Founded in the 10th century, Lazise is one of the oldest towns in Italy. In 983, a document from Emperor Otto II attests to its autonomous administration, probably due to its commercial wealth. Lazise is practically known as the oldest municipality in Italy!
Indeed, this strip of land on Lake Garda takes us back to a time when villages were hubs of food and product traffic, and the lake was an important passage and communication area… From here, customs buildings, the port, the old city walls that defended it, and the so-called Lazise Castle were born.
The defensive system to protect Lazise
The walls of the village of Lazise enclose the old port, which was a military outlet since the 11th century.
In 1193, Lazise passed under the Municipality of Verona, but retained many of its privileges and certainly its fortifications. Even more prestigious, as a stronghold, was the renovation that we know today as the Scaliger Castle. Built by the Della Scala, lords of Verona, the castle was one of the many defense systems of the territory erected between the 12th and 13th centuries.
The first striking thing when visiting Lazise is that the village is surrounded by ancient 14th-century walls reinforced by towers, and only in one point does it become a real “castle”. The main tower or keep, as well as the adjoining structures, were restored to bring the ancient medieval village back to light.
You enter through the Porta del Leone, so-called because on one side of the entrance there is a bas-relief of the winged lion of San Marco – symbol of the Venetian Republic. Another entrance to the village can be that of Porta San Zeno, where the patron saint of Verona is represented. The castle itself and the ancient village were protected by moats, counter-moats, and drawbridges.
Once in the village, you can immediately admire the walls that Alberto II and Mastino II of the Della Scala family had built in 1329. The fortifications of the walls and towers were built and rebuilt with pebbles, stones, and a few layers of bricks.
The merloned towers were once about twenty, but today there are far fewer in the walkway. In any case, walls and towers are in a decent state of preservation, and are an excellent example of fortification typical of the era of the Scaligeri.
The Della Scala fortress in Lazise
The castle itself was rebuilt by Cansignorio in 1375 and completed by Antonio and Bartolomeo II in 1381.
The Cadenon tower, eliminated in 1939, also dates back to that time, but it still lives on in the memory of the inhabitants, who relive the tower in the popular festival known as the Palio della Cuccagna di Cadenon: it is held every year where the medieval tower once stood.
The keep of the castle, on the other hand, is the most imposing in the panorama of Lazise, with a merloned tower, machicolations, and defensive systems connected to the bastion by a drawbridge. There were also trapdoors and stairs, and in the square were the residences of the castellan and the barracks of the troops.
When the village passed under the power of the Republic of Venice, the castle of Lazise became the residence of the so-called Captain of the Lake. After some vicissitudes related to the territorial struggles of the Visconti, the castle lost importance and even the military port of Lazise was partially buried.
Visit Lazise Castle? Privacy, please!
We find it today inside a beautiful park, with its majestic towers, but now the manor is privately owned, and can only be visited from the outside.
Its history, in fact, in the mid-19th century became the story of Count Buri, who bought the castle and began its restoration, also creating the romantic garden full of plants and bushes. The successors, the Bernini counts, continued the work on the keep, courtyards, two walled enclosures, and six towers. Even today, the fortress of Lazise is private, and those who want to see it can walk along Via Castello and reach it with a nice walk.
Maybe then you can continue a walk on the lakeside of Lazise, which extends towards Bardolino and up to Garda, maybe towards other castles on Lake Garda…