In the territory of Lake Garda that borders Assenza di Brenzone and the nearby Malcesine, this suggestive little island rises from the waters.
Its history tells two important themes such as “defense and sighting”, being a perfect location to monitor the lake from the north. Already in the tenth century, it was fortified, and for decades it housed a powder magazine dating back to the First World War on its soil. Now it has recently been recovered, with the possibility of visiting and appreciating its beauty.
The history of the island, the military Trimelone
Since the high Middle Ages, several populations took refuge on this island, which is only 100 meters from the coast, with an area of about 260 meters in length and 60 meters in width.
Small but welcoming, during the barbarian invasions, it protected peasants and fishermen from devastation and looting. Already at that time, a small fort was built on Trimelone, then destroyed by the armies of Frederick Barbarossa in the twelfth century. The Scaligeri lords of Verona later rebuilt it, fortifying several other points in the surrounding area: Castelbrenzone, the Campo fortress, the Rocca di Biasa, and the Trimelone fort. Today, only a few traces remain of the other castles, while Trimelone has changed over time, and its most important military history comes in the twentieth century.
This strip of land in the middle of Lake Garda represents a significant part of twentieth-century Italian history. Already before the First World War, it was used as a defense site for its strategic position: during the period that divided Italy in Navene with the border of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
During the 1915-18 war, it became a military detachment also used later by alpine troops and bersaglieri. In the thirties, it became a yard for the processing of war residues. During the Second World War, it was the site of a bunker and Mussolini, a few days before his end, released his last interview from Trimelone.
The island then became the protagonist of the post-World War II. It became a sort of arms depot at the end of the conflict, left by both Italian and American soldiers and German soldiers not only on the island but also in the surroundings of Malcesine. In the powder magazine were collected over 100,000 pieces of artillery from the First and Second World War, including bullets, phosphorus bombs, grenades, and war residues.
The post-war period and the current state of the island
In 1954, an unexploded ordnance suddenly detonated and destroyed almost half of Trimelone, causing a fire that continued for about 3 days, with the serious consequence that a large quantity of weapons and rocks sank in Garda.
These war relics were then detonated far away, in more recent times, in some quarries; the search for explosive material in the area for reclamation and safety is still ongoing. Only in 2019, the divers of the Italian Navy – subaqueous operational group (GOS) carried out a removal and neutralization operation of Second World War ordnance: through ferromagnetic sensors, they cleared an area of the seabed, removing over 1,000 explosive ordnances and almost 70 projectiles.
An intriguing story, but now part of the past. Today, all military buildings are closed, the casemates and fort inaccessible, and even the pier has been dismantled.
The environmental oasis of Trimelone Island
The seagulls and cormorants that nest on the island make it a beautiful natural oasis in the middle of Garda, appreciated for this by many tourists who discover the most different botanical species and an extraordinary landscape from a sailboat.
In fact, the landing and fishing ban is still in force due to the danger of the site, but through the boat, you can admire the environmental oasis and observe a wild, mysterious, and inaccessible island.
There is a proposal for the valorization of the island and its habitat, which would like to create a natural aquarium and a center for fish studies. In the conversion of these spaces into a public place and a natural oasis, a museum and a submarine tunnel are also planned, which can be accessed on foot or by bike.
Over time, several trees have been planted on the surface, thus multiplying the hospitable places for birds that want to nest. Trimelone has now become legally a protected island as a naturalistic and underwater park, therefore also loved by many divers.