Travel Guide of Malcesine, Veneto, Italy

Malcesine is an Italian town in the province of Verona in Veneto. Malcesine is a pretty little medieval town with winding lanes, a castle and pleasant shops. It is one of the most characteristic towns of Lake Garda and in summer it becomes a popular holiday destination for those who stay on Lake Garda. A well-known tourist resort on the Veronese shore of the upper Lake Garda, it boasts the Orange Flag tourist-environmental recognition conferred by the Italian Touring Club.

It is located on eastern shore of Lake Garda,this paradise of Mediterranean vegetation with a temperate and healthy climate is home to ancient olive groves and cypresses, lemon trees and lush oleanders. The town, whose first historical data date back to 500 BC, preserves its ancient medieval origins intact.

The history of Malcesine revolves around the Scaligero castle and the Palazzo dei Capitani del Lago della Serenissima Repubblica di Venezia. The illustrious Palazzo dei Capitani, with an enviable Venetian past, expands discreetly near the port. But it is the imposing and fairytale Scaligero castle, a fascinating architectural structure dating back to the Lombard period. The castle houses an interesting natural history museum of Garda and Baldo which presents, in addition to the lake bed and the crumbling rocky walls of the mountain, also the famous graphic works by Goethe.

Malcesine is the most picturesque of all locations around the lake, different from all the others, with its overwhelming rocky promontory emerging from the waters and dominated by the towering castle that keeps watching the old town below with medieval origin, with its picturesque, cobbled alleys and small squares, doors and vaults, small and multicolored stores, pubs, studios, restaurants, taverns, old houses leaning one on each other, stone walls, patios and gardens, picturesque corners and vivacious atmospheres plenty of tourists.

These two historic buildings, still full of life, host theatre performances, music concerts, art exhibitions, and more than 300 marriages are celebrated every year, mostly by couples conquered by the magic of the castle, the light and the colours.

A dream landscape, one of the most fascinating views: Malcesine is situated between the changing colours of Lake Garda, which vary from the white foaming waves to an intense blue, from azure to silver and a warm gold of summer sunsets, and Monte Baldo rising wild and majestic, wooded and rocky up to over 2000 meters with its highest peaks.

Malcesine stands out for its always temperate climate, the climate is mild, supported by the lake’s beneficial influence: winter temperatures rarely fall below zero which makes thrive a luxurious mediterranean flora with olives, citrusses, palms, holm oaks, oleanders, bougainvilles, and in summer pleasant winds and not too elevated and muggy temperature. Walks on the cycle path, which winds for ten kilometers along the lake, in the hills or in the high mountains, pass from a Mediterranean vegetation rich in oleanders and olive groves to a purely alpine landscape.

The ideal place to satisfy the desires of every guest and tourist: who wants to relax may regenerate with calm walks along the lake or the in the close inland, offering enchanting views on facile streets and trails among the olives, or go for a relaxing cycle tour on comfortable bikeways, or have some swimming or travel with one of the many ferries and boats that bring you to the near Brescian shore or doing some mini-cruise. Immerse into pleasant reading, go shopping, or stroll the village and take place in one of the many coffeeshops, bars and icecream parlors to watch people passing by while having some specialty.

Malcesine, like many other places on Lake Garda, has very ancient origins that date back to prehistoric times. Archaeological excavations have revealed many constructions on stilts. Over the centuries, these areas have been subject to invasions and the passage of populations from northern Europe. The Lombards built a castle on the rock overlooking the lake, rock and castle that are still in its coat of arms, even if it was later destroyed by the Franks in 590.

The first recorded inhabitants of the area were Etruscans dating to around 500 BC. After 15 BC, with Tiberius’ victory over the Rhaetians, the area came under the control of the Roman Empire. After the fall of Rome, the area was ruled in turn by Ostrogoths, Alemanni and then the Langobards. The first appearance of the toponym dates back to 844. The etymology of the toponym is however uncertain, revolving around the interpretation of Malae silices or Mala silex as “Hostile stone” or “Bad stone”, probably referring to the morphology of the territory characterized by steep mountains that rise above the lake, or as ” Bad paved road “of Roman origins.

Between the 5th and 6th centuries the Langobards built a castle on the rock where the Castello Scaligero stands today. It was destroyed in 590 by the Franks. They subsequently rebuilt it and in 806 hosted King Pepin. After attacks by Hungarians the castle became part of the holdings of the Bishop of Verona.

In the Middle Ages (1145), Malcesine was governed by the Bishop of Verona, then it became a free Municipality with the right to mint its own currency. The lords of Verona “Della Scala” followed, who remodeled and restored the castle with a certain taste that has been defined since then as the “Castello Scaligero”.

In 1277, the castle fell to Alberto della Scala and until 1387 remained in the possession of the della Scala family, whose name it still bears. In the 15th century Malcesine accepted the protection of Venice, giving way to a period of prosperity with the Gardesana dell’Acqua, a small federation of 10 lake municipalities. Over the next centuries, castle and town were ruled in succession by the Visconti of Milan (until 1403) and the Republic of Venice (1405-1797). The control of Venice was only interrupted by a brief period (1506–16), when the area was under Imperial rule during the reign of Emperor Maximilian I.

During the Napoleonic wars, Malcesine was first occupied by the French and then by the Austrians, until the wars of independence culminating in the unification of Italy in 1860. Malcesine experienced the hardships related to the Italian Unification. The town suffered the Piedmontese occupation for a short period following the Battle of Goito in 1848, and then, it went under the Austrian dominion until it became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1866.

Main Attractions
Malcesine, on the eastern shore of Lake Garda, gathered around the towering Scaligero Castle and the historic Palazzo dei Capitani, preserves its ancient medieval origins intact. Malcesine is a romantic place, with many characteristic corners, which has always been a destination and a refuge for artists. The famous painter Klimt stayed there, as evidenced by the beautiful painting that shows the Church and the village of Cassone.

The highlight of Malcesine is the Scaligero Castle which must be climbed up to the tower, from where you can enjoy a breathtaking view of Lake Garda. Malcesine has a splendid castle of ancient foundation, the Scaligero fort is now home to the Natural History Museum of Garda and Monte Baldo’: a very interesting exhibition of geological, botanical, fossil and archaeological finds. A room of the Scaligero Castle is dedicated to the German poet Goethe.

The Palazzo dei Capitani with its paintings and the small garden suspended over the water, the marina and the surprising lakeside promenade. In the streets at the foot of the Castle there are shops of painters, sculptors and artisans who exhibit their works. Particular attention seems to be given to the processing of iron and olive wood in small pieces of furniture of remarkable good taste.

The old port deserves, close to which stands the sixteenth-century Palazzo dei Capitani, and the Pieve di Santo Stefano (IX century). In the surrounding area, the hamlet of Cassone and the hermitage of Saints Benigno and Carlo in the San Zeno valley should be seen.

Walks in the well-kept olive groves and the Mediterranean vegetation of the surrounding hills, along ancient mule tracks and paths immersed in olive groves, will offer an extra experience for everyone, involving guests to experience a holiday in Malcesine in a truly different and unique way, compared to traditional holidays on the lake.

The cable car departs from Malcesine that takes tourists first to the San Michele station, at 1000 meters and then, with a cabin that rotates on itself so that all occupants enjoy the spectacular 360 ° view, at the 1780 meters of the top, where in winter there are equipped ski fields on the top of Monte Baldo.

The Scaliger Castle
The symbol of Malcesine is its Castle, rebuilt by the Scaliger family aronud about 1300. The Castle halls contain the Monte Baldo and Garda Natural History Museum, the “Gallery Room” and the former powder magazine. It was built by the Austrians, now dedicated to W. Goethe with several drawings made by the poet during his “Trip to Italy”. The fortress of Malcesine dates back to the last centuries of the first millenium B.C. even if some other well-founded sources maintain that the first to build the castle were the Longobards around the half of the first millenium A.D.

The castle was destroyed by the Franks in 590 A.D. and then rebuilt. In 806 the building hosted king Pepin, who came to Malcesine to visit the Saints Benigno and Caro and, after the Hungarians invasions, it was included in the episcopal feud of Verona. It was under Alberto della Scala’s and his family’s control from 1277 to 1387. During this period the Scaliger renovated the fortress which started to be referred to as “Scaliger castle” and it was occupied by the House of Visconti from 1387 to 1403. Two years later, it was incorporated into the dominion of the Republic of Venice and remained under its control until 1506 when it was conquered by the Empire. The castle changed hands several times: it was owned by the Republic of Venice once again from 1516 to 1797, then by the French, followed by the Austrians which accomplished significant strengthening works inside the building and remained here from 1798 to 1866. From that year on, it became a Venetian’s ownership. On 22 August 1902 the castle was declared a national monument.

The Captain’s Palace
The Captain’s Palace is a historic building constructed by the Scaliger and reconstructed with a Venetian Gothic style in the XV century. This ancient residence of the Scaliger and of the Captain of the Lake was declared National Monument in 1902. The Palace was built by the Scaliger between the XIII and the XIV century over Roman and Romanesque ruins. Dating back to 1477, reveals that the building was already been reconstructed with a Venetian style and sumptuously decorated. In 1618 the town of Verona, at the request of the Republic of Venice, bought the Palace which became the residence of the Capitain of the Lake. In that period, many refurbishment works were carried out. On 20th March 1854 the Town of Verona rent it to the Town of Malcesine which became the only owner in 1897. The Palace was declared National Monument in 1902.

Once you come in, after a few steps, you can find a large hall whose ceiling presents a fresco of the emblem of the Gardesana dell’Acqua (the fortress of Malcesine and the Lion of Saint Mark), the emblem of the town of Verona and the emblem of Ludovico Giusti, the Captain of the Lake. On the northern wall, a commemorative plaque is placed to remember the value of the Captain Domenico Becelli, who preserved the coast from the assaults during the war of the Spanish succession in the early years of the 18th century. The rooms situated in the two sides of the hall were used as an office for the guards, the secretaries, but also as a warehouse or a stable. From the gate situated on the eastern wall, you can have access the garden on the lake shore which was used as a dock for the “ganzarina” the Captain’s boat.

From the entrance hall, going up on a steep stony stair, you get to the “piano nobile” (the principal floor). Turning left, there’s a hall with some large Venetian windows and a small balcony overlooking the lake. The coffered ceiling is decorated with leaves and flowers alternating with the emblems of the Miniscalchi and the Lodron, a family from Trento related to the Miniscalchi. Under the beams there’s a cornice decorated with masks, little angels, sea horses and birds. The hall door is made of a local dark stone finely decorated with the low relief technique. The door on the northern side leads to the area which used to be a waiting room for the audience the Captain held in the hall. From the small hall, it was possible to reach the rooms the Captain used during his stay or the chapel consecrated to Saint Zenone. From the hall in the middle, a stony stair leads you to the servants’ and the chaplain’s rooms in the upper floor.

Pieve di St. Stefano (or parish church of St. Stephen), first mentioned in the 9th century. Today’s baroque church dates to the early 18th century and contains several works of art including the altars of St. Benigno e Caro (Saints Benigno and Caro, 1769) and of the Beata Vergine delle sette allegrezze (Virgin of the Seven Joys, 1771), as well as a tabernacle and the painting Deposizione attributed to Girolamo dai Libri. Santa Maria di Navene is yet another notable church in the town, dating back to the 17th century).

The Natural History Museum of Mount Baldo and Lake Garda
The Natural History Museum of Mount Baldo and of Lake Garda is housed at the Casermetta inside the Scaliger Castle. It was completely refurbished in 2008, with the help of the scientific staff of the Civic Museum of Natural History of Verona. The museum aims at presenting the local natural history through an easy and highly suggestive outfitting. It comprises nine rooms, four of which are dedicated to the lake and situated in the lower ground floor, while the other five rooms, that focus on the landscape and the mountains, are in the ground floor.

Monte Baldo
Behind Malcesine rises the 2,218 m high Monte Baldo. A two-stage cable car ride—the second leg using one with rotating cabins—takes passengers to 1,750 m above sea level. From there the highest point can be accessed by walking a few kilometres to the south along the ridge.

The carbonera polenta is a typical dish of gastronomy of Valle del Chiese, a tradition that also comes to Malcesine through the upstream Baldo. It is a hearty dish that arises from the farmers’ need to consume leftover cheeses. In the Malcesine variant there is a tendency to use olive oil (which is a local product) instead of butter. Malcesine’s olive oil, which has DOP status, enlivens any fish. The little town is packed full of bars, bistros and restaurants, offering outstanding traditional cuisine. Try a fillet of Lake Garda whitefish. Lake fish with a drizzle of famous Garda extra-virgin olive oil.

Malcesine boasts many great pebble beaches, in little bays lapped by clear, azure waters. There are private beaches with facilities and public ones with nearby bars and restaurants.

Beach of Navene
The beach of Navene is situated next to the Fraglia Vela Malcesine, 4 km to the north of Malcesine. It’s a free pebble beach with a multi-sport field for kids and a swim raft. The beach continues up to Località Baitone. There are bars, pizzerias and restaurants next to the beach. Not far from the bus stop, in Navene, there’s a car park.

Beach of Campagnola
The beach of Campagnola is situated in Località Campagnola, 3 km to the north of Malcesine. It’s a free pebble and stones beach, equipped with a swim raft. This is one of the largest beaches with bars, pizzerias and restaurants close at hand. There’s a car park in Via Navene Vecchia, Campagnola.

Beach of Paina
The beach of Paina is situated to the north of the Scaliger Castle, 100 m away from the town centre. It’s a free pebble beach equipped with: swim raft, lifeguard service, beach volley fields, a skate board area and multi-sport field. The beach continues up to Rettilineo, to the ferry boat dock. You can find bars and restaurants along the beach, a beach club with an entrance fee and beach loungers rent.

Beach of Posterna
The little beach of Posterna is situated under the Castle, you can reach it passing through the town centre and taking a small street to the left of the Castle. The beach is quite small and typical but it is worth going for a dive or a visit.

The Lakefront of Malcesine
The lakefront is located to the south of Malcesine and it starts immediately after the port. The beach is at the end of the lakefront, next to the island, just before the ascent to Val di Sogno. It’s a free pebble beach. Bars, pizzerias and restaurants are close at hand.

The Bay of Val di Sogno
The bay of Val di Sogno is situated near the hospital of Malcesine. It’s a free pebble beach. From the beach you can get to Isola del Sogno during periods of severe drought. Bars, pizzerias and restaurants are all close at hand. There’s a car park next to the hospital.

Cassone is a little village situated 5 km to the south of Malcesine. There’s a beach to the south and a beach to the north of the little village. They are free pebble beaches equipped with a swim raft. Bars, restaurants and pizzerias are all close at hand. You can find a car park next to the bus stop, in the village centre.

Outdoor activities
In the area it is possible to practice the most varied sports such as sailing, windsurfing, SUP, tennis, paragliding, mountain biking and much more. Within 10 minutes, thanks to the modern cable car equipped with 360 ° rotating cabins, you can reach the 1,800 m of Monte Baldo, the “Botanical Garden of Italy”, which in summer is the starting point for wonderful and suggestive walks and excursions, paragliding flights or descents by mountain bike while in winter it is possible to practice skiing with a spectacular view of Lake Garda on the different slopes available (12 km) served by a chairlift and six ski lifts and suitable for everyone.

You can go kitesurfing in the morning with the northern wind, go walking in the woods and go paragliding just before the evening. You can also go for a bike ride in the morning, or go rock climbing or go windsurfing in the afternoon and just before the evening, when the lake gets calmer, you could relax while going SUP or canoeing.

Lake Garda’s winds change their intensity depending on the area and the part of the day: they are perfect for all those who want to learn, but also for training or just having fun. That’s why northern Lake Garda is considered the windsport mecca especially for sailing, windsurfing and kitesurfing.

Just above Malcesine there’s Mount Baldo: there are hills and mountains reaching an altitude of more than 2000m. You can enjoy many different kind of paths suitable for easy walks and bike riding inside nature as well as high altitude routes, some of which are really challenging. Mount Baldo is renowned, not only as a trekking site, for mtb, running, and nordic walking but also as a take-off site for paragliding.

Climbing cliffs and Lake Garda’s via Ferratas are also worth mentioning: there are more than 2000 equipped routes, many of them have been secured by local authorities.

Characteristic Events
During the summer there is a very lively cultural activity with numerous concerts at the Lacaor Theater, a suggestive natural arena at the foot of the Scaligero Castle, and painting and sculpture exhibitions.

The feast of Sant’Anna, Saints Benigno and Caro,
A religious procession accompanied by the band from the Pieve di Santo Stefano to the Church of St. Benigno and Caro in the center of Malcesine. The evening is celebrated on the beach of Paina where the Festa di Sant’Anna is organized with food and music and, finally, a choreography of fireworks on the Scaligero Castle of Malcesine accompanied by music.

The traditional Triduum is held in the parish church: three days of prayer for the souls in purgatory. On this occasion an impressive stage design is fitted with hundreds of candles and is performed by the choir “Top Valdritta” the Miserere mei Deus of Lorenzo Perosi, now part of the Triduum Malcesinese tradition.

International competition for choirs
To underline the presence in town of the important competition for choirs voices organized every other year on a national and international basis by the Garda in chorus with the participation of the best Italian and foreign groups and relative competition for choral music composition.

Visit the The towns of the Brescia side of Lake Garda or to Riva del Garda (Trentino). Vittoriale degli Italiani, in Gardone Riviera, the western shore of Lake Garda. A trip to Monte Baldo is to be done as well as to Isola del Sogno, between Malcesine and Assenza di Brenzone and Isola dell’Ulivo right in front of the coast. The charming village of Cassone, just 4 km from the center of Malcesine, with its shortest river in Italy. Malcesine, like the neighboring villages, is famous for its wines and its extra virgin olive oil: cellars and oil mills are open for tastings and special souvenirs.