When we think about the Italian Lake District, the first thing that comes to mind is the northern Italian lakes and yet venture northwest of Rome and in one hour’s drive you’d come across a series of eyelet lakes filling the craters of extinct volcanoes. Only a few outsiders have heard of the striking Lazio Lake District, where during my childhood summers I spent many happy day trips away from the oppressing heat of the City.
Drive along the Via Cassia (SS2) and Via Braccianense (SS493) and you will reach Lake Bracciano, the closest to the City. Bracciano is a small, quiet town and although it’s off the usual tourist trail, it has a picturesque setting above the lake and an impressive 15th century castle, Castello Odescalchi , which is open to the public and has also been a romantic venue for many celebrity weddings, including the one of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes!
Nestled next to Lake Bracciano is Lake Martignano, a hidden gem even for contemporary Romans and the fact that it still remains relatively unknown allows it to remain in pristine condition and an ideal spot for a picnic and also the perfect getaway for nature lovers, bikers, trekkers, birdwatchers. Here you can also rent sailing boats and go horse riding, as this is in fact the golden triangle for horses – every family has a horse and it’s the land of the butteri (cowboys), that you also find in Maremma in Tuscany.
Little Lake Vico is the prettiest in the region, surrounded by the woods and marshlands of a nature reserve, and ringed by a thousand-foot peaks and the cinder cone of Monte Venere (Mount Venus). The lake, known as the horseshoe, is a popular destination in both summer and winter. Sunbathing by the lake, diving in its crystal clear water, outdoor activities, excursions by canoe or sailing lessons are some of the many activities you can enjoy at Lake Vico.
The Vico town of Caprarola is definitely worth visiting for the wonderfully pompous Palazzo Farnese, a masterpiece of 16th century Mannerist architecture.
Last but not least Lake Bolsena, the largest volcanic lake in Europe, is another ‘miracle’ of nature and simply unique, with its black volcanic sands and beaches stretching for several miles and it’s another ideal destination for swimming, picnicking, water sports and fishing.
Lake Bolsena is without a doubt another perfect off-the-beaten track location in the Lazio region, that features unspoilt and stunning scenery as well as being a gastronomical treat for the taste buds, without blowing the budget. Boasting a multitude of day trips to blow your mind, I highly recommend hiring a car to make the most of this wonderful destination and the whole of the Lazio Lake District. Bolsena town, Montefiascone, the Monaldeschi Fortress, Capodimonte are all interesting places well worth exploring around Bolsena Lake for their history and local traditions.
Bolsena and the other wonders of the Lazio Lake District keep visitors coming back for more. but don’t tell anyone about it, keep the miracle to yourself and jealously guard your secret just like I have done up until now!
Featured Image: Lago di Bracciano