Lake Bracciano travel guide: from Rome to ancient villages in a natural reserve
Even if Lake Bracciano isn’t as popular as other lakes in Italy, you should spend some time exploring what this region has to offer in terms of nature, history, and recreation. The Lake Bracciano and Lake Martignano Natural Reserve needs to be on your Italy bucket list. The city of Bracciano, together with the other towns that overlook Lake Bracciano, is one of the locals’ preferred day-trips from Rome. The fact that the place is still off the main tourist tracks indeed adds to its charm. It’s almost impossible to visit Lake Bracciano and return disappointed. The points of interest are so numerous that you could easily spend a whole week traveling the area. You’ll find Lake Bracciano located 30 km north of Rome, in the direction of Viterbo. Read this guide to discover all the amazing things you can do in the area surrounding the town of Bracciano.
CURIOSITIES ABOUT LAKE BRACCIANO
Far, far away in time, Lake Bracciano and its neighbor, Lake Martignano, were volcanic craters belonging to the Sabatino volcanic complex. Later, they filled up with water and became lakes. Remains from the Neolithic Age where discovered underwater near La Marmotta Beach in the nearby town of Anguillara Sabazia, including a 9 mt boat, which are now displayed at the Museo Neolitico. The water from the lake was drawn and channeled through the Roman aqueducts to provide water for the majority of Rome’s urban districts, as well as 40 smaller towns surrounding Rome. Pretty impressive, right? Motor boats are forbidden on the lake, except for the official ferry boat that carries people from town to town during the summer.
HOW TO GET TO LAKE BRACCIANO
By car from Rome
It’s only a 40-minute drive, but the road isn’t as good as it could be. Only drive from Rome to Bracciano if you feel confident enough driving on a narrow road in Central Italy. And always drive slowly…
By train from Rome
The easiest way to get to Lake Bracciano from Rome is by train. Trains depart from the Roma Ostiense or Valle Aurelia stations, and stop at Bracciano. Check the Trenitalia website to find out the time and to book your ticket online. You might notice that the timetables are off in most of the secondary stations in Rome, or at least they are confusing. I feel for you! That’s why I recommend verifying the time on the website. Once you are inside the stations I mentioned, follow the signs to the platforms for boarding the trains going to Bracciano or Viterbo.
How to get from Bracciano train station to the beach of Lake Bracciano
When you arrive in the Bracciano train station, walk on towards Bracciano Castle and then access the promenade (it’s on the map) that takes you down to the lake near the restaurant called Il Luccio d’Oro. From there you can walk left or right and find your favorite spot on the beach. There are bars and restaurants that rent out beach umbrellas and tanning beds (Ristorante da Tonino, Movida Beach), while other parts of the beach are free. If you walk a couple of km on the Via Circumlacuale in the direction of Anguillara Sabazia, you’ll reach the “Santo Celso Picnic Area”, where you’ll find a wild stretch of sand and a pinewood forest far from the commercial hubs.
GUIDE TO BRACCIANO, ITALY: ATTRACTIONS AND ACTIVITIES
Visit Bracciano Castle
Bracciano Castle is the main attraction in this region. Built during the second half of the 15th century on a cliff that dominates the western shore of the lake, it was at the center of bitter conflicts between the aristocratic families of Rome for centuries. Thanks to the families that committed to its maintenance and constant improvement, Bracciano Castle is now a museum (but also available for private events, if you can afford it, lol, as Tom Cruise did on the occasion of his wedding with Katie Holmes). Explore Bracciano Castle on a weekday… you might have the whole place to yourself! The visit to the castle is totally worth the €8.50 entrance ticket. The rooms are decorated with ancient furniture and art collections, and the high ceilings are alive with frescoes from the late Renaissance period. One of Michelangelo’s disciples worked as an artist in this castle. From the windows and the gardens, you’ll see Lake Bracciano in all it’s peace and magnificence. An independent visit takes about an hour and a half.
Self-guided walk in Bracciano
Once you’re done exploring Bracciano Castle, walk around the perimeter of the castle, in the Via Collegiata street and into the alleys of Bracciano´s old town. Fall in love with the calmness lingering over the tiny Piazza Saminiati square. Small restaurants and wineries have their cellars inside the castle’s walls, like the “Caffetteria Levante”. Walk towards the church of Santo Stefano Protomartire and the Museo del Duomo (open on weekends). And then, visit the two lookout points (on the map). Walk along the Via Arazzaria and the Via Principe di Napoli (the main commercial street of Bracciano), and sit at a cafe near the Piazza IV Novembre (the square with the Municipality Palace, or town hall).
Touring the lake’s towns on a boat
Explore the lake on the only motor-boat
This service is available only during the summer. The only motor-boat allowed on Lake Bracciano is the ferry boat that goes from town to town: Bracciano, Anguillara, and Trevignano. It’s a very romantic and exclusive way to sightsee in all the three cities on the lake in the same day. Each stretch of the ride costs €4, while an entire round trip costs €10. In the other two villages on Lake Bracciano, which are Anguillara Sabazia and Trevignano Romano, the dock is only 50 mt from the attractions in the historical center, while in Bracciano you need to walk downhill for 40 minutes. Therefore, if you wish to explore the area by boat, I recommend you get to Bracciano by train/car, first spend time visiting the historical center and the castle, and then walk downhill on the Via del Riposo to the dock and board the boat there.
Swim in the lake
Lake Bracciano is the perfect place for swimming. If you don’t get put off by the dark color of the sand (by now you should know that the lake was part of a volcano long ago), you will swim in one of the cleanest lakes in the world. You can find simple beach resorts with tanning beds and beach umbrellas in all the three main towns on the lake (Bracciano, Anguillara Sabazia, and Trevignano Romano), but there are also many places where the beaches are less commercialized and have zero tourist facilities. My favorite beach is the one at Trevignano Romano, because the sunsets last longer from there. You can even travel to Lake Martignano, which is not too far and is completely surrounded by nature.
Windsurf, kayak, or paddleboard on Lake Bracciano
The lake is the perfect place to start your windsurfing or sailing lessons, or for a relaxing kayak tour. Here are two centers where you can rent what you need and take classes:
Windsurf in Bracciano: A.S.D. Centro Surf Bracciano – address: Via Lungolago G. Argenti 4
Sailing in Bracciano: Associazione Velica – address: Via Circumlacuale, 21; Sailing Team Bracciano – address: Via della Sposetta Vecchia
WHERE TO EAT IN BRACCIANO
Trattoria Da Regina
This is more than a typical trattoria in the traditional Roman trattoria style. Here, you’ll feel as if you’re a guest in the cook’s house! The friendly environment and the lowest prices for a restaurant in the area will make you feel even more at ease… All the dishes are nice, but I’d always go for the meal of the day. I recommend the lasagna, the parmigiana, and all the meat courses. You can have the fish from Lake Bracciano cooked in different ways. They have a good choice of vegetable dishes, and for dessert, you should try the tiramisu, probably one of the best you’ll ever have in your entire life. This is one of the locals´ favorite restaurants: to be sure you grab a table, be there exactly at 7 PM when they open, or at 9 PM when the first crowd thins out. Address: Via S.Antonio, 1.
La Fontanella Restaurant
You can have all kinds of dishes here: pizza, pasta, veggies, meat… There are two inner dining rooms and an outside garden, which is delightful during the hot summer evenings. The “Antipasto Misto” is the number one in town, and the pasta portions will satisfy even the hungriest person.
Antipasto Misto at Restaurant La Fontanella in Bracciano town
Caffetteria – Aperitiveria Levante
A cute place built on the external walls of Bracciano Castle. Have your coffee or tea, a beer, or a glass of wine during the aperitivo ritual (a drink served with a taste of local products like cheeses, cold cuts, and veggies). During the weekends, they also serve lunch. Address: Via della Collegiata, 3
Ristorante Pizzeria Pizzando
As you can guess from the name, this restaurant specializes in pizza (and calzoni). Their pizza is the best, but they also make a lot of different fine dishes. Address: Via Camillo Benso Conte di Cavour, 36
Pub – Winery – Restaurant Donegan’s
Having started out as a beer place, a “pub”, it is now also a winery and restaurant. The cherry on the cake: during weekdays, there is a very convenient and yummy buffet lunch you can’t miss! You’ll be full and happy from the food and the service. Tip fot the vegetarians out there: order the “tagliere vegetariano”, it’s amazing… Address: Via Claudia, 2A
Restaurant Il Luccio d’Oro
A restaurant with a beach. They serve classic Italian dishes and pizza, but the local specialty you should try is the “Tagliolini di lago”, homemade noodles with fresh tomatoes and fish from Lake Bracciano. Address: Via G. Argenti, 12
If you want to explore the Lake Bracciano region further, read about Anguillara Sabazia and Trevignano Romano, the other two cities on the lake. And let me know in the comments all the thoughts you have about this Lake Bracciano travel guide!
Bracciano town with Bracciano Castle
If you’re loving the region as I do, and you are going to spend a few more days nearby, consider also reading the following articles: