Lesser Known Locations of the Italian Lakes
By Joel Draba-Mann
6 November 2015
The lesser known facts and locations of the Italian Lake District and where else to go to escape the fast-growing crowds around the more famous lakes.Read more
Lake Garda in central northern Italy has long been regarded as a go-to destination by those who appreciate fresh air, tranquillity and outstanding natural beauty and these are found in abundance in the region of the villages of San Felice de Benaco and Portese, situated on hilly glacial moraine on the western shore of the lake.
The architectural remains and ancient gravestones that dot the region attest to San Felice de Benaco's inhabitation since the Roman Era, during which a monastery of the order of San Francesco d'Assisi was built. In medieval times the region was subject to invasion and the remains of San Felice's defensive castle may still be visited today.
The tiny and picturesque Portese is a traditional Italian fishing village and features one of the few remaining authentic fishermen's harbours on Lake Garda. Portese is also renowned for its beautiful pebbled beach which is backed by a fine selection of restaurants and cafes making it an ideal location for those who wish to take a dip in the lake's crystal clear waters or simply to relax and enjoy superb views of the distant Dolomite Mountains.
Dating from 1460 and consecrated in 1482, the Church and Sanctuary of Our Lady of Mount Carmel in San Felice de Benaco is a building of architectural beauty in the Romanesque and Gothic styles typical of the region. The Sanctuary is unmissable for its remarkable fifteenth and sixteenth century frescoes and for an outstanding sculpture of the Madonna.
Lake Garda's largest island is situated just 220 metres into the lake from the cape on which San Felice de Benaco and Portese are located. An unmissable destination, the historic Isola del Garda has, over the centuries, served as a Roman burial ground, a hideout for pirates, site of a Franciscan monastery and a retreat for Italy's aristocracy.
Portese's castle dates from the early medieval period and was constructed to defend the region from invading Barbarians. Situated adjacent to the village's library, the ruins of a single circular tower are all that remains of this ancient structure.
The beautiful eighteenth-century Palazzo Rotingoin San Felice de Benaco has served as the village's Town Hall since 1993 and features exquisitely carved wooden ceilings, decorative coats of arms and historic frescoes.