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Gargnano sul Garda: among majestic villas and lemon groves

Three things to see in Gargnano. Part of the Parco Alto Garda Bresciano, Gargnano boasts prestigious villas, lemon groves, beaches and sports.

Three things to see in Gargnano

Today, I’ll take you on a journey to discover Gargnano sul Garda, a quaint village often overlooked by many but that stands out for its beauty and elegance. Located on the western shore of Lake Garda, it has a unique feature: a flat part towards the lake and a mountainous area in its hinterland. Despite its small size, it is the largest municipality in the Parco Alto Garda Bresciano (Alto Garda Bresciano Park). Before revealing the three things to see in Gargnano, I’d like to give you some tips on how to get there.

How to get to Gargnano sul Garda?

  • By car. You can take the A4 Milan/Venice Highway. If you are coming from Milan, take the Brescia Est exit and then head towards Salò, Riva del Garda. Otherwise, if you’re coming from Venice, take the exit for Desenzano and then follow the road signs towards Salò.
  • By train. The nearest railway station is Desenzano. Alternatively, you can take a train to Rovereto and then catch the Rovereto-Riva del Garda bus. From there, take the bus to Desenzano. Gargnano is approximately halfway between them.

Let’s dive into its magnificent history

It may not seem like it, but Gargnano boasts 12 scattered hamlets that are worth a glance. The village has evolved over the centuries, acquiring charm and elegance.

You should know that in ancient times, Etruscans, Romans, and Celts inhabited this area. Its ancient Roman name was “Garenius.” Later on, in the 12th century, the town became a convent with the arrival of Saint Francis.

The lovely Gargnano gained fame thanks to the Bettoni family. They commissioned an imposing villa that gave the town its distinct identity. The family was connected to the Magnifica Patria, of which Gargnano became a part during the Venetian rule.

After the fall of the Serenissima, Gargnano joined the Republic of Brescia, following its fate through the Napoleonic and Habsburg dominations until the Kingdom of Italy.

The Bettonis were not the only family who left their mark on this place to visit on Lake Garda. Let’s get to know the Feltrinelli family!

Their villa, dating back to the 1800s, is now an exclusive spot where you can find a luxury hotel with an attached restaurant. But I won’t reveal more just yet; keep reading to discover what I have in store for you!


Tres cosas que ver en Gargnano
Credits: marlster

Let’s explore Gargnano sul Garda!

This little village overlooking the lake is a treasure trove waiting to be explored. You won’t tire of taking in the surroundings and being dazzled by all the wonders it holds. From the charming lemon groves to Villa Feltrinelli on the shore, here are three things I’ve handpicked for you to see in this place. It’s truly worth a read!

1. The Lemon Houses of Gargnano
2. Villas and historical buildings of Gargnano
3. Beaches and sports in Gargnano
Events

Three things to see in Gargnano
Credits: beppe casagrande

1. The Lemon Houses of Gargnano

To discover the essence of Gargnano, there’s no better place to start than the lemon groves. Not by chance, they are the first of the three things to see in Gargnano that I want to tell you about.

They are tall pillars reaching towards the sky, arranged in rows and enclosed on three sides by white stone walls. They are a direct testament to the agricultural past of the area, a memory that the people living in Gargnano don’t want to fade away.

The lemon groves were built along the shores of Lake Garda several centuries ago to make lemon cultivation possible even at these latitudes. The citrus industry was a thriving economy in the region for many years, reaching its peak in the mid-19th century.

In 1840, the Lake Garda Society was established in Gargnano, the first agricultural cooperative in Italy entirely dedicated to the cultivation and trade of lemons.

Did you know that Goethe described the lemon groves of Gargnano in his “Italian Journey” in 1786? Indeed, the great poet and writer was also captivated by the beauty of Gargnano.

Limonaia “La Malora”

These large greenhouses, designed to protect citrus orchards from the cold, were tended to by locals, fishermen, and farmers. If the Garda area didn’t become the primary hub for citrus production in the north of the Peninsula, this region risked being abandoned.

During your visit, you’ll observe some lemon groves housing century-old trees like Madernina, Limone Lunario, or the rare Cedri di Salò. Rare and fascinating varieties, truly one-of-a-kind.

Now, let’s talk about the famous Limonaia “La Malora”, which is undoubtedly one of the three things to see in Gargnano. It is said to be one of the oldest lemon groves on Lake Garda, dating back to the 16th century!

Unlike many neighboring lemon groves, most of which are abandoned or repurposed, La Malora is still productive and perfectly preserved. This is possible thanks to the dedication and passion of the owners, who will gladly guide you during your visit! Their farm produces various lemon-based products: jams, mustards, and liqueurs.

Imagine yourself surrounded by these plants, amidst the citrus-scented air while savoring the authenticity of these truly unique products! It’s an intoxicating experience!

If you’re thinking of indulging in some palate-pleasing dishes, then you’re in the right place! Yes, because in this must-visit spot on Lake Garda, you’ll have the chance to savor local delights loved by both residents and tourists.

Among the region’s prominent gastronomic products, you can taste the renowned extra virgin olive oil of Garda and savor the exquisite lake fish. Try the cheeses of Costa and Briano, perhaps accompanied by honey, also typical of this area. Noteworthy is the caper production, with these plants spontaneously growing from stone walls, enriching the landscape with their flowers.


Three things to see in Gargnano
Grand Hotel Villa Feltrinelli – Credits: marlster

2. Villas and historical buildings of Gargnano

In this paragraph, let’s take a few minutes to explore villas, palaces, and churches on my list of three things to see in Gargnano!

As soon as you enter the historic center surrounding the port, you’ll notice elegant palaces and the Town Hall. If you pay attention, you’ll spot cannonballs dating back to the naval bombardment of 1866. A remnant of the 3rd War of Independence, reflecting on the walls of the houses. Quite intriguing, isn’t it?

Once past the historic center and Fontanella beach, Villa Feltrinelli will unveil itself in all its splendor before you. Once the residence of Benito Mussolini during the Republic of Salò, the palace was later transformed into a highly frequented luxury hotel. Today, it hosts a Grand hotel with a Michelin-starred restaurant, a sought-after destination for celebrities and VIPs.

Visiting the villa is allowed only one day a year. If you’re lucky enough for it to coincide with your vacation, a tour inside is a must!

Not many know that this sumptuous villa hosted an important literary figure who, in many of his works, spoke of Gargnano’s charm: the British writer D.H. Lawrence. Particularly in his travel book “Twilight in Italy“, he narrated the enchanting landscape of Gargnano, making it famous as one of the must-visit places on the lake.

Let’s continue the discovery of another place that couldn’t be missing from the list of three things to see in Gargnano: Villa Bettoni. Another prestigious palace I mentioned earlier, standing in all its glory in the heart of Lake Garda. Created by three of the most skilled architects of the time, it has always left its guests in awe. From elegant frescoes, magnificent sculptures, and precious paintings to the splendid library, it’s hard not to be captivated by so much beauty.

If during your journey in the Brescia region you feel like a water excursion, this is one of the best opportunities to do so.

Villa Bettoni – Credits: Roberto Pini

The Bettoni family, still residing there, allows visits to the historic residence, and the best way to reach the villa is undoubtedly by the lake.

You can explore the monumental gardens and the interiors of the palace. You’ll admire the original furnishings and splendid art collections, often accompanied by the owners themselves.

Among the historic buildings, you can pay a visit to the beautiful churches of this town. I’ve selected some in this list of three things to see in Gargnano; you won’t be disappointed!

Built in 1289, the Church of San Francesco welcomes you with a statue of Saint Anthony on the façade dating back to 1301. Inside the church, among various paintings, you can admire a Martyrdom of Saint Stephen by Bertanza and some large canvases from the 16th century.

The hidden gem of the church, however, is its 14th-century cloister characterized by elegant arches in Venetian style, supported by intricately carved capitals. Among these, lifting your gaze, you’ll distinguish heads of friars, lions, fish, as well as cedars and lemons. The cloister is usually closed, but don’t worry, you can contact the custodian to arrange a visit!

A curiosity: the citrus sculptures on the capitals are not a coincidence. Testimonies tell that it was the Franciscan friars who introduced citrus cultivation to Lake Garda.

The Church of San Giacomo is also worth a visit, a very charming point of interest. This ancient Romanesque-style frescoed church is truly a little jewel! You can reach it on foot along a lakeside road, accessible to everyone.

Well-maintained, it features a beautiful internal cloister dedicated to Saint Francis with very elegant columns in Venetian style and valuable frescoes. Prominent works can be observed in the left apse.

I recommend adding it to your list of three things to see on your vacation in Gargnano, especially because from here, you have a marvelous lakeside view!

Lastly, in the upper part of the town, you’ll find the neoclassical Church of San Martino del Vantini, dedicated to the memory of Saint Martin. Gargnano’s current parish church, designed in the 19th century and completed in 1837 by Rodolfo Vantini, a renowned Brescian architect.

After exploring the historical part, you may want to relax on the beach or engage in some physical activities, and Gargnano has wonderful lakeside views to offer you.


Credits: Alessandro Bertella – alessandrobert99 (IG)

3. Beaches and sports in Gargnano

The elegance of the village extends to the small beaches found within the town. 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 well-equipped, accessible, and great for all needs.

Let’s start with the Corno beach, perhaps one of the most famous in the area, located just 500 meters from the center. Easily reachable on foot, it is quite spacious and free.

To the north of Gargnano, we find the famous Fontanella beach, equipped with a beach volleyball court for a sporty day by the lake. There is a large green space in addition to the classic gravel along the lake. It is usually crowded with tourists, but no less beautiful than the others. For explorers, there is the possibility to rent pedal boats, surfboards, and canoes, and a few meters away, you can refresh yourself at a beach kiosk.

Two other beaches to consider are the Gial beach and the Giallo Limone. The first is known for allowing access to animals; the second offers the rental of sunbeds, umbrellas, loungers, pedal boats, and canoes.

In addition to beautiful walks along the alleys of Gargnano, you can go mountain biking in the hinterland. Add this activity to the list of three things to see in Gargnano!

Three things to see in Gargnano
Credits: Bruna Abruzzo – browny8.6 (IG e FB)

Usually, all the trails are easy and suitable for children, except for the ascent to Cima Comer, which is quite challenging. One particularly scenic route I can recommend starts from Bogliaco, passes through Gargnano, and reaches Villa di Gargnano. It’s beautiful because it follows the lake and goes through the historic center of the town.

For adrenaline enthusiasts, this location is ideal for engaging in all kinds of sports, including extreme ones!

If you need other suggestions about the most beautiful well-equipped beaches on Lake Garda, read our article here!


Three things to see in Gargnano
Credits:  Francesco Baistrocchi

Events

First and foremost, Gargnano is the capital of Vela Gardesana, a must-visit for all water sports and nature enthusiasts. Right here, the most attractive event takes place: CentoMiglia, one of the most famous sailing regattas in the world. It starts from Gargnano and traverses the lake from north to south, covering precisely one hundred miles. This September event attracts thousands of spectators each year and is considered the most important international regatta on Italian lakes!

Gargnano Jazz, on the other hand, is the musical event that marks the summer evenings in the Brescian village every Friday. During the summer months, the municipality also organizes a series of free guided tours and routes that allow you to discover the town and its surroundings.

My list of three things to see in Gargnano sul Garda ends here. Now it’s your turn to plan your trip wisely; if you follow my advice, I’m sure you’ll fall in love with it!

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