A short guide to Lake Bracciano, Italy

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Lake Bracciano is a beautiful spot approximately 32km from Rome. Three Italian villages border the lake on it's 32km perimeter - Bracciano, Anguillara Sabazia and Trevignano Romano. Visiting my Uncle in Manziana we took time out to drive around the lake and visit all three.



It's a part of Italy I am grateful to have visited but never would have had I not known someone living there.

Bracciano

Obviously as a child I wished I could live in a castle like a princess and given my name is Hebrew for princess this should have automatically been the case.

It wasn't until I visited Castello Orsini-Odescalchi (aka where Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes got married) that I realised princesses actually had it tough with the high ceilings and lack of modern insulation and heating systems. In the height of summer it was fricken freezing.



Guided tours run regularly (including in English) and take around an hour for 7 Euros 50. It's fascinating hearing the history and imagining what the castle was like in its full glory.


Bracciano itself is on a steep hill overlooking the lake. I was warned not to mention Tom or Katie to any of the locals as they came out in droves, decorating their town to celebrate the wedding, only to be ignored by the couple and their guests.

Anguillara 

Anguillara is a beautiful old village with houses stacked up its hill. People were swimming on the shores and going about their daily lives.


Something I loved about Rome was the free drinking water available from fountains all over the city - Lake Bracciano is where Rome's drinking water comes from. Since 1986 controls have been in place as to avoid pollution of its waters, one example of which is that Motorboats are strictly forbidden on the lake (with a few exceptions such as for a few professional fisherman and the authorities). This adds to the peacefulness as well as making Bracciano one of the cleanest lakes in Italy.

Terevignano

Further around, our final stop Terevignano was quieter with park-like areas.  On the hill were the ruins of Terevignano's own castle.

We sat outside a trattoria on the lake shore and shared a margherita pizza and Italian wine in the sun by the lakeside.




Russell and the Bay of Islands

Thursday, 22 January 2015

At Wellington Anniversary Weekend Mike and I stayed in a typical Kiwi bach belonging to members of his family at Long Beach, over the hill from Russell. It's a really lovely spot and I hope for a return invite.


The vehicle ferry between Opua and Okiato goes approximately every 10 minutes and is only $1 per passenger, $11 for a car. The last ferry goes at 10pm but if you are too late to make it there are ways to drive around. We took a 9km windy, hilly and unlit gravel road. One possum was killed en-route but many more were lucky to get away with their lives.

Russell was New Zealand's first capital and is full of history, for example Christ Church in Russell is New Zealand's oldest existing church. In 1845, during the Battle of Kororareka between British forces and Maori unhappy with British rule, the church was hit by stray musket and cannon balls, the damage from which remains.


The Duke of Malborough was New Zealand's first licensed hotel. They were packed to capacity and the wait was long but the food impressive and the view unbeatable. Perhaps they should never have moved the capital from Russell.




I learnt about Hell Hole from a fellow fussy Wellington coffee drinker on social media. It was a good sure bet and their bagels were also great, their only fault being that they were out of avocado. The Wharf , another great brunch spot should start serving Iced Coffees and Iced Chocolates - mine was not the only request I heard denied in the short time I was there. I can highly recommend the waffles and the muesli with fruit and yoghurt was massive. I'm also positive I spied Simon Gault there and he'd not be seen dead anywhere less than decent.

We jumped on an Explore 'Swim with the Dolphins' tour which cost $95 per adult, $50 for children $15 cash is payable if you 'splash' (swim) and a voucher to return is provided if no dolphins sighted.

The company has a 50% swim success rate. You can't swim when a dolphin calf is present (less than two years of age) as they require extremely regular feeding to maintain their body temperature and human interaction will distract them from this.

Dolphin photo courtesy of Mike Rishworth
Half-way through the trip it was looking like a swim was unlikely as both pods (one of 12 dolphins which would have been the best to swim with ratio-wise) we'd come across had minors present. In the end we were only able to swim with Jo, a solo dolphin who gave us a 4 or 5 out of 10 swimming experience.

The captain summed things up nicely when he pointed out the trip was 'swim with the dolphins' not 'float with the dolphins' you need to be a strong swimmer to keep up with dolphins like Jo. Dolphins can hold their breath for up to 15 minutes at a time so much of the time she was under water.

Some friends bought us back some freshly caught Snapper from their fishing trip ($100pp for a half day out). The Crusty Crab where we'd bought fish & chips for lunch was closed by 9pm so we were grateful to the staff at Hone's Garden who happily battered and cooked it for us while we waited in their pretty beer garden before consuming it on the waterfront watching the sun set on our time in the Bay of Islands.

Have you swum with dolphins? Do you think Russell looks like a sweet holiday spot?

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