Borghetto is an enchanted gem, one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, located in Valeggio, on the Mincio river, about 25 kilometers from Verona. Here we find the ancient village, but also one of the most beautiful parks in Europe, with a surprising history.
The city from which Borghetto sul Mincio depended was Valeggio, a Lombard town that has maintained its medieval appearance over the centuries through some monuments. The 12th-13th century castle welcomes visitors as the first ancient bulwark, which then opens up into the picturesque village along the river and a splendid park-garden.
This territory that includes Borghetto was a borderland between two regions, Lombardy and Veneto, which, even if in the past were not defined as such as today, were always separate territories, separated by the Mincio. This gave rise to the Scaligeri fortress of Verona, which controlled the river and the Borghetto passage, which provided the safest possible route for travelers. This natural barrier between Mantua and Verona in the Middle Ages was guarded by the small village of Borghetto, established in a strategic point – sometimes contested between the two duchies.
Thus was born a village that lived in symbiosis with the Mincio, with a unique urban plan that well represents the “hub” in which it is located. Already known in the Longobard period, between the 6th and 9th centuries, it was then called Borghetto, or fortified settlement. There was in fact an ancient guarded crossing (ford), which is now identified in the steps that descend into the Mincio, and a probable residence of the Gastald – the officer who collected taxes to cross the river. Later the area became known for the Santa Maria monastery (12th century), a small church and some houses.
It was in the 14th century that, as we have seen, the Signoria of the Della Scala arrived to take possession of Borghetto sul Mincio, and began to build crenellated walls, towers, moats, drawbridges, and other defensive or fiscal structures.
Today, its beauty comes from its history and the charm of its walls…
One of the most beautiful villages in Italy
Among its panorama stand out ancient houses that seem to emerge from the waters of the Mincio, old mills, suggestive alleyways that take us back in time.
Its ancient entrance is marked by the Visconteo Bridge, built at the end of the 14th century by the Visconti who succeeded the Scaligeri. The bridge also served as a dam and to connect Borghetto to the castle through the crenellated walls and the fortified complex called Serraglio – formerly extended for about 16 kilometers.
Called by the inhabitants Ponte Lungo, it is 650 meters long and 25 meters wide, and was the scene of great commercial exchanges as well as clashes for the possession of the territory. At the beginning of the 15th century, Borghetto became an outpost of the Duchy of Venice, which prevented access to its region thanks to this bridge suspended about 9 meters from the river. However, Venice also made it an agricultural and commercial center. In Borghetto, fascinating water mills arose, which ground wheat and other cereals thanks to their wheels and the hydraulic power of the Mincio; in addition, there was a flourishing market for silkworms, and the exploitation of river fish began, thanks to the fixed fishing systems.
Today, the mills have become lodgings for overnight stays, and are the perfect place to sleep in Borghetto sul Mincio, after a visit on the river, often enveloped in fog. You can see from the corners of the medieval village the ancient bell tower with the oldest bell in the Verona area (14th century), the fabulous colors of the reflections on the water, the church of San Marco Evangelista; this dates back to the 18th century, but was built on the Romanesque parish of the 11th century, annexed to the monastery and dedicated to Santa Maria. Inside there are fifteenth-century frescoes. A curiosity is the statue set among the walls of a building, depicting San Giovanni Nepomuceno – tradition has it that he protects many of those who fall into the Mincio from drowning – he too was martyred by drowning.
A unique scenario from a historical and landscape point of view, which has made Borghetto sul Mincio so interesting, so much so that it has been included in the Club of the most beautiful villages in Italy.
The Love for Tortellini is at Home
Known to all lovers of good food and fairy-tale atmospheres, the event that takes place every third Tuesday in June is called “Festa del Nodo d’Amore”. What love is stronger than that for the famous tortellini of Valeggio? On the Visconteo Bridge of Borghetto and in the surrounding area, a very long table is set up, which welcomes about 3,000 guests, ready to taste the “love knots” or Tortellini of Valeggio.
The dinner takes inspiration from the legend of the love between the nymph Silvia and Captain Malco, a contrasted love symbolized by the yellow silk knot, and by the tortellini that recalls it. A record dinner with quintals of handmade tortellini, and local wines such as Custoza, Bardolino del Garda, Prosecco from the Verona hills.
This “Festa del Nodo d’Amore” is now a convivial occasion, but we remember that the bridge was witness to the passage of many pilgrims, perhaps even then refreshed with tortellini, since Borghetto sul Mincio was an important passage for those traveling to Jerusalem in the south or Santiago del Compostela in the north. Even the French and Austrian armies used this unique passage on the dam bridge to cross the river and cross northern Italy.
The Sigurtà Garden Park, the award-winning beauty 2 minutes from the Village
Its history begins as early as 1407 when this garden with its many beautiful botanical species was purchased by Gerolamo Nicolò Contarini, who used it for agricultural purposes. Originally, it was defined as a wooded hill surrounded by walls, a property that had a main house and an adjacent garden. In 1436, the property was sold to the Guarienti family, who decided to sacrifice part of the agricultural land to expand the area dedicated to the garden.
In 1626 the estate passed to the Maffei family, who built a dwelling, the one we now call a villa, and obtained the right to draw water from the Mincio river for plant irrigation. Towards the beginning of the 19th century, the garden was transformed into a romantic English garden, increasingly vast and cared for by the Nuvoloni family, who took ownership of it in 1836. The villa and garden also hosted Giuseppe I of Austria and Napoleon III of France in 1859 during the battle of Solferino and San Martino.
After a decline in green care in the early 20th century, Giuseppe Carlo Sigurtà purchased the land in 1941 and began a work of redevelopment and restoration of the garden. Having the right to draw water from the Mincio, he was able to irrigate the land better, bringing the trees, shrubs, flowers, to a great green vitality. Thanks to the commitment and love for greenery also of his nephew Enzo, the historic garden of the Maffei family has been brought back to its original splendor, and today its current size is even greater, of 60 hectares.
Today the Parco Giardino Sigurtà is open to the public, since 1978, and the descendants of the family continue to preserve this corner of paradise made into a garden in Borghetto sul Mincio. A splendor that won the first prize for the most beautiful park in Italy in 2013 and the second prize for the most beautiful garden in Europe in 2015.
It is considered an important ecological oasis also for its botanical variety, boasting a avenue with over 30,000 rose bushes, about a million tulips, a marvelous 1,500-tree yew tree labyrinth, and then a forest with poplars, firs, pines, cypresses, magnolias, hornbeams, olive trees…
You will also find a medicinal herb garden and a secular oak tree, which is now about 400 years old!
There are also buildings and structures of great interest in the Parco Giardino Sigurtà, such as the Romeo and Juliet horizontal sundial, the votive grotto dedicated to the Madonna, a neo-Gothic temple known as the Eremo di Laura, the Castelletto, the children’s farm. Outside the park walls, you can walk along the rose avenue and reach the Scaligera Fortress, which is reflected in the aquatic gardens: in the meadow, flowered ponds surrounded by a mass of flowers and plants appear, hosting water lilies, Koi carp, and the marshmallow hibiscus.
The Parco Giardino Sigurtà is open every day from March to November and is well worth a visit at the height of Borghetto sul Mincio’s beauty.