Click any photo on this page to start a slideshow.
Photos by Welhome and Pauline Kenny.