Lake Bracciano: Past to present

In the Lazio region north of Rome, Lake Bracciano, with water in a natural uncontaminated state, is a popular place offering a variety of leisure facilities within the Regional Nature Park of Bracciano and Martignano, one of the newest protected areas in Lazio since 1999. Ancient hamlets and villages developed and grew over centuries from three lakes of volcanic origin, one of which is Lake Bracciano, a calm and peaceful setting.
Known in Etruscan times, originally Bracciano was a small village of fishermen and farmers where ancient tombs have been found at the lakeside. Today the town rises on the banks of the lake and owes its fame principally to the majestic Odescalchi Castle ceded by Pope Martin V in 1419 to the noble Orsini Odescalchi family who used it as a military fortress. Described as a most beautiful feudal European manor house, the castle is used for official and social events and has hosted a number of celebrity weddings.
According to legend, part of the ancient city was submerged beneath a volcanic lake, and the portion that emerged was called Bracciano (from braccio for arm). Its elevated position offers views of the lake and distant Apennines mountain range. The town’s historical places include the Collegiate of Santo Stefano, the churches of Santa Maria Novella and Madonna del Reposo and the small picturesque Piazza del Commune.
Of ancient origin, the village of Anguilliara Sabazia lies on the east shore of Lake Bracciano entirely dominated by the Orsini Odescalchi castle. It is a favourite spot for Romans visiting Bracciano to enjoy the fresh pike and whitefish from the lake.
A Neolithic village has been discovered during underwater excavations yielding major finds, in particular five pirogues from the Neolithic period. One of them is on display at Rome’s National Museum of Prehistory and Ethnography. Another, found at a depth of twelve metres on 31 July 2005, is on display in a protected area of the town for all to see. A special feature of the town’s historical places is the Clavdia ‘Claudia’ natural effervescent spring that continues to flow from a source at the original Roman ruins.
Traced to Etruscan times, Trevignano Romano is situated on the Sabatine hill about 43 kms from Rome. An archaeological find is an ancient necropolis extending about three kilometres behind the modern town. In 1198 a castle was built on the orders of Pope Innocent III to strengthen his power within the Province of Rome. Dominating Trevignano, its medieval history is linked to battles between the rival families of Orsini and Borgia for supremacy of the region. It had numerous internal walkways dug out of the rock enabling those inside to move safely. To further secure its inaccessibility there were two encircling walls ; the first with bastions defended the town ; the second the castle. Known as ‘Rocca’, the ruins are on the map of a popular walk offering panoramic views of the lake.
The town’s Municipal Museum has numerous exhibits and precious artefacts with information about the history of Trevignano and surrounding areas of Lake Bracciano. A booklet in Italian and English, with notes and references, records the volcanic and archaeological history with details of excavations and finds in the region, past to present.
Ita Marguet
Note : Acknowledgements is given to sources used in this text. It follows a visit to Rome and the region of Lazio, including Trevignano and Bracciano (June 2012).Ita