Italy is without doubt the country that, more than any other, owns a unique historical and cultural heritage. In every region, town or small village, we can find architectural riches of inestimable value. The Middle Ages was a politically troubled period, but it has left us a significant number of buildings that are visited by millions of tourists every year.
Naturally, this important historical period also left its mark on Lake Garda. From the northern to the southern part of Italy's largest lake, there are still today a number of remarkable medieval castles that delineate the landscape of Lake Garda with their majesty.
On the eastern shore of Lake Garda, an area administered by the Veneto region and located in the province of Verona, the main medieval buildings are:
Scaliger castle of Malcesine
It is located on a rocky surface close to the shore, perfectly integrated into the ancient village of Malcesine. The keep, or highest tower, stands about 70 metres above the lake and from its summit you can enjoy an exceptional panorama. The castle of Malcesine can be visited for a fee and houses the Natural History Museum of Garda and Monte Baldo.
Scaliger castle of Torri del Benaco
In past centuries, it had the function to defend the ancient village from possible attacks by hostile populations. Perfectly preserved, it can be visited for a fee and houses an ethnographic museum divided into several rooms on different levels. The large lemon house on the south side of the castle is also very beautiful and can be visited.
Scaliger castle of Lazise
Located further south than the previous castles, it still retains its charm today. Built to defend the town, it has been modified several times in the course of time and is now privately owned. Of the ancient city walls, the access roads to the town remain clearly visible, namely Porta Cansignorio in the north, Porta San Zeno in the east and Porta Lion in the south.
On the western shore of Lake Garda, an area administered by the region of Lombardia and located in the province of Brescia, the main medieval buildings are:
Scaliger castle of Sirmione
It is still today the obligatory passage to enter the historical centre of the town of Sirmione. It lies directly in the waters of Lake Garda and is characterised by the presence of a dock that served as a refuge for the Scaligera fleet. The castle can be visited for a fee and is certainly worth a visit also for the splendid view it offers from the tower of the keep over the entire Sirmione peninsula.
Castle of Desenzano del Garda
Located in a slightly elevated position above the waters of Lake Garda, it dominates the entire town from above. After the latest restoration work, it was possible to reopen the patrol walkways and the ascent to the keep tower. It often hosts theatre performances, cultural events and exhibitions.
Rocca of Lonato del Garda
Another splendid fortification in the lower Lake Garda area. Built in an elevated position above the town, it held an important strategic defence function in past centuries. Visitable for a fee, the Rocca houses the Gustavo Adolfo Carlotto Civic Ornithological Museum and is managed by the Ugo Da Como Foundation, an organisation that also manages the nearby Casa del Podestà Museum.
Castle of Drugolo
Also known as Averoldi Castle, it is located in the municipality of Lonato del Garda, positioned slightly north of the town centre. Privately owned, it cannot be visited, but is perfectly preserved and in any case worthy of mention.
Castle of Padenghe sul Garda
It stands in a hilly position, dominating the entire surrounding landscape. Built with a defensive function, it is still very well preserved and within its walls there are some houses. It can be visited free of charge and offers access to the 20-metre-high defence tower from which it is possible to admire the entire southern part of Lake Garda.
Rocca of Manerba del Garda
It is located within the Archaeological Nature Park of the same name, in a particularly evocative geographical position. It consists of the remains of an ancient castle that over the centuries was the site of numerous clashes between different populations. Today it is a popular tourist destination and a strategic observation point on the nearby island of San Biagio and the island of Garda.
Castle of Moniga del Garda
It is part of the Valtenesi medieval fortification system. Built with a simple defensive purpose, today it hosts several private houses inside. Outside, it is surrounded by a splendid public park from which it can be admired in all its majesty.
The northern shore of Lake Garda could not be missing from this list. This area is administered by the Trentino Alto Adige region and located in the province of Trento. The main medieval buildings in this area are:
Castle of Arco
It dominates the town of the same name and the entire Sarca river valley from above, strategically positioned on the top of a rocky peak. It can be visited freely and is an ideal place for a pleasant excursion, as well as an ideal viewpoint towards the northern part of Lake Garda.
Castle of Tenno
Located a few kilometres from the town of Riva del Garda, it is another splendid example of a medieval fortification. Built to defend the nearby village, it has been the scene of numerous battles over the centuries. Privately owned, it cannot be visited, but is well preserved and deserves to be mentioned.
Today, only the ruins are visible of this ancient castle located in the municipality of Nago-Torbole. It can be visited freely and is an ideal place for short hikes, crossing green fields and beautiful wooded areas.
How to get to the castles
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