Lakes of Lombardy Secrets
They have seen the birth of prehistoric forms of life and civilisations, defended Italy from the threat of invasion and fascinated poets and writers. Lakes of Lombardy are a wealth of history just waiting to be discovered, either on a trip around their banks or a journey into the surrounding area.
Lakes of Lombardy Secrets – Lake Garda
An inland branch of the Mediterranean sea for many centuries, the upper Garda Lake is the northernmost part of a large citrus-producing area. Terraced crops and facilities protecting the plants during winter were first introduced in the Thirteenth century and impressed Goethe during his Italian Journey at the end of Eighteenth century.
Scattered in the territory around the municipalities of Limone, Gargnano and Maderno, these old lemon crops, or what is left today of the old facilities, pay witness to a long history of work, skilfulness and impressive results.
The large greenhouse on the lake shore is of great architectural and landscape interest. In Limone, a special lemon crop called Limonaia del Castel, situated under the rocks of Mount Sughera is also worth a visit.
Gabrielle D’Anunzio, Italian writer and poet, had the merit of making the Limone del Garda village accessible by road. Until 1931, it could only be reached on foot or by boat, he was the main advocate for the construction of Gardesana Occidentale road.
Limone is also the birthplace of a saint, San Danielle Comboni, whose house can still be visited to get an inside of the work of missionaries. Walking through the village narrow alleys you will come across San Pietro’s church, a patron of the place since the Ninth century.
Tremisone overlooks the lake from above on an extensive plateau and resembles more an alpine village than a lake town. The Terrazza del Brividio is not to be missed, a panoramic terrace suspended at a height of 350m over the lake surface.
Formaggella di Tremisone – is a kind of soft cheese with a fragant taste and a delicate smell of mountain prairie, it is cured in rooms with selected mildews types.
Valvestino is a border and transition land, which was been inhabited since prehistory, during World War I was under Austrian rule. The barns with thatched roof of Cima Rest and Denai are worth visiting for sure.
A must-visit in Toscolano Moderno is the Valle delle Cartiere, eroded by the river that in medieval times was used to power the factories producing the handmade paper that was famous all over Europe. On the way back around the lake, there is the Basilica Sant’Andrea with its mabel multi colour facade.
Another must-see in the old town is the late Gothic Cathedral built between 1453 and 1502 on the site of an older building. Not far away, the recently inaugurated Mu.Sa. is also worth a visit, opened in 2015 this museum explains the town identity.
Nestling between the lake and hill, Gardone Riviera enjoys a particularly favourable micro-climate for plants, which have turned the town into a large botanical garden. Visitors must see the Heller Garden, where three thousand botanical species from all over the world grow.
Ideal for families, Manerba beach is the biggest and best known in the area. It offers water sports and shady areas under the trees behind the lake. Olive trees are documented to have grown around the lake since Roman times.
The lower Garda has a wealth of historic sites, with roots dating back as far as the Bronze age. The remains of a sumptuous villa known as the Grotte di Catullo are in exceptional panoramic position, right at the far end of the Sirmione peninsula.
Built for strategic purposes at the end of the thirteenth century, Rocca Scaligera in Sirmione is one of the best preserved castle in Italy. A Roman and medieval museum of stone is housed in the castle’s large inner portico, given the most important information about the fortress.
The remains of the Roman villa in Desenzano are the most important evidence of the great villas of late- Antiquity in Northern Italy. It shows reconstructions and fragments, as well as kitchen and eating pots and small bronze utensils. In Desenzano castle there is also a small arena for historic re-enactments.
The northern tower of Soiano castle, a quadrangular fortification that stands out for its very high walls, offers an extraordinary view of the lake. Parco del Risorgimento evokes the battle between Austrian and Piedmont armies in the second Italian War of Independence (24 June 1859).
Lakes of Lombardy Secrets – Lake Como
The Doumo di Como, skilfully constructed using late Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements, and the Tempio Voltiano, built to mark the centenary of Alessandro Volta’s death, summarise the spirit of Como perfectly.
The neoclassical Volta Temple, influenced by Andrea Palladio, nestles on the lake shore. It displays original scientific instruments belonging to the great scientist, along with documents and other item illustrating his life.
Before arriving at the Doumo, it’s worth detouring from the fascinating shoreline route to take in the Novocomun, the condominium designed by Giuseppe Terragni that is one of Italy’s first example of modern architecture.
Lake Como’s only island, the tiny Isola Comacina, has a long and intricate history. In Roman and medieval times it acted as both a military base and key religious centre. Stunning views and lush vegetation make the island a must-see.
Another must-see is the Faro Voltiano lighthouse in San Maurizio, a 29 metres high octagon-plan tower built to mark the centenary of Alessandro Volta’s death. A climb to the top of its 143-stip spiral staircase rewards the visitors with astounding views.
One of Italy’s most beautiful villages, Tremezzina is spellbinding, where verdant gardens, water and stone merge to compose a unique symphony. Vila Amila designed by Pietro Lingeri to look like a ship sailing through the woods.
Nature, archaeology and history all play pivotal roles in Spina Verde regional park. Every year at the end of summer at Baradello Castle, the Palio del Baradello is held : 20 days of exciting historical re-encatments that take over the town and lakeside villages.
The “Museo del cavallo giocattolo” – toy horse museum – a collection of over 650 toy horses from around the world, dating from the 18th century to the modern day. On display is a fascinating array of rocking, hobby and clock horses made of wood, papier-mâché, tin and fabric.
Lake Como has been a prestigious destination for centuries and its villas stand as testimony to that prestige. The garden of Villa Melzi, is characterised by sculptures and architecture, it was designed by Luigi Canonica and the botanist Luigi Villoresi.
Villa del Balbianello,, has long been favourite with directors and actors, and has provided the setting for movies as such James Bond Casino Royale, and Episode II – Attack of the Clones from George Lucas Star Wars saga.
Sacred Mont of Ossucio – A UNESCO world heritage site, the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Soccorso dominates the lake from the hills above Lenno. Fourteen small baroque temples – representing the 14 mysteries of the rosary – form the avenue of chapels.
The Orrido waterfall, Nesso – Crashing into a natural gorge called Orrido di Nesso, this waterfall was cited by Leonardo da Vinci, in his Atlantic Code. An inspiration to painters and writers, it has also supplied energy to flour, paper, spinning and oil mills.