Hello hikers and cyclists! 🌳
If you’re looking forward to hiking (or cycling) near Rome in the Manziana Forest, are looking for a mix between forest, interesting trails, the chance to bump into free-roaming animals (cattle + horses), and marvel at some mini-geysers (ok, technically they are not geysers but calderas, but you get the point) all while being surrounded by remnants of Roman and Etruscan history and the chance to bump into some archeological gems, then this hike is for you! 😎 Plus: you can get there by train! How cool is that?
What can you expect?
Imagine embarking on a hike through the mesmerizing landscape of the Silva Mantiana. This vast forested area once commanded the hills west of Lake Bracciano, and while much of it has transformed over time, a section known as Bosco Macchia Grande still thrives in the southwest of Manziana. As you venture deeper into the dense foliage, you can’t help but feel the mystical aura that lingers, almost as if the ancient spirits are whispering their tales in the rustling leaves.
Get ready to explore the Macchia Grande Forest (Bosco Macchia Grande, aka Silva Manziana), once believed to be the Underworld of the Etruscan God Manth (also known as Mantus – some claim it’s also the origin of the city Mantua). Marvel at beautiful, tall trees our way through this ancient Manziana forest, until we reach a place that truly looks and feels like the gate to the underworld: a little bubbling "Caldara di Manziana", a remnant of volcanic activity that used to be present all over Lazio.
Are you ready to explore? Let’s go! 🏞️🚶♀️
Hiking near Rome through the Manziana Forest
Here’s a little video to preview what expects you on this hike:
- A beautiful, natural, and rejuvenating oak forest
- Geological site: Caldera di Manziana
- Free-roaming horses and cattle
- Book exchange at the beginning of the forest
- Many trails to explore inside the Manziana Forest
- Official difficulty scale: E
- My difficulty assessment: Easy/Medium (the biggest challenge to some might be the heat in summer and the overall length – if you hike frequently, this will be easy for you).
- Elevation gain: 170m
- Elevation loss: 170m
- Type: Out-and-back (you can create a little loop by using an alternate return path inside the forest)
- Length: 15km (you can shorten this a fair bit if you skip the Caldera and just remain in the Manziana forest)
- Time: about 4 hours
- Trail quality: good amount of trail signs (red/white flags) as of 2022, generally easy to walk. Some of the trails are busier than others, e.g. on the main trail you may encounter cyclists, other hikers, runners, and people on horseback – while you will get almost none of that on the parallel trails
Some things to be aware of
⚠️🐄🐴There are free-grazing animals in the Manziana Forest – you might bump into a group of horses and/or cows along the way. Keep a safe distance, try to find an alternative route if they block the trail – especially if they are with their babies, and do not attempt to walk through the herd. Also, do not attempt to feed or pet them. If you have dogs, keep them on a leash and find an alternative path around the animals.
⚠️🪰 On the hottest summer days, this forest is full of little flies. This can be a very stressful experience for some people. There are really two options: do not visit the Manziana Forest during summer – or come prepared with a mosquito head net. They look silly, but they will make your experience a good one and you’ll feel like you’re really on an adventure!
⚠️🐶 If you plan to bring a human’s best friend (=dog), you might want to refrain from bringing him to the Caldera and limit your hike to the forest. The gas emitted by the caldera will be invisible and strongest on the ground – exposing your dog to unnecessary danger.
How to get there
The exact direction will depend on where in Rome you’ll start your journey, but chances are that you’ll first have to get onto the highway (Grande Racordo Anulare) circling around Rome, to make it first onto one of the main roads in Northern Lazio (Via Cassia), switching onto Via Braccianese Claudia once you are in La Giustiniana. Drive until Bracciano, another charming town next to Lake Bracciano. From here, follow signs to Manziana. There is parking available right at the train station, but there are several other parking areas and opportunities to park your car closer to the forest (remember: parking lots with blue stripes on the ground usually mean it’s paid parking, white stripes on the ground usually mean it’s free parking).
By public transport
Like many trails in the Viterbo area, this experience is easily accessible by train from Rome. Trains are frequent and take about 1h 12 minutes (from Ostiense station), with fewer trains on Sundays. Most trains to Manziana-Canale Monterano (that’s the name of the station) will depart from Ostiense. That means that if you come from Termini or Tiburtina, you will need to switch over there, however in this case it probably is more convenient to switch trains at Trastevere station. Make sure to check the available departure times and connections on https://www.trenitalia.com.
Starting from the train station, our first step is to exercise a little patience. Surprisingly enough, this station is so compact that the only way to reach the exit is by traversing the train tracks. However, for the time being, the tracks are obstructed by a passing train. Therefore, we’ll wait momentarily until the train departs and ensure that no other trains are approaching before it’s safe to cross.
Once we step outside the station, we ascend the staircase that leads us to the main square of Manziana. This area hosts a bar, making it an ideal spot to grab a quick coffee and take a breather before embarking on our exciting adventure.
To reach the Manziana Forest, there are several routes to choose from. For our journey, I’ve selected a path that cleverly avoids most of the heavy traffic. However, there’s a slightly challenging section just before the forest entrance, where we’ll need to cross a road with a significant flow of vehicles. To ensure our safety and provide a clear view of oncoming traffic, I recommend walking a short distance towards the town until you reach a designated pedestrian crossing. This way, we can navigate this stretch securely while also being able to observe approaching vehicles.
Once in the forest, the mood changes completely. You can choose to follow the trail below, or any of the other trails and explore the forest. Most trails are marked pretty well and it’s rather difficult, though not impossible, to get lost in the woods. If you have zero experience hiking and orienteering, I recommend staying on the main trails for now.
Along the way, you might encounter some animals, other hikers, some historic fountains and possibly some remnants of Etruscan and Roman times.
Once you made it to the Western exit of the Manziana Forest, you will find yourself immersed in the Roman countryside. Possibly you also already start smelling some sulphur in the air. An indication, that you’re getting closer to the Caldera!
After another half an hour or so, you will have to cross another road, once you made it past this point the trail descents into a protected area with some picnic tables.
…we will reach the caldera!
Want to get more out of this hiking experience?
- Book a guided hike with a certified hiking guide, to enjoy this experience in safety and to learn more about the flora, fauna, and to discover some hidden gems along the way!
Reach out to learn about our private hike and group hike availabilities.
- Alternatively, purchase a self-guided hike for a highly detailed trail description, local tips, and everything you need to start exploring on your own safely and organized: Get in touch with us to learn more.