Lake Bracciano: A Major Tourist Attraction Near Rome

Lake Bracciano is a favored holiday place for Romans, located merely 32 kilometers northwest of Rome, in the Lazio region. It is an unspoiled place with a mixture of interesting historical towns, off the beaten path sights and lovely scenery.

Lake Bracciano Stats

Lake NameLake Bracciano
Surface area56.970
Maximum depth165.0
Average depth23.2
Lake typeCrater lake
Catchment area154.90
Shore length31.10
SettlementsBracciano, Anguillara Sabazia, Trevignano Romano
Residence time9691.2
Trophic stateOligotrophic to mesotrophic
Average discharge1.579
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Formation and Geographic Facts

This lovely country idyll within easy reach of the Italian capital is the second largest lake in the region after Lake Bolsena. The lake is the result of intense volcanic activity, which happened sometime between 60 000 and 4000 years ago. This phenomenon contributed to the creation of many small volcanoes in Sabatino territory. The crater below the lake formed due to the collapse of the main magma chamber. Other small craters can also be recognized in Bracciano’s vicinity. Lake Martignano is also of volcanic origin, situated 2 kilometers to the East.

Lake Bracciano is one of the cleanest lakes in the country. It even provides drinking water for Rome; authorities have been controlling water on Bracciano since 1986. The lake gets its waters from precipitation runoff, percolation and numerous underground springs. Its main outlet is the Arrone River, flowing out in the southeastern end, and eventually pouring into the Tyrrhenian Sea. In the 1600s, under the rule of Pope Paul V, the water was redirected to feed the Acquedotto Paulo, to provide water for the Vatican.

Lake Bracciano is surrounded by forests, olive groves and lovely arranged gardens. Its picturesque landscape is protected by a national reserve, the Parco Regionale del Complesso Lacuale di Bracciano Martignano. Other reserves can be found nearby, such as the Tarquina Salt Marsh Natural Reserve, Macchiatonda Nature Reserve, the Macchiagrande Oasis and the Torre Flavia Marshland Natural Reserve. Three main towns are located on the lakeshores: Bracciano to the West, Anguillara Sabazia to the Southeast and Trevignano Romano to the North.

History and Neolithic Settlements

The area is said to be inhabited by the Etruscans, who wandered from Lazio towards Tuscany.  They left behind unique masterpieces, of which some can be admired at the municipal museum of Trevignano. The Cerveteri left behind famous burial tombs, which represented the interiors of wealthy Etruscan homes. The Romans also left behind traces of their civilization in the form of ancient Roman villas, via romanas and aqueducts. In the Middle Ages, one of the most powerful Italian families, the Orsinis lived in one of the most strategic locations on the lakeshore, close to Rome.

A few hundred meters outside of Anguillara Sabazia archaeologists found the remains of an Early Neolithic lakeshore village dating back to 5700 BC, called La Marmotta. The founds consisted mostly of thick oak pillars, located 2 meters deep, which have survived due to the sediments situated at the bottom of the lake. The oldest post dates back to 5690 BC. According to researchers, in 5230 BC the climate was much wetter, causing the water levels to rise 7-8 meters, thus flooding these findings. The population which constructed these important findings were part of an advanced culture, which already had domesticated animals, plants, ceramic pots, polished stone tools and planted a variety of crops in order to sustain themselves.

A few prehistoric settlements were discovered at the bottom of the lake, such as Vicarello (Middle Bronze Age), Sposetta (Middle and Late Bronze Age) and Vigna Grande (Iron Age).

Tourism and Recreation

Getting to the lake is quite easy, since there are trains coming in from Rome. Getting around the towns on the lake’s coastline is easiest by car, but also possible through regional buses and minibuses.

The area attracts tourists mostly to its three picturesque lakeside towns, rich in history and sights. The town of Bracciano is home to one of the most important castles in Italy, the Bracciano Castle. A history-filled Civic Museum and two lovely baroque churches are also waiting to be explored in the town. A tiny stronghold can also be found in Trevignano Romano. Vigna di Valle houses an impressive history museum specializing in flying, from Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions until the present time. Anguillaria is also dominated by a castle which once belonged to the powerful Orsini family. In the outskirts of the town one can even bump into the ruins of a first-century villa. The lovely arraged gardens of San Liberato are not to be missed.

The Vicarello region was famous for its roman baths. Today natural springs of the caldera can be found in the Manziana Woods. There are also two modern-day hot spring spas: Terme de Stigliano in Canale Monterano and Terme dei Papi at Viterbo.

Besides these historic attractions, the lake area also has a lot of outdoor sites and activities to offer. The Parco Naturale di Bracciano-Martignano is ideal for cyclers and trekkers, with paths leading from Lake Bracciano to Lake Martignano, offering scenic views. For the best view of the lake one must climb the hill of Bracciano. A designated picnic area is also offered to tourists. These footpaths oftentimes offer ideal sightings of rare birds.

Plenty of water activities such as canoeing and kayaking can be practiced on the lake. The use of motorboats is strictly forbidden to tourists; they can only be used by professional fishermen who supply local restaurants with fish, such as pike, whitefish, eel and whitebait.

Although not famous for mass tourism, Lake Bracciano can get a bit crowded during the weekends, when most Romans come to the lake to escape the Roman heat. The prime tourist season is between the months of May and October.

Visitors usually choose the lake because of its unspoiled nature, ideal hiking and bird-watching conditions, aquatic sports and historic little villages, with amazing scenery. The lake’s surrounding historic towns also have plenty to offer. If you come by car be sure to visit the Roman amphitheater in Sutri, the medieval town of Viterbo and other smaller historic towns like Oriolo Romano, Blera, Vetralla, Tuscania and Tarquinia.

Lake Bracciano Map