Located on Sirmio peninsula, along the southern shores of Lake Garda in the region of Lombardy, is the small resort town of Sirmione. As early as the 1st century BC, this area of Lake Garda became a popular resort for all the rich families living in Verona.
The peninsular is most famous for its thermal springs and the 'Grotte di Catullo', the ruins of a Roman villa built at the beginning of the 1st century AD.
Grotte di Catullo - Photo: Eleiezzi
In the early 13th century the territory fell into the hands of the Scaligers, a noble family who were the Lords of Verona. The Scaligero Castle (also known as Sirmione Castle) was subsequently built as a port fortification and a means of defence, against enemies as well as the locals. The small port which was used for the Scaliger fleet remains in perfect condition today and is still in use today for pleasure craft.
Sirmione Port - Photo: Jakub Buza
The castle is quite remarkable, it is very large and completely surrounded by water having been built out into the waters of Lake Garda. It is one of the most intact, best preserved examples of this kind of castle in the whole of Italy.
The surrounding walls of the castle have three massive towers with dovetail battlements, typical of the buildings in Verona at that time. The castle also had a large structure that was full of cells for prisoners.
Other than arriving by water, the only entrance was by means of two drawbridges, one from the town and one from just outside, today only the one from the town is in operation. All of the doors were fitted with various types of extremely effective locking systems.
You can visit the castle and, once inside, you can climb up 147 steps to reach the ramparts of the walls. From here there is a wonderful view of the port and surrounding countryside. There is also a small museum inside with some information about the castle itself as well as an exhibition of Roman and Medieval artefacts.
As with most castles, there is a legend, and of course a ghost, attached to it. Folklore states that long ago a young couple lived there, Ebengardo and his beautiful young wife Arice. They were madly in love and lived a happy a peaceful life until the night of a particularly terrible storm. A Venetian knight, Elalberto, was caught out in the storm and knocked on the doors asking for shelter. The couple gave him a room for the night but he was so enthralled by the beauty of Arice that he went to her room to take her for himself. She was frightend and started screaming so loudly that he stabbed her to death. Hearing the screams, Ebengardo arrived but only in time to see his wife lying dead on the floor. He was so blinded by rage that he seized a dagger and killed the Venetian knight. Legend has it that every time there is a bad storm, the ghost of Ebengardo can be seen wandering around the castle looking for his beloved Arice.