History and Culture
Immerse yourself in the history of Lake Garda
Benaco or Lake Garda, or “Benaco”, is the largest of the pre-alpine lakes in Italy, as well as the one with the richest history.
The name “Benaco” would appear to be of Celtic origin, with “Ben” - meaning “tip” – referring to the little peninsulas and headlands that jut out over the lake’s waters, and since ancient times the lake has provided the inspiration for some of the most beautiful pages in Greek and Latin poetry, as indeed for Dante, who dedicated two tercets replete with geographical indications to it in the Divine Comedy.
Lake Garda Right from the Bronze Age, the lake has been home to people who found food there and travelled across its waters, as is testified to by the frequent traces of lake dwellings found here.
in the Middle Ages
In the Middle Ages, the Romans began colonising the countryside around Verona, giving rise to more stable settlements, the CASTLES: indeed, the layout of the towns along the lakeshore (Peschiera, Lazise, Bardolino, Torri del Benaco, Garda, Malcesine) derives from the castle-neighbourhood combination and the defensive features it implied, which remained in place until the Venetians defeated the Viscounts of Milan and the Carraresi family of Padua, as a result of which the population grew in the surrounding countryside and agriculture received a boost, particularly from the farming of silk worms, which fed on the mulberry leaves.
LiteratureIn 1786, the poet Wolfgang Goethe, during his “Italian Journey” took a boat trip around the shores of the lake, and was awestruck by the lively scene that met his eyes, by the magnificent views formed by the olive groves stretching out in the distance and the greenhouses filled with citrus trees.
Goethe, a man of the North, saw these aspects of the landscape as heralding the natural beauties of the Mediterranean, and he was so enchanted as to point out its charms to other German, French and English writers, who subsequently followed in his footsteps in search of peace and quiet, finding this area to be an excellent backdrop for their novels. Since then, a growing number of visitors have decided to frequent the banks of Lake Garda, attracted here by the Mediterranean-like climate, the light and the colours of the lake.
Modern and In 1400, the EASTERN shore of the lake – the present-day Verona side of the Garda area – was less independent and industrialised than the western shore, but the villages in the Verona District organised themselves into the GARDESANA DELL’ACQUA, a federation of a fiscal nature whose main aim was to combat smuggling and other types of crime.
From 1500, plague, cholera and famine ravaged the Garda areas, especially those in the east, because the structure of the land was such as to allow foreign soldiers to pass through it easily.
After 1815, battles in the “wars of independence” were fought here, until the areas became part of Italy: the Lombardy shore in 1859, the Veneto side in 1866 and the Trentino side in 1918.
Numerous findings from all these periods in history can be found both in the local museums and throughout the area itself.