Placed on the western coast of Lake garda in a small bay that protects it from the wind, the town of Salò, with its gardens, villas, palaces, and renowned Zanardelli lakefront boardwalk, is the illustrious entrance to the Lemon and Castle coast.
Salò, in the province of Brescia, has always been considered a town of strategical importance, because it is connected to the Adriatic sea through the Mincio and Po rivers.
It is believed that it was inhabited since the etruscan period and then followed by the romans as a recently discovered necropolis testifies.
Since the middle ages Salò has been one of the most important towns of the brescian side of the coast, before being taken over by the Republic of Venice, followed by the Visconti and Scaligeri dominion.
The medieval architecture can still be seen today by walking between the walls, interspersed by towers. The two main doors of the ancient fortified town center were connected by the di Sotto alley, which today is just important as it was centuries ago.
From the Magnificent Homeland to the Republic of Salò
Around 1440 Salò became the capital of the Magnifica Patria (Magnificent Homeland), made out of 42 communes faithful to the Republic of Venice. Traces of this alliance are still very visible in the many emblems of the winged lion of Venice seen all over the town.
In the modern era Salò became once again an important political center during the period of the Fascist Social Republic, between 1943 and 1945, when it was nominated capital by Mussolini.
Thanks to its central position and its closeness to all the main communication roads it is still considered an important landmark in the area, both for the various services offered and the lively economic and commercial businesses.
Traces of Salò's prestigious past are very evident in the elegant historical center and in the Zanardelli lakefront boardwalk, which was completely rebuilt after a violent earthquake in 2004. The town is rich in buildings of great cultural and artistic value, as well as ships and boutiques excellent for shopping.
What to see in Salò
The Historical town center, that goes from Carmine square, to Vittorio Emanuele II square (better known as “Fossa”), to the lakefront, is a series of roads, alleys, and small squares with refined mansions, elegant shops, restaurants, and cafés.
The wonderful lakefront boardwalk of Salò houses both the Palace of the Magnifica Patria and the Mayor's palace. The palace of the Magnifica Patria, built in 1524 and designed by Sansovino, was rebuilt after an earthquake in 1901 with its lobby.
Today it is Salò's town hall and in its atrium we can see frescos painted by Angelo Landi, as well as other ancient coat of arms and dedicational tombstones in the portico that connect it to the Mayor's palace.
The other architectural jewel of Salo's historical town center is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Annunziata, considered to be the most important monument of the town. Salo's cathedral was built in the 15th century in a late gothic venetian style. Since 1974 it has been considered a National Monument, and inside it keeps important paintings and frescos done by the artists Romanino, Moretto, Zenon Veronese, Paolo Venexiano and Palma the Young.
The beautiful wooden ancon on the main altar was made by Pietro Bussolo and nowadays known as the ancon of Salò. Other places of interest that are worth visiting are the clock tower, built in the 18th century, the splendid liberty style Simonini Villa (nowadays known as Hotel Laurin), and the archeological museum.
Town of music and art
Salò, who has always been thought of as a town of art and music, every year celebrates the “International summer music festival of Garda” in honour of the master violin maker Gasparo Bertolotti (a.k.a. Gasparo da Salò), one of the main contributors to the invention of the modern violin.
In recent years the festival has been enriched by the prestigious MuSa museum, who every year hosts great events and exhibitions.
In this town many cultural, sport, and gastronomic shows take place, among which “Salò in tavola” (Salò at the table) stars. It is an event that invited the public to take part in an enogastronomic journey in the streets of the town, to taste fine dishes made by local and international chefs, accompanied by live jazz music.
100 best destinations in Italy award
On december 6th 2018 at the Madama Palace in Rome, Salò was awarded with a prestigious aknowledgement as italian touristic destination. The town was enlisted in the top 100 italian touristic destinations. Such a prize is given only to the most culturally, artistically, and environmentally attractive locations in the country.
Nightlife and outdoor sports
Salò offers top class accomodation facilities, with great hotels, bed and breakfasts, trattorie and other traditional restaurants, as well as night clubs in the area such as the Conca D'oro or “La Fossa”, where young people go to enjoy themselves on summer evenings, especially on thursdays, where every week for years the “Happy Blue Hour” has liven up the town with live music and smashing aperitifs.
Families can relax in the playground placed near the beginning of the Lakefront Boardwalk or they can explore the various small beaches and the “Rimbalzello Adventure Park”, with above-ground rope-paths and beaches equipped with everything necessary.
Sport and outdoors lovers can go crazy with trekking paths behind the town, or with sailing classes to explore the lake up close. Tourism is certainly of key importance to Salò, and has contributed to elevating Salò to one of the towns with best livelihood and quality of life in the country.
Every year even more tourists, especially from Germany, hear the call of this precious jewel on the coast of Lake Garda.
Salò is placed in a very strategic position. It is inside a enchanting gulf at the feet of the Saint Bartolomeo mountain (m. 568). From here we can go discover the brescian coast of Lake Garda.
One of the first stops would be the small church of Madonna del Rio, in a small valley behind Salò and reachable by crossing a beautiful avenue surrounded by olive trees. According to tradition, the sanctuary was erected in the 18th century after the apparition of the virgin Mary in one of the caves, where she allegedly left a footprint.
Close to the church is a path in the woods that leads to a beautiful waterfall that contributes to building a fairy-tale like scenery. The church of the Madonna del Rio is a common destination for Easter Monday walks for the people of Salò.
Palace Martinengo in the hamlet of Barbarano is one of the main tourist attractions surrounding Salò.