After languishing in relative obscurity for the last 600,000 years, Lago Bracciano burst into the international spotlight when it hosted quite the Hollywood nuptials a few years back. However, if you willing to ignore the pall that event cast on this gorgeous destination (which, to be fair, has long been a popular escape for Rome’s water-deprived citizens), might I recommend making the trek up there sometime. I first visited the lake about 4 years ago, during a brief layover on my way to Puglia. And while the day is a hazy memory of trains, buses, and sunburns, I had some really pretty pictures and knew I wanted to go back. And so, this past weekend, while the better part of Rome was off enjoying the long weekend, we decided to have our own mini-vacation and swim around in the lake that provides drinking water to much of Rome.
There are three main towns on the lake – Bracciano, Anguillara, and Trevignano. Any of these can be reached via some combo of trains, buses, and your own two feet, but if you have access to a car, take it. We, however, did not have access to a car, so we hopped on the train at Ostiense, and a little over an hour later, pulled into the station at Bracciano. As we hopped off, a kindly gentleman with a foldable bike (what is this, Brooklyn?) asked if we were headed to the lake. I’m not sure if he was tipped off by the swimsuits or confused looks on our faces when we disembarked without a bit of water in sight. Regardless, he was nice enough to point us downhill and mention that it was a hell of a walk through a less than desirable part of town. Thanks, dude.
Undaunted, we set off, weaving through the Lombard-like streets until we could catch a glimpse of the lake and verify we were meandering in the right direction. Upon spotting another pair of swim-suit bedecked travelers heading down a rather steep dirt path, we decided to risk our calf muscles and go for it. And ten minutes later, we emerged from the forest and saw this:
With all that downhill hiking, however, we’d really worked up an appetite. Fortunately, there are a plethora of restaurants lining the lake, each hawking a fair amount of fried fish. After doing some price comparison and determining which establishment would allow us to dine closest to the water, we settled on Tramontana, the last in a stretch of 6 or 7. There are several wonderful things about Tramonta. The first is that this was the view from our table:
The second is that it’s the kind of place where you can spend two blissful hours looking at that view and conversing with the ducks on the other side of the wall, while dining on platters of perfectly fried latterini and whitefish, sweet melon and salty prosciutto (the ultimate in umami), a carafe or two of white wine (hey, it was a holiday!), and top it off with some fragole con gelato (one each, please!), all while spending about €14 a head. And then you can slink off the dockside dining room, lay out your towel on the empty public beach next door, and doze off in the fresh air and lakeside sunlight. If you feel so inclined, I suggest rousing yourself for a dip in the crystal clear and quite warm water, if only so you can return to the city and tell everyone you swam in their drinking water. Cuz that’s always fun.
Where: Lago Bracciano is about 20 miles northwest of Rome.
How: Use the TrenItalia website to plan your trip via public transport. Round trip from Roma Ostiense to Bracciano is about €7 and a little over an hour each way.
Why: Less sandy than Rome’s closest beaches, but also much much quieter. Feels more like a day-cation than a day trip. Also, fried fish, ammiright?