History of Garda
Story admin March 7, 2024

To honour the small municipality that gave its name to Italy’s largest lake, it is necessary to briefly recount its history.  Garda stretches out in the innermost part of the gulf, closed to the south by the two Rocche (fortresses) and to the north by the Sénge massif, with Mount Luppia, the last southern edge of Mount Baldo sloping into the lake with the San Vigilio peninsula.
The first evidence of human presence dates back to prehistoric times, to the end of the 2nd millennium BC. With rock carvings. There are in fact more than 250 rocks in the municipality in which more than 3,000 depictions are engraved. Rocks as smooth as boards, perfect for writing stories and legends, as the people who lived in these places between the 13th and 7th centuries B.C. did, depicting warriors and weapons with the hammering technique.
There are also numerous Roman finds, both on the Rocca and along the coast, such as at Punta San Vigilio, where in Roman times there was a small temple consecrated to Benaco, a pagan divinity, of which only a tombstone has survived to the present day and is kept at the Museo Lapidario Maffeiano in Verona.
But it is precisely to the Rocca that one must refer to understand that, originally, Garda did not touch the lake at all. Goths, Lombards, Franks and Ottonians in the Germanic Holy Roman Empire… all the rulers who followed one another along the line of history preferred to watch the waters of the lake from above, from the “warda”, the “guard”, the fortified stronghold from which to anticipate the enemy’s moves and attacks.
In the early Middle Ages, the village at the foot of the Rocca fortress was also referred to as Garda. The word “Warda” over time became vulgarised in the language and became “Garda”. And it was precisely the village of Garda that, around the year 1000, gave its name to the lake, replacing the original naming of “Benacus” on the maps.
From Benacus, then, to Garda… This is testified to in a document written by the bishop and historian Otto of Freising, who, in the first half of the 12th century, remembers the “Pond of Garda” with a hint of resentment towards that fortress that had dared to resist even Barbarossa.
Yes, because the fortress was at the centre of continuous struggles, it resisted Frederick Barbarossa’s siege and passed from one rule to another: from the Scaligeri to the Visconti and then fell into the hands of the Venetians. The Landsknechts and the plague hit the city and weakened it further until Napoleon put an end to Venetian rule in 1797.
Garda was first annexed to the Kingdom of Italy, and then, with the defeat at Waterloo, was incorporated into the Lombard-Venetian Kingdom.
With the Third War of Independence Garda finally became Italian. Until the middle of the last century, Garda was a town with an economy based on fishing, vines and silkworm breeding.
Today, Garda is a welcoming and modern town, to be experienced and visited all year round.