Top historic sites in Lake Garda

Villafranca Castle

The Castle of Villafranca di Verona was built starting in 1199, after the Battle of Ponte dei Molini (Mantua), and was completed in 1202. The purpose was to defend the population of Villafranca in casa of sudden attacks from Mantua. Serraglio, a defensive wall unique in Europe, was built in 1345. It is about 13 miles long. It started from Borghetto and linked five castles: Borghetto, Valeggio, Gherla, Villafranca and Nog ...
Founded: 1199 | Location: Villafranca di Verona, Italy

Desenzano Castle

The ancient Desenzano castle was originally built around the year 1000. Enlarged at the end of the 15th century, the castle never became a real military fort, but served primarily as a refuge for the population. The plan of the castle is an irregular rectangle, with the tower that stands out at the entrance on the northern side, protecting the drawbridge, which loopholes for the chains are still preserved. The castle is o ...
Founded: c. 1000 | Location: Desenzano del Garda, Italy

Isola del Garda

The Garda Island is at present owned by the Cavazza family. 130 Gallic-Roman tombstones found on the island prove the inhabitance of it during Roman times. Abandoned to its own ends during the centuries of the decline of the Roman Empire, it became a game reserve at the end of 879. he first historical mention can be found in a decree by Carloman in 879 which documented the donation of the island to the monks of San Zeno o ...
Founded: | Location: San Felice del Benaco, Italy

Sirmione Castle

Sirmione castle was built near the end of the 12th century as part of a defensive network surrounding Verona. The castle was maintained and extended first as part of the Veronese protection against their rivals in Milan and later under the control of the Venetian inland empire. The massive fortress is totally surrounded by water and has an inner porch which houses a Roman and Medieval lapidary. From the drawbridge, a stai ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Sirmione, Italy

Malcesine Castle

Malcesine"s most prominent landmark is the Castello Scaligero, which has 13th-century fortifications and an older medieval tower in white natural stone. Like the castle of Sirmione at the southern end of the lake, it is named for the della Scala family of Verona who ruled the region in the 13th and 14th centuries, and has the characteristic swallow-tail Ghibelline merlon crenallations. Remnants of an Etruscan tomb ha ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Malcesine, Italy

Arco Castle Ruins

Arco Castle ruins are located on a prominent spur high above Arco and the Sarca Valley. The exact date of its foundation is unknown but it existed at least after the year 1000 AD. The area around Arco was inhabited already before the Middle Ages, the castle was said to have been built by the citizens and only later becoming the property of the local nobles. The counts of Arco, probably of Italian origin, were first menti ...
Founded: 10th century AD | Location: Arco, Italy

Desenzano Roman Villa

The Roman Villa of Desenzano del Garda, with rich mosaics, is one of the residential buildings of the best preserved late Roman age of Northern Italy. A group of rooms with heating systems to cavity is from the first half of the 1st century AD, which probably belongs to the General system of the complex. In the first half of the 4th century, the mansion underwent a complete and organic reconstruction led to the creation o ...
Founded: 0-300 AD | Location: Desenzano del Garda, Italy

Rocca Castle

Rocca, a medieval castle with quadrangular bastions bounded by a canal with drawbridge, was built in 1124. It was the fortress of the noble family Scaligeri, who became the Lords of Verona. It was rebuilt several times and it was used by the Austrians as barracks in the 18th century. It is frequently the seat of cultural activities, especially during the summer months. It hosts the Civic Museum and of the Picture Gallery.
Founded: 1124 | Location: Riva del Garda, Italy

Valeggio Castle

Valeggio Castle, situated on tall spurs overlooking the River Mincio, bears the typical characteristics of a Della Scala castle, even if it was most probably built on a pre-existing structure. The Scaligeri family realised its strategic importance and erected a castle featuring the typical massive walls, square towers, battlemented keep, draw-bridge and passage guarded by a tower which is shorter than the others. The cast ...
Founded: 13th century | Location: Valeggio sul Mincio, Italy

Torri del Benaco Castle

The present castle at Torri del Benaco (Castello Scaligero) was built by Antonio della Scala in 1383 to the ruins of a older castle dating back to the Xth century. The West Tower of older castle still remains. In 1760 the second curtain wall was torn down to make way for the Lemon Grove. The decline of the castle ended in 1980 when the Commune of Torri started complete restoration under the architect Rudi Arrigo.
Founded: 1383 | Location: Torri del Benaco, Italy

Manerba

There are remains of a Mesolithic village the Manerba archaeological park area, while under natural terrace located in the foothills of the Rocca (castle) are traces of a Neolithic settlement from between 4,500 and 4,000 BC, and an important necropolis dating from the Copper Age.
Founded: 8000-4000 BC | Location: Manerba del Garda, Italy

Riva del Garda Bastion

The bastion of Riva del Garda is one of the icons of the town. Built on the Rocchetta mountain it is easily reachable in 15-20 minutes walking along a paved road. The bastion was built at the beginning of the 16th century to protect the town as well as its inhabitants right after the Venetian domination of Riva had come to an end. The building was destroyed in 1703 by the French troops under the command of General Vend&oc ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Riva del Garda, Italy

Grotte di Catullo

The Grotte di Catullo was a large Roman villa on the end of the Sirmione peninsula. The villa, built around 150 AD, is the most important example of a high-class residence in the whole of northern Italy. Just after the entrance to the archaeological park one find the Museum, where objects brought to light during the excavation of the villa, and in archaeological work conducted in Sirmione and other localities of lake Gard ...
Founded: 150 AD | Location: Sirmione, Italy

Lazise Castle Ruins

This fortified town of Lazise was first mentioned in a document dated 983 AD, yet the present castle was erected during the reign of Bartolomeo and Antonio della Scala, as evidenced by the fact that the castle bears their initials in several places. The castle was at one time protected by draw-bridges and heavy gates. Judging by its size, the castle presumably served to offer protection (in time of strife) not only to the ...
Founded: 14th century | Location: Lazise, Italy

Saint Andrea Church

Saint Andrea church overlooks over the older part of Torbole. It was first mentioned in a document dated 1175. In 1183 the Pope Lucius III assigned it, together with the surrounding olive grove, to the Cistercian Abbey of Saint Lorenzo in Trento. In 1497 some of the properties of the Church were given for the support of a priest who would look after of the Torbole Community. In 1741 the curate of Torbole has been founded ...
Founded: 12th century | Location: Nago-torbole, Italy

San Pietro in Mavino

In 765 AD Cuninomodo, a member of the nobility, was ordered by the King Desiderio and Queen Ansa to donate his property to Sirmione’s basilicas and the Brescian monastery San Salvatore to expiate his guilt for a murder committed in Pavia’s royal palace. This is the period when San Pietro in Mavinas church was build (the name probably comes from the Latin “ad summa vineas” meaning place with the win ...
Founded: 1320 | Location: Sirmione, Italy

Ossario di San Martino

The Ossario di San Martino is a small chapel that houses over 1,200 skulls and over 2,000 bones that belonged to fallen soldiers who fought in a key 19th-century European conflict. In 1859, during the Second Italian War of Independence, there was a great battle here, more commonly called the Battle of Solferino. It was fought out between Austrian and the Piedmontese army. Solferino was the largest battle since that at ...
Founded: 1870 | Location: Desenzano del Garda, Italy

Santa Maria Annunziata Church

The construction of the Chiesa di Santa Maria Annunziata (dedicated to the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary) was begun in 1453 by the architect Filippo delle Vacche of Caravaggio. It is built in the Late Gothic style to replace the previous edifice that stood at the site. Its façade remains unfinished. The church preserves within it paintings by Romanino, Moretto da Brescia, Zenone Veronese and Paolo Veneziano. The ...
Founded: 1453 | Location: Salò, Italy

Peschiera Fortress

Peschiera del Garda was once the site of an ancient lake-dwelling settlement. The fortress played a prominent part in most military campaigns conducted in northern Italy after 1400. In the middle of the 16th century the fortress and town passed into the hands of the Venetians, who ordered reconstruction of the fortress according to projects by Guidobaldo da Urbino and Sanmicheli. Napoleon added two new fortresses there. A ...
Founded: 16th century | Location: Peschiera del Garda, Italy

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

São Jorge Castle

São Jorge Castle is a Moorish castle occupying a commanding hilltop overlooking the historic centre of the Portuguese city of Lisbon and Tagus River. The strongly fortified citadel dates from medieval period of Portuguese history, and is one of the main tourist sites of Lisbon.

Although the first fortifications on this hilltop date from the 2nd century BC, archaeological excavations have identified a human presence in the Tagus valley as far back as the 6th century BC. The first fortification was, presumably, erected in 48 BC, when Lisbon was classified as a Roman municipality.

The hill was first used by indigenous Celtic tribes, then by Phoenicians, Greeks, and Carthaginians as a defensible outpost that was later expropriated by Roman, Suebic, Visigothic, and Moorish peoples. During the 10th century, the fortifications were rebuilt by Muslim Berber forces, these included the walls or Cerca Moura ("Moorish Encirclement").

Kingdom

In the context of the Christian Reconquista, the castle and the city of Lisbon were freed from Moorish rule in 1147 by Afonso Henriques and northern European knights in the Siege of Lisbon during the Second Crusade; this victory was the only notable success of that failed crusade. According to an oft-repeated legend, the knight Martim Moniz, noticing that one of the doors to the castle was open, prevented the Moors from closing it by throwing his own body into the breach, thus allowing Christian soldiers to enter at the cost of his own life. With the taking of the castle Christian forces were able to maintain the defense of Lisbon until the end of the 12th century.

When Lisbon became the capital of the kingdom in 1255, the castle served as the alcáçova, a fortified residence for Afonso III, in his role as governor. It was extensively renovated around 1300 by King Denis I, transforming the Moorish alcáçova into the Royal Palace of the Alcáçova. Between 1373 and 1375, King Ferdinand I ordered the building of the Cerca Nova or Cerca Fernandina, the walled compound that enclosed the entirety of the castle. The master builders João Fernandes and Vasco Brás were responsible for its construction. This wall, which partially replaced the old Moorish walls, was designed to encircle previously unprotected parts of the city. Completed in two years, it had 77 towers and a perimeter of 5,400 metres.

The castle and the city resisted the forces of Castile several times during the 14th century (notably in 1373 and in 1383–1384). It was during this period (the late 14th century) that the castle was dedicated to Saint George by King John I, who had married the English princess Philippa of Lancaster. Saint George, the warrior-saint, was normally represented slaying a dragon, and very was popular in both countries.

From this point onward many of the kingdom's records were housed in the Torre de Ulisses, also known as the Torre Albarrã, until the reign of Manuel I. The Portuguese National Archive is still referred to as the Torre do Tombo. Between 1448 and 1451, the master builder was paid several stipends for his work on the palace. These public works continued until 1452, with additional payments being made for labor and materials to convert the building from a fortified castle to a royal residence.

Around the early 16th century, following the construction of the Ribeira Palace beside the Tagus river, the Palace of Alcáçova began to lose its importance. An earthquake occurring in 1531 further damaged the old castle, contributing further to its decay and neglect. In 1569, King Sebastian ordered the rebuilding of the royal apartments in the castle, intending to use it as his official residence. As part of the rebuilding, in 1577 Filippo Terzi demolished one of the towers near the principal facade of the Church of Loreto. However, many of the works were never completed after the young king's apparent death during the Battle of Alcácer Quibir. The following Portuguese dynastic crisis opened the way for sixty years of Spanish rule and the castle was converted into military barracks and a prison. On 30 December 1642, Teodósio de Frias the Younger was appointed master builder to continue the works begun by his father, Luís de Frias, and his grandfather, Teodósio de Frias. This was part of a greater plan by the Spanish forces to recommission the fortification.

However, after Portugal regained its independence following the Portuguese Restoration War, the works were taken over by the Portuguese government. On 6 November 1648, Nicolau de Langres was called upon to take over the design, execution and construction of a new fortification that would surround the Castle of São Jorge and the city walls of Lisbon. In 1650 the military architect Mateus do Couto was named master builder of the project and reconstruction took on a new formality: although the military engineer João Gillot built new walls in 1652, construction again followed Couto's plans between 1657 and 1733. In 1673, the Soldiers' Hospital, dedicated to São João de Deus, was installed on the grounds beside the Rua do Recolhimento. At the end of the 17th century the Recolhimento do Castelo was constructed along the southeast angle of the courtyard, and in 1733, new projects were initiated by master Custódio Vieira.

The 1755 Lisbon earthquake severely damaged the castle and contributed to its continuing decay: apart from the walls of the old castle, the soldier's hospital and the Recolhimento were left in ruins. The necessity of maintaining a supporting military force within the capital city required expansion of the site's role of garrison and presidio. From 1780 to 1807, the charitable institution Casa Pia, dedicated to the education of poor children, was established in the citadel, while soldiers continued to be garrisoned on site. Inspired by the events of the earthquake and the following tsunami, the first geodetic observatory in Portugal was constructed in 1788 at the top of one of the towers of the castle, later referred to as the Torre do Observatório.

Republic

As part of the commemorative celebrations marking the foundation of nationhood and restoration of independence, the government of António de Oliveira Salazar initiated extensive renovations at the site. Most of the incongruous structures added to the castle compound in previous centuries were demolished and there was a partial restoration of the Recolhimento. In addition, on 25 October 1947, a monument dedicated to Afonso Henriques, presented by the city of Porto, of a replica created by Soares dos Reis (in 1887) was installed on the grounds.