| Italy | Lake Garda


Gargnano is a small tourist town that had me fascinated at first sight. It is surrounded by beautiful nature, and the lake’s water is an immaculate sapphire color, with alternating currents used to create high waves like the sea. Some people call it “Paradise”, and it is difficult to argue against this. Their are only 3000 inhabitants. The town is located on Lake Garda, which is the largest, cleanest and most beautiful lake in Italy. It has an interesting history and the first local historical information dates back to the first half of the tenth century.

In Gargnano you can admire the oldest sailing boat on Lake Garda, Jailbird II, docked at the port of Bogliaco. In 1902 the boat was the property of the governor at the time, the Austro-Hungarian Empire Archduke in Riva del Garda (which at that time was Austro-Hungarian territory), and it was given the name SIRIUS. In 1915 at the beginning of World War I, before the arrival of the Italian army, the boat sank in the port of Torbole: Archduke did not want it in Italian hands. It stayed at the bottom of the Lake until 1920, when a group of enthusiasts extracted it, rebuilt it and gave it the name Jailbird I. The beautiful new sailing boat was able to move around and compete with other boats until 1944, when it was dismantled: they removed all the rigging, the wooden part and all of the rotten elements. In 1949 they began the reconstruction work, the hull was renewed and the bronze tools, made at the end of 1895 (for example the pump in the bathroom), were mounted. After a year, in September 1950, the boat was rebooted and started a new life under the name Galeotto II. It now reigns over the waters of Lake Garda. Its owners, the brothers Lorenzo and Luciano Magrograssi (sailors and champions of Italy from 1968 in the famous Flying Dutchman) continue to keep it in order to maintain its fine form.

Another interesting fact: on October 8th 1943 Benito Mussolini came to Lake Garda, where he lived in the Villa Feltrinelli which is right in Gargnano. Inside this villa there are more than 30 rooms decorated in a lavish way, a huge kitchen and a bomb shelter, and thanks to a winding ramp and to the many trees, the house cannot be seen from the street. The Duce lived there with his wife, children and some grandchildren. Currently the Villa is a hotel. In Mussolini’s era, Gargnano was the true capital of the Republic of Salò. The headquarters of Benito Mussolini was the building which now holds the University: the offices and the place from which the Duce ruled were created here. Currently in the Palace there is a branch of the University of Milan. In summer Italian language and cultural courses are organized for students from around the world. The Bettoni Palace in Bogliaco, meanwhile, was the headquarters of Ministers. When Mussolini would come back from the headquarters to his home in Villa Feltrinelli, after dark, he would sit on the bench in the park, read and reflect. During his stay on the lake he returned to playing the violin, which he had learned as a young man. One day he performed a Beethoven concert: the audience were major German officials who gave him an enthusiastic applause.

The narrow streets link the Gargnano to theVilla Feltrinelli and in both the ports along the Lake the citrus trees give fruit, the orange trees are full of fruit throughout the year, and close to the main road you can visit a limonaia or the place where they grow the lemons of which the area has  boasted in the last century. Italy is more commonly associated with the cultivation of grapevines, but the people of Gargnano take care of the cultivation and exportation of lemons and the production of the famous liqueur: limoncello.

The pace of life is slow here. Beautiful buildings work in perfect harmony with rose shrubs and flowers that grow on the walls of houses. The landscape of the peaks of the Alps that erupt from the lake fascinates all who at least once took a walk along the coast of the lake, and the views are beautiful at all times and in all seasons.

Meet the: