Lake Bracciano – Do as the Romans Do
'Where am I?' I ponder as we drive down a long country road. I know where I am, of course, but as we continue on the highway towards Bracciano, to find cooling respite by a lake on a hot day, I can’t help but feel a strange sense of displacement. I know I’m in the Lazio region, not even one hour out of Rome but as I watch the scene of dusty yellow pastures, golden hay barrels and distant hilltops pass me by I’m struck by a sense of Déjà vu. I feel like I’ve been here before, but the here that I feel is not Bracciano, it’s country Victoria, Australia. It’s a scene I’ve seen a few times a year ever since I can remember on the drive from Melbourne to Beechworth. It’s hard to associate this setting with Italy, when I’ve only ever known it to be Australia. If it weren't for the occasional Italian signage sporadically placed alongside the road I might have trouble remembering where I am. Oh, and of course the two Italians conversing in the front seat helps too. Going to the lakes in Lazio is a quintessential Roman summer activity. Speak to any Roman about how to cool down in the blistering summer heat and you’re likely hear a few disparaging remarks about the local beaches, but the lakes? Well, that’s a different story. The lakes and mountains of the Lazio region inspire discussions of delicious hearty meals in trattorias, lazy walks through small towns and dips in the crisp and cool depths of the picturesque waters. Whether it’s La Pasquetta, a public holiday, birthday, or maybe the sun just happens to be shining, it seems any excuse will do. And now I understand why.
But before we can explore the lakeside that Bracciano has to offer, we’ll need to lunch in the town first of course. Trying to decide between take away pizza and a plate of pasta is always a challenge, but as we stumble upon a trattoria bustling with patrons and sending perfumes of fresh seafood and pasta wafting out the doorway the decision makes itself. Trattoria Garibaldi is a small establishment but every table is taken and every patron tasting the delicious dishes has a gleeful look in their eye and those still waiting watch enviously as tasty well-laden plates pass them by. The menu board scribbled in red pen shows us that the price is fair too. Offering a starter of antipasto, a plate of pasta or a meat dish, and bottled water for only €10. We lucked out on this one.
Fresh salumi, cheese and bread makes its way to our table and within moments we’re licking the crumbs from our lips and back to watching the doorway to the kitchen in anticipation of our next plates.
Cacio e pepe pasta is a typical Roman dish. It’s spicy and creamy with its two main ingredients comprising of fresh ground pepper, and a hefty dose of pecorino Romano cheese. This is one of those rare dishes that screams simplicity while simultaneously overflowing with flavour.
With out plates immaculately clean and our bellies guiltily grumbling, we make our way down to the lake for some sun (or shade if you’re so inclined) and a siesta. With only a small beach, you’re likely to lay your towel down amongst the grass and wildflowers while you participate in this typical Italian ritual. Children splash in the waters, swans swim along undisturbed (the braver ones take to the land for a hand feed from the little ones), and the rest of us lie down with the canopy of leaves fluttering above us, twinkling in the sunlight. With the musical sound of that wonderful language carrying in the wind, a stomach satisfied with the local fare and the sun sending me into a tranquil afternoon nap, it’s impossible to forget that I’m in Italy.