PLACESGarda Lombardia

Lonato del Garda

A journey between Rocca Viscontea and Casa del Podestà.

by Marco Ghirello

The town of Lonato del Garda lies in the south-western area of Lake Garda, between the towns of Desenzano del Garda and Padenghe sul Garda.

The earliest settlements can be traced back to the Bronze Age, as evidenced by some pile-dwelling discoveries in the second half of the 19th century.

In the 4th century B.C. some Celtic populations from central Europe settled in this area, in fact the name Lonato most probably derives from the ancient Celtic term "lona", meaning small lake.

Even in the subsequent Roman period, Lonato was certainly an inhabited place, as demonstrated by the discovery of the remains of a number of villas, on which some churches were later built and still exist today.

Among these churches stands the Pieve di San Zeno, the fulcrum around which the first settlement was formed. With the expansion of the city and its growing strategic importance, a large wall was erected by order of the Visconti family.

They were followed for a short period by the Gonzagas, lords of Mantua, and from the first half of the 15th century began the domination of the Republic of Venice, which lasted for over 350 years.

More recently, in the 19th century, this territory, like the rest of the lower Lake Garda area, was the scene of an important historical event for the independence of Italy.

On 24 June 1859, during the famous battle of San Martino and Solferino, the Piedmontese command was established at Palazzo Zambelli. For a few hours, the commanders-in-chief of the two armies engaged against the Austrian Empire, Victor Emmanuel II and Napoleon II, debated important military decisions here.

Festivities and markets
Patron SaintSan Giovanni Battista
Feast day24 June
Weekly marketThursday

What to see in Lonato del Garda

There are many places and monuments of interest to see during your stay in Lonato del Garda. In the splendid setting of the historical centre, we recommend a visit to the Casa del Podestà, a building dating back to the mid-15th century and seat of the representative of the Serenissima Republic of Venice, from which it controlled the surrounding territory.

It was purchased in 1906 by the lawyer Ugo Da Como, who wanted to restore it to its original splendour and make it his own home. Today it is managed and cared by the foundation entitled to him, preserving an incredible collection of over 50,000 books, making it one of the largest in Italy.

This "museum house" is open to the public and accessible through guided tours.

Curious fact - The library contains a book that is considered by many as "the smallest book in the world", each page measuring only 15 x 9 mm, containing the text of a letter sent in 1615 by Galileo Galilei to the Grand Duchess Cristina di Lorena.

The tour of Lonato del Garda continues to the Rocca Viscontea, located nearby. Remarkably large and well-preserved, it offers a splendid panoramic view and hosts the "Casa del Castellano", currently home to the Civic Ornithological Museum.

One of the most photographed monuments is without doubt the majestic Civic Tower, which stands 55 metres high and silently watches over the ancient village of Lonato del Garda. Built around the middle of the 16th century, it served as an observatory and, being equipped with bells, marked the times of day for the local inhabitants. On the side facing the Piazza del Comune there is a large clock with Roman numbers.

Located a few metres away lies the Basilica di San Giovanni Battista, which is also quite large and is notable for its majestic dome that reaches a height of 60 metres. Completed towards the end of the 18th century according to a project by architect Paolo Soratini, it has a Latin cross plan and is a splendid example of Baroque architecture.

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What to do in Lonato del Garda

Lonato del Garda is therefore a location that lends itself very well to being visited by those who love Italian history and art. Its historic centre and strategic position, located just a few kilometres from the shores of Lake Garda, make it an attractive destination for a relaxing holiday in contact with nature.

The hilly area with its mild climate, where luxuriant olive trees grow, is particularly suitable for long, relaxing walks or bicycle rides.

The excursion to Maguzzano Abbey, located in the hamlet of Maguzzano, is particularly interesting. Built by Benedictine monks towards the end of the 15th century, it still plays an important religious role today and houses a museum area with a rich collection of artefacts, ethnographic materials and archaeological finds.

Another excursion we recommend is to the Drugolo Castle, also located in the homonymous locality. Privately owned, it cannot be visited internally, but is clearly visible from the nearby path and located in a green area of remarkable beauty.

Don't forget to visit the Roman furnaces of Lonato del Garda. This ancient archaeological site, located to the south of the town centre, was part of a vast craft complex for the production of bricks.

The nearby towns of Desenzano del Garda, Sirmione and Padenghe can be reached in a few minutes, as well as a swim on the lakeside stretch of the Lido di Lonato.

Shopping enthusiasts can't miss a visit to the nearby Leone Shopping Center, the largest shopping center in the lower Lake Garda area, the only one in the area to house an Apple Store.

Image gallery

Click on the button below to open the Lonato del Garda image gallery.

Map of tourist sites

Click on the button below to open the detailed map of Lonato del Garda, where we have marked the main tourist sights of this place, sorted by typology.


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