Even if this crystal-clear lake near Rome isn’t as popular as other lakes in Italy, you should spend some time exploring what the region of Lake Bracciano has to offer in terms of landscapes, history, food, and recreation.
This area north of Rome is also known as the Lake Bracciano and Lake Martignano Natural Reserve and is one of Italy’s hidden gems. Just a short train ride from one of the most visited cities in Europe you will find a natural oasis where the locals live at a more relaxed pace.
The city of Bracciano, together with the other towns that overlook Lake Bracciano, is one of the best getaways 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 one of the most beautiful lakes near Rome. In this article, I will focus on how to reach Lake Bracciano, how to move around and visit the three quaint towns on the lake, swimming on Lake Bracciano, and the highlights in the area.
CURIOSITIES ABOUT LAKE BRACCIANO, ITALY
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 of a Neolithic village dating back to 5500 b.C. were discovered underwater near La Marmotta Beach, including a 9 mt boat, which is now displayed at the Museo Neolitico in Anguillara Sabazia.
The water from the lake is 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. That’s quite impressive for a lake that is mainly fed by underground rivers and rain. To ensure the purity of the water, motorboats are forbidden on the lake, except for the tiny official ferry boat that carries people from town to town during the summer.
HOW TO GET FROM ROME TO LAKE BRACCIANO
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, not well-maintained road.
By train from Rome Valle Aurelia, Ostiense, and Trastevere
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 in the towns of Anguillara Sabazia and Bracciano (both on the lake).
Which of the towns on Lake Bracciano should you visit first?
There are three main towns on Lake Bracciano: Anguillara Sabazia, Bracciano, and Trevignano Romano. They’re all lovely, and if you’re visiting there on a day trip from Rome you’ll have time to see at least two of them.
I would choose Anguillara Sabazia if I had kids and I was short of time and energy: Anguillara is closer to Rome by 10 km and has direct public transport from the train station to the beach. I’ve written a detailed guide on how to visit Anguillara Sabazia. The beaches in Anguillara Sabazia and Vigna di Valle are nicer than those near Bracciano town.
Bracciano on the other hand features the Orsini-Odescalchi Castle, which you can reach with a 5 minutes walk from the Bracciano train station. The beach in Bracciano is 45 minutes by walking away from the train station.
Trevignano Romano is smaller than the other two towns on Lake Bracciano. It doesn’t have a train station so it’s more secluded, less touristic. You can reach it with a bus ride from Anguillara Sabazia Train Station (bus Line C, €1, about 20 minutes ride.)
Trevignano Romano has the longest and more curated promenade of Lake Bracciano and the richest offer of restaurants and cafes right in front of the water. This little town shows its best from May to October. I’ve written on Trevignano Romano as well.
It’s really hard to choose which town on Lake Bracciano you should visit and which one you should leave out, I wouldn’t skip any of these if I had enough time to see them all.
LAKE BRACCIANO SWIMMING AND BEACHES
Swimming in Lake Bracciano isn’t only possible, but highly recommended! May to September is a great time for swimming and sunbathing. There are many beautiful beaches on lake Bracciano, the longest is the one in Vigna di Valle, on the way from Anguillara to Bracciano, which also offers many casual beach clubs.
You will find beach clubs with tanning beds and beach umbrellas for rent in all the three main towns on the lake (Bracciano, Anguillara Sabazia, and Trevignano Romano), but there are also many stretches of beach without facilities, it’s totally up to you if you want to save a little bit of money or not.
Tips for swimming on Lake Bracciano
Remember that this a natural reserve, so you should be responsible and leave the place as you’ve found it, avoid littering and feeding the swans and other birds.
Swimming is forbidden below the docks.
Swim along the beach and don’t adventure too far from the shore, not even the locals do it, the water gets deeper.
It’s advisable that kids and everyone with sensible feet wear water shoes.
How to get from Bracciano train station to the beach of Lake Bracciano
When you arrive at the Bracciano train station, walk on towards Bracciano Castle and then access the promenade (it’s on the map) that takes you on a 15 minutes walk in the shade to the shore near the charming restaurant called Il Luccio d’Oro. From there you can walk left or right and find your favorite spot on the beach.
If you walk for 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 forest with paths and shaded tables.
Water sports on Lake Bracciano Rome, Italy: windsurf, sail, kayak, sap
The lake is the perfect place to start your windsurfing or sailing lessons, or for a relaxing kayak tour. There are many clubs where you can rent the tools for your water sports. You’ll find shops that rent kayaks on the main beaches of the three towns on Lake Bracciano. Have a look at the map in this post for reference.
Windsurfing 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
Sporting Club Sabazia | Via Belloni Reginaldo
Sailing in Trevignano Romano | Centro Velico 3v – via Della Rena, 112
MORE THINGS TO DO ON LAKE BRACCIANO, ITALY
Visit the Bracciano Castle
The Bracciano Castle is the main historic landmark in the region. Built during the second half of the 15th century on a cliff that dominates the western shore of the lake, it was the reason for bitter conflicts between the aristocratic families of Rome for centuries. Bracciano Castle is currently 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).
I advise you to explore the 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 original furniture and 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 its magnificence. An independent visit takes about an hour and a half.
Discover the historic center of Bracciano
Once you’re done visiting the 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) that offer romantic views on Lake Bracciano at Belvedere La Sentinella. 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 town hall).
Visit the town of Anguillara Sabazia
The other two towns on the lake have historical landmarks, cute ancient architecture, and places to enjoy your time as well. Your visit to Lake Bracciano isn’t complete if you don’t spend a couple of hours exploring the old town of Anguillara Sabazia and its promenade. Here you can really get lost in the alleys looking for the best view of the lake, for the cutest balcony, the oldest house.
Start from Piazza Del Lavatoio, climb up to Piazza del Comune, and then to the Church of Santa Maria Assunta that has a fantastic view. Proceed to Piazza Magnante which features archeological remains of huge medieval jars caved in the natural rock. Then reach the most secluded and romantic part, Via Delle Rupi with more views on the lake. Don’t forget to pay a visit to the octagonal medieval tower in the small, panoramic public park.
Fall in love with the town of Trevignano Romano
The smallest of the three towns on Lake Bracciano, Trevignano Romano is seen by the locals as the most off-the-grid.
Here is where I would do a staycation. You need to read my post on Trevignano Romano to have a better idea of what this lovely village can offer. Trevignano Romano was awarded the “bandiera arancione” or orange flag, meaning that it is a top choice for hospitality. The criteria for this award is the quality of the water, the conservation of the architecture, the sustainability of the economic impact on the environment.
Touring the lake’s towns on a boat
Explore the lake on the only motor-boat (summer)
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 all the three cities on the lake on the same day. Each stretch of the ride costs €4, while an entire round trip costs €10.
Visit other attractions near Lake Bracciano
Once you’re here, it would be a pity not to explore further:
This is a small, enchanting lake completely immersed in nature that you can reach with a two hours hike from Anguillara Sabazia. There is plenty of shade on the beach, and you can swim too, but you need to bring your own water and food, as it’s secluded.
Canale Monterano Natural Reserve and abandoned town
One of the most interesting and mysterious places in Lazio and Italy. A few hundred years ago, the citizens of Canale Monterano abandoned their town and moved to the actual position for unknown reasons. The ghost town with the stunning remains of the monastery, the castle, and the village is still there surrounded by nature, a river with a waterfall, a sulfur spring. You will find Etruscan caves too. The place is really magical and you need half a day to explore on foot. The best way to reach the reserve is by car. Avoid if the weather is uncertain and in the months of August.
WHERE AND WHAT TO EAT IN BRACCIANO
These restaurants and cafes are all located in Bracciano, the town with the castle. As I’ve mentioned, the most appealing location for a meal in front of the lake is Trevignano Romano, and there are a few good places also in Anguillara Sabazia. Please read the posts concerning the other two towns for a wider choice. The local specialty is the fish from the lake, which you can taste fried in a light batter, grilled, and with pasta.
Make sure to read my detailed guide on restaurants in and near 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 (closed)
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
. Bracciano town with the 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:
Let me know in the comments how was your stay in Lake Bracciano, Rome, Italy.