one day in bracciano
Of the four months we’ve lived in Rome we’ve only spent 2 weekends away from the city. Not wanting to deal with finding a dog sitter and overnight accommodations, we looked up day trips from Rome and decided on a small, lake town north of Rome called Bracciano. Bracciano is famous for their volcanic lake, Lago di Bracciano, and the extremely well-preserved medieval castle, Castello Orsini-Odescalchi. If you followed the whole Tom Cruise-Katie Holmes craze the castle might look familiar because it’s where the two were married.
A day trip to Bracciano is an easy one and there are no advance bookings required. Our round trip tickets cost €8 each and the train ride is about an hour each way. You can find your closest stop on the FL3 line here. Thanks to an Instagram ad, I recently discovered the app Omio and have used it ever since to book train tickets around Italy. My favorite features of Omio are that it searches tickets across multiple platforms to get you the best deal AND most tickets are available via e-ticket. This means you can purchase your ticket on your phone and there is no printing or validating necessary. Just make sure your phone doesn’t die. #FirstWorldProblems
We arrived in Bracciano just in time for lunch. Right outside the train station we stopped at Arte Pizza, a place serving pizza al taglio. Jaime had his usual pizza rossa and I tried the prosciutto and stracchino pizza. I was never a fan of pizza in the states, but I could eat pizza for every meal here in Italy. Because our trip to Bracciano was last minute (we decided to go two hours before hopping on the train), the only plan we had was to see Castello Orsini-Odeschalchi. The castle is an extremely well-preserved medieval castle from the 15th century. From the mid-15th century to the end of the 17th century the castle was under the Orsini family, but after their lavish lifestyle lead to their decline the castle was sold to the Odeschalchi family and they still retain the castle today. In the castle you will find amazing artifacts dating hundreds of years from leather trunks, iron bed frames, profound pieces of art, to weapons and armor used to successfully guard the castle. We recommend reading the pamphlet as you tour through the castle because it’s fairly informative. Pictures and videos were strictly prohibited so we aren’t able to show you how beautiful the inside of the castle was, but if you have a day to spare during your stay in Rome we highly recommend a day trip to Bracciano with a visit to the castle. They offer 1-hour guided tours as part of the cost of your ticket and I believe tours are available in English, Spanish, and Italian. You can find more information regarding times the tours are offered on their website.
Upon leaving the castle, we stopped for gelato at Gelateria Picchio because you can’t take us anywhere without stopping for gelato. Jaime claims it was the best strawberry gelato of his life and we loved it so much we stopped for one last scoop of strawberry gelato before heading home.
We spent a little time walking around the small town and then made our way down to the lake. The walk from the town center to the lake was downhill and about 20 minutes, which means that your way back is a 20 minute uphill walk (less than 500 feet in elevation change). Taxis exist, but they are few and far between, so if you plan to walk down to the lake be prepared to make the 20 minute walk back up. Down on the lake you’ll find a few restaurants, B&Bs, lots of families, and people fishing, kayaking, and windsurfing. It was so peaceful and tranquil compared to the hustle and bustle of everyday Rome.
After our walk back to the town center, we stopped for a quick rest in Piazza IV Novembre. We listened to the 5 o’clock bells, watched kids play soccer, and watched friends and family relax together on a Saturday afternoon. In Italy, it’s rare to find a restaurant open between lunch and dinner, much less one that will serve you a full meal if you’re outside the touristy areas. One of the things I miss most about the states is being able to eat whatever I want, whenever I want. Since it was not quite dinner time, we stopped by an enoteca to have a couple glasses of wine (which somehow turned into two bottles, not sure how that happened) at Bottega di Braccio. We had their house red wine and their accompaniment of snacks made up of chips, ham tea sandwiches, mortadella, bread with an herb cream cheese spread, and focaccia.
Because the FL3 train is a regional railway, tickets don’t need to be booked in advance so we left Rome with one-way tickets. This allowed us to really enjoy our time in Bracciano without putting a limit on the time we had to enjoy Bracciano other than the last train leaving at 09:11pm. It allowed our trip to be much more flexible because we could leave whenever we wanted or stay for however long we wanted.
If you don’t speak much Italian and you’re worried about visiting a smaller town, don’t let that discourage you from visiting Bracciano. There’s so much culture and history to be experienced and learned that it’s worth the visit. While we now spend most of our days getting by with Italian (albeit, very broken), when people find out we’re American they’re always excited to speak English with us. I’ve been told that no matter how good our Italian gets, as foreigners this will forever happen to us.
Surrounding the lake, there are a couple other medievals towns that I’m really interested in visiting, Trevignano Romano and Anguillara Sabazia. There are so many amazing places to visit in Italy I almost feel guilty for leaving to visit other European countries. When we first received the news of our move to Italy three years truly felt like a lifetime, but now after being here for almost half a year I’m worried because I don’t know if three years will be enough time. We’re heading into our 5th month in Rome and every week we talk about how much we’re going to miss it when it’s time to leave. People in Bracciano were extremely warm and friendly and we plan to make many trips back before our time in Italy comes to an end.