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 have be ...
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

Königstein Fortress

Königstein Fortress is located on the left bank of the River Elbe. It is one of the largest hilltop fortifications in Europe. The 9.5 hectare rock plateau rises 240 metres above the Elbe and has over 50 buildings, some over 400 years old, that bear witness to the military and civilian life in the fortress. The rampart run of the fortress is 1,800 metres long with walls up to 42 metres high and steep sandstone faces. In the centre of the site is a 152.5 metre deep well, which is the deepest in Saxony and second deepest well in Europe.

The fortress, which for centuries was used as a state prison, is still intact and is now one of Saxony's foremost tourist attractions, with 700,000 visitors per year.

By far the oldest written record of a castle on the Königstein is found in a deed by King Wenceslas I of Bohemia dating to the year 1233. It is probable that there had been a stone castle on the Königstein as early as the 12th century. The oldest surviving structure today is the castle chapel built at the turn of the 13th century. In the years 1563 to 1569 the 152.5 metre deep well was bored into the rock within the castle - until that point the garrison of the Königstein had to obtain water from cisterns and by collecting rainwater.

Between 1589 and 1591/97 Prince-Elector Christian I of Saxony and his successor had the castle developed into the strongest fortification in Saxony. The hill was now surrounded with high walls. Buildings were erected, including the Gatehouse (Torhaus), the Streichwehr, the Old Barracks (Alte Kaserne), the Christiansburg (Friedrichsburg) and the Old Armoury (Altes Zeughaus). The second construction period followed from 1619 to 1681, during which the John George Bastion was built. The third construction period is seen as the time from 1694 to 1756, which included the expansion of the Old Barracks. From 1722 to 1725, at the behest of August the Strong, coopers under Böttger built the enormous Königstein Wine Barrel, the greatest wine barrel in the world, in the cellar of the Magdalenenburg which had a capacity of 249,838 litres. It cost 8,230 thalers, 18 groschen and 9 pfennigs. The butt, which was once completely filled with country wine from the Meißen vineyards, had to be removed again in 1818 due to its poor condition. Because of Böttger, Königstein Fortress is also the site where European porcelain started.

Even after the expansion during those periods of time there continued to be modifications and additions on the extensive plateau. The Treasury (Schatzhaus) was built from 1854 to 1855. After the fortress had been incorporated in 1871 into the fortification system of the new German Empire, battery ramparts were constructed from 1870 to 1895 with eight firing points, that were to have provided all-round defence for the fortress in case of an attack that, in the event, never came. This was at this time that the last major building work was done on the fortress.

Because Königstein Fortress was regarded as unconquerable, the Saxon monarchs retreated to it from Wittenberg and later Dresden during times of crisis and also deposited the state treasure and many works of art from the famous Zwinger here; it was also used as a country retreat due to its lovely surroundings.

The fortress played an important role in the History of Saxony, albeit less as a result of military action. The Saxon Dukes and Prince-Electors used the fortress primarily as a secure refuge during times of war, as a hunting lodge and maison de plaisance, but also as a dreaded state prison. Its actual military significance was rather marginal.

Since 1955 the fortress has been an open-air, military history museum of high touristic value.