When you think of Rome, with all its fabulous chaotic energy and glorious ancient monuments, those tiny Italian hilltop villages you see on postcards seem worlds away. You might be surprised to learn that Medieval charm and rolling terrain are closer to The Eternal City than you think.
Rome sits in the province of Lazio, at pretty much the halfway point on the “boot” that is mainland Italy. Lazio is bordered on the north by Tuscany, which is famous around the globe for its picturesque countryside. Even though the luscious landscapes you find in Tuscany also extend into Lazio, no one seems to associate bucolic settings with Rome. Until now! So let’s talk about how Rome is surrounded by natural and manmade delights.
No matter which direction you head from Rome, you will encounter undulating countryside that enchants with all manner of alluring visuals — quaint villages and noble estates, farms and vineyards, lakes and mountains, slender cypress and poofy pines, lush greens and vibrant golds — not to mention millennia of fascinating history.
In this first installment of Treasures of the Roman Countryside, we’re focusing on the area around Lake Bracciano. Located about forty minutes north of Rome, the lake is prehistoric. Formed by volcanic activity perhaps some 600,000 years ago, the lake came into being thanks to the collapse of a crater during an eruption. (Don’t worry; volcanic activity in the area ceased long ago.)
Lake Bracciano and its environs are very beautiful. On its shores sit a handful of Medieval hamlets. Today we’re highlighting one of those villages, Anguillara Sabazia.
Anguillara Sabazia: The Atlantis of Italy
Anguillara Sabazia has sometimes been described as a city like Atlantis that disappeared under the sea, although in the case of Anguillara, we have definitive evidence that the place really existed and was consumed by a body of water.
In Medieval times, the village was a feudal holding of the Anguillara family. In more recent times, it has become a popular weekend-getaway destination for the inhabitants of Rome. The lakeshore area today is a promenade bursting with cafés and restaurants. The old town also merits a visit, especially the churches with notable works of art, Palazzo Baronale with its frescoes, and the quaint piazzas with panoramic views. The bastions of Anguillara’s Medieval towers have been transformed into a museum that tells the story of local farming culture.
Anguillara, featured in two episodes of Everybody Loves Raymond back in 2000, was a Roman settlement around the first century BCE. A Medieval village was subsequently built on top of the Roman infrastructure. Today, its Medieval character lives on in the charming cobbled streets and centuries-old buildings.
On the outskirts of town is an area known as La Marmotta, site of an early Neolithic village dating back to 5700 BCE. Unlike Atlantis, moral decay and military aggression (however mythical) were not the causes of this village’s decline and disappearance; the settlement was simply engulfed by the lake as water levels rose due to climate change. If you have a penchant for really old stuff and civilizations, you might want to put the Neolithic Exhibition Center in La Marmotta on your bucket list.
Regardless of your taste, Anguillara Sabazia is a sweet place to stop along the shores of Lake Bracciano, offering visitors a selection of things to see and do that range from ancient to modern and from rustic to cosmopolitan.
For an excellent account of Anguillara’s history:
For a listing of things to do in Anguillara:
If all this talk about quaint villages and picturesque countryside is calling to you, DriverInRome would be pleased to show you around the marvelous country of Italy! Please contact us for classic as well as custom itineraries.