The Gavrinis island is famous because of its important passage grave, a megalithic monument from the Neolithic period, belonging to the same broad context as the Breton megaliths of Carnac and Locmariaquer. At the time of its construction, c. 3500 BC, the island was still connected with the mainland. The rich internal decorations make Gavrinis one of the major treasuries of European megalithic art. The tomb is also remarkable for the care taken in its construction and its good preservation.
The stone mound has a diameter of about 50m. The mass of stones forming the cairn is internally structured by a series of walls, subdividing it into separate 'ranks'. It is a characteristic example of Neolithic dry stone architecture. The mound covers a single rectangular (nearly square) slab-built burial chamber, located at the centre of the mound and measuring about 2.5m across. The chamber is built of about 50 carefully placed slabs. The biggest of these is the ceiling slab which weighs nearly 17 tons.
The chamber is reached from outside by a 14m long corridor or passage. Of the 29 orthostat slabs that form the sides of the passage, 23 are decorated with carved symbols and patterns. Some of the symbols appear to represent non-abstract objects, like axes and croziers or staffs. A common horn-like motif may symbolise cattle, a shape conventionally called the shield may be a very stylised human figure. More abstract motifs include zigzag lines, lozenges and snake-like lines.
A replica of part of the Gavrinis passage with its decorated slabs can be visited in the Museum at the megalithic necropolis of Bougon.References:
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 staircase leads to the walkways above the walls, providing a marvellous view of the harbour that once sheltered the Scaliger fleet. The doors were fitted with a variety of locking systems, including a drawbridge for horses, carriages and pedestrians, a metal grate and, more recently, double hinged doors. Venice conquered Sirmione in 1405, immediately adopting provisions to render the fortress even more secure, fortifying its outer walls and widening the harbour.
Thanks to its strategical geographical location as a border outpost, Sirmione became a crucial defence and control garrison for the ruling nobles, retaining this function until the 16th century, when its role was taken up by Peschiera del Garda.