Rome, Lago di Bracciano & Sutri

camping at Lago di Bracciano - Rome, Italy
Lago di Bracciano

ancient underground tufa church in Sutri
ancient church

Just before the big wedding event, Mike and I found ourselves hightailing it down to Rome, to meet for a day, our dearest friends, who had come from Hong Kong for the wedding, but were first going to sojourn for a week in Rome and Sicily. Already autumn had struck our mountain area, but Rome was in blazing good form and walking the streets in that heat meant that the Trevi fountain was a good option for trailing fingers, and really the dip that we didn’t do…

That night we spent in a caravan park in our little two man tent on the very edge of Lake Bracciano, an easy hour or less north of Rome. It was so wonderful to get there after bulk people and sweat and hustle. We pitched our tent in the moonlit quietness, all around us the rustle of movement in little domes, the air warm and the walk up to the pizzeria mysterious under the shadowy pines. But after a couple of wines and good tucker we were not long out of bed and dead to the world despite the romance of such a beautiful evening. We awoke to dawn and pristine stillness over a glistening lake. We swam and played and finally got ourselves motivated to leave, finding ourselves an inland route home, at least for a while before we hit the autostrada.

It was the best thing. We found Sutri. Several years previously we had found this place by accident, loved it, forgot the name, and could never re-find it. Its an amazing Etruscan site turned over to the Romans, site. Built out of tufa, in one gigantic piece of carving from one rock, there is an ancient amphitheatre, believed to have come from the archaic period of the Etruscans. It is not huge and the stone is well worn and softened by age and overhanging trees in the cliffs above so it feels peaceful and gentle. Delighted, we embarked on the walk around the hill which was like one gigantic boulder with heaps of Etruscan tombs, around 60, most mutilated by a continuing life through the ages; farming, storage, later burials, one really big Etruscan mausoleum becoming a mithraeum then an early Christian church devoted to Our lady of Labour. This underground church is amazing as it is also carved entirely out of the tufa in one piece. Inside are two rows of pillars alongside a large central aisle and on the outer aisles are carved stone reclining seats which were where the Romans, after their devotional rites to Mythros, ate their feast following their sacrificial killing of the bull. There still remain the Christian paintings, including some very old, possibly pre catholic outlines of an upright fish and what looks like an umbrella form. Afterwards we walked up onto the top of the hill overlooking the amphitheatre where there was another church and a garden they called the sacred woods. The garden is ancient, beautiful old trees hollowed out with age, their roots liquid throughout the stone and over the edges of the rocky mound. We now know there are lots of sites around this area and look forward to a return visit, however, Sutri was a really important stronghold for the Etruscans and became important also for the Romans when they conquered it in the 300’s BC. To have found this magical place in this really lovely area felt like a monumental find.