It all began with….
If you are planning to visit Lake Garda, Lazise is without doubt worth a visit. Not only, it is the most popular lake destinations, it also is the first free Italian Municipality and among the 15 most visited towns in Italy. A little jewel on the Veronese shore which offers unique and unforgettable glimpses.
In this small article I would like to tell you about the three things to see in Lazise and explain why you should add it in your list of places to visit on Lake Garda!
Well first of all, once you arrive in this town, you will notice the following sentence: “First Free Italian Municipality” and of course, many ask themselves, “What does this mean?”. An interesting tale relates to this title but to keep things simple, it can be summarised with a request of the emperor Ottone II. As Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, he asked the town to host his troops in the territory of Lazise. The ruling families accepted it in exchange of important privileges. Especially in those times! In fact, to return favour they asked the town to be fortified and to receive special fishing and commercial privileges. With the passing of centuries, different empires succeeded: Scaligeri, Visconti, Republic of Venice, Gonzaga, Napoleon, Lombardo Veneto. The fact that each one left some privileges for Lazise allowed the town to obtain rare development and richness.
What to see in the historical center of Lazise
Let’s discover together the main things to see in Lazise.
The city wall, which surrounds the old town, is the very first sight that will welcome you in Lazise! It has three entering arches: Porta del Lion, Porta San Zeno e Porta Cansignorio. It does not matter from which you will decide to enter. They all lead to the main square, Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, easily recognizable by the chess flooring.
By following the chess flooring into the direction of the lakeside, you will reach the small Porto Vecchio di Lazise, loved by all visitors. The first documents confirming the existence of this harbor date back to the 10th century. At both sides of the entrance from the lake, it had two towers which were connected to the walls, closing the entire town. The harbor had a military and commercial importance and was enlarged in the 16th century. However, documents speak of an arsenal starting from 1329, so its military use was already during the Scaligeri Era.
Today Porto Vecchio of Lazise is a quiet little harbor full of small and colorful fishing boats, creating a picturesque postcard image. To enjoy this suggestive view from a raised point of view, you can take advantage of the new Belvedere di Narciso panoramic terrace, located above the tourist office.
Did I make you become more curious about this place to visit on Lake Garda? The interesting things to know about Lazise continue…
There are two buildings completing the post card image I was talking about: The ancient Romanic San Nicolò Church and the Dogana Veneta (Venetian custom). The white church was built in the 12th century and was dedicated to the Saint Nicolò, who, according to the legend, stopped a furious storm. After this event he became the protector of the waters and sailors. Instead, Dogana Veneta is a popular building of the Venetian era, which represented the border between Lombardy and the Republic of Venice. In the 16th century the salnitro (an element which constitutes the gunpowder) was produced there. Currently it is used to host events, such as weddings, ceremonies and congresses.
Three things to see in Lazise
Lazise is a town rich of history, art and culture, but to go straight to the point. I have prepared the TOP ranking of the three things to see in Lazise, in order to give you an overview of what you certainly cannot miss during your visit!
1. The thermal park Villa dei Cedri
The first thing to see in Lazise I would like to tell you about is Villa dei Cedri. Also known as “the thermal park on Lake Garda”. It is located in Colà, a small district of the municipality of Lazise.
You only need to spend one day in this thermal park to feel your body and mind relaxed and regenerated.
A natural park stretching over 13 hectares, enclosed by typical cobblestoned surrounding walls. In the middle of it, you will find two thermal lakes. The biggest one, has relaxing waterfalls and will pamper you with a 33-34°C thermal water. In case you want to raise the temperature even more, I suggest you immerse yourself in the two other “tubs” inside of the lake, which reach a temperature of 37-39°C. Another interesting thing about this lake is the luminous cave hidden behind the ponderous central waterfall. Those who want to spend time bathing in a “cooler” thermal water should choose the second and smaller lake. The temperature of this lake does not go above 29-30 °C but still offers you the benefit of a “thermal experience”.
The thermal park Villa dei Cedri is without doubt, one of the places to visit on Lake Garda!
The thermal water of Villa dei Cedri is rich in a variety of minerals and originates from two natural sources (depth 160 and 200 mt). Both were discovered only in 1989. The alkaline water has a very high ph and because of this it gives numerous anti-inflammatory benefits.
But this enchanting place does not only offer a full immersion into the nature.
Don’t worry if you should get hungry during the day. In the building next to the lakes, recognizable by big windows and an iron central structure, you find a self-service buffet and a bar. Alternatively, if you are looking for a more elegant and refined solution, it is possible to lunch or dinner inside the beautiful Villa Moscardo.
The property of Villa dei Cedri, also had an ancient stable and guest house which have been converted nowadays in a 1000mq wellness centre. Some of the countless relaxation possibilities, which will make this day unforgettable, are the Turkish bath, the Finnish sauna, the pink Himalaya salt scrub, the bio sauna and the chromotherapy.
2. Lakeside walking trail: Lungolago Marconi
The 2nd of the three things to be seen is the picturesque Lungolago Marconi. The central part is eye-catching since it has an undulating floor and a marble inscription on the wall of Classique Restaurant. This one reminds the privileges I told you about in the introduction of this article. Privileges given to the community by the Emperor Ottone II, making Lazise the oldest municipality of Italy.
When it comes to the characteristic flooring, its appearance was not only thought for an aesthetic reason. As a matter of fact, it has been created this way because the water of the lake once reached the streets creating small waterways, such as the ones in Venice. That’s why the first two streets, which are parallel to Porto Vecchio, are called Calle Prima e Calle Seconda. First and Second waterway. These and other streets were once accessible only by boats and were equipped with some fences to prevent strangers and enemies entering them.
Of all days, I definitely suggest you have walk on this beautiful promenade during sunny days. The trail between Porto Vecchio and Porto Nuovo is characterised by countless cafés, restaurants and ice cream parlours. The place to be to find a peaceful atmosphere, enjoying typical dishes and admiring the infinite beauty of the lake. The best time to enjoy a breath-taking view is during sunset, when the water fuses together with the orange colour of the sky. From Porto Nuovo it is possible to reach the villages of Cisano, Bardolino and Garda. At the beginning of the promenade leading north, near Porto Nuovo, there is also a bronze statue awaiting you for a special selfie: the Lake Mermaid, a sculpture of a woman arising from the water.
The image of Lazise that remains in the memory of its visitors is certainly that of the Scaligero Castle and city walls. In fact, the last and third suggestion on what to see in this place to visit on Lake Garda, had to be dedicated to these fortifications.
3. The Scaligero Castle and the Medieval walls
So here we are with our last suggestion, and as I said, also the most requested: The Scaligero Castle with its ancient walls. The construction as we see it today dates back the Early Middle Ages and surrounds the centre of the town.
The Castle, with its five towers and the keep, welcomes its visitors in an imposing way, especially if it is admired from the bloomy Rosenheim-street or from the lake. It dates to the 9th century a.c., when the inhabitants built the first defences to protect themselves from enemy attacks. Nevertheless, the real fortress was realized in the 14th century by the Scaligeri, which owned it starting 1193. Over the centuries the structure had been enlarged, destroyed, rebuilt and restored several times. For a certain period of time, this building was also used as a cave for aedile material.
Finally, it was saved by the Count Buri, who, after buying it, restored the Castle transforming it in the actual structure with the surrounding garden. Today it remains a private property of the Bernini Family: that’s why it cannot be visited.
Just not to miss a blast from the past, it is anyway possible to walk alongside the walls which surround the old town. On which 13 shielded towers and 3 city doors can be counted: Porta Nuova (or Cansignorio), Porta Superiore (or San Zeno) and Porta San Marco (or del Lion). The first one (North) was realized at the turn of 1376. The second (East) was once the only door destinated to the population and to the transits. The third one allows the access from the South and was called in this way since it had the Serenissima coat of arms or maybe because it was used by the Venetian militia.
One of the crenelated towers has a sloping roof. It is the ancient clock tower, clock which was moved on the Saint Zenone and Saint Martino Church. At that time, it was covered to extend the settlement of Lazise, so that those small parts could be inhabited. Even now it is a private property.
It is interesting to know that a part of the city wall was lost. A first interruption can be noticed on the oriental curtain which coasts the Gardesana. Another part which is not present anymore, is the one along the lakeside. Beginning from the castle it proceeded along the lake up to Porto Vecchio. It concluded with the disappearance of the Cadenon tower, removed in 1939 to be replaced by the Monument of the fallen soldier.
Even though the tower isn’t here anymore, it is has remained in the population’s memory. As a matter of fact, the traditional feast, which occurs every year where the tower once stood, is called “Palo della Cuccagna del Cadenon”. And to stay on topic, I would like to close this article by telling you about the main events in Lazise!
Events in Lazise
Haven’t the 3 things to see in Lazise convinced you yet to visit it? Then, surely the events that the city organizes every year will.
The first on the list is dedicated to the romantic types. I am referring to “Lago di Garda in Love” which, as you imagine, is held during the period of Valentine’s Day. During which, the entire lake is covered with romanticism. Concerts are in the program and most town centre’s will be full with theme decorations.
The second event I would like to inform you about has a more historical mood.
Do you remember how Lazise become the first free municipality of Italy? Well, the historical re-enactment of the “Privilegium Ottonis II” commemorates that moment. On this occasion the mayor will read the original text in front of all citizens.
Let’s move on to summer events.
Whether you prefer to visit Lazise in July or in August, you will have the opportunity to participate at funny and joyful events.
In July, the traditional “Terza di luglio” (third of July) is held with the Palo della Cuccagna del Cadenon (do you remember it?). This event takes inspiration from an ancient fair. There will be food and wine stands and music scattered in the streets of the centre and on Lungolago Marconi.
In August you can participate at the “Festa dell’Ospite”. An event to celebrate its guests with gastronomic stands, live music, fun and entertainment. This event always ends with a spectacular pyrotechnical show.
Still not enough? Summer concerts, artistic and painting craft markets and especially the splendid Christmas markets with skating rink will surely convince you.
But the icing on the cake is what I’m about to illustrate you. Indeed, about cakes I would say that it is about a sweet and much-loved ingredient. This element will convince you that Lazise is the queen of places to visit on Lake Garda.
I refer to the last “summer” event, but only in temporal order, which is held at the beginning of the month of October: the National Fair “I Giorni del Miele”.
Why is it so important? Because it is not “simply” a market where delicious artisan honey from all over Italy are exhibited. We are talking about a national fair, as well as one of the most famous and long-lived Italian historical honey manifestations.
This event, in fact, was born at the end of the 1970s as an international Biennial of beekeeping for agriculture and has evolved over time as a National Fair. As anticipated, there are honeycombs from all over the Italian territory, flanked by the top equipment. But there is much more. At the exhibition period, in the splendid setting of the Dogana Veneta, technical convention and cultural initiatives are flanked by the occasion.