Saturday I went to Bracciano, a beautiful little town tucked an hour away from Viterbo. Bracciano is famous for its volcanic lake (Lago di Bracciano or “Sabatino”, the eighth largest lake in Italy) and for a particularly well-preserved medieval castle Castello Orsini-Odescalchi.
The lake is widely used for sailing and is popular with tourists; the castle has hosted a number of events, especially weddings of actors and singers.
We arrived in Bracciano shortly after 12 p.m. and immediately made our way towards the only thing that really stood out to us in the city – the large medieval castle that commanded the sky surrounding Bracciano like clouds control the sky in a rainstorm.
The castle closes for a mini-pausa pranzo for lack of a better way of saying it. So without wasting our most precious commodity – time – we walked down an alley in the shadows on our way to a spectacular view overlooking the entire city and the Sabatino Lake.
The alley itself was shaded, large buildings constructed on old stone lined the streets. Plants and vegetation grew in pots and on along the walls of the building. It was peaceful and relaxing there.
The view was magnificent, unlike anything I had ever seen before. I whipped out my camera and took photos of the lake and the city that surrounds it. After soaking in the view, made a thousand times better by the bright blue sky and piercing sun.
We walked down a steep dirt path towards the lakeshore, ready to spread our blanket and have a picnic along the waterline. The path was slippery – rocks and fragments of roof lay sprawled along the trail ready to take its next victim to the ground like a lion hunts a zebra.
We reached the shore and angry dog barked his tail off causing the owners of a closed camp to ask us our business in the area. After being turned away, unable to get to the lake through this campsite, we found a narrow pathway flooded with shrubbery and weeds. This pathway took us straight to the lake.
The lake was cold, but glistened beautifully in the sun. A crane waned in the water without a care in the world. We spread the orange blanket that Hannah brought for the day. It was at this point that Kevin and I realized we didn’t have a wine bottle opener in our possession to open the bottle of white wine we bought from the Tre Botti winery the day before. We walked up the very same path we took earlier and walked back to the campsite where we were turned away to ask them to open our bottle.
The man spoke Old Italian, using old formal. I had a difficult time understanding him, but from what I understood, he didn’t have a wine opener. He returned a short time later with a hammer and chisel. What better way to think outside the box than with a hammer and chisel. The man opened our bottle with such precision that we offered him a glass. He respectfully declined.
Returning to the picnic spot where Henal and Hannah were waiting, we enjoyed a nice packed lunch on the water. Let me just say, the day was perfect. Our lunch was great; we enjoyed some good conversation.
After trekking back up the slippery trail, we paid a ridiculous amount of money for a largely unimpressive tour. To spend 7.50 Euros on a castle tour, I get that. But to spend that money and not even get the tour in Italian because we were American – well that was just insulting.
The castle itself was beautiful and reminded me of Hammond Castle in Gloucester, Mass. This castle sits on a hill and overlooks a great water basin. The castle served its purpose across four different centuries. We saw an armory, a room commemorating the marriages of two powerful families, and more.
It was a great experience, but like all things, time prevented us from really soaking it in. A lousy tour guide that wanted nothing more than to kick us out didn’t help either.
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