Already a village in Roman times, Garda stretches out alongside the waters of a particularly beautiful gulf, dominated by the ancient Camaldolese monastery and the legendary Rock, from which the imprisoned queen Adelaide escaped and fled to Canossa to marry Otto I, the king of Germany.
The name “Garda” is derived from the Longobard term “warda“ (guard), a high place suitable for use as a military lookout point and a reference to the fortress built to defend the town from the first Barbarian invasions on the “Rock of Garda“, the hill overlooking it, upon which stood a castle and a church consecrated to San Colombano.
The Punta San Vigilio peninsula closes the Gulf of Garda off on the north-western side. A relaxing, 3-km-walk, most of it along the flat, leads to this romantic island of peace and poetry, which takes its name from a monk who lived here in the 13th century and was later made a saint, although the town was inhabited from Roman times onwards.
On the small port is the ancient little church of San Vigilio, with next to it the splendid Brenzoni-Guarienti villa, built in the first half of the 16th century by the noble family of the same name from Verona. The magnificent surrounding landscape has made this one of the best-known spots on the Riviera, not least of all thanks to the famous Baia delle Sirene, or Mermaids’ Bay, a destination for the tourists both from the land and on boat.
Garda has always attracted illustrious visitors, among them the King of Naples, the Duchess Maria Luigia of Parma, the Emperor Alexander of Russia, Winston Churchill, Prince Charles of Wales and the actors Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh.
The lush vegetation that grows here includes cypresses, olive trees, oleander and bougainvilleas.
The area boasts a wealth of villas and parks, testifying to the large number of noble families who chose Garda as their permanent or holiday home over the centuries, and visitors can also admire a number of Gothic and Renaissance buildings, some of them attributed to Sanmicheli.