Gargnano: between luxury villas and lemon houses
Today I will take you to discover Gargnano del Garda, a village unknown to many, but that excels for beauty and elegance. Located on the western shore of Lake Garda, it shows holds a peculiarity: it has a flat part towards the lake and a mountainous hinterland. Despite its small size, it is the largest municipality in the Alto Garda Bresciano Park. Before accompanying you to discover the three things to see in Gargnano, I would like to give you some suggestions about how to get to your destination.
How to reach Gargnano?
By car you can take the A4 Milano/Venezia motorway. If you arrive from, Milan exit Brescia Est and then continue towards Salò, Riva del Garda. From Venice take the exit for Desenzano and then follow the road signs towards Salò.
If you arrive by train, the nearest railway station is Desenzano.
Alternatively you can reach by train Rovereto, take the bus Rovereto-Riva del Garda and then take the bus to Desenzano. Gargnano is about halfway.
This place to visit on Lake Garda of just over 2 thousand inhabitants is crowded with visitors especially during the summer. Do you know why? In this small village you will find everything you need for your holiday. Let’s discover its history together!
Even if it doesn’t look like it, Gargnano has 12 suburbs scattered all around, that deserve even a short visit. Over the centuries the town has developed acquiring charm and elegance.
You should know that here once there were Etruscans, Romans and Celts. In fact, its ancient name “Garenius” turns out to be of Roman age.
The town later became a convent of the twelfth century, with the arrival of San Francesco on Lake Garda.
The beautiful Gargnano has gained notoriety thanks to the family of the Counts Bettoni. They built an imposing villa that gave to the village its own identity. The family was linked to the Magnifica Patria, of which Gargnano became part under the Venetian ruling.
After the fall of the Republic of Venice Gargnano becomes part of the Republic of Brescia, following its fate. It then passed under the Napoleonic domination, then Habsburg until the Reign of Italy.
In addition to the Bettoni, the Feltrinelli family has also left its mark in this place to visit on Lake Garda.
Their Villa, dating back to 1800, is now an exclusive place, within which you can find a luxury hotel and restaurant. But I don’t want to tell you anything else, read more and you’ll find out what I have in store for you!
Gargnano is all to discover, you will not get tired of looking around and be dazzled by all the wonders that characterize it.
From the characteristic lemon houses to the Villa Feltrinelli on the beach, here is what I have selected for you as three things to see of this place. It’s worth reading!
1. The Lemon Houses of Gargnano
To discover the essence of Gargnano, there is no better place to start than from the lemon houses. It is not by chance these are the first of the three things to see in Gargnano that I want to talk about.
You’ll see high pillars that point to the sky, arranged in a row and closed on three sides by white stone walls. They are the direct testimony of the agricultural past of the area, of which Gargnano dos not want to lose the memory.
The lemon houses were built along the Garda Riviera several centuries ago to make it possible to cultivate lemons even at these latitudes.
The citrus fruit economy was for years a very flourishing economy in the area and reached its best period towards the middle of the nineteenth century.
In 1840 in Gargnano was founded the Lake Garda Society. The first agricultural cooperative in Italy entirely dedicated to the cultivation and trade of lemons.
Did you know that the lemon houses of Gargnano were described by Goethe in his “Journey to Italy” of 1786? Yes, even the great poet and writer was dazzled by the beauty of this place to visit on Lake Garda.
These large greenhouses, designed to protect the citrus groves from the cold, were cared for by inhabitants, fishermen and farmers. If it did not become the area of Lake Garda a place of greater confluence of production to the north of the peninsula, this area risked to be abandoned.
During your visit you will be able to observe some lemon houses that have centenary trees coming from Madernina, Limone Lunario or of the rare Cedars of Salò. Rare and fascinating varieties, unique in its kind.
But let’s talk about the famous Limonaia “La Malora” which is certainly one of the things to see in Gargnano. Tradition says that it is one of the oldest lemon houses in Lake Garda, it is in fact a building dating back to the sixteenth century!
Unlike the other lemon houses, now mostly abandoned or reconverted, it is still productive and perfectly preserved. This is possible thanks to the dedication and passion of the owners, who will accompany you with pleasure in the visit!
From this lemon house they produce many products based on lemon: jams, mustards, liqueurs. Imagine yourself surrounded by these plants, among the citrus scent while you are savoring all the genuineness of these truly unique products! It’s an heady experience!
If you plan to enjoy some delicious food, then you are in the right place! Yes, because in this place to visit on Lake Garda you will have the opportunity to taste traditional dishes prepared with local products.
Among the main gastronomic products of the area, you can taste the famous extra virgin olive oil of Lake Garda, but also try the delicious lake fish. Absolutely to taste the cheeses of Costa and Briano, perhaps accompanied by honey, also typical of this area.
Important is the production of capers, which you see spontaneously rise from the stone walls, enriching the landscape with their flowers.
2. Villas and historical buildings of Gargnano
In this paragraph I would like to take a few minutes to discover villas, palaces and churches included in my list of three things to see in Gargnano!
As soon as you enter the historic center, which surrounds the port, you will notice elegant buildings and the City Hall. If you’re careful, you’ll see a curious thing: the cannonballs from the 1866 naval bombardment. A sign of the 3rd War of Independence reflected on the walls of the houses.
Once past the historic center and the beach Fontanella, you will see in all its beauty Villa Feltrinelli.
It was the residence of Benito Mussolini at the time of the Republic of Salò, the palace was later transformed into a very popular luxury hotel . Today this villa hosts a Grand hotel with a Michelin restaurant, a popular destination for celebrities and VIPs.
It is possible to visit the villa only on one specific day during the whole year, to enjoy the noble atmosphere of this villa in Gargnano.
Not many people know that this sumptuous villa welcomed an important literary figure who in many of his works tells about the charm of Gargnano: the British writer D.H.Lawrence.
In particular, in his travel book “Crepuscolo in Italia”, he spoke of the enchanting landscape of Gargnano making it famous as one of the places to visit on the Lake.
It would be nice to immerse yourself in the Gargnano of yesteryear and follow in the footsteps of the famous poet, don’t you think?
We continue in the discovery of another place that could not miss among the things to see in Gargnano: Villa Bettoni.
Another prestigious palace I mentioned above: a villa that rises in all its splendor in the heart of Lake Garda. This is the work of three of the most talented architects of the time and always left amazed all its guests.
It is difficult not to be fascinated by so much beauty: the elegant frescoes, the magnificent sculptures, the furniture, the precious paintings and the splendid library.
During your visit to Lake Garda would you like to take a cruise on the lake? This is one of the best opportunities to do so.
The Bettoni family, who still lives there, allows you to visit the historic residence and the best way to reach the villa is without doubt by water.
You can visit the monumental gardens and the interior of the palace. Accompanied by the owners themselves, you can admire its original furnishings and splendid art collections.
Among the historical buildings you can make a short visit to the beautiful churches of this place to visit on Lake Garda. Of those that I have selected for you in this list of things to see in Gargnano, I’m sure you will not be disappointed!
The Church of San Francesco was built in 1289 and welcomes you with a statue of Sant’Antonio in the facade dated 1301.
Inside the church among the various paintings, you can admire a Martyrdom of Santo Stefano del Bertanza and some large paintings of the sixteenth century.
However, the hidden pearl of the church is its fourteenth-century cloister characterized by elegant arches of Venetian taste, supported by sculpted capitals.
Among these you will see sculpted faces , lions, fish, cedars and lemons. The cloister is usually closed, but do not worry, you can ask to the keeper to visit it!
A curiosity: the citrus trees carved in the capitals are not a coincidence. It was the Franciscan friars who brought the cultivation of citrus fruits to Lake Garda.
Also worth a visit the church of San Giacomo, a suggestive point of interest. This ancient church in Romanesque style is a small jewel! You can also reach it by foot along a lake road, which is accessible by everyone.
Well maintained to these days, it has a beautiful internal cloister dedicated to San Francesco with very elegant columns in Venetian style and with valuable frescoes.
I suggest you include it in your list of things to see in your holiday because from here you have a wonderful lake view!
Last but not least, in the upper part of the village, you will find the neoclassical Church of San Martino del Vantini. This is the current parish church of Gargnano, dedicated to the memory of San Martino. It was designed in the nineteenth century and completed in 1837 by Rodolfo Vantini, a well-known architect from Brescia.
Gargnano is among places to visit on Lake Garda not only for its history and prestigious villas. After the historic part in fact, you will want to dedicate yourself to a little relaxation on the beach or some physical activity and here is that Gargnano has wonderful places to offer you. Find out where to go to relax and what to do to fully enjoy your holiday.
3. Beaches and sports in Gargnano
The elegance of the village is also reproduced in the small beaches in the country. These are often small spaces that make the experience in those places even more exclusive.
The beaches, included in the three things to see in Gargnano, all have gravel but are equipped, accessible and ideal for all needs.
We start from the beach of Corno, perhaps one of the most famous of the place and located just 500 meters from the center. Easily accessible by foot, it is quite wide and free.
North of Gargnano, we find the most famous beach Fontanella equipped with a beach volleyball court to spend the day in a sporting way. Here there isn’t only gravel, but also a large green space by the lake. It is usually crowded by tourists, but no less beautiful than the others. For explorers there is the possibility to rent pedal boats, surf and canoes and a few meters away you can refresh yourself thanks to a bar kiosk.
Two other places to consider are the beach of Gial and the Giallo Limone. The first is famous for allowing access to animals; the second, instead, offers the service of renting deckchairs, umbrellas, sunbeds, pedalos and canoes.
Not only beautiful walks along the long lake, in Gargnano you can also make excursions by mountain bike in the hinterland. Generally, they are all simple paths suitable for children, except the climb to Cima Comer which is quite challenging.
A suggestive itinerary that I can recommend and that is the one that starts from Bogliaco. It passes from Gargnano and reaches Villa di Gargnano. Very nice because you skirt the lake and cross the historic center of the town.
For those who love adrenaline, this place is ideal for all kinds of sports, even extreme ones!
There are many points of interest to admire, but also the events of this place to visit on Lake Garda are not far behind! Here are the main not to be missed to conclude my list of things to see in Gargnano.
First of all, Gargnano is the capital of the Vela Gardesana, for all lovers of sailing and water sports.
It is here, in fact, that the event of greatest attraction takes place: the CentoMiglia, one of the most famous sailing competitions in the world. It starts from Gargnano and runs along the lake from north to south until it ends after a hundred miles as the name said.
This event take place in Septembers and attracts every year thousands of spectator!
The Friday evening in Gargnano in the summer period are marked by Gargnano Jazz, the musical event of the village. Moreover, during the summer months the municipality also organizes a series of free guided tours that allow you to discover the town and its surroundings.