Lake Bracciano: An Aquatic Escape

Thanks to a happy series of events, this volcanic lake is the most pristine body of water in Italy. Somewhat ironically, a malarial infestation that persisted in the area until the 20th century prevented development along the lake’s shores, contributing to its natural preservation, and because the lake now serves as a drinking water reservoir for Rome it is under strict environmental control. Nearly 17,000 hectares of the surrounding land have been declared a regional park, and prohibition of the use of motorboats of any kind makes the lake an ideal location for swimming, canoeing, fresh water diving, sailing, and peaceful lakeside relaxation.

The lake also contains the remains of an Early Neolithic lakeshore village, La Marmotta, which dates to 5700 BC. Submerged by rising water levels and now located a few hundred meters off shore from the town of Anguillara Sabazia, the uniquely preserved relics that have been recovered can now be visited in the Pigorini National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography in Rome, including wooden objects that have survived thanks to the anoxic nature of the lake bottom sediments.

Located in picturesque town of Bracciano, the largest of three that now border the lake, is the particularly well-preserved medieval Castello Orsini-Odescalchi, built on the site of a pre-existing defense tower in 1470 and prominently visible from most points on and around the lake. Considered one of the most noteworthy examples of Italian Renaissance military architecture, it is also among the largest and best-maintained castles in Italy, and houses a valuable permanent collection of medieval artwork. Also at the castle this month is an exhibit of costumes from the 5th to 9th centuries, on display in the second floor rooms.

If you’re looking for an escape from the sweltering Roman heat, you may want to consider this inland aquatic gem.

Visiting Information
Getting There:
- Trains every half hour from Rome’s Ostiense Station. 5am–10pm. 55–65 mins. €3 one-way.
- Castello Orsini-Odescalchi. Piazza Mazzini, 14. Tue–Fri, 10am–12pm and 2pm–4pm; Sat–Sun, 10am–12:30pm and 2:30pm–5pm. €7.50 (€5 reduced). Tel 0699804348. www.odescalchi.it