The volcanic Lago di Bracciano is the eighth largest in Italy and is popular with locals and tourists alike for the beautiful towns that lie along its perimeter. Bracciano the town is dominated by the medieval Castello Orsini-Odescalchi, a fortified papal palace that is well-known for hosting the wedding of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes. Other charming villages that lie along the lake are Anguillara Sabazia, boasting a pristine medieval center, and Trevignano Romano. The latter is particularly picturesque, with quaint cafés along the lakeside promenade, numerous swans that flock to the banks of its river, and gorgeous sunsets.
This off-the-beaten-path lake, that lies within an extinct crater, is a favorite with the alternative crowd for its relaxed vibe, easygoing atmosphere and outdoor concerts in the summertime. The smallest of the lakes near Rome, Martignano is a well-kept secret, being overshadowed by the much larger Lago di Bracciano a few kilometers away. It has a lawn beach, bars and food stands that pop-up during the summer and is perfect for a sunny weekend picnic.
The Lago di Bolsena lies north of Rome close to Viterbo, which was likely the location of an ancient Etruscan city. The main towns that lie within proximity of the lake are Bolsena, Montefiascone and Capodimento. The imposing Montefiascone Cathedral is a site to behold and the region’s famous Est! Est!! Est!!! wine is produced here by the Falesco winery. Capodimonte instead lies on a tiny peninsula that juts into the lake and has a sheltered harbor, making it a great location for swimming. The tiny fishing village Marta is a colorful little spot that is also worth a visit.
Heading south from Rome, Lago Albano is the primary lake located in the Castelli Romani region comprised of numerous hilltop towns. The pope’s summer residence is located at Castel Gandolfo, an effusively charming town that has lovely vistas on the lake below. The gorgeous 17th Apostolic Palace of Castel Gandolfo contains manicured gardens, lying on the site of an ancient residence of Emperor Domitian, and can be visited through a guided tour. Nearby towns include Marino, best known for its wine festival that takes place each October, and Ariccia, with its famous porchetta and fraschette (typical village eateries).
The Lago di Nemi is the jewel of Lazio. This lake is sometimes referred to as Diana’s Mirror because of a temple complex that honors this ancient goddess of the moon and hunt. It derives its name from Nemi, a quaint town perched above the lake which is famed for its fragoline di bosco, or wild strawberries; Nemi hosts a strawberry festival at the end of spring each year. Nearby lies Genzano di Roma which is famed for its bread and hosts a magnificent flower festival that sees its main thoroughfare paved with an intricate flower carpet each June.