They are the most splendid, sumptuous and magnificent the Lake Garda area has to offer – the historical villas and palazzi on the lake shore. The editiorial staff of GardaConcierge has created a new itinerary that takes you to the most magnificent historical residences in the area.
City Casino – Arco
The first stop of our tour, that starts in the north as usual, is the city casino of Arco on the northern shore of Lake Garda. The building was erected at the end of the 19th century; its originary structure was changed during subsequent construction works. After various renovation works, the city casino can today be seen in the form it had at the beginning of the 20th century, when the splendid villa and a ballroom were added to the main building. What was once a meeting point for the European high society of the 19th century who came to the town’s spa, today is a venue for cultural and other events as well as a tavern in the heart of Arco. From the Viale delle Palme, the promenade in front of the veranda, visitors can access the villa. The garden houses a music pavilion, where concerts are held. For further information on Arco’s city casino we recommend a visit to the city casino website*.
Villa Guarienti – Punta San Vigilio
Our tour to the historical residences takes us south to one of the most beautiful view points on Lake Garda, Punta San Vigilio. This peninsula at the gulf of Lake Garda houses the Villa Guarienti, also known as Villa Brenzoni. The building, which dates back to the 16th century, seems to be the work of Veronese architect Michele Sanmicheli, who is also responsible for various other projects in the area. The villa, commissioned by the Venetian Agostino Brenzoni, is surrounded by a garden, in which cypresses, olive and lemon trees abound; trees which perfectly represent the vegetation on Lake Garda. An inn with a lake view is also part of the building, as are a small church, probably built before the villa, a building with a double loggia and a lake view as well as an adjacent small harbour. The Villa Guarienti houses a restaurant and a hotel and is open to visitors.
The complex is within easy reach of the main road which runs along the eastern shore of Lake Garda, but also from Lake Garda itself, given that the small harbour is still operating today.
Villa Albertini and Villa Carlotti Canossa – Garda
Continuing south, in Garda, two historical residences of considerable artistic and architectural interest are a must-see: Villa Albertini and Villa Carlotti Canossa. The first building, Villa Albertini, dates back to the second half of the 16th century, when the Becelli family commissioned the project. The villa is now owned by the Albertini family, who gave the building its name. The residence is only a few steps from Lake Garda; its entrance and gardens are situated at the Gardesana road (SR249) on the eastern shore of Lake Garda. Renovation works have been carried out of late to repair the damage caused by recent earthquakes. A large park on the hill, dominating Lake Garda, is also part of the estate.
A bit further along the Gardesana road in the direction of San Vigilio, is the Villa Carlotti Canossa. The 16th-century building was renovated and enlarged by Veronese architect Giacomo Franco in the 19th century. The residence has a great location close to Lake Garda and is surrounded by green due to its garden and adjacent park.
Both residences are privately owned and not open to the public.
Villa Guerrieri Rizzardi – Bardolino
Our villa tour on Lake Garda takes us to the heart of Bardolino. Villa Guerrieri Rizzardi is located in the middle of the old town on the site formerly occupied by patrician houses. Even though the site has seen the construction of a new building, the garden with a lake view has kept its 16th-century structure. This was despite a replanning by Giuseppe Jappelli shortly before the middle of the 19th century. Visitors can explore its wonders: cedars, bay trees and magnolias, betel nut palms and ginkgos, not to mention vines and orchards. The Villa Guerrieri Rizzardi is part of the agricultural business Guerrieri Rizzardi which has vineyards covering an area of 40 hectares between Bardolino and Cavaion and produce the Bardolino and Chiaretto wines.
We recommend you visit the website of the agricultural business before your visit. At the date of pubblication, the villa was not open to the public due to renovation works.
Palazzo Todeschini and Villa Brunati – Desenzano del Garda
We go to the western shore on Lake Garda, to Desenzano del Garda, where another two buildings of our route are located: Palazzo Todeschini and Villa Brunati.
Palazzo Todeschini, seat of Desenzano’s city hall up to the 1970s, overlooks a small, picturesque harbour on Lake Garda. The 16th-century building was built according to a design by architect Giulio Todeschini. The building boasts fifteen stone arcades on the lakeside. At the end, there is the so-called “stone of the unemployed” (Pietra dei Disoccupati), the place, where sentences on insolvency were pronounced in the 16th century. Today, Palazzo Todeschini is the venue of conferences, events and visiting exhibitions. The building is easy to reach and has a private carpark.
The impressive Villa Brunati is also located in Desenzano. It was commissioned by monsignor Giacomo Roveglio at the end of the 16th century, replacing a previous medieval building. In the first half of the 18th century, the building underwent changes and expansion, before the Brunati family entrusted architect Antonio Tagliaferri with the renovation works. The frescos in the villa’s halls are due to him. Today, the villa is owned by the city of Desenzano and, after the latest renovation, acts as the seat of the municipal Angelo Anelli library. The Sala della Musa serves as a venue for conferences and meetings. There is a carpark in front of the villa. Further information regarding accessibility and the opening hours of both buildings can be found on the Palazzo Todeschini* and the Villa Brunati websites*.
Villa Barbieri – Padenghe sul Garda
On our way along the western shore of Lake Garda, we reach Padenghe sul Garda further north, a borough of Brescia, which houses one of the residences on our tour. Not far from the 17th-century Chiesa di Santa Maria church is the Villa Barbieri, built about a century later. This polyangular building has three floors: apart from the ground floor, it also boasts an intermediate storey and an upper floor. The stone facade is beautiful to look at not only because of its colours, but also because of its round arch entrance.
Since the villa is a public building, visits are possible at the times listed on the town website*.
Villa on the Isola del Garda – San Felice del Benaco
The itinerary suggested by GardaConcierge takes us to perhaps the most spectular residences on Lake Garda. It has a unique location, completely surrounded by the lake: close to San Felice del Benaco, there is the beautiful Isola del Garda, which houses a splendid villa that is now owned by the Cavazza family. The island is no more than 200 metres from Capo San Fermo. Due to its location, the island has been inhabited since Roman times; however, the construction of this grand villa in neo-gothic and Venetian style dates back to the 19th century. From church centre to the residence of the earls of Lechi, the building has had various names and functions. It is however due to architect Luigi Rovelli, hired by duke Gaetano de Ferrari, that the building enjoys its current splendour. The design of the Genoese architect also included an Italian garden in the area surrounding the residence.
The island is inhabited by the heirs of the Cavazza family today, but it can still be visited during a guided tour that includes transfer from a few towns on the western and eastern shores of Lake Garda. The guided tours include a visit to the villa’s gardens and halls. The residence on Isola del Garda offers a cultural programme: as for art, watercolours by Pierangelo Capretti are exhibited during the guided tour (they immortalize the most splendid views of the park and the villa); as far as music is concerned, there is a packed calendar of events with evening concerts from May to September.
For further information on opening hours, admission prices and events, we recomend a visit to the villa’s website.
Il Vittoriale degli Italiani and Villa Alba – Gardone Riviera
Our tour of the historical residences of Lake Garda continues in Gardone Riviera, north of the gulf of Salò, where visitors will find two more villas: the Vittoriale degli Italiani and Villa Alba.
The Vittoriale was built between the two world wars on the initiative of the poet Gabriele D’Annunzio and with the participation of architect Giancarlo Maroni. The complex is located on a hill dominating the lake. The countryside is characterised by buildings, gardens and a beautiful amphitheatre opening onto Lake Garda, which forms an impressive backdrop to every artistic and music show. The area concerned of the monumental complex takes up about nine hectares and can be reached via the double arch entrance. Inside, you can visit the so-called Prioria, the first home of the poet, inside which the theme rooms (among them a music room, the Stanza della Leda, D’Annunzio’s bedroom; the blue bathroom and workshop) help visitors to learn more about the identity and character of the controversial intellectual. The Vittorial complex also houses the Schifamondo, a building that was planned to be used as a new domicile, but was not finished before the poet’s death. Today it is the seat of a museum entitled “D’Annunzio Eroe” (D’Annunzio, the Hero). An aeroplane hangs from the dome of the auditorium – the one which the intellectual who advocated Italy’s entry into the war used for his pamphleteering run over Vienna. Part of the museum was designed by D’Annunzio himself, who ordered an exhibition of a series of war memorabilia such as medals, uniforms and flags for commemoration. Furthermore, there is a museum area entitled “Museo D’Annunzio Segreto” (Secret of D’Annunzio’s Museum), that displays letters and pictures of the lovers as well as clothes from the wardrobes in the Prioria, among others. The complex is completed by a park and garden, that underline the poet’s fervent militant heroism by means of a marble mausoleum and a boat garage. The latter houses a boat which was used during the military sneak attack on the Baia di Buccari. When visiting the splendid gardens, remember that the Giardino delle Vittorie are now also open to the public!
The Villa Alba, another splendid residence, is closer to Lake Garda. Unlike the Vittoriale, the villa was not commissioned by an Italian. The residence, formerly known as Villa Ruhland, prided itself of the quiet in its name (“Ruhe” means “quiet” in German). Construction probably started later than that of D’Annunzio’s big project and the owner Lanensiepen, made precise requests to architect Shafer regarding the neo-classical style of the villa. Since the 1970s, the villa has been owned by the town, which uses it as a conference centre, in which private events, cultural events for the public and exhibitions are held.
Detailed information on your visit, the various tours, admission prices and opening hours can be seen on the Vittoriale website*. Further information on Villa Alba can be found on the villa’s website.
Palazzo Bettoni – Bogliaco
Along the lake shore, some ten kilometres from Gardone Riviera, our last tour stop, is Bogliaco, a district of Gargnano. This town boasts one of the most beautiful villas on Lake Garda, Palazzo Bettoni. The project by architect Adriano Cristofori, which was commissioned by Giandomenico Bettoni, dates back to the 18th century and has an ordered, but still impressive structure. The main building of the Palazzo boasts a balustrade which is decorated with the mythological figures of Veronese Giovanni Battista Locatelli. Inside, the main hall houses various baroque works. The walls are decorated with frescoes by Beniamino and Fabrizio Galliari. The 18th-century Palazzo distinguishes itself with the orderly and symmetrical forms of the Italian-style garden and the park with its lemon houses on the side not facing the lake. Amerigo Vincenzo Pierallini designed the garden, with its staircases that converge in one place, on which a neo-classical temple dedicated to Apollo was once planned.
Today, Palazzo Bettoni is the seat of an agricultural business which produces wine and spirits. Guided tours of the estate are organised by appointment.
Palazzo Feltrinelli – Gargnano
Our tour takes us to the northern shore of Lake Garda, more specifically to Piazza Vittorio Veneto in Gargnano, where Palazzo Feltrinelli is located. It was built by order of the Feltrinelli family, which originally was from Gargnano and moved to Milan only later. The residence was designed by the architect Solimi and built in the last years of the 19th century. The building is rectangular and extends over three floors, with the entrance being graced by a colonnade with three arcades. The change of ownership led to the building being used as a monastery and later by the fascists: like many other residences in the area, Palazzo Feltrinelli was confiscated during the Republic of Salò and used as part of the fascist operations centre. Today, the building is the seat of the University of Milan, which offers Italian language courses during the summer months and hosts meetings and conferences. The university website* gives detailed information on the building.
Gargnano also houses a country estate commissioned by the Feltrinelli family. The villa, known as Villa Feltrinelli, is surrounded by a lovely garden. The stylish neo-gothic building has been renovated recently and now houses a splendid luxury hotel.
Villa Boghi – Limone
Our tour to the historical residences on Lake Garda closes with a stop in the northernmost Lombard town on Lake Garda, Limone. Here, the Villa Boghi is located. Its construction started in the 20th century following a design by Giovanni Bonaventura Gerardi. Like the Palazzo Feltrinelli in Gargnano, the villa is a multi-storey, rectangular building, that can be accessed via an archway with a double balcony. The villa, seat of the town of Limone, is surrounded by a garden; a lemon house is nearby. The town holds events and exhibitions in the park, which is open to public. For further information we recommend a visit to the town website.
* website in Italian only
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