Ok, a little breathe and we’ll start off with my first article!!! Our journey has no limits because we’ll travel around Italy – the country you’ll never stop to discover, the country you´ll fell in love with immediately and which will remain in your heart forever! Of course, our journey starts from my home, from the most beautiful peninsula in the world. Yes, I imagine, you guessed it. No doubt, I mean Sirmione!
There are two hypotheses of the name: the first one derives from the Greek “syrma” which means “tail” and the second one – from Gallic “sirm” that means “hotel”… Still and all, both Grecians and Gaulish were right: now Sirmione is a “tail” with a lot of hotels on it, it’s one the most popular touristic destination of lake Garda.
In spite of the fact that Sirmione counts more than a million visitors per year, the majority of tourists don’t know about the precious treasures of this marvelous peninsula.
First of all, let’s speak about palafittes – prehistoric pile dwelling settlements dating from 5000 to 500 b.C. which are still situated underwater in four points close to Sirmione: San Francesco, Porto Galeazzi, Maraschina e Lugana Vecchia. Moreover, the last one is considered UNESCO World Heritage Site (IT-LM-04). Thanks to dendrochronology or in other simple words – tree-ring dating, the scientists managed to determine the exact age (+/-10 years) and the type of wood of these palafittes! In 1970-1996 diver experts found some bronze and ceramic items dated 3000-2000 b.C!
Grottoes of Catullus
Of course, the extraordinary beauty of this peninsula won the heart of the Romans. On the northern part of the Sirmione peninsula, in a breathtaking panoramic location, you can find the ruins of the Roman Villa – Grottoes of Catullus. Despite the name of the site, we don’t know exactly if the Latin poet from Verona lived here. One of the most important testimonies we have is his poem Carme XXXI where he described Simione as a jewel among all the islands and the peninsulas of seas and lakes. In any case, if Catullus really lived here, his villa was smaller and older rather than the actual remains of the villa.
During your visit to the villa, you can see a cryptoporticus, 15 small “bedrooms” called cubicula, two well-preserved tanks the Romans used to store rainwater, thermal baths and a great pool with floor heating system. Yes, you’ve understood well: floor heating system is a Roman invention and here you have an example of it!
In III century a.C. the villa got abandoned. The reasons remained unknown, but the scientists have two hypotheses: a strong earthquake or Alemannic incursions. In the following centuries, the remains of the villa were used to construct other buildings on the peninsula and unfortunately, now we have only a few frescoes and mosaics conserved. The only sculpture found is the head of Dioscorus.
The most ancient church of Sirmione is St Peter in Mavinas and it is situated near to Grottoes of Catullus.
It was mentioned for the first time in Cunimund in 765 and till the 15th century, it was used as a cemetery. The archeological researches held in 1998-2009, found out more human remains belonging to different periods.
Unfortunately, you can see only a few fragments of St Savior Monastery cited for the first time in 774 by Charlemagne. The reasons for its collapse are still unknown.
Don”t forget to visit Church St Maria Della Neve (the 15th century) and Church St Anna otherwise called Madonna of the Bridge (the 13th century) with its amazing frescos!
Ok, what about the Castle?! Don’t worry, I haven’t missed it. It’s the first thing you note while entering the historical center of Sirmione and it’s the only high viewing point from which you can admire the whole peninsula!
The Castle of Sirmione probably built on the ruins of a Roman fort, was committed by Leonardino Della Scala from Verona in the 13th century. The word “scala” means “a ladder” in Italian, so above the entrance of the castle, you can see the crest of the family Scala” which “contains” a ladder.
In 1405 the Castle of Sirmione went under the control of the Venetian Republic and the presence of the symbol with Saint Mark Lion above the entrance is its witness testimony.
Another curiosity about my lovely peninsula… From the Reinassance it was known that 250 mt to the northeast from the northern part of the peninsula there was a thermal sulfurous font called la Bojola. But only in 1896 the attempt to intubate the thermal water and to conduct it to the peninsula maintaining the same temperature had success and still, then the thermal activities of Sirmione became famous in Europe.
In June 2019 Aquaria Thermal Spa got the award of the Best Day Spa in Europe and of course, it’s not the first and only award!
So, Sirmione is a little paradise, an oasis of peace… Maria Callas, the greatest lyric singer, came to Sirmione when she had the whole world at her feet and she needed a refuge far from the chaos that surrounded her. In a letter, she wrote: “I’d like to end my days in Sirmione and be buried in this heaven on earth”. However, her destiny brought her elsewhere.
Sirmione is waiting for you, don’t miss this fantastic destination!
*the photo taken from “Le Palafitte dell’Età del Bronzo a Sirmione”, Ministero per i beni e le attività culturali, Soprintendenza archeologica della Lombardia