Lake Garda – Salò

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Lake Garda

The biggest lake in Italy, is bordered by a moraine amphitheatre at the south and develops into a northern arm wedged between the mountains. The powers (Milan and Venice) long fought for the lake and maintained military fleets there. From here, a galley from Salo’ travelled down the Mincio River and the Po River to fight at Lepanto.

Along the river banks a mild climate provides for the cultivation of olives and citrus fruits. The hills toward the plain are covered with vineyards that produce famous wines.

The clear water is inhabited by fish which enrich the nets and the tables that for centuries have satisfied the refined palates of an elite tourism, from the poets Catullus, Goethe and D’Annunzio to politicians such as Churchill.

Relax on the Garda Lake
Relax on the Garda Lake
Photo © francesco@photo

A brief history

Numerous prehistoric sites have been discovered by excavations in the surrounding area of Lake Garda: in Lavagnone, near Desenzano, the oldest wooden plough in the world was found. Polada, near Lonato, has uncovered a lake-dwelling civilization from the Bronze Age.

The Romans built grandiose villas in Sirmione, Desenzano and Toscolano. In Lugana di Sirmione (312 AD) Costantine the victory over Maxentius.

The grain market in Desenzano, where you could also find iron, yarn, paper from Toscolano, coal, lumber and fruit, had already become important in the 1300s.

When Venice conquered Lake Garda in 1426, the Magnificent Homeland was establshed in Salo’, on which six “quadre” (districts) depended.

Under Austrian domination there was significant economic growth: in 1829 the “Lake Garda Society” was established in Gargnano for the pressing of olives; the year after gave birth to the Society of Casino’ in Gardone. In 1852 the railroad arrived at Desenzano with its imposing viaduct with 16 arches.

Lake Garda – Salò

Salò has always represented the gateway to the Riviera along the western bank of Lake Garda, the most important town within the Park and the lively and sophisticated capital of what the Venetians called the “Magnifica Patria”. Its predominant role in the economic and administrative life of the area is today reconfirmed.

The lakeside promenade and the elegant buildings facing onto it offer the opportunity to encounter the people, history and art of the Lake Garda region. Among the buildings which stand out there are the Palazzo della Magnifica Patria, built in 1524 to a design by Sansovino and reconstructed after the earthquake in 1901, and the cathedral, enriched over the centuries by important works of art, from the expressive wooden Crucifix by Giovanni Teutonico the paintings of Palma the Younger and Romanino.

Salo at night
Salò at night – Photo © E.'[Against Censorship]’

The construction of the Duomo di Santa Maria Annunziata in Salò was started in 1453 according to the design of Filippo delle Vacche. The Renaissance portal by Antonio della Porta and Gasparo da Coirano is from 1509.

The Gothic interior is a container of valuable works of art. In the first chapel on the right is the wood group of the Death of Christ (XVI cent.). There are also numerous paintings by Zenon Veronese, Palma Junior (author also of the Assumption frescoed in the vault of the presbytery and the shutters of the Antegnati organ) and Andrea Celesti.

The 1400s main altar-piece is a work by Bartolomeo da Isola Dovarese, with statues by Pietro Bussolo. The candelabra are made of melted bronze from cannons conquered from the Turks. The chapel of the Holy Sacrament was decorated at the end of the XVI cent. by Malosso.

There are two paintings by Romanino in the left nave: the St. Anthony from Padova and the St. Mary with the Baby Jesus and Saints. In the penultimate left altar, the St. Anthony Between the Saints Rock and Sebastian could be by Moretto. In the Baptistery, there is a wooden Christ Crucified by Giovanni da Ulma and next to it, a polyptych of the Virgin on the throne with Saints by Guglielmo Veneziano (XIV cent.).

Where to stay in Salò

There are hotels, apartments, villas and B&Bs available, check them out and make a reservation here.

How to get there

Salo map