As I’ve walked through the alleys of Bracciano’s historical center almost every day during the last year, I was always astounded by how little this town is on the travelers’ radar, for both local and foreign visitors. One of the defensive towers stands there, at the end of Principe di Napoli Street, patiently waiting for you to go in and spend some time inside its quiet, noble rooms. The locals get used to its presence quickly. They value nature more: the generous Lake Bracciano, providing so many refreshing swims in its blue waters, surrounded by the comforting green of the Mediterranean vegetation. Napoleone Orsini, who commissioned the construction of Bracciano Castle in 1470, never had the privilege of seeing it completed. The origins of the Orsinis, one of the most influential families during the Renaissance, trace back at least to the Roman Empire. The castle was finished in 1485.
Bracciano Castle – Admission and general info
The Bracciano Castle is now a museum managed by the Odescalchi family, which gained ownership in 1696.
Kids 6 to 12 yo, and university students with a valid student card:
Children 0 to 5 yo:
Bracciano – Via del Lago, 1
Summer – Mon thru Sun, 10:00 – 18:00
Winter – Mon thru Sun, 10:00 – 17:00
From Rome to the Odescalchi Castle using public transport
Get on a train directed to Viterbo (make sure it stops at Bracciano on the signs at the station) or Bracciano at the Ostiense train station or Valle Aurelia train station, Trastevere train station or San Pietro train station. Once you have arrived in Bracciano, walk for 5 minutes to the entry gate of the Bracciano Castle.
THE BRACCIANO CASTLE AND I
Besides its cultural function, the Odescalchi Castle is an exclusive wedding location in Italy. The Hollywood actor Tom Cruise and the Italian pop singer Eros Ramazzotti had their weddings here. I visited the castle for the first time when I was 7, in 1990. It was quite a swing, from the heavy traffic of the suburbs of Rome to the tranquillity of this little village, and the castle added so much to my imagination. I found it impressive, incomprehensible, with those tall, circular towers and the massive walls covered in creepers. Even though it belongs to the Renaissance artistic period, it has the style of an earlier, Medieval castle. I still remember the stay inside the room where they exhibit the armor. I was expecting the metal figures to come to life at any moment… how scary! I went back there a while ago, and I was surprised to find I was the only visitor that morning, how wonderful! On a weekday, there’s a good chance you will have the castle all to yourself to explore at your own pace.
Inside the Odescalchi Castle
You can visit the entire castle in an hour or two, but feel free to take it easy, as nobody will rush you. Each room has long, explicative signs in the English language telling the function of the space and anecdotes about the ancient owners. It’s easy to explore independently. The rooms, the gardens and courtyard, and the exterior have been preserved in an exceptional way. I suggest you take your time to observe the collection of antique furniture, the decorations on the ceilings, and the view of the lake from the windows and the defensive walls. Follow the arrows and directions, and you’ll be able to walk through any of the rooms open to the public, nearly 20 in all.
Frescoes inside the Bracciano Castle
Most of the rooms that you’ll visit offer brilliant frescoes attributed to the schools of Antoniazzo Romano (15th Century) and Pisanello (17th Century). Some of them represent figures from classic mythology like Hermes or Apollo. Others recount historical episodes, like the entrance of Lord Gentil Virginio Orsini into Bracciano at the head of the Aragonese troops. The ceilings exhibit interesting geometrical motifs in strong colors like red and blue.
The location I have found to be most attractive in the entire castle is the bedroom of Isabella, Duchess of Bracciano during the 16th Century. Isabella was born into the eminent Tuscan family of the Medici. Her marriage to Paolo Giordano Orsini, Lord of Bracciano, was decided when they both were little more than children. This demonstrates how eminent the Orsini family was, that his heir could marry into the Medici family, the most prominent family in Italy at the time. The peculiar feature of the Red Room, as Isabella´s bedroom is also called, is the trap hidden behind a small wooden door in a corner of the room. This is said to consist of a tight pit filled with blades, and was destined for Isabella´s one night stands… The room contains Venetian furniture from the 17th century and the frescoes on its ceiling are the only ones that preserve the original colors from the 1490s.
Further activities inside the Bracciano Castle
Besides planning your wedding in the castle, if you can afford it, you could organize a meeting or an event or take a guided tour. The tour options are varied:
Private guided visit
Takes about one hour. It follows the usual tour route, but with the support of an official guide.
Private tour with an additional visit to the secret garden and the apartments of Paolo Giordano and Isabella.
Private visit with adventure tour, especially planned for families with kids
After visiting the castle, each participant will be provided with gear to climb and descend parts of the building which are usually closed to the public.
Private tour with wine and food tasting:
This includes a visit to the secret garden and to the private apartments of Paolo Giordano and Isabella, and it ends with a buffet of local products to sample.
Vertical Emotion Tour of the Odescalchi Castle
This allows you to put on a climbing harness, climb over the ramparts and lower yourself down along the tower to the ground floor at your favorite speed. This rappelling activity lasts 3 hours and it’s preceded by a briefing.
To learn all the details, have a look at the tours page on the Odescalchi Castle website.
The whole region surrounding the Odescalchi Castle and the Lake Bracciano is worthy of your attention and time and has a lot to offer: nature, sights, sports, history, and local food. Read about how you can explore the area further:
Hoping that this was interesting enough to ignite your wanderlust! Let me know if you will visit the Bracciano Castle!