These are the top five fortresses on Lake Garda visitors should not miss out on! There are various castles and fortresses in the area of Lake Garda, which has been considered as of strategic importance throughout the centuries.
1 – Peschiera del Garda
The town on the southern shore of Lake Garda has always been a strategic military base, but was expanded to become a true fortification only under the rule of Mastino I. della Scala. When the Republic of Venice came to power, the fortress of Peschiera del Garda took on its current pentagonal form and since then has been completely surrounded by walls. The fortress has been expanded and completed by other buildings in the 19th century, such as the infantry barracks, a military hospital and artillery barracks, and today hosts conferences, exhibitions and cultural events.
2 – Arco
Arx, from which the name “Arco” is derived, means ‘fortress‘ and denotes the form of this fortified complex on the northern shore of Lake Garda. Evidence of Arco’s existence dates back to the 12th century, while the defensive fortress was completed around the year thousand by local aristocrats. In a water colour of the year 1495 by the German artist Albrecht Dürer, the castle is depicted as a little fortified village. The village was guarded by thick walls and sighting towers in the corners. The so-called Renghera was located in the highest spot of the rock and the Grande were the two main towers. The remains of the Arco castle can be visited to this day.
3 – Riva del Garda
Evidence of Riva’s (Ripa) existence dates back to Roman times, even if during the latest excavations in the area, remains of a fortified village and sanctuary from Roman or even pre-Roman times have been found. The fortress was built under Venetian rule in the 16th century on the remains of a pre-existent medieval fortification. Later, Riva was fortified on the slopes of the Monte Rocchetta. The Austrians used it as a military base that the Italian army was unable to seize until their retreat in 1918. The fortress in Riva del Garda was part of the Subayon III (the Austrian fortification system on the Italian border) built to block military advances from the Ledro and Ampola Valley and intended to prevent an approach by foreign armies to Trento and the Etschtal/Val d’Adige.
4 – Lonato del Garda
The castle of Lonato, a town in the south of Lake Garda, dates back to after the year 909, in which the Hungarians destroyed the town. Throughout the years and centuries, Lonato del Garda was ruled by various peoples and families who fought each other over the fortified town which had a strategically important defence tower. The fortress belonged to the counts of Montichiari, the Scaliger family, and in 1376 it was the Visconti who expanded the fortified walls in order to protect the entire town. Today, the medieval Rocca of Lonato houses the town’s ornithology museum, “Gustavo Carlotto”.
5 – Rivoli Veronese
Forte Rivoli is also known under the name of Forte Wohlgemuth, the name of an Austrian general who exceled during the first war of independence. The fortification is situated above the Adige River, on a hill of the Monte Castello. The Fortress was built to protect the Austrian border, and fell into the hands of the Regio Esercito after the annexation of the Veneto by the Kingdom of Italy. This is when its name was definitely changed into ‘Forte Rivoli’. Due to its structure, similar to that of the Torri Massimiliane in Verona, and its strategic position with good visibility, the fortress was easy to defend. Today, Forte Rivoli is open to the public and houses the “Walter Rama” military museum.