Lazise, between the lake and the hills
The territory of Lazise includes a 7-km-coastal strip along the lake and a wide hinterland where the morainic hills gently slope towards the lake, and devoted to agricuture. This beautiful landscape, rich in olive groves and vineyards, is framed by tall secular cypresses and woods which render it unique and ideal for pleasant strolls.
Three main villages developed around the original historical centres, and each one has its specific characteristics. Lazise, which is also the chief centre, is surrounded on three sides by the Scaligeri walls, while on the west side it borders on the lake, which reflects upon it its nuances of light. A stroll in the historical centre offers pleasant views: among the streets and the alleys of Lazise you can admire its ancient walls and the rocca scaligera, built between 1375 and 1381 together with its main tower. The other two historical centres will be described on pages 12 and 13.
Hotels and accommodation facilities are located both in the centre of the village and in the surrounding countryside, while numerous camping sites are located between Lazise and Pacengo, on the west side of the territory of Lake Garda.
A dive into the history of Lazise
The history of Lazise dates back to prehistoric times: numerous foundings of flints and utensils testify the existence of a pile dwelling village along the banks of the lake. There are no sure records about the Roman period, but the location of the village and different foundings from the nearby villages lead to hypothesise a human settlement in the area in that period as well.
The first documents about the existence of a relevant community in Lazise date to the high middle ages: among these, the imperial document signed by King Otto II in 983 AD, which grants the village complete civic autonomy. This rendered Lazise the first Italian comune (city state)
The construction of the first defense wall dates back to this period, while the construction of the castle and of the complete walls around the village date to 1077.
In 1277 Lazise fell under the Scaligeri seignory led by Cansignorio della Scala who enlarged and restored the walls and the battlements of the castle, and one century later it fell under the domination of the Visconti of Milan, like other comuni of the area like Malcesine, Torri del Benaco and Garda. These villages formed a sort of protectorate called “La Gardesana”.
In 1405 Lazise, as well as the whole Veronese district, became part of the Republic of Venice, which considered it a strategic area for the domination of the lake: the Venetian domination lasted until 1797, when Lazise was occupied by the Napolenoic troops.
Subsequently, with the treaty of Campoformio, the territory of Lazise became part of the border between the empires of Austria and France, and was then annexed first to the Kingdom of Italy (1805), then during the Restauration, to the Lombardo-Veneto, and it finally became part of the Kingdom of Italy in 1866.
From villa to villa
Lazise boasts the presence on its territory of 17 Ville Venete and ancient hamlets of great historical, cultural and natural interest. Located near the lake, or in the surrounding countryside as well as on the hills, the villas proudly characterize the territory, highlighting its urban plan. In the centres of Pacengo and Colà the villas and their parks occupy great part of the territory; they are immersed in the green landscape of their parks and broli, like villa Barbaro also called “La Bottona”, villa Bagatta and villa Balladoro, or in a location that dominates the surrounding countryside, like villa Da Sacco, villa Anturium, villa Bevilacqua, villa Fumanelli and villa Conferazene in Colà, sometimes with “selese” (threshing floors) like villa Fratta Pasini alle “Saline”, or ancient wells like villa Zanetti in “Montinghel”, adorned by imposing gardens like villa Cavazzocca Mazzanti also called “Pergolana” or long alleys of secular cypresses, like villa Benciolini, little lakes and XIX century greenhouses with aranciere like the sumptuous park of villa “dei Cedri” in Colà.
On the territory there are also elegant buildings connected to agricultural activities, like the stables of villa Alberti, also called “Fausta”, or authentic medieval ruins as those in the romantic park of villa Bernini in Lazise and oratories as in Villa Palù dei Mori.
Due to their importance, the villas were once the seats for meetings and strategic stops; a plaque in villa Gemma Brenzoni in Pacengo, on the side of the building towards the Gardesana, commemorates the fact that Ferdinando of Savoia, duke of Genova stopped here during the siege of Peschiera in 1848.
The witches of Mondragon
A few kilometres from the historical centre of Lazise, an ancient hamlet is located at the feet of a hill, and it is known as Mondragon, “the mount of the dragon”. It was once the seat of the vicarship (Vicaria) and the first civic centre of Lazise; as a matter of fact, its coat of arms, dating back to the Venetian domination, is characterised by white and light blue rhombi, as well as by Mondragon’s dragon.
In the past, on the top of the Mondragon was located a castle where, according to a local legend, witches and dragons held their meetings. At night the people living in the area saw strange lights near the castle and heard mysterious noises and howlings coming from the Mondragon. A widespread fear caused the people of the area to remain at home after sunset. The witches of the Mondragon were not the only evil characters of Lake Garda: on the side of Brescia, near Salò, was located the Valle delle Strie (Valley of the witches). The two groups of witches had the power to cause violent storms. And this is how the castle of Mondragon was destroyed: one night a lightning struck it. It seems that the storm originated from the Valle delle Strie.
The small villages near Lazise: Pacengo and Colà
Pacengo and Colà, the former located in the southern part of the territory and the latter in the hinterland, are small, beautiful and historically relevant centres characterized by the presence of many ville venete. Pacengo hosts two yachting harbours, while Colà hosts a thermal park in the sumptuous Villa dei Cedri. A great quantity of termal water actually emerges from the underground and forms a lake which is located within a marvelluous park. The park, which dates to the end of the 18th century, hosts secular trees and two elegant villas: the 17th century villa Moscardi and the 19th century villa Miniscalchi. The lake, with hydromassage systems, springs and illumination systems at night is an enchanted place devoted to relax and wellness.
The waters of lake Garda host archaeological foundings dating to prehistoric times. In Pacengo were found the remains of a big pile dwelling village. The history of Pacengo and the neighbouring villages is characterized by trade activities and encounters of travellers: as a matter of fact, here passed the mythical amber road. During the first Italian was of independence, Pacengo was the theatre of the battle between the Austrians and Piedmontese armies and some months later it hosted Ferdinando di Savoia during his assault of Peschiera del Garda.
Colà is part of the municipality of Lazise from the 19th century and it is mentioned mainly for its role in hosting the wounded soldiers after the 1866 battle of Custoza.
Going for a walk in this area relaxes your mind and offers pleasant views; picturesque pebbled walls characterize the landscape of the morainic hills, dividing in a natural way the borders of the rural estates and the big villas. Villa dei Cedri is located in this territory: it is an elegant 18th century palace with thermal waters, a park with centennial trees and a majestic 19th century greenhouse made of iron and glass.
The Scaligeri castle
The fortified village of Lazise is part of the association of the walled cities of the region Veneto. Its historical centre has preserved its medieval aspect across time as it is testified by the turreted scaligeri walls and its ancient access gates. The Scaligeri castle (la Rocca), with its crenellated battlements, its five defensive towers and the mastio is owned by the earls Bernini. It was built in the 11th century by the Bevilacqua family and two centuries later it was restored by the Scaligeri. Under the domination of the Republic of the Serenissima the castle was enlarged. Still perfectly preserved are its defensive walls and the three access gates: Porta del Lion (south), Porta San Zeno (east) and Porta Cansignorio (north). On the west side, beyond the great square Vittorio Emanuele II, are located the old harbour, the Venetian Customs building and the little church of S. Nicolò. Nowadays the castle is surrounded by a wonderful park where you can admire the natural landscape and enjoy a medieval atmosphere.
The Venetian Customs (Dogana)
The ancient Palace of the Customs overlooks the lake with its two big arcades and it is located near the 14th century little church of San Nicolò. Built at the beginning of the 14th century by Cangrande della Scala to locate there his ships, over time the palace became a real arsenal of the Serenissima Republic of Venice while in the 17the century it hosted the production of saltpetre. At the beginning of the 17th century it became the seat of the customs office for the Venetian trade activities. Subsequently, it hosted the production of cotton and, during the fascist period, it became a “Casa del Fascio”. Nowadays the Venetian customs palace has been restored to its past splendour and it has become an important cultural and social site for the municipality of Lazise.
Parish Church of San Martino: Characterized by perfect neoclassical features, the church was built on the ruins of a 14th century church devoted to San Zeno.
Church of SS. Fermo and Rustico: this church is located along the way to Calmasino. It was built in the medieval period and restored in 1571 thanks to the income deriving from the fines paid by grape thieves. It is currently the seat of the cultural association “Francesco Fontana”.
Church of SS. Faustino and Giovita: this church is located in the countryside, in the little village of Mondragone. It dates back to the 12th century, and was restored in the 17th century.
Church of San Giorgio Martire: this 18th century church is located on the site of a pre-existent romanesque chapel. It hosts two paintings ascribed to the Veronese painter Agostino Ugolini and a more ancient one by Paolo Farinati.
Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie (Holy Mary of Grace) "La Pergolana": this ancient rural building is located on the ancient “gardesana antica”, the road which connects the village of Lazise with Cisano and Bardolino.
In the past it was used as a convent and a school.
Chiesetta (Small Church) of Sant’Antonio in Corte Saline: Beautiful small private church where Sunday Mass is celebrated for the farmers’ families of the area. This custom dates to 1928 and it is still practiced.
Chiesetta of Sant’Antonio in Palù dei Mori: Built at the beginning of the 17th century and abandoned in the 1960s after the collapse of the roof, the church is currently being restored and very soon it will be brought back to its past splendour.
Sanctuary of the Virgin of the Snow (Madonna della Neve): Located in Colà and characterized by a picturesque parvis adorned by cypresses, the church is devoted to the Marian cult.
The church of San Nicolò al Porto
Characterized by simple and clean architectural features, this romanesque church devoted to San Nicolò from Bari and built on the harbour of Lazise dates to the 12th century. The apse was rebuilt at the end of the 16th century while the bell tower dates to the 18th century. It was temporarily abandoned and then, at the end of the last century, it became the seat of a theatre. In 1953 the church was restored and reopened to the public.
Unique tastes and typical food
Lazise offers its guests excellent restaurants, which cater to local and international tastes. The fish dishes of the typical menu of Lazise offer an interesting culinary variety; sardines, twite shads, bleak fish, pikes, tenches, carps, perches, eels, trouts, whitefish fish and the delicious soused fish, an endemic species that can exclusively be found in the waters of Benaco. The typical dishes are pike with sauce and with polenta, risotto with tench and fried bleak fish.
Great events all year long
The elegant centre of Lazise hosts all year long concerts, art exhibitions and festivals devoted to local traditions.
The Days of Honey: this event takes place on the first weekend of October. It is a national exhibition of different kinds of Italian honey with a competition to elect the best ones. During the exhibition, which hosts also related conferences, Italian apicultors and apicultural companies present the products of their beehives: honey, royal jelly, propolis, honey-based products and its derivatives for cosmetic products and natural medicine. Honey tastings are offered and the tools for the production of honey are on display as well.
Ancient festival of the Madonna of the Snow: this event is particularly loved by the people living in the area and the tourists. It takes place over four days between the end of July and the beginning of August (including the day of August 5th) in Colà; it is a perfect occasion to taste the local enogastronomic dishes, in particular the “Anara col pien”, listen to good music and have fun.
Flag of the Lake: Lazise is one of the villages of the lake that participate to the Regata delle Bisse, the competition on the typical boats with a flat bottom where it is necessary to row while standing. The Bisse compete every year for the Flag of the lake, through Venetian rowing techniques.
The Cockaigne Pole “Del Cadenon”: it is an ancient folklore event that takes place in the harbour of Lazise, towards the end of July. The competition consists in running on the Cockaigne pole which is positioned horizontally on the waters of the lake; the best participants manage to get the flag which is posited at the end of the pole.
Historical Reenactment: On May 7th the celebration of the rights and privileges of the ancient municipality of Lazise takes place. The event reenacts the day in which the emperor in 983 signed the document which granted autonomy to the village and the permission to build the castle.
Presentation of the Chiaretto Bardolino wine: exhibition for the yearly presentation of the wine “Chiaretto” open to operators and journalists working in the field. In the course of the event, which takes place in the ancient Venetian Customs building in March, it is possible to taste the wines of the previous year.
Last Caption: the agricultural territory of the municipality of Lazise is one of the widest of the area of Lake Garda devoted to vineyards, with the major production of the Bardolino wine.
Movieland Park, the Hollywood theme park. It is the ideal place for those who love films and strong emotions. Movieland studios will magically transport you to re-live the scenes of your favourite films.
Caneva Aquapark, a dive into the Caribbean. Heavenly theme park full of water attractions such as the outdoor swimming pools, adventurous waterslides, breathtaking waterfalls and entertaining shows.
Medieval Times, for those who have a kingly hunger. Immersed in a medieval atmosphere, in this peculiar restaurant you can watch tournaments with knights that challenge each other in competitions on horseback and full contact fighting. Who will win the hand of the princess?
Rock Star Restaurant, 100% Food, drink, music & fun! The protagonists of this attraction are the music, entertainment shows and the rich buffet catering to all tastes.