For many, it’s the Orsini-Odescalchi Castle; for the noble owning family, it’s simply Odescalchi Castle. This aspect is integral to the history of Bracciano Castle. It was the Orsinis who built it after 1470.
Napoleon Orsini, a daring leader who fought against other noble families of the time, transformed Bracciano’s fortress into a formidable Renaissance stronghold in his old age.
However, the first owner was actually Braccio da Montone, who, at the request of Pope Sixtus IV, donated it to his subordinate, Captain Orsini.
Construction occurred concurrently with the Sistine Chapel in Rome, likely sharing artisans. Today, as mentioned, it’s owned by the Odescalchis, who acquired the Bracciano Duchy from the Orsinis in the late 17th century.
It’s approximately 30 kilometers from Rome via Cassia Veientana (Cassia bis) and Braccianese.
The excellent state of preservation makes the Castle an ideal venue for major events and a picturesque set for film and TV. Notably, Carol Reed’s “The Agony and the Ecstasy” (1965) depicts the genesis of the Sistine Chapel, thus highlighting its setting.
Speaking of cinema and grand events, celebrities like Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes chose this location for their special day.
The Castle’s tradition of hosting receptions dates back to the Renaissance when it hosted numerous diplomatic meetings and celebrations for distinguished guests.
However, its defensive function was never overlooked, as its mighty walls attested to its readiness to withstand potential assaults. Visiting the Castle today is a fascinating experience, offering the opportunity to explore its towers and richly decorated rooms adorned with period furniture.
With frescoes depicting the site’s history, armors, and many other wonders, it captivates even those less interested in history.
Lake Bracciano, also known as Lake Sabatino due to the Sabatini Mountains, is integral to the Castle visit experience. Together with surrounding areas and the charming, smaller Lake Martignano (about two kilometers east), it forms part of a protected natural area, the Regional Natural Park of Bracciano-Martignano.
The panoramic view from the castle’s towers offers a unique perspective on the vastness of the lake, enhancing the atmosphere of the place.
Visitors can enjoy walks along the shores, marveling at the natural beauty surrounding this historic gem. The surrounding town retains its medieval charm with cobblestone streets and fascinating artisan shops.
The origins of the urban settlement likely date back to the 10th century.
From the late 9th century, Saracen raids instilled fear among peasants. Large landowners built fortified areas, called “castrum,” where the population sought refuge during danger. These owners became the lords of such villages.
The name “Castrum Brachiani,” found in documents until the 15th century, attests to the fortified origins of the place. Since the early 2000s, the charm of the village and its proximity to Rome have doubled the number of residents.
A dedicated visit to Bracciano Castle, its lake, and the quaint town undoubtedly holds many reasons to discover.