The largest town on the lake is dominated by the ruins of its imposing fortress, which dates back perhaps to Roman times and was rebuilt in the eleventh century. Today, in fact, the Castle still dominates the landscape of Desenzano.
It is an ancient fortress built as a defense against the attacks of the Hungarians, along with many other fortifications in the area, which served as a refuge for the population in times of protection against looting and invasions.
Today we see Desenzano Castle as a romantic place to admire while walking along the lakefront, at the port or in the historic center. But there is much to tell to know it more closely.
The Castle and its history
Born with the original function of a Roman castrum, at least this is what some historians hypothesize, the castle was reinforced over the centuries and then expanded in the fifteenth century.
At that time, it enclosed houses within the walls, almost 120 dwellings to form a fortified citadel, which also included the church of Sant’Ambrogio. This place represented a defensive center of the county of Desenzano, which in the chronicles was under the power of the Holy Roman Empire, and entrusted by the emperor to various local nobles.
During the centuries, this village has been important for its strategic position, not only in trade but also in terms of battles. It is here that the citadel has sometimes held, sometimes given way. Often significantly attacked, it has fallen into such decay over time that it has required a complicated restoration. Only the circular curtain walls and towers remain, but that was enough to hope for an architectural recovery. The restoration of the main tower, part of the walls including the Pontesello turret, a part of the inner courtyard was carried out. Everything happened until 2007, when Desenzano Castle was opened, and today it is possible to visit the complex of the two-story tower.
A second restoration continued in the northern part until the Buffalora turret (the Specola, that is, the observation place), and some officers’ quarters. Since 2014 the area of the former officers’ quarters and the inner courtyard has been dedicated to the setting up of exhibitions, with a conference room named after Gino Benedetti and a versatile urban space. In 2019, the last restoration was completed, with the recovery of the walls and the bell tower.
From the panorama of Desenzano, you can now notice the irregular shape of the manor, a still very fascinating rectangle despite the wear and tear of time.
What you can visit in Desenzano Castle
Today, the restoration of the ancient walls allows visitors to walk along the battlements and climb up to the keep, easily and safely.
Visitors can climb up to this tower at the entrance, once equipped with a drawbridge, the one in which no one hoped to have to take refuge in past centuries – it is equipped with windows only in the upper part. You can look inside it and see, perhaps with a macabre shiver, the hatch where the death row inmates locked up in the tower were dropped. From here you can reach the panoramic point at the top, from where you can enjoy a magnificent view over the city and Lake Garda; an unforgettable scenario.
With a walkway you pass under the walls and battlements, you continue on a spiral staircase and from here you can go down, having an impressive view of the castle and its old cannons.
In the nineteenth century, in fact, the space of the fortress became a barracks for infantry, then for the Bersaglieri and finally for the Alpini until 1943.
During the summer months, in the small arena next to the castle, concerts and historical events are held: the Castle comes back to life and is worth living even just for a very nice and quick visit (I know: kids get bored quickly!).
Enjoy your visit!