Even though Rome is full of historical residences many of which are open to the public, the long lines and the presence of so many monuments will surely take away from your desire to discover and explore the buildings in the city center.
Instead, you only need to rent a car or take a short train ride to visit some ancient and intriguing castles near Rome that today are open to the public as museums or wedding venues or even offer exclusive opportunities to stay. Some of these castles were once part of fortified medieval towns, where people took refuge to escape invasions and constant wars. This is how some picturesque towns near Rome were born and developed.
5 BEAUTIFUL CASTLES TO VISIT NEAR ROME
Speaking of castles near Rome, if you ask a Roman local to recommend even just one, he will most likely point you to the Bracciano Castle. The reason for this popularity is first of all the closeness to the city center, in fact, the castle is located about 40 km from Rome, and also the fact that the Bracciano train station is just 5 minutes walk from the castle. Another point in favor of Bracciano Castle is the location and the landscape: the castle stands on a hill overlooking Lake Bracciano, one of the most beautiful lakes near Rome.
The lake is surrounded by green hills and is completely swimmable. If you go to the castle between May and September, you can not miss the opportunity to dive into the crystal clear waters of the lake. From the terraces and windows of the castle you can enjoy some of the best views of the lake.
Although the castle probably has even more remote origins, it was built in the second half of the 15th century by the Orsini family, one of the most powerful and ancient families in Rome. Given its strategic position, over the centuries it was disputed, occupied and confiscated, until it was taken over by the Odescalchi family, of Como origins, in 1679. It is precisely the Odescalchi family that has carried out major restorations and has recently opened to the public as a museum with 20 rooms to visit. The visit to the Bracciano Castle will offer you frescoes of the Renaissance period, original furniture in all rooms, and collections.
In the castle, it is possible to organize weddings and receptions, as did the American actors Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes in 2006, but also Isabella Rossellini and Martin Scorsese.
The castle is located in the center of the picturesque village of Bracciano and overlooks a square where you will find some of the best restaurants in the area.
Entrance ticket: €8.50
CASTLE OF SANTA SEVERA
This castle with incredible history stands on one of the most beautiful beaches near Rome, just a few steps from the water.
The Castle of Santa Severa occupies what was once the Etruscan port of Pyrgy. Some areas around the castle are still the subject of archaeological excavations by the University La Sapienza of Rome. The Etruscan city with the port was founded in the 7th century BC, while the Romans conquered it in the 3rd century BC and began to build a fortress.
The current appearance dates back to the 14th century and has undergone several restorations. Have been preserved, at the base of the castle, the remains of massive polygonal walls that are not attributable either to the Romans or the Etruscans, but that are identical to other walls found in other parts of central Italy and the Mediterranean. A part of the castle can be visited free of charge, while others such as the Museum of the Sea and Ancient Navigation and the Antiquarium require a €6 ticket.
Near the castle were found two temples, of which today remain only the foundations and some high reliefs in terracotta. The most valuable represents the climax of the Greek myth of the “Seven at Thebes”, which can be admired at the Etruscan Museum of Villa Giulia in Rome. Two inscriptions with Etruscan and Punic versions on gold foils have also been unearthed that recall the dedication of the temple by the Etruscan king of Cerveteri to the goddess Uni.
If you visit the castle, consider a visit to one of the best trattorias in the Tuscia area, “Zì Maria” in Via Sasso Manziana, 2.
CASTLE OF SORIANO NEL CIMINO
The town of Soriano nel Cimino rises on the slopes of Mount Cimino, which is home to a centuries-old beech forest that is a UNESCO World Heritage site. This beautiful forest, along with the Chestnut Festival, which takes place every year during the first 3 weekends of October, on the occasion of the chestnut harvest, are the two main attractions that have made the small town of Soriano nel Cimino internationally famous. During the days of the festival, events are organized with revisitations of medieval activities such as the Joust of the Rings and the Tournament of the Archers and parades in period costumes.
The most important living testimony of the medieval past of Soriano nel Cimino is the historical center with the Orsini Castle.
The fortress stands in the highest part of the town. It was built in the 13th century at the behest of Pope Nicholas III of the Orsini family who made it his summer residence. The castle is accessed through some ramps from which you can enjoy a wide view of the surrounding countryside. During the 20th century, the structure was used as a prison and the cells are now open to visitors.
Currently, the most interesting part of the castle is a room accessed from the inner courtyard which has been used as an exhibition of gramophones and other instruments to play music from the 16th century to the present day. The owner of the collection will guide visitors through the testing of all the pieces in the collection. Among the famous people who have loved the village of Soriano del Cimino in the last century, there are two famous Italian authors, Pier Paolo Pasolini and Luigi Pirandello.
The castle is open from Wednesday to Sunday.
The cost of the entrance ticket is €5.
The Castle of Vulci is located in the northern part of the Lazio region, almost on the border with Tuscany and a few kilometers from the Tyrrhenian Sea. The scenery surrounding the castle is fascinating: the castle is surrounded by the countryside crossed by the Fiora river that creates a steep and narrow gorge just near the castle.
The Etruscans and then the Romans built a scenic bridge to cross the river. The Cistercian abbey that stood at one end of the bridge was fortified in the 12th century. The castle has powerful walls with 5 towers and a large internal courtyard. All around the castle flows a crystal clear ditch that creates a natural soundtrack for the visitor who is about to visit it.
The biggest surprise about this site is that inside there is one of the most important Etruscan museums in Italy, which is accessible with a ticket of € 4. The finds are those exhumed from the surrounding areas, where there is an archaeological park with paths of different lengths that lead through some Etruscan necropolis. The tomb called ” Tumulus of Cuccumella” is the largest in Tuscia (Tuscia refers to an area between Lazio, Umbria and Tuscany where the Etruscan civilization, which preceded the Roman one, developed during the first millennium BC). The Francois Tomb instead contains a well-preserved cycle of frescoes.
About 120 km from Rome is the largest lake of volcanic origin in Europe, Lake Bolsena. The city that gives its name to the lake rises in the northernmost point of the lake, on a hill from which you can enjoy an exceptional view of Lake Bolsena.
Today Bolsena is above all a holiday destination, where those who live in larger cities take refuge to enjoy the healthy air and tranquility that only a small village can offer. In the past, the inhabitants drew all their subsistence from fishing and agriculture.
The most imposing building in the historic center of Bolsena is a perfectly preserved castle, the “Rocca Monaldeschi della Cervara“, erected between the 13th and 14th centuries. Today the castle houses the Territorial Museum of Lake Bolsena where the anthropic and geological history of the lake basin is told. Villanovan, Etruscan and Roman finds are also on display, so it is well worth a visit. A spiral staircase leads to the top of the castle walls.
The castle is surrounded by a picturesque village to explore full of alleys and old houses. If you visit the castle, you can’t help but stop for a meal or a drink at the “I Sapori del Castello” bistro, which offers dishes based on local vegetables and lake fish.