Beautiful, atmospheric Lazise offers a rather tranquil contrast, market day excepted, to the neighbouring, bustling Bardolino. Its historic centre is contained within its outstanding feature – the magnificently preserved, almost complete, 14th century city walls and guard towers.
Emerging from the mists of pre-history, Lazise fell under Roman influence in the 2nd century AD, when it probably gained the name ‘laceses’ – the village on the lake. But it was in 983 that it was awarded privileges and autonomy that resulted in it reputedly becoming Italy’s first free town municipality.
Lazise is accessible by public transport, either by ferry or by the bus service which runs between Riva del Garda and Verona (stopping points include Malcesine, Garda, Bardolino and Peschiera). If you are arriving by ferry and have the energy, why not get off at Bardolino and enjoy the scenic lakeside walk to Lazise. At a moderate to brisk walking pace, without stops, this will take approximately an hour and a quarter.
Visitors arriving by ferry will disembark on to an elegant waterfront, whose paving pattern cleverly mimics the ripples on the lake surface. The small harbour is bordered on one side by restaurants, some of which are high quality with fish specialities. On the other side are two buildings of historic interest. There is the 14th century Dogana Veneta, which is probably all that remains of the ancient harbour. In the era of Venetian dominance this building was an important customs house for trade passing through the region. Today it is an up-market location for civil ceremony weddings.
Adjacent to the Dogana Veneta is the 12th century church of St. Nicholas, patron saint of fishermen and navigators. Through the centuries there have been many structural alterations, but unfortunately deterioration was subsequently allowed to take hold. In the 1950s restoration was begun by the local council, and some previously unknown frescoes were discovered. The church is a simple rectangular structure with a single nave and bare roof trusses. But it is the frescoes that are the main interest. Inside the church there are nine of them, the clearest image being the restored 14th century depiction of the Madonna enthroned with Child at her breast.
At the top of the harbour, past the Tourist Information, lies the Piazza Vittorio Emanuele, which is by far the largest of Lazise’s piazzas/piazzettas. From here you can explore the compact historic centre, leisurely savouring its medieval atmosphere. If you are minded to have a close look at the city walls, look right and head down Via Porta del Lion, before turning left along the Via Rocca. Alternatively turn left out of the piazza, follow the twists and turns of the alleyways and you will encounter a number of very different piazzas and piazzettas. Perhaps the most interesting is the quiet Piazzetta Beccherie, where you can relax on one of the benches and absorb the village-like ambience.
After a couple of hours or so in Lazise you may begin to wonder, as I do, why it gets only minimal attention in certain guide books. It’s a puzzle that I have been unable to solve.
Distances for Independent Travellers
- Verona: 20km
- Verona Airport: 15km
- Bergamo Airport: 90km