Bracciano at Night
by Samantha Melamed
I have been meaning to visit Bracciano since I first arrived in Viterbo, when I heard about the medieval castle in the town’s center and the volcanic lake beneath the town. Bracciano is a hill town on the edge of Tuscia, about halfway between Viterbo and Rome. My friend, Elena, lives in Bracciano, so I slept over her house one weekend. Elena and her friends gave me a tour of their hometown, slipping in personal details about a particular bar or someone we passed on the street. I almost felt like a local, too.
Of course, no matter how often I study Italian here or how long I’ve been living in Viterbo, I can’t shake my disguise; I’m still very much a tourist. I arrived in Bracciano in the evening, and the entire town was glowing. The medieval castle in the historical center loomed over all the other buildings and people, Christmas lights were strung across stores and bars.
Elena brought me to the Belvedere della Sentinella—a piazza atop the volcanic lake. It was too dark to see the lake, but I saw lights from Anguillara—a neighboring town that shares the lake—across the way. I’ve been in Italy long enough to infer that the highest point of a city most likely means it was a militaristic standpoint to guard the city. Elena’s friend Christina confirmed my assumption, but it was hard to picture the picturesque little square as a military stronghold.
Despite the frigidity, there was a reasonable amount of people hanging around the Belvedere della Sentinella. This is just the Italian way—being outside—and I’ve come to love it. In America, especially during the winter on the east coast, the streets are barren. Italians talk to their friends outside, they make the best out of their hometown, and this just seems like they are experiencing life more.
Bracciano, especially, seemed like a more-than-life type of city; Bracciano seemed like a fairytale. Imagine living in a town in which the main attraction is a medieval castle that is still partly owned by a princess. How could I not feel like I was in a fairytale? I made sure Elena and her friends know how lucky they are to call Bracciano their home. At around midnight, Elena and I made our way to Donnegan’s, a popular pub for a drink and ended the evening with the best pasticceria in town—La Mimosa.