The area around Rome is actually home to several volcanic lakes. One of the lakes, Lake Nemi, is located near Olive Tree Hill.
Lake Nemi and Nemi, the village that is perched on the lip of the volcanic crater, offer a wide appeal. Whether you’re interested in mythology, history, food and authentic Italian small town life, Nemi will captivate your attention.
Lake Nemi is nicknamed “Diana’s Mirror.” Diana is the Roman goddess of the moon (and also sometimes referred to as the goddess for hunting, the woods, animals and fertility). A temple was constructed in her honor in a grove of oak trees on the north shore of Lake Nemi. Under a full moon, the temple would shimmer and shine, reflecting onto the water of the lake. The temple ruins are still visible today and can be visited. An annual festival during the August full moon called Nemoralia honors Diana. Participants take torches and candles to the shores of Lake Nemi at night.
Notorious Roman emperor Caligula had ceremonial barges on Lake Nemi. The largest was 350 feet long and 60 feet wide (about the size of an American football field). The barge resembled a floating palace and housed a temple that honored the goddess Diana. The ships are considered to be engineering marvels, using some techniques considered revolutionary and advanced for the time.
Legends swirled about Caligula’s ships resting in Lake Nemi as far back as the Middle Ages. However, they remained a mystery until Mussolini ordered engineers to drain the lake in the late 1920s. As the lake level dropped, two ships emerged in 1931. A museum was quickly constructed to cover these ships and the associated artifacts, which had been underwater for almost 1900 years. A fire during WWII damaged the museum, but it was restored and reopened in 1953. The museum currently houses scale replicas of the ships.
The town of Nemi is best known for its wild strawberries, which are smaller and sweeter than the average strawberry. For the past 85 years, a strawberry festival is held during the first weekend of June. However strawberries are available throughout the year, appearing in obvious places such as desserts and unexpected places like risottos and liqueurs.
Nemi is perfect for a wander; it offers gorgeous lake views, charming cafes, ornate churches and a 10th century castle (Castello Ruspoli). And you’ll be experiencing all of it without other foreigners, as this village is still rather undiscovered despite its close proximity to Rome.