On a hill that goes towards Valtenesi, descending towards the lake, you can discover the historic center of Moniga del Garda and its (small) castle. An ancient port on the Brescia shore, with long pebble beaches, welcomes many visitors every season to spend their beach holidays. Yet, in the historic center, there is more to discover, from narrow streets to Moniga del Garda Castle, at the top of the hill.
However, don’t expect a 30-minute or 1-hour visit, this small village nestled among the walls can be visited in 5 minutes on foot, with the possibility of stopping at the bar underneath with a view of the lake: this is, in fact, what I do every time I pass by, adding a visit to the other (very close) Padenghe Castle.
The history of the Lake’s defensive fortress
This castle is part of the network of fortresses built around the end of the 10th century, when this area was threatened by barbarian incursions. Connected to Padenghe Castle and others in Valtenesi, it constituted a system of communication and defense through which danger signals were sent to each other, up to the city of Brescia.
Although the area was populated by pile dwellings probably already in the Bronze Age (around 1800 BC), it was in the Middle Ages that the municipality expanded. In the second half of the 12th century, it became a fiefdom of local lords, then of the Republic of Venice, the Austrians, and finally returned to the Italian state.
The Moniga Castle follows the events of the village, but it was never really inhabited: it was considered a safe refuge, where the inhabitants and farmers of the area took refuge in case of danger. Never having been assaulted, given its non-strategic position, this manor is now well-preserved architecturally!
The fortified village of Moniga, in fact, is well preserved in its original plan and wall structures, since it was not a noble palace (as in the case of the Della Scala fortresses on the Garda).
This castle-refuge, presents itself as a residential quarter in the inner courtyard, an aggregation of houses designed for the shelter of people, food, and animals in case of danger. The old tower next to the entrance gate has been transformed into a bell tower with a clock. It was a call from the nearby San Martino church, which dates back to the 15th century and is one of the oldest churches in Valtenesi.
The reconstructions of the fortress-village from Trecetno
Near Moniga Castle, vineyards have been cultivated for centuries, and for this reason, despite the fortress being abandoned for a period after the invasions, the shepherds and farmers of the surrounding area used it for periodic camps.
Later the damaged parts were rebuilt in the 14th-15th century, and all the structures visible today probably date back to these arrangements. From the Ghibelline battlements to the internal houses of the fortress-village, built on a perimeter of about 300 meters with vegetable gardens.
Today the land around the fortress and walls, which was once agricultural, has become a public park, where events are also organized during the summer. A suggestive fairy-tale-like scenario that brings back to life a Middle Ages on the Garda that can be relived here in Moniga, especially in the season of mists and fogs…
Why visit Moniga del Garda and its castle
In addition to the presence of the beautiful castle, this is one of the most well-known wine-growing areas of Lake Garda. The grapes are those of the famous Chiaretto wine, cultivated and pressed for the joy of all lovers of local wines. It is a rosé wine, already a DOC wine in 1967, which lends itself well to enhancing the flavors of local gastronomy, including lake fish, polenta, cheeses, butter, and honey.
You can immerse yourself in a landscape of the lake, vineyards, olive groves, and the splendid nature that runs along a road in this area, which is about 10 kilometers long. This panoramic road to reach Salò, climbs up and allows you to see unforgettable views of this territory.
Another wonderful panorama can be glimpsed from the oldest part of the village, the locality Pozzo, where among the narrow streets you can admire the views of the lake…
A curiosity about Moniga? It is believed that its name derives from that of the Greek goddess Diana Munichia: according to legend, a sanctuary was dedicated to her in this area. Another god to protect her was certainly the ancient Benacus, from which the lake takes its name, reported in a votive inscription – perhaps of two fishermen saved from the dangers of the lake.
Moniga is definitely a fascinating place, protected not only by the castle but also by the ancient gods of Garda!