How many castles are there on Lake Garda? And where are they? Which town has a castle on Lake Garda? It might sound strange, but these are three of the most frequently asked questions we receive! If you have a deep appreciation for historic buildings and medieval tales, Lake Garda is a dream come true!
Many medieval villages to see on Lake Garda are enriched by the presence of a castle. From the fairytale ambiance of Sirmione to the majestic vistas of Riva del Garda, and the charming corners of Torri del Benaco and Malcesine. Prepare to journey through time and immerse yourself in the rich history of this enchanting place.
So, if you’re wondering what you can see on Lake Garda in a day, visit one of the magnificent castles and the village that surrounds it. You won’t regret it!
1. Arco Castle
In the northern expanse of Lake Garda stands the formidable Arco Castle, perhaps one of the most distinctive jewels in Lake Garda’s crown. Perched upon a rugged cliff, it unveils itself as the ultimate vantage point to behold the breathtaking panoramas of Trentino.
Becoming a symbol and icon of the city, this castle has been depicted by numerous artists. What remains today of the fortress are the towers and part of the walls. Inside, you can visit the stone prison and the rivellino. Additionally, one of the rooms still houses an intact cycle of secular frescoes from the 14th century.
The journey to Arco Castle is a narrative in itself. A mesmerizing 15-minute walk amidst olive groves unfolds: the sole path leading to the castle’s entrance. Acquire your ticket for €5.00 and embark on your journey through time.
2. Desenzano Castle
The Castle of Desenzano, built in the Middle Ages on the ruins of a Roman fortress, has faced multiple attacks over the centuries due to its strategic location.
Fast forward to today, and the castle has undergone a splendid transformation. After extensive renovations, it has flung open its gates to the public, playing host to a myriad of events and concerts. For a mere €3.00, you can step back in time and explore its storied halls, wander the ramparts, and ascend to the entrance tower. From this vantage point, let the breathtaking views of Lake Garda unfold before your eyes.
Af you fancy more than just a fleeting visit, why not spend the night in a castle? Yes, you heard it right. Desenzano offers a castle for an overnight stay, though not the medieval one I just regaled you with. It’s a charming opportunity!
3. Lazise Castle
The Lazise Castle, commissioned by the Della Scala family on the remains of Roman and medieval fortresses, boasts a square-shaped structure adorned with a significant keep and five towers.
Nestled in the heart of the town, this castle, unfortunately, remains off-limits to internal exploration as it stands on private grounds. However, you can still enjoy a leisurely stroll along the castle garden paths, offering a closer glimpse of its architectural splendor.
Adding to the allure, the well-preserved crenellated walls encircle the entire historic center of the city, exuding a distinct and charming character. While you may not step inside the castle, Lazise generously shares its medieval charm through these picturesque features and the enchanting atmosphere that envelops its historic precincts.
4. Fortress of Lonato
At the summit of Lonato, a quaint village on the Brescia shore, proudly stands the Lonato Fortress. Crafted with military and defensive intent, you approach it by crossing a picturesque drawbridge. The fortress comprises two main structures: the Rocchetta and the Main Quarter.
Nowadays, the Lonato Fortress is open to visitors, playing host to various events such as Fiori nella Rocca, Lonato in Festival, and Fiabe nella Rocca. For those seeking more than a casual visit, the fortress offers a unique opportunity—it’s a wedding venue! Yes, you heard it right. If you’re on the lookout for a medieval castle to tie the knot on Lake Garda, the Lonato Fortress is the perfect backdrop for your special day. Imagine saying “I do” with history as your witness, surrounded by the charm of this medieval masterpiece.
5. Malcesine Castle
Nestled in one of the most picturesque and panoramic spots on Lake Garda, the Scaliger Castle of Malcesine beckons visitors with a leisurely stroll from the heart of the village. This medieval gem is not just a silent sentinel of history; it’s a lively invitation to explore its secrets.
Easily accessible and open to the public, the castle offers more than just stunning views. As you wander through its crenellated walls and terraced lookouts, you’ll stumble upon the famed Goethe Hall. It turns out that the illustrious writer, Goethe, was so captivated by the castle’s beauty during his Italian sojourn that he decided to immortalize it in sketches. Yet, Goethe’s escapade in Malcesine wasn’t all smooth sailing. The locals, perhaps a tad suspicious, mistook him for a German spy, and he narrowly escaped imprisonment.
Adding to the allure, the castle houses the Natural History Museum, a fascinating journey through the flora and fauna that call Lake Garda home.
6. Moniga Castle
In the 10th century, during the tumultuous era of Hungarian invasions, the Moniga Castle emerged as a refuge for locals. Positioned on a gentle elevation along the road connecting other defensive castles in the region, it served as a bulwark against external threats. Unlike many castles, Moniga Castle never served as a noble seat and wasn’t strategically positioned for conquest, sparing it from significant attacks.
This fortunate circumstance has left the castle exceptionally well-preserved throughout the centuries. Its lack of historical battles and strategic significance has inadvertently become its greatest ally in maintaining its original charm.
7. Monzambano Castle
In the roster of medieval castles on Lake Garda, the Monzambano Castle is a standout presence. Nestled within the embrace of the Mincio River Park, it stands as one of the most well-preserved examples of castle architecture in the Mantua region.
Monzambano, once a strategically crucial point, witnessed numerous alterations to its castle over the years. The castle’s enduring charm is owed, in part, to its strategic importance and the resulting renovations it underwent. A highlight of this medieval masterpiece is the impeccably preserved crenellated perimeter wall, encircling the two hills upon which the castle proudly rests.
8. Padenghe Castle
Perched atop the town, overlooking it from a raised vantage point, is the Padenghe Castle—an ancient medieval defensive stronghold. To enter the castle, one must cross the original drawbridge, and upon doing so, you’ll find yourself amidst the remnants of a small medieval village. The journey to this fortress is a short and pleasant walk that commences from the heart of the city.
9. Rocca of Peschiera del Garda
Peschiera del Garda harbors a lesser-known gem built for the Della Scala family. The Rocca di Peschiera del Garda, also known as Rocchetta, is nestled within the Cantarane Bastion, a part of the larger Fortezza.
What makes it particularly intriguing is that it was constructed while preserving the ancient Roman marble tower within its walls. This tower had been strategically placed there due to the area’s significance as a thoroughfare along the Via Gallica.
For the inquisitive minds, a visit to the Fishing Museum is recommended. There, you can find a miniature reproduction of the castle—a delightful glimpse into the historical charm of Peschiera del Garda.
10. Polpenazze Castle
The Polpenazze Castle, too, was initially constructed as a defense against Hungarian invasions. Later, in the 16th century, the Venetians undertook its reconstruction, only to see part of it demolished to make way for the parish church. Today, remnants of the castle include sections of the walls and the ancient entrance.
11. Ponti sul Mincio Castle
Among the defensive structures of the Scaligeri, the Ponti sul Mincio Castle stands out. Noteworthy for its polygonal shape enclosed by five towers, it was constructed between 1260 and 1276. Centuries later, it lost its defensive function and transformed into a reservoir for the aqueduct.
After years of neglect, thanks to restoration efforts, the Ponti sul Mincio Castle has reclaimed its ancient splendor. Today, it stands as a testament to both medieval architecture and the dedication to preserving historical treasures.
12. Puegnago Castle
The Puegnago Castle was erected by the local population in an attempt to fight the intrusion of the Hungarians, similar to the castles of Moniga and Polpenazze. Consequently, it possesses the characteristics of a castle designed to serve as a refuge in times of need.
Nowadays, only the ruins of the castle remain. The protective walls that once enclosed dwellings have endured, although the houses that once stood within have been replaced by a garden. The echoes of its historical purpose persist within the surviving remnants of this medieval fortress.
13. Sirmione Castle
If I were to ask myself “where is the castle of Lake Garda,” I would certainly answer “in Sirmione.”
The Sirmione Castle is a rare example of a perfectly preserved lakeside fortress. Unlike many medieval castles on Lake Garda, it is not situated at the highest point of the town. On the contrary, the Scaliger Castle is surrounded on all four sides by the waters of the lake.
In my opinion, what makes it truly unique is the dock that was added later. Strolling through the medieval village, it almost feels like you’re in front of a castle submerged in Lake Garda. This is because the dock is entirely surrounded by crenellated walls built to protect the Scaliger fleet from the north wind.
Both the castle and the dock are open to visitors. But to admire it in all its beauty, I recommend taking a boat tour of the peninsula and observing it from its best perspective: the water!
14. Torri del Benaco Castle
In the list of medieval castles to visit on Lake Garda, I must highlight Torri del Benaco Castle. It was built in the later period of Scaliger domination, erected upon the remains of a medieval castle. Positioned midway on the route from Peschiera to Riva, the city has always held a strategic significance.
Inside, you can explore the museum that recounts the history of the castle and the main traditions of this lakeside region. Particularly noteworthy is the citrus greenhouse. In times past, many such greenhouses adorned the shores of Lake Garda. The one within Torri Castle is the last remaining and accessible to the public, offering a glimpse into the agricultural history of this enchanting area.
15. Valeggio sul Mincio Castle
Among the medieval castles on Lake Garda, it’s essential to mention the Valeggio sul Mincio Castle. Situated near the medieval village of Borghetto sul Mincio, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, it is easily visible from the Parco Giardino Sigurtà.
A symbol of the city, the castle is accessible through a delightful stroll amid elegant Liberty-style villas. Despite much of the ancient walls being destroyed in a 1117 earthquake, the medieval origin of the castle is still evident in its imposing presence. The Round Tower and parts of the subsequent expansions by the Della Scala family have endured, contributing to the castle’s rich historical tapestry.