Towards the lakes of Bracciano and Martignano
The territory crossed by the Via Clodia, now Claudia Braccianese, is an unexpected environment in which the only protagonist is a luxuriant nature and a suggestive and quiet landscape that invites to relaxing atmospheres. The street was built by an unspecified member of the gens Clodia, with the aim of connecting originally Rome to the lake area and then to the Etruscan countries of the Grosseto area, such as Vetulonia.
The road did not start from Rome but separated from the Via Cassia at La Storta and then headed towards the lake of Bracciano, which the Romans called Sabatinus. Extending for more than 50 square kilometers inside the perimeter of a volcanic basin, the lake still has very pure waters, exploited by the emperor Trajan to supply some areas of Rome, including the right bank of the Tiber (Trastevere). The aqueduct was reactivated at the beginning of the 17th century by Pope Paul V, who gave his name to the restored pipeline. Circumnavigating it, it is possible to visit the three towns that gracefully overlook its shores.
Bracciano, the largest town, was the fortress of the prefects of Vico and around the middle of the 15th century feud of the Orsini. The life of the town gravitates around the main square embellished by the Vignola fountain and hosting the mole of the Orsini Odescalchi Castle, a superb example of military architecture and Orsini building, inside which the ancient rooms are preserved with frescoes of different periods, busts of the powerful lords of the castle, as well as a collection of weapons and harnesses. A tour of the five cylindrical towers of the castle allows a splendid view of the lake, the Sabini and Soratte mountains and the towns of Trevignano and Anguillara Sabazia. The latter one overlooks the lake like a charming village, with small houses that seem to chase each other to reach the highest part. For enthusiasts, the Historical Museum of the Military Air Force stands outside the village, in the locality of Vigna di Valle, where at the beginning of the 20th century one of the first Italian airports was built and it was home to a seaplane station until World War II.
Trevignano Romano, built in the Middle Ages perhaps on the site of the Etruscan town of Sabatia, preserves an Antiquarium that houses the remains from the Etruscan tombs discovered in the locality of Olivetello. The medieval village is accessed from the door next to the Clock Tower, while inside stands the bulk of the beautiful 16th century church of the Assumption and the church of Saint Catherine, built on the remains of a Roman building, whose arches are still visible.
The route of the Via Claudia Braccianese turns West towards Manziana on Mount Calvario. Built in the 16th century as a rural centre to accommodate Tuscan and Umbrian peasants and woodsmen, the village owes its fame to the Natural Monument of Caldara di Manziana, which resembles a Dantean scenario. The natural monument rises, in fact, on a depression of the Sabatino volcano, that, in memory of its activity, releases a considerable quantity of carbon dioxide that, rising from the depths, causes water and mud to boil at a temperature of 27°C giving rise to small geysers.
Not far away the Monterano Regional Natural Reserve protects, with its 1100 hectares of land, a splendid natural paradise, archaeological evidence of the Etruscan civilization and above all, the ruins of the abandoned city of Monterano. The city began to be depopulated at the end of the 18th century because of malaria and was finally abandoned in favour of the modern town of Canale Monterano, following the devastation by the French troops in 1799. The village consists of the scenic remains of a castle, a church and an extraordinary arched aqueduct that are enveloped by the green embrace of ivy, honeysuckle and evergreen foliage of holm oaks: the most beautiful abandoned city of Lazio and, perhaps, of Italy.
The road then enters the wildest and most fascinating area: the Tolfa mountains, a hilly massif that does not exceed 630 meters above sea level, covered by a diverse and typical vegetation of the Maremma, with oak woods and cattle pastures of Maremmana cattle.