Welcome back to our series called “Weekend escape to…” showcasing our favorite vacations spots in practical 48-hour guides. Today we’ll be suggesting tips for a weekend at Lago di Martignano – Lake Martignano – Rome.
Only thirty minutes northwest of Rome, is a little-known lake oasis. Lago di Martignano – Lake Martignano – is easily spotted on the map as being “the lake below Bracciano” the larger, more famous volcanic lake of Rome. Like its bigger neighbor, Martignano is an extinct crater, and its coasts are divided among three Lazio provinces: Rome, Anguillara Sabazia and Campagnano. Surrounding Lake Martignano are lawn beaches, a lake-side cafe, a couple of agriturismo restaurants, and walking trails. A quiet paradise, surrounded by nature and sunlight. This is the perfect base from which to explore neighboring villages and towns, as well as taking advantage of a non-touristy lakeside destination.
Ready to spend a 48-hour weekend at Lago di Martignano?
5:00 p.m. – Hit the road
Take possession of your dwelling on the quieter Martignano lakeside in a beautifully furnished agriturismo (working farm with lodging), grab your camera and hit the road, exploring the surroundings for a place with a view for leisurely drinks and dinner.
Our suggestion is lodging in Martignano as a base, and branching out to visit the neighboring towns and attractions as well as nearby lake Bracciano. A great place to start is from the more secluded of the three towns that populate Bracciano’s shores, Anguillara Sabazia. Book a table on the deck of restaurant La Terrazza Sul Lago located on a beautiful terrace with sweeping views of the lake and surrounding countryside, and let the evening slowly pass between chilled glasses of wine, locally caught fresh-water fish, seasonal fruit, garden vegetables, and stellar desserts.
10:00 a.m. – Mellow Martignano morning at the beaches of Casale di Martignano
A word to the wise: let the crowds flock to the busy beaches of Trevignano, on the big lake, while you nestle in your sunny spot on the lawn beach or lounge in the shade reading a book under the huge weeping willows of Martignano. The pristine beaches of the Casale di Martignano lido boast impeccable services: lifeguards on-site and a wide choice of activities for the more sporty types besides swimming in the clear waters: cycling around the 30km perimeter, canoeing, paddle-boating and sailing. Also rentals for windsurfing are available. Horseback riding is also available with prior reservation. Visitors traveling with canine pets can furthermore enjoy their own private portion of the beach, where four-legged friends can roam freely off-leash and play in the water, undisturbed.
Noon – 1:30 p.m. – Growling stomachs
Grab snacks, panini and gelato from the little kiosk on the lake shore. Their freshly squeezed juices and smoothies are very good too. The Locanda inn up the narrow path also serves actual restaurant food, with all pork and ovine products coming from the property’s farm.
4:30 p.m. – Visit the town of Bracciano
After a nap, drive over to the town of Bracciano on the big lake, and visit the Odescalchi castle (the location that hosted the extravagant nuptials of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes). Built by the Orsinis in 1470 around a medieval fortification dating back to 1200, besieged by the Borgias and allied with the Medici, later renovated by the Odescalchi dynasty, the castle is one of central Italy’s most important feudal constructions. Hurry, though – last entry is 6:00 p.m. on weekends.
8:00 p.m. – A meal fit for kings at Pane e Olio
Amble down the castle stairs and settle in for dinner at Pane e Olio, a lovely little restaurant located just below the bastions. The friendly young owners and staff plus a menu that has interesting digressions from the usual cucina romana dishes, all in a relaxed ambiance, complete the setting. Sit at a table outside (or in the secluded terrace upstairs) and try the hand-stretched pasta called “lombrichi”, I suggest the pistachio and cherry tomato dressing, or anything seasonal, like truffles. Continue with fried or grilled fresh water fish fillets, and plenty of great seasonal vegetables. Average price per person €40.
10:30 p.m. – Moonlight stroll
After dinner, skip the limoncello and take a romantic walk instead. Amble away from the restaurant (don’t go uphill) along Via del Pescino, down to the “La Sentinella” tree-lined terrace overlooking the entire perimeter of Lago di Bracciano. Thousands of flickering lights below and stars above will inevitably draw lips closer.
9:30 a.m. – Field Trip to the Caldara di Manziana
Check out from the agriturismo, load the luggage in the rental or limo, and take a field trip to the Caldara di Manziana – A circular 90-hectare depression which testifies the remains of the crater of Monte Sabatino, a volcano which 600 thousand years ago occupied the entire tectonic dip between Monti della Tolfa and Monte Soratte. The “caldara” can be reached by car driving along Strada Provinciale 2C, and located at only 5 km from the town of Manziana. Take Via della Caldara, turn left onto a dirt path with brown road signs for the Caldara, and reach the small parking lot.
Three distinctive environments are present in the caldara: the sulphur swamp, gurgling puddles, geysers and overall rather spooky looking; the birch tree forest (these trees grow naturally in volcanic soil) dating back to the last ice age and the peat bog, a conical pit that receives decomposed plant matter and that forms a colorful deposit on an acidic, boggy, ground. Those visiting in spring – and ailed by allergies – will find immediate relief in this area, thanks to the sulphur emissions! Entrance fee: €10.
Noon – 2:00 p.m. – Lunch in Manziana at La Cantina di Peppe
Enjoy your lunch in Manziana at La Cantina di Peppe, a family-run steakhouse where you can select your meat cuts from the butcher display case and watch them being cooked before your eyes in a wood-fired grill outside in summer, or in the large floor-to-ceiling fireplace inside during the colder months. Save room for dessert! Average cost per person, with non-pretentious house wine €35.
4:00 p.m. – Un caffè and bye-bye
Stop in the small village piazza to chat with the locals and knock back a potent espresso for the road. A leisurely drive/train ride back to Rome will get you there in time for an aperitivo.
48-hour weekend at Lago di Martignano, Rome
How to get there
By car: Take G.R.A. (Grande Raccordo Anulare ring road) and exit at Cassia Veientana (also known as Cassia bis, exit #5) towards Viterbo, then take the exit for Campagnano di Roma and turn left immediately, passing under the highway offramp, and turn right towards Valle del Baccano. Continue for 3 km and turn left onto Strada di Martignano. This takes you straight to the lake. Note: the last kilometer of the journey is a narrow dirt road carved by the Etruscans in the side of the hill, in the protected Parco di Bracciano-Martignano reserve.
By train: From Termini station, take subway Linea A (orange line) headed towards Battistini, get off at Valle Aurelia and change to board the “trenino FM 3” to Cesano di Roma (you can use the same metro ticket for this). At the Cesano station you can hop on a local bus (ticket costs €1) and get off at the “Valle del Baccano” stop. You’ll have to find a means of transport from the Valle del Baccano bus stop to the lake (5 Km).
Another option is indulging in a private chauffeur, who picks you up ay your hotel and drives you straight to your lakeside residence, hassle-free.
Where to stay
Where to eat
La Terrazza Sul Lago – Piazza del Comune 11 – Anguillara Sabazia – Tel. +39 069968019
Trattoria Manturna – Piazza Tubingen 3 – Canale Monterano – Tel. +39 3339041311
Pane e Olio – Piazza Mazzini 11 – Bracciano – Tel. +39 0699803433
La Cantina di Peppe – Via Lazio 52 – Manziana – Tel. +39 069963825
Sports & Activities
Casale di Martignano – The beach is open daily from the 3rd week of June to the 2nd week of September; the rest of the year, open only on weekends.
Entrance fee €7 on weekends, €5 on weekdays. Kids under the age of 6 years enter free of charge.
What to see
Castello Odescalchi – Piazza Giuseppe Mazzini 14 – Bracciano – Tel. +39 0699802379; closed Monday
Caldara di Manziana – Km 14.300 of Strada Provinciale SP2C, left on dirt road Via della Caldara – Manziana, no phone, no website.
Contact us for more info on custom food itineraries, limo service, cycling or horseback riding excursions, day trips and other bespoke activities in and around Lago di Martignano.
Eleonora Baldwin is a TV host, freelance food and travel writer, and culinary connoisseur based in Rome, Italy. Her writing appears in several food and travel publications. Her shows “ABCheese” and “Uazz’america” are broadcast on Italian food network Gambero Rosso Channel. Her podcast “iCheese” is recorded live on the Radio Food Live network.