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Bracciano, Province of Roma, Lazio

The town rises on a rock facing Lake Bracciano, one of the largest volcanic lakes in Italy, almost circular, with a length of 9.3 Km and 8.7 wide, all surrounded by the forests of the Sabatini mountains. Today the main economic activities are tourism and agriculture.

Info

  • Altitude: 280 m a.s.l
  • Population: about 13,000 inhabitants
  • Zip/postal code: 00062
  • Dialing Area Code: +39 06
  • Patron Saint: St. Sebastiano, celebrated on 20th January
  • Frazioni & Localities: Castel Giuliano, Pisciarelli, Sambuco, Vicarello, Vigna di Valle.
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Provinces of Lazio

History

The earliest settlement in the area was a military tower recorded in the 10th century AD as Castrum Brachiani, probably built in defence against Saracens' raids. In the 11th century the territory was purchased by the Prefetti di Vico, who turned the tower into a castle, and in 1234 it was a property of the Orsini. In 1419 Pope Martin V confirmed the fiefdom of Bracciano to the Orsini family from Tagliacozzo. The town became famous for its castle, enlarged from 1470 by Napoleone Orsini and his son Virginio. In 1481 it hosted Pope Sixtus IV, who take refuge here during a plague epidemics in Rome.

In 1494 Charles VIII of France marching against Rome stopped at Bracciano, and in 1496 the city was besieged by a papal army led by Giovanni di Candia, son of Pope Alexander VI Borgia, but was able to resist the siege. Also Cesare Borgia, another of Alexander's natural sons, was unsuccessful in his siege of the castle some years later. In 1558 Paolo Giordano I Orsini married Isabella de' Medici, daughter of Cosimo I, Grandduke of Tuscany, and was granted the title of duke of Bracciano.

In the early 17th century Paolo Giordano II ordered the construction of an aqueduct from the Manziana hills to the lake, which led to the establishment of a papermill and printing press, which promoted an early industrial development in the area, with the mining of sulphur and iron and the production of tapestries. In 1696 the castle was auctioned and passed to Livio Odescalchi. Then in 1804 the Odescalchi sold it to the Torlonia family, but in 1861 when prince Livio III Odescalchi married a Polish heiress, Sofia Branicka, and was able to redeem the property of the castle, which still belongs to his descendants.

What to see

  • The Orsini - Odescalchi Castle, a fine military structure of the latter half of the 15th century, with five sides and round towers, joined by a merlon walkway with a great view of the lake. Inside the castle there is the stately Renaissance mansion where Charles VIII established his residence in 1494. The castle apartments are decorated with 16th-century frescoes by Antoniano Romano and stuccoes by the Zuccari brothers, and are placed around a triangular inner courtyard. The castle hosted the wedding of actors Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes in 2006.
  • The road around Lake Bracciano, a large volcanic basin with a surface of 57 sq km and a perimeter of 31.5 km, deepest point 164 mt, along whose banks are many fine medieval centres, as Anguillara Sabina, Vicarello, Trevignano Romano
  • 3 km north-east the town, in the direction of Trevignano Romano, the 9th-century church of San Liberato, rising on the site of the ancient Roman Forum Clodii; the church is surrounded by an English-style garden, and is near Villa San Liberato, designed by Russell Page in 1965.
  • Along the northern bank of the lake, near Vicariello, the ruins of Aquae Apollinaris, a spa resort from the Roman period.
  • Along the southern bank of the lake, at the hamlet of Vigna di Valle, the Museo dell'Aeronautica Militare Italiana, with original ancient planes and visual materials reconstructing the history of Italian aircraft.

Events and Festivities

  • Good Friday, a living reprresentation of the Passion of Christ
  • Corpus Domini, the Infiorata, a flower fair with decorations all over the town
  • In July and August the events of the program Estate sotto le stelle di Bracciano, with concerts, exhibitions, fairs of local products and artifacts, medieval games, fireworks.

Where to stay in Bracciano