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Around Lake Garda – Torri del Benaco

The small, peaceful, sublime town of Torri del Benaco is situated on the eastern shore of Lake Garda, where the lake narrows and the terrain becomes increasingly mountainous.

Brief history

The layout of Torri del Benaco, or Castrum Turrium as it was known, dates back to Roman times. In 905, after Rome had fallen, fortifications whose remains are still visible were constructed to repel the Barbarian hordes.

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In 1383 the castle, whose towers and walls are so well preserved, was built, partly on a more ancient fortification, by the last member of the Scaliger family. This added to a defence system that stretched back to the 10th century, when Torri del Benaco was of great strategic importance to the Lake Garda area.

In 1405 it came under the control of the Venetian Republic, and this lasted until 1797. During this time the important19 strong Council met here. Eventually, in 1866, it became part of the kingdom of Italy.

Getting there

Unfortunately not many of the ferries that criss-cross the lake stop at Torri del Benaco. For up to date information you can check out the timetable at www.navigazionelaghi.it

A traghetto (car ferry) makes regular direct crossings to Maderno on the western shore.

Torri del Benaco can be reached by the bus service that runs between Riva del Garda and Verona (stopping points include Torbole, Malcesine, Garda, Bardolino, Lazise and Peschiera). Riva to Verona is a journey of over 2 hours, so delays are very possible, and should be borne in mind if you have a connection to make. The bus stop’s digital display of expected arrival times keeps you well informed.

The historic town

Many have waxed lyrical, and rightly so, about their experience of arriving by ferry. However, the approach by foot from the main road can also make a deep impression – just a few paces down via F. Lavanda and the beauty of Torri del Benaco’s small centre is dramatically revealed. The tranquil P. Calderini embraces the colourful, oval, olive tree fringed harbour. Cafes and restaurants offer the opportunity to relax with a morning cappuccino or an afternoon glass of wine. Alternatively you can sit on one of the benches and quietly soak up the ambience.

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Around P. Calderini there are buildings of historic interest, including the small, white chapel, Santissma Trinita, which is tucked away in a corner at the entrance to the main shopping street. Overlooking the harbour, Albergo Gardesana, built in 1452, is where the Captain of the Lake presided over Council meetings during the time of Venetian rule. Over the course of the 20th century its many famous guests included: Winston Churchill, Lawrence Olivier, Vivien Leigh, Stephen Spender, Max Ernst, Kim Novak, King Juan Carlos, Isabelle Allende, Maria Callas, Beniamino Gili, Fabio Testi, Jacques Piccard and Vittorio Gassman.

Watching over the harbour is the imposing Scaliger castle, whose three towers are linked by perimeter walls. It now houses an ethnographic museum that includes sections devoted to lake fishing, olive growing and the famous rock carvings.

CIMG1781The short shopping streets are mercifully virtually free of tourist paraphernalia. The attractive promenade has benches from which you can enjoy the view of the lake and the not too distant low mountains on the western shore. The lakeside restaurants have enhanced their seating capacity by the addition of very appealing, covered wooden platforms that extend over the lake – it is difficult to imagine a more perfect setting for a romantic meal on a warm summer’s evening.

Close by is Piazza Chiesa, with its impressive church Santi Pietro and Paola. Next to the church is the majestic tower, built by Berengarius 1 in the 10th century, which formed part of the old fortifications.

The timeless tranquillity of Torri del Benaco soothes mind and body, making life’s tribulations seem more bearable. An elderly André Gide, after residing here from July 22 to September 13 in 1948, confessed that the memory would give him the strength to endure the long winter.

When planning a visit to Torri del Benaco bear in mind that Monday is market day.

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David Jackson
David lectured in Science at a Midland college (UK) for many years. He now writes about places he visits regularly with the intention of providing useful information for visitors.

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