It is famous for its heart-shaped lake, but also for its unique scenery, which sees a beautiful medieval castle near the waters. Everything conspires to make Castellaro Lagusello one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, and in fact it has been included in this club!
The history of Castellaro and Castelliere
In the late Middle Ages, around the year 1000, the village was born from its defensive function, as a “castelliere” which is nothing more than a walled enclosure without an internal inhabited center. A place of refuge from the barbarian invasions of the time, without too many comforts, but with a small lake around it, the “lagusello”.
A fascinating story, which does not come by chance, however. What is now Castellaro Lagusello, is a territory that already had its roots in an ancient settlement, both in the Bronze Age with the pile dwellings around the lake, and in Roman times with a small village nearby. In the twelfth century, history led to its becoming first a refuge, then a real village.
Like today, even at the time the landscape evoked the tranquility of the morainic hills of the territory between Mincio and Garda. The medieval fortress, with the Scaligero castle and its battlements, was surrounded by fields and winter fog, and was contested between Gonzaga and Visconti, then passing to the Venetian Republic and, finally, to a private nobleman. In 1637 the Arrighi counts became owners of Castellaro and the lake, having privileged access to the drawbridge – now disappeared.
Today Castellaro is a fraction of the municipality of Monzambano, in the province of Mantua, but part of the village is still private, managed by the owners of the Toccoli family. Besides being one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, it also boasts a nearby locality, Fondo Tacoli, as one of the pile-dwelling archaeological sites that is part of the Ancient settlements in the Alps, within the UNESCO World Heritage.
Castellaro Lagusello to visit: what to see
When you arrive, obviously the first thing that strikes you is the location of the village next to the heart-shaped lake. A fabulous and ancient place, where battlements reign, the castle with its medieval courtyard, and the small ancient houses. You enter through the gate between the walls and can immediately immerse yourself in the past, with slow and relaxing rhythms. Entering from the northern part of the village, the square tower, called the Clock Tower, is immediately visible.
Further on, there is the church of San Nicola, the small parish mentioned in the documents of Castellaro Lagusello from the twelfth century which contains inside a sculpture of the Madonna in carved and gilded wood, dating back to the fifteenth century, as well as several seventeenth-century paintings.
Moving on in the village, you come to Villa Arrighi, which today is owned by the Toccoli counts. The villa dates back to the nineteenth century when the ancient castle was transformed by incorporating the walls, towers with bifores, arches. The villa can be visited on request, arriving from the villa alley to the lake, via a staircase. A spectacular setting awaits you, among the ancient walls, boats, and the “heart-shaped” lake surrounded by reeds. In addition, in the villa there is also the oratory of San Giuseppe church, a private sacred place of the Arrighi family built between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.
Lagusello and the natural environment
The famous shape of the lake often distracts from the natural beauties of this location, inserted in the Mincio Natural Park, where there are many things to know and see.
You approach the lake through a path that, as we have seen, starts from Villa Arrighi, both dirt and wooden, but you can also approach it through roads that lead to the surrounding woods or Monte Tondo.
This lake is part of a special conservation area inserted in the Castellaro Lagusello Moraine Complex, which is almost 300 hectares wide. It is located in the central part of the morainic amphitheater left by the ancient glacier in this area of Garda towards the plain. It is precisely in the low-lying area that several lakes open up, including the Castellaro Lagusello lake.
Here the waters come out of the lake through a ditch around the village, and enter the old peat quarry (Torbierina), creating an interesting water system even with other wetlands and springs. In this ecosystem of trees and plants, still protected as they were originally in the territory, you can admire oaks, holm oaks, robinia, medlar, hazelnut maples, hawthorns, and many other varieties.
The typical landscape, however, is given by the reed beds that are plowed by the flight of birds, many in this area. There are almost 100 species of birds in Lagusello, among migratory, resident, and wintering ones. The most famous are the Kingfisher and the Bee-eater; the latter creates nests that can be observed when arriving at the peat bog. The Castellaro Lagusello lake never fails to amaze with its landscape, but also with its vitality of fauna and flora: a green heart!
Castellaro Lagusello to experience: events and things to do
Spring brings flowers and… floral exhibitions, then. Here in Castellaro Lagusello one is held every year in April, which celebrates natural beauty; not only showing varieties of flowers, but also with workshops, guided tours, meetings, artistic performances.
The event is called The flowers of Castellaro Lagusello and is perfectly inserted in a context that, for its beauty, is now subject to environmental protection within the Mincio Natural Park. For those who want to expand their excursions, in fact, it is possible to visit with a cycle path all the countryside around Castellaro and Monzambano, which are dotted with ancient churches and oratories.
Among other events in the summer, there is the Night of Desires, and in nearby places, there are several festivals and exhibitions of art, music, and culture. For wine lovers, there is the Vino in Castello event in Monzambano and several guided tours organized to visit the village.
At Christmas, markets and events are not lacking both in Castellaro Lagusello and in Monzambano.
You can stop in the many taverns and inns to taste typical dishes such as the famous capunsèi, gnocchi in breadcrumbs and broth, or local cheeses and salami – the salame conciato with garlic and spices is famous. The typical delicacies can be accompanied by wines of the area, including Tocai and Merlot.
For those who want to visit Monzambano as well, there is also a twelfth-century castle, with the attached Romanesque church of San Biagio – built precisely in the period when the invasions of the Hungarians were most intense.