Lago di Bracciano

If the locals who live around Lake Bracciano in Italy realised that someone in England was writing a travel review about their home, they may not be too happy about it. By Alan Wares


Lago di Bracciano (bratch-e-arno) is a lake of volcanic origin in the Italian region of Lazio, about 20 miles north west of Rome. It is, in geometric terms, almost circular, and 5.3 miles in diameter. There was once a magma chamber which collapsed, and created the depressed area now occupied by the lake.

The lake itself serves as a drinking water reservoir for the city of Rome, so the use of motorboats is forbidden, making Bracciano one of the cleanest lakes in Italy. Sailing, canoeing and swimming are the aquatic recreational activities of choice for the locals.

The whole area is the epitome of the term ‘an unspoiled area’. It’s not a frequent destination spot by any means – even for Romans; most autostradas encourage you to go thundering past the area, north from Rome towards Florence, Siena and the rest of Tuscany.


Around the lake

There are three main towns on the shores of the lake - Bracciano, Trevignano Romano and Anguillara Sabazia. The largest town, Bracciano, made the headlines in 2006 when Tom Cruise and Katy Holmes got married in Castello Orsini-Odescalchi di Bracciano. It’s an amazing setting, with views high over the lake. However, it did peeve the locals a bit; they quite like their tranquillity.

We, however, stayed with friends in Trevignano Romano; a town with fewer inhabitants than the other two main towns. It does not even have a train station, so if you wish to visit, a car is a necessity.


Trevignano Romano

The town’s lack of tourism is down to it largely being kept a secret – and the locals, somewhat selfishly, want to keep it that way. It is, however, more of a tourist destination town than Bracciano and Aguillara Sabazia, as it faces south on the north shore of the lake, enjoying a mild climate year-round.

Trevignano Romano’s lakefront promenade, about a mile long and filled with shops and bistros, is one of the most pleasant places to spend time around Lake Bracciano. In fact, visiting here was less a holiday destination, more a mellow retreat for peaceful unwinding.

There is a castle overlooking the town, built in 1200 by order of Pope Innocent III, though wars and subsequent earthquakes have reduced the structures to a state of poor repair.

You can explore most of the town in a few hours, but as this is a place where there is ‘nothing to do all day, and all day to do it in,’ revisiting the lakeside promenade was a very enticing, relaxing way of doing not much. Although two or three days here is plenty, we stayed for nine, taking in the scenery outside the town, including a night excursion into Rome. We also found relaxing by – and in – the lake to be a good idea.

When we arrived, the area had just suffered 44ºC daytime heat. We thankfully escaped this and had to put up with mere 32ºC temperatures instead.


Food, drink and more food

Walking along the shoreline, it’s almost impossible not to stop at an ice cream parlour. Our favourite stopping off point – one of several – was Bar Sandro on the Via della Rena. There was an obscene number of home made ice cream and sorbets flavours, a madly hedonistic array of cream pastries and desserts, and superb chilled local wine – all served for you on the shore of the lake.

Once we’d had our afternoon fill of Prosecco, ice cream and bar snacks in the cooling shade of the plane trees on the lake’s shore, the next exercise was finding somewhere for an evening meal. We were recommended Osteria La Cantinella, occupying prime spot in Piazza Vittorio Emanuele III – the town’s main square.

This family-run restaurant serves classic Italian dishes* with all the customary flair and exuberance one would expect. The carbonara – a true Lazio dish – was off the scale, and the ice cream for dessert was, well… what do you think?


Further afield

Outside of the town, agriculture is rampant, with the surrounding countryside home to myriad olive trees, vineyards, tomato vines – anything to satisfy the larder of the most discerning foodie. The local wine is, naturally, wonderful, with the Cantine Capitani vineyard being the locals’ favourite. Tours and tastings are highly recommended.

Meanwhile, Rome is not too far away. Driving is a bad idea, so we suggest you head to Bracciano, and take the train for an hour’s journey through the Lazio countryside into the heart of the Eternal City.


Getting there

There are many flights a day by many airlines from London Gatwick to Rome Fiumicino. Costs can be varied – anywhere between £200 and £400 return. We suggest hiring a car once you arrive in Italy.



Luxury need not be your guide here. La Cupoletta Casa Vacanze - Magnolia, for example, in the town offers six nights in a double room for £1,130. And that’s as expensive as hotels get in high season. Meanwhile, there are plenty of two and three-star hotels to stay in, offering you change from £650 for a week’s stay, or entire holiday cabins are on offer if you wish to take your whole brood with you.

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