A short distance from Salò, there is a place to be discovered, a village of Roman origin that welcomes visitors with various suggestions, things to see and do, ranging from ancient ruins to inland valleys, up to contemporary events sul Garda for those who love beaches and relaxation.
There are many reasons to go to Toscolano Maderno, so …
The history and ancient buildings to see in Toscolano
The ancient-Roman origins of this territory certainly did not take into account what the union of today between two villages, Toscolano and Maderno. At the time they were divided, and of different cultures. Toscolano boasts Etruscan origins, while Maderno was born with the Romans. The first settlement seems to be the Etruscan one in the port of Toscolano, which was called just like the lake, Benaco.
In the first century AD, the territory began to be mentioned as Tusculanum and a noble Roman family, the Nonii Arrii, built it in the first century AD. a splendid villa that today we find in the form of ruins and ancient mosaics (some tombstones are also walled up in the bell tower of the Church). It is an important residential complex among the villas of the Roman age on Garda, similar to the famous Grotte di Catullo in Sirmione or to the domus of Desenzano del Garda.
From the excavations in the Renaissance, columns and statues, mosaics and tombstones, terracotta, medals emerged: many beauties hidden by time, which one of the most important Roman families of Brescia, the Nonii in fact, had crammed into their home.
After the excavations in the 1960s, the domus has almost completely come back to light and now, if you are looking for what to see in Toscolano Maderno, you can certainly also consider the park of the Roman villa, where there are also two ancient temples: the temple of Jupiter and the temple of Bacchus. The first, dedicated to Jupiter Ammone, was used as a base to found the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Benaco. The second temple provided the foundations for a church, first dedicated to Sant’Andrea or then to San Domenico; after the various demolitions, today it is a Renaissance church dedicated to the SS. Peter and Paul (1584).
Among the other historical buildings from the medieval era, there are the Romanesque church of Maderno (11th century) which stands on the central square, and the bell tower of the parish church – interesting because it is the only remaining structure of an ancient castle with four towers, surrounded from double moat.
In the thirteenth century this castle was adapted as the seat of the Podestà, and in the fourteenth century it was the seat of the municipal administration; Maderno then became the capital of the Brescia coast, and then declined in the following centuries, until the building was destroyed by a fire in 1645.
Among the buildings “lost” in time to see in Toscolano Maderno, the remains of the Gonzaga palace, a sumptuous place that in the seventeenth century was surrounded by a park of 70 hectares. Today only a part of the building remains, in via Benamati, as a subsequent owner had two thirds of the building demolished … in search of a treasure! Perhaps stimulated by the mysteries of the underground passage between the Romanesque church and the palace, used by the Gonzagas to get to a “secret” window in the crypt and not be recognized during services.
The Paper Mills Valley and the Paper Museum
From Toscolano comes a famous tradition of paper production, which today can be learned through a visit to the nearby Valle delle Cartiere. Since the Middle Ages, paper was manufactured thanks to the force of the water that flowed down towards the Garda from the mountains, to the intuition of the Dominican friars and the inhabitants of the place. Uncultivated lands were reclaimed, channels were built to bring water to the paper mills, and a small port to send it out of the territory.
In the Valley, the Paper Museum today explains the whole history of these activities, including factories, workshops, ironworks, important Renaissance printing houses. On display in the Museum you will also find the finds of the archaeological excavations of the valley, the Renaissance watermarks, the books printed by illustrious publishers of the time.
To date, the “surviving” paper mill is only one, given the crisis in the sector for centuries, while various activities in the area are dedicated to the cultivation of olive trees and lemons.
Nearby you can also see the Mulino di Camerate, one of the most interesting places in the Valle delle Camerate which has kept the original equipment of the eighteenth century, and also some tools with which you can understand how the flours were created between millstones, hoppers, wheels.
Il Mulino is always part of the Valle delle Cartiere, which in the present era has become a complex to be visited easily, through a direct connection from the center of Toscolano.
Stroll along the lakefront or play sports
You can really relax by walking on Lake Garda, or reactivate your body by jogging and water sports near the historic center, including canoes and diving, rowing, sailing and the recent paddle surfing, to be discovered.
And not just water sports: the territory of Toscolano and Maderno offers various routes for mountain biking, trekking, horseback; but also golf courses and paragliding.
Among the most popular beaches is Bau Beach, designed for those who want to bring their domestic friends with them.
There is certainly no shortage of bars and restaurants for aperitifs, lunches and dinners, or to have an ice cream; they are widespread above all in the small port, the landing in the village which in the past represented the natural link to reach the Republic of Venice.
Lungolago Zanardelli is the most famous of the Garda “promenades”, it runs along the lake and allows a route from the entrance of the Gulf of Maderno to Lido degli Ulivi in Toscolano.
On the lakefront there are also historic buildings linked to the events of the period of the Republic of Salò, such as the former Villa Cavallero, home of Alessandro Pavolini (Founder of the Black Brigades of the Republic since 1944); nearby is also the former Villa Bianchi (today Hotel Golfo, which was the seat of the Fascist Republican Party and the command of the Brigades).
Also on the Zanardelli embankment you can see an anchor recovered from the lake in 2011, dating back to the First World War – in 1918 a buoy was stopped on the anchor for the mooring of three torpedo-armed motorboats (MAS) of the Italian Navy. Today the Anchor of the M.A.S. it is a war memorial.
Among the walks to do in the green, there is the one at the Ghirardi Botanical Garden, open from Monday to Saturday in the morning, with free admission. A real treasure trove of knowledge for medicinal plants! If you are passionate about greenery, know that in the Bernini Park you will find the largest tree on the entire lake, an imposing Himalayan cedar of over 2 meters in diameter … In the Serraglio park, once the Gonzaga park, you will discover statues, mulberries and citrus fruits with intoxicating aromas (oranges, lemons, cedars).
If you love good food, however, there are often fairs and festivals in Toscolano designed to let visitors taste the gastronomic delights of the area, from the recipes of the typical Brescia spit to those of lake fish. Unmissable polenta, good local wine and the bliss of these days of true abundance at the table!
Excursions near Toscolano
If you are looking not so much what to see in Toscolano Maderno, but what to visit “beyond”, then you can think of making trips to the surroundings, especially in the mountains. You could go up to Monte Pizzocolo or Monte Castello, reachable on foot if you love trekking, or by bicycle (electric mountain bike, of course). At the top, you can experience a breathtaking spectacle with the scenery across Lake Garda!