Travel Guide of Desenzano del Garda, Lombardy, Italy

Desenzano del Garda is an Italian town in the province of Brescia in Lombardy. On the southern shores of Lake Garda, lying like a fan on the first circle of the morainic amphitheater, Desenzano is an enchanting town and pleasant seaside resort. Excellent starting point for trips and excursions, Desenzano has an artistic, historical and archaeological heritage that has its roots in Roman times.

The village of Desenzano del Garda is a typical dream location, the beauties of the village, the renowned lake, the various possibilities of stay and the high hospitality make Desenzano del Garda an ideal destination for romantic weekends. The fantastic setting of Lake Garda and the possibilities offered by the surroundings also make it a perfect destination for an exploratory tour. The area is also and above all suitable for lovers of water sports.

In the old time, Desenzano del Garda was considered the most important grain market in Lombardy, the boats of the merchants transported olive oil, citrus fruits, wines, fabrics and iron tools to Desenzano, returning to the starting lands with the canals loaded with cereals. In the Middle Ages it was the battlefield of the wars between Brescia and Verona. Later in the 400s it came under the rule of Venice, being in modern times a flourishing commercial center.

Desenzano presents an artistic, historical and archaeological heritage that deepens its roots in Roman times. The heart of the city emerges starting from Piazza Malvezzi and Porto Vecchio, enriched by buildings from the 1500s by the Brescian architect Giulio Todeschini.

In the archaeological area, which houses the remains of a grandiose Roman villaof the fourth century. AD with splendid polychrome mosaic floors, the Archaeological Museum, with one of the oldest plows in the world, the panoramic tower of S. Martino della Battaglia. Notable works can be admired in the chapel of the Cathedral, which houses important masterpieces by Andrea Celesti (1637-1712 ca.) and “The Last Supper” (from 1738) by Gian Battista Tiepolo (1696-1770).

The Castle, perhaps founded already in the early Middle Ages and rebuilt in the 14-15 centuries, recently recovered and from which you can enjoy one of the most beautiful views of Lake Garda. Villa Brunati has also been restored and since 2007 it has been used as a multimedia municipal library.

In recent decades Desenzano has also become the most renowned town on the Garda for its vitality and the offer of entertainment, a real city alive and active in all seasons, a favorite lounge for winter weekends, for the shopping stroll, shopping in outlets and evenings throughout the year. The internal main street that runs parallel to the promenade of the sixteenth Malvezzi Square, and offers more than a kilometer of elegant windows that alternate at the tables of pubs, bars and local specialized in cocktails and daily snacks and a bit ‘of live music after dinner.

The city also offers the possibility of practicing all water sports (in particular windsurfing, sailing and diving). The port of Desenzano del Garda is flanked by a beautiful lakeside promenade with a splendid panorama and wide, almost marine. The Lighthouse of Desenzano which offers a panoramic view over the whole of Garda. The port and the gulf with sails of every color and the space dedicated to boating is comfortable and well equipped. There are also riding stables, tennis courts and golf courses.

The origins of Desenzano seem to be traced back to the Bronze Age, in the so-called Polada civilization concentrated in the area between Veneto and Piedmont. Desenzano was a Roman center, testified by the vestiges of the Roman villa and was Christianized thanks to the works of San Zeno da Verona. In the span of time between the 1st and 2nd centuries AD, a large number of wealthy people of Roman origin decided to put their roots there (some villas still present in the town testify to this).

In the Middle Ages it remained religiously linked to the Veronese, with the donation by the Emperor Carlomanno of the lands of Desenzano to the monastery of San Zeno in Verona, and civilly to Brescia, after the investiture of Henry VI to the municipality of Brescia.

Under the dominion of the republic of Venice (1426-1797), Desenzano became part of the Riviera di Salò. It became an important commercial center thanks to the grain market, a commercial point of reference not only for the Riviera, but for the whole lake, Valsabbia and Mantua. In the sixteenth century, with the foundation of the Academy it also became an important cultural center. In the same period, despite the war devastation of the war in Ferrara and that of the Spanish succession, the city enjoyed a certain economic development which resulted in the construction of the parish church dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene and private homes.

With the advent of Napoleon’s occupation (1797-1814), Desenzano was briefly the capital of the Benaco district, later it was absorbed into the Mella department, with Brescia as its capital. Under the Habsburgs (1814-1859), Desenzano became a tourist and holiday center for the Austrian aristocrats: in that period the Hotel Mayer was founded. In 1816 and 1826 he received a visit from Emperor Francis I, while in 1851 it was up to Francesco Giuseppe to honor the city with a visit after the events of 1848 and 1849.

In 1859, the hamlet of San Martino was the seat of the Risorgimento battle of the same name. For the sad occasion, Desenzano had to be transformed into a single field hospital. After the victorious conclusion of the second war of independence, Desenzano joined the Kingdom of Italy. In 1862, it was renamed with the name of Desenzano sul Lago and the Workers’ Society was founded. In 1882 the Banca Mutua Popolare and the Meteorological Observatory were born. In 1890 the Prehistoric Museum was opened, the first nucleus of the current Archaeological Museum.

The traffic in the town is very convenient, there is lots of railway connections with Brescia and the other neighboring cities. The city is affected by the proximity of the industrial center of Brescia, which extends its offshoots to Desenzano. The economy of Desenzano del Garda is linked above all to tourism, among the activities of the primary sector in Desenzano del Garda is practiced above all agriculture, cereals and fruit trees and olive groves from which the DOP oil of the area is produced, present in the inland areas.

Main Attractions
Desenzano del Garda offers a natural landscape dominated by Lake Garda (the largest of all Italian lakes), enclosed between the Brenta Dolomites and the slopes of the morainic hills. Ideal scenario to capture your moments of relaxation, the mild temperatures as well as the lush vegetation that surrounds your walks make this town a place able to amaze and delight many tourists.

Desenzano del Garda, overlooking the lake in a panoramic position, offers its visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in an atmosphere of relaxation, peace and tranquility. An ideal destination for those who want to spend a weekend or a holiday full of fun and entertainment.

To make Desenzano del Garda today a tourist town in all respects is its lakefront and the marina surrounded by buildings for the most part in Venetian style. Worth seeing in Desenzano del Garda is the Castle, the Cathedral, the Archaeological Museum in the former Carmelite Monastery, the mosaics and the excavations of the Roman Villa.

In the background of the square you can see the medieval castle dating back to around the fourteenth-fifteenth century: it looks like a mighty structure flanked by circular and rectangular towers. They are properly fortified enclosures in which the local population found refuge;at the end of the 19th century it acquired the function of barracks until 1943. At the castle of Desenzano, exhibitions are organized such as the Caravaggio Experience exhibition, an emotional and sensorial journey through the artist’s works. Rivoltella with its beautiful lakefront and the small church of San Biagio.

The ‘Grotte di Catullo’ in which the ruins of an ancient Roman villa discovered in 1921 and hitherto partly excavated are found. At its entrance you can come across a small museum that will exhibit materials from the excavations of what is now considered the most important testimony of the great late antique villas. In front of the Cathedral of Santa Maria Maddalena and the Civic Archaeological Museum which exhibits finds from the Bronze Age and a wooden plow (the oldest) from 2000 BC.

The position of Desenzano in the largest Gulf of the Lower Garda on the Brescia side, offers tourists well- kept and well-organized beaches with bars and kiosks open also in the evening, restaurants, pedal boats, boats for hire, sunbeds, umbrellas, cabins, showers offering every kind of comfort.

Cathedral of Santa Maria Maddalena
The Cathedral of Desenzano, dedicated to St. Mary Magdalene, was built from 1586 to 1611 on a project by the Brescia architect Giulio Todeschini. Inside stand out the works of Andrea Celesti (1637-1712), one of the main representatives of Venetian painting of the seventeenth century, master of modulating brightness and colors, with an almost “impressionistic” expression of the form. In the chapel of the SS. Sacramento it is possible to admire “The Last Supper”, a remarkable work by GB Tiepolo followed in 1738. In the nineteenth-century chapel dedicated to St. Angela Merici there are six paintings by Pietro Calcinardi dedicated to the life of the Saint from Desenzano.

In the sacristy there is the large canvas of the “Deposition” by Francesco Zugno from Brescia, one of the best disciples of Palma il Giovane, executed for the Municipality of Desenzano in 1608; in it, on the right, S. Angela Merici is depicted.

Andrea Celesti’s masterpieces in the Cathedral of Santa Maria Maddalena(1690). Celesti paints for the presbytery of Desenzano paintings depicting episodes that unite evangelical stories in the name of the Magdalene: on the back wall are the “last communion of the Magdalene”, the “Magdalene at the sepulcher” and the “Meeting of the Magdalene with the Risen One “. The altarpiece emphasizes the theme of penance, repeated several times by the cross, the crown of thorns and the scourge held in the hand by the angels, emblems of the saint’s repentant life.

The castle originates from the early Middle Ages. The castle of Desenzano is a fortified building that overlooks the town of Desenzano del Garda, in the province of Brescia. Built in the 11th century with four corner towers perhaps on a Roman castrum, it has always been considered strategic from a defensive and military point of view, as it has some houses inside. Around 1030 the emperor Henry II assigned the county of Desenzano and with it the castle to the rural count Bosone I. In the 15th century it was enlarged and served as a refuge for the population.

In the castle there was also a church, the church of S. Ambrogio, which was used as a private house. The plan of the castle is that of an irregular rectangle, with the tower that rises at the entrance, on the north side, to protect the drawbridge, of which the slits for the chains are preserved.

The old castle, although devoid of particular architectural beauties, apart from the facade, is equipped with undoubted historical interest and scenographic charm. In the ancient castle there remain some sections of curtain walls with crumbling merlons between the four cut-off corner towers, with the exception of the one on the north-east corner which, until 1940, functioned as a viewing window. From its terrace you can enjoy one of the most beautiful views of Lake Garda.

At the end of the 19th century it became property of the state and housed a military garrison in which Alpini and Bersaglieri found their place. In 1969 it became municipal property and hosts exhibitions and conferences in its rooms. The restoration has been underway since 2007, and the structure hosts, in the summer season, outdoor theater performances, guided tours and workshops for children.

Piazza Malvezzi
It is the main square of the city and dates back to the sixteenth century, the work of the architect Giulio Todeschini. It is dedicated to the memory of the partisan from Desenzano Giuseppe Malvezzi.

Old Port
The old port was built during the Republic of Venice, historically used mainly for the landing of foodstuffs and goods, it was subsequently closed first by a drawbridge and after the war by a Venetian-style bridge. The current small port (known as the “old port”), already mentioned in 1274, was built in its current configuration at the time of the Venetian Republic. In 1806 the construction of the pier and the lighthouse in Nordic style began, while the “Venetian” bridge is an intervention of 1937. The Todeschini palace overlooks the ancient dock. Leaning against the last column is the stone “of the unemployed “, where the auctioneers but also those condemned for bankruptcy climbed. In February 2016 the old port was surrounded by a modern-style walkway supported by 150 also galvanized and 600 threaded rods.

Palazzo Todeschini
Palazzo Todeschini, named after the Brescian architect, Giulio Todeschini, who raised it in about 1580, is a solemn building with fifteen arches in Malcesine stone, which remained a municipal house until the 1970s and is now a prestigious conference venue. On the ground floor, exhibitions and temporary exhibitions are hosted. Leaning against the last column of the portico is the so-called stone “of the unemployed”, where the municipal auctioneers but also those convicted of bankruptcy climbed, which bears the date 1555 engraved.

Tower of San Martino della Battaglia
In 1878 it was built in neo-Gothic style on the hill of San Martino, not far from the Ossuary, a high tower that was to celebrate the events of the Italian Risorgimento. Its designers were the arch. Frizzoni of Bergamo and the engineers Luigi Fattori of Solferino, Monterumici of Treviso and Cavalieri of Bologna. Climb to the top of the tower, 74 meters high, along an inclined spiral ramp. In the entrance there is the bronze statue of Vittorio Emanuele II by the sculptor Dal Zotto.

The walls are painted by the painter Vittorio Bressanin from Venice. Going up the large ramp you gradually reach rooms arranged one above the other and dedicated to some episodes of the Risorgimento wars. The frescoes in the tower are a very interesting example of Risorgimento painting that is stylistically connected with the historical-romantic pictorial current of which Hayez and Gerolamo and Domenico Induno were the best known representatives.

While in them the anecdotal aspect prevails or the portrait-psychological commitment or the romantic taste of the evocation of a folkloric or picturesque past, in the frescoes of the Torre di San Martino the emphasis and epic-celebratory descriptivism that characterizes much of the of the official painting and sculpture of Umbertine Italy, which found its greatest celebration in the Altare della Patria (1885-1911) decorated with high reliefs by a sculptor from Garda, Angelo Zanelli di San Felice.

The lighthouse
Near the lake there are four main beaches, all stony: the Desenzanino beach, the Feltrinelli beach, the Spiaggia d’Oro and the Rivoltella beach.

Public space
Since 2002, in the area behind the municipal swimming pools, the Parco del Laghetto has been created, which since then has been the main city park. In addition to a health course, which runs along the paths of the park, there are two basketball courts and a concrete skating rink, as well as a skate park and a football pitch on the ground. Characteristic of the park is the artificial lake, which is located in the center and which gives it its name.

Piazza Garibaldi
It is a square with a beautiful fountain in the center that lights up at night. The market is held every Thursday. The square has two monuments and numerous shops and recreational activities.

In 1997 in Desenzano, in via dal Molin 9, the first Italian public media library was opened: on the basis of this project, the Flemington Media Library was later developed. In 2007 the Desenzano media library was moved to the Villa Brunati di Rivoltella, together with the municipal library. In the cloister of the former convent of Santa Maria del Carmine, there is the Giovanni Rambotti Archaeological Civic Museum. Dedicated to local primitive populations, it houses the oldest plow found in the world.

Civic Archaeological Museum “Giovanni Rambotti”
A few steps from the lake, in what was once the cloister of S. Maria de Senioribus, is the Archaeological Museum. It is named after Giovanni Rambotti, a scholar who was responsible for the discovery of the prehistoric settlement of the Polada culture (2000 BC). Observing the artifacts jealously kept in glass cases, it can be deduced that the first human settlements in the Benacense region date back to an era between the etmesolithic (8000 BC) and that of the Bronze Age (II millennium BC).

The most important artefact preserved there belongs to the latter age, the “jewel” of the entire archaeological exhibition: the oldest wooden plow in the world, dating back to around 2000 BC, extracted in good condition in the Lavagnone area (south of Desenzano), thanks to the oxygen-free environment, characteristic of the peat bogs, in which it was found.

The Desenzano Museum, due to its geographical location in an area very rich in Bronze Age testimonies from the pile-dwelling settlements, has the main function of offering a wide panorama of the prehistoric cultures that followed in the Benacense region. The uniqueness of the area, perhaps the most important in Europe as regards the wetlands of archaeological interest, derives mainly from the characteristics of the anthropic deposits submerged at some distance from the lake shore or stratified in the peat bogs of the inframorenic basins, which thanks under their anaerobic conditions, they allow to preserve the artifacts in organic material and the Lavagnone plow is the most sensational example of this.

Roman villa of Desenzano del Garda
Discovered by chance in 1921, the Roman villa with mosaics had several construction phases between the first and fourth centuries AD and is considered the most important testimony of the great late ancient villas of northern Italy. The owner’s name, Decentius, would have given rise to the toponym Desenzano, and in fact the Roman villa is the nucleus around which the city developed.

In addition to the wall structure, a good part of the rich mosaic flooring with geometric motifs, fishing and hunting scenes, eras and cupids remains visible. At the entrance there is an Antiquarium which exhibits materials from the excavations, including the remains of statues, murals, materials relating to the daily life that took place in the villa.

Desenzano offers endless choices for shopping: you can choose from the big names in fashion, objects for the home, avant-garde design or the noble Garda wines purchased directly in prestigious cellars. Walking through the historic center you will find numerous shops of great tradition able to satisfy all the requests of the most demanding customers: clothing, food and wine products, especially traditional and local, music and sports.

Not far from Desenzano there are large outlets such as Mantova outlet and Franciacorta outlet and closer to the town, the Leone shopping center and the Vele shopping center. For those fascinated by local markets, Desenzano offers weekly, antiques and organic markets where you can browse the stands looking for real bargains. Big brands and small artisan shops come together in a skilful interweaving of experience, care, emotion that is unmatched in any commercial agglomeration.

An ancient tradition still present in Desenzano is the Tuesday market, in Piazza Malvezzi, the heart of the town: you can find from simple souvenirs to stalls displaying vases and ceramics, clothes, household items and food. And always in the same square every Sunday of the month with the exception of January and August the antiques market is set up: everyone will be attracted by ancient works from the fifteenth to the twentieth century and will be able to choose between ceramics, glass, jewelry and silver. Both Desenzano and its hamlets, weekly organize nice markets.

A significant part is also entrusted to the typical cuisine of Desenzano del Garda, which proves to be simple and genuine and is marked by the numerous varieties of fish that populate the lake: trout, pike, carpione, eel, perch and so on, with all the specialties that are offered by the restaurants in the area. Among the traditional dishes we find the polenta with cheeses called “carbonera”; among the first courses also cappelletti with meat filling are a fairly typical preparation of the area.

A splendid festival that colors the evenings with musical hues is the Desenzano Jazz Festival, which is inaugurated at the end of June and lasts a few days. The festival hosts prominent personalities of international jazz music. Furthermore, during the first half of August, a very interesting festival is held in the nearby town of San Martino della Battaglia: the wine festival, which usually lasts 3 or 4 days.

Surrounded by small villages, suggestive and characteristic to visit, such as Sirmione, Lazise and Peschiera del Garda, Desenzano hosts its tourists in hotels equipped with every comfort, many of which have a wellness center inside. Desenzano del Garda is a perfect location all year round, as its climate is always pleasant.

Renowned tourist resort, Desenzano is also an interesting starting point for excursions and trips in contact with nature, where sportsmen can practice various activities and those in search of peace can enjoy the silence of nature.

Desenzano is a perfect base for visiting the Lower Garda, which offers many enchanting corners, starting from nearby Sirmione, certainly the most prestigious location on the entire lake, and then moving on to Salò, with its brand new promenade and continuing towards Maderno and Gardone. Riviera.

Malcesine you can take the cable car to go up to Monte Baldo from where, as well as admire the lake from above, you can observe paragliding jumps and mountain bike excursions going up with the cable car and then descending at a break on beautiful trails. If you prefer to visit the surroundings far from the lake, the Pieve di San Pancrazio in Montichiari (BS), which is only 15 kmaway, is worth a visit.