Good morning, are you ready for a new trip? What about a stunningly beautiful island at Lake Garda? Would you like to visit Garda Island with me? Ok, let’s cast off and sail to this tiny paradise cited even in “The Devine Comedy” by Dante Alighieri:
“At midway of that lake, where he who bears
Of Trento’s flock the pastoral staff, with him
Of Brescia, and the Veronese, might each
Passing that way his benediction gives”.
Island or lakeshore?
While sailing to the island, we should pay attention to San Biaggio island and some emerging rocks. Garda Island is separated only by 220 meters from Capo San Fermo, but before the earthquake of the 3rd century, its territory and these rocks were the part of the shore.
In 1864 the famous geologist Stoppani discovered palafittes – prehistoric pile dwelling settlements which are situated underwater in two points close to Garda Island: the first one – south of the island, the second one – towards the shore. As you remember, I have already written about palafittes in my article about Sirmione. There are a lot of them at Lake Garda and some of them are considered UNESCO World Heritage Sites!
Garda Island or “Isle of Skulls”?
Although we don’t have much information about the settlements during the Roman period, 130 Roman tombstones found by archaeologist Labus in the 19th century, confirm the presence of the Romans on the Island. But if you want to see these tombstones, don’t look for them here! They have been kept at Santa Giulia Museum in Brescia since 1825!
Longobard Dominio and the love story of Antonio and Vitilde
During the Londobards’ conquest of Brescia, Marcus Nonius and his son Anthony were captured by the Longobard King Vitolfo and taken to the prison of Garda Island. While visiting the prison, Vitolfo’s daughter Vitilde fell in love with Anthony. Of course, Anthony and Vitilde got married behind Vitolfo’s back. The King Vitolfo discovered the unwanted marriage and decided to punish the newlyweds imprisoning his daughter on Garda Island and his husband Anthony on the rock in front of the island! But Anthony managed to escape from the prison to the island and to stay close to his wife secretly.
So if you decide to get married, Garda Island can be a perfect place! And be sure, the story of Anthony and Vitilde will bring you luck: sincere and immense love wins everything! Just dream and do it!
Legend of Ermoaldo from Brescia
Ermoaldo was falsely accused of fornication and hypocrisy by envious fellow countrymen. The Bishop of Brescia suggested that Ermoaldo got clean making a public declaration in front of the population, but Ermoaldo refused and decided to demonstrate the groundlessness of the accusations in an extraordinary way.
After having prayed, he started walking on the surface of the water towards Garda Island thus proving his innocence.
Saints and Franciscan Brothers on Garda Island
No doubt, Garda Island was the perfect refuge for whom was looking for silence and loneliness. Saint Francis from Assisi, Franciscan Brothers, Saint Anthony from Padua, Saint Bernardino from Siena paid tribute to Garda island by their presence taking care of this lovely tiny treasure at Lake Garda.
In search of the Lake Garda Monster “Bennie”
Recently Jeremy John Wade, the British presenter known for TV series “River Monsters“, visited Lake Garda… As you can imagine, the reason for his visit was to capture the Lake Garda Monster, the so-called “Bennie”. But do you know that the first attempt to discover the lake monster was made by the monks of Garda Island in the 16th century?! Of course, the “diver” of that era confirmed the presence of the monsters and died of fright immediately. Since then the monks got scared and stopped diving experiments!
Gaetano de Ferrari and Maria Annenkova
After varied property changes, the Island was purchased by the famous Genoese banker Gaetano de Ferrari and his wife Maria Annenkova. But who was Maria Annenkova?!! Her surname doesn’t sound Italian at all! Well, her origins are extremely debated: being protected by the tsar Nicolas I and adopted by the tsar Alexander II, she declared herself as the latest heir of Charles X. Well, a little bit of confusion that inevitably lost its importance once Maria Annenkova remained fascinated by Garda Island and after her stay in Venice, decided to “touch up” the island in Venitian style. The villa, the so-called “small Venice at Lake Garda”, which you can admire now, is no doubt the merit of the couple Ferrari-Annenkova. Inside the villa, you can see some objects original from Russia and, of course, a samovar!
Villa Borghese or Villa Cavazza?
No doubt, you have already heard both names! Of course, there is a reason… The villa was named after the husbands of its two heiresses: first – Borghese and then – Cavazza!
Anna Maria de Ferrari, the unique daughter of Gaetano de Ferrari and Maria Annenkova, married a Roman noble Scipione Borghese. Their daughter Livia who inherited the Island, in turn, married Earl Alessandro Cavazza from Bologna and gave birth to their three children: Novello, Paolo Emilio, and Camillo Cavazza.
Nowadays on Garda Island there live the widow of their youngest son Camillo – Charlotte Chetwynd Talbot and their seven children.
Scipione Borghese and Raid Peking-Paris
As is well known, Scipione Borghese was extremely adventuresome. So if you are fond of vintage cars and raids, I’m going to reveal you one curious fact! In 1907 Scipione Borghese won the Raid Peking-Paris reaching the finish line with 10 days ahead of his competitors! If you are eager to see this extraordinary car that crossed 14000 km, you can admire it at the National Automobile Museum in Turin!
So, my article is over! I wish you a nice stay on Garda Island! Don’t forget to book your visit on the official website of Garda Island!
“Isola del Garda un sogno in mezzo al lago”, Alberta Cavazza, Acherdo Edizioni – 2013;
“I tesori bresciani. Guida turistica della provincia di Brescia” a cura Massimo Ghidelli, La Compagnia della Stampa Massetti Rodella Editori – 2005;
“Dimore del Garda”, Francesco Monicelli, Arsenale Editore – 2009