If you are in Upper Garda, in addition to the natural beauties, you can discover the great historical and cultural heritage of this area. A visit to the Alto Garda Museum, in the acronym MAG, in Riva del Garda, can open the doors to knowledge among the sections of archeology, history and culture of the Alto Garda area.
The museum in the Rocca di Riva del Garda
The ancient medieval castle of the village, which overlooks the lake, houses the MAG and its sections, made up of both spaces with temporary exhibitions and rooms with permanent exhibitions – both easily reachable from the historic centre. It is a museum open to the whole family, given that in the Riva del Garda Museum there is also a laboratory space called INvento, dedicated to children. Another headquarters of the MAG is located in Arco, a locality near Riva, which houses the Galleria Civica Giovanni Segantini.
The two offices create a path that clearly and suggestively illustrates the entire cultural heritage of the area, winding through different sections.
The art gallery of the Riva del Garda Museum
Entering this area of the MAG, one becomes captivated by the many pictorial works that the museum has preserved as evidence of figurative culture from the fourteenth to the nineteenth century.
There are frescoes from the Town Hall of Riva del Garda and from the aedicule of the sculptor Rigino di Enrico, passing through Renaissance paintings such as those of the mysterious Monogrammist FV and the fifteenth-century sculptures of Maffeo Olivieri. You will also be able to admire paintings from the Baroque era, such as those by the painter Pietro Ricchi, very active in the Garda area.
From the neoclassical period, the Pinacoteca displays works by Giuseppe Craffonara from Riva, and reaches romanticism with the collection of the scholar Andrea Maffei, in which there are panoramas of Garda painted by various painters in the 19th century; the Garda landscape has fascinated artists such as Vincenzo Vela and Francesco Hayez.
In the Archeology section of the MAG
In these spaces there are installations dedicated to precious finds of international importance, which start from the Middle Palaeolithic (120,000 – 33,000 BC) up to the early Middle Ages (VII-VIII century AD).
In particular, the MAG art gallery has very ancient evidence of human presence in the area at the time of hunting, such as chipped flint artifacts, or jewelry and work tools from the Neolithic period.
Found during archaeological research in the area over the course of several decades, the best known finds are those that mainly date back to the Copper Age. Among these are the “stele statues” of Arco (late 4th-3rd millennium BC) formed by human figures with weapons and impressive decorative elements. The stelae-statues are real men in stone, sculptures carved into the rock that appear in many regions of Europe during the 5th millennium BC.
In the Alpine regions they arrive above all at the end of the fourth millennium, documenting the metallurgical activity also thanks to their paraphernalia: triangular daggers, flat axes, symbolic ornaments, halberds.
The archaeological section of the Riva del Garda Museum also offers finds, jewels and educational panels on the pile-dwelling settlements of the nearby towns of Molina di Ledro and Fiavè Carera; sites that develop in the Bronze Age (2200-1000 BC) – among these are the so-called enigmatic tablets of Ledro. You will be able to understand more about the so-called Culture of Polada in which there were numerous inhabited centers on stilts, very widespread on Lake Garda, and with their own system of cults to the water deities and fire rites.
The rooms dedicated to the history of Upper Garda
This landscape has been part of various dominations over the centuries, and the historical section of the MAG recalls the past of Riva and Lower Sarca, along the many vicissitudes from medieval times onwards. First under the jurisdiction of the Scaligeri, then of the Visconti of Milan and finally the Venetian domination.
From here, we arrive at the golden age in which Riva del Garda was a renowned tourist destination, also for illustrious names in world literature such as Thomas Mann and Franz Kafka.
In addition to the exhibition itinerary of the permanent sections, during the year the Riva del Gara Museum hosts various temporary exhibitions dedicated to different themes, from insights into the collections present in the rooms, to exhibitions focused on the landscape and contemporary culture of the Basso Sarca and Garda.
The main Tower of the MAG
When you visit the museum, you also visit the main tower of the Rocca, from where you can enjoy a phenomenal view of Riva del Garda and the lake.
The museum, in fact, is located inside the Rocca di Riva, the ancient castle-fortress built in 1124 by the bishop Altemanno to replace the old manor which was located in another area of Riva. The defense of the city was entrusted to this Fortress, which in less dangerous but always “cautious” times was modified by various guests including the captain of the village, and then by the Austrian troops during the Habsburg domination.
There were many restoration works during the period in which it became an Austrian barracks, so it is not easy to define the original spaces, but it is thought that around the fourteenth century it was a castle-fortress similar to that of Sirmione.
The original form is now unknown, due to the numerous renovations made by the Austrians who adapted it to barracks. At the time of the Scaligeri, it probably had to be a perfect model of a medieval castle-fortress, all surrounded by water, like that of Sirmione. The restoration works have also brought to light fragments of Renaissance frescoes in the Rocca.