Just a few kilometers from our hotel, right on the shores of Lake Garda is Bardolino, a Venetian town with seven thousand residents. The vast territory in which the municipality is included makes this city a destination suitable for all kinds of holidays. The hypotheses on the origins of the name vary. One of the most accurate is that the name Bardolino derives from a Latin term of Gaelic origin “Bardus” which means “cantor”. Other hypotheses though suggest that the word is of the Germanic derivation from Pardali or Bardali, the daughter of King Aulete who founded Mantua.

Bardolino: from prehistory to the present

Just like almost all the towns of Lake Garda, Bardolino also has prehistoric origins. The most ancient evidence date back to the very distant third millennium BC, when the first civilizations chose to live in this area building piles on the shores of the lake. In particular, the piles were found in the village of Cisano.

Over the centuries, Bardolino was one of the Romans’ favorite lakeside towns, the remains dating back to the 2nd century BC demonstrate this love for the city. Today the findings, in particular, the inscriptions on a found stone, are all collected at the Maffeian lapidary museum in Verona.

After the fall of the Roman Empire, the citizens suffered the Barbarian invasions which were followed by a relatively brief period of peace, and after a short period of time, the Goths and Byzantines brought the Gothic war to the city. In 568 the Lombards also made their appearance, imposing their power over the whole lake. They were a breath of fresh air for the area, as they favored the expansion of commerce, agriculture, and even culture. Their dominion continued until 774 when the French army of Charlemagne defeated them. In 807 the name Bardolino appeared for the first time on a diploma that sanctioned the passage of the abbey of San Zeno in Verona.

As for all the cities on the shores of the lake, even around the ninth century, the town erected walls and castles to defend itself against raids. Also, like Lazise in 1100, it became an autonomous municipality.

The most fortunate fate reached them under the rule of the Most Serene Republic of Venice, where trade intensified and became a Venetian navy on the lake. From 1798 Bardolino was first ceded to Austria and then under the reign of Napoleon. In 1848 the city rebelled against the Austrians and in 1866 it also became the Kingdom of Italy.

Religious monuments you can’t miss in Bardolino

The church of San Zeno is one of the most beautiful examples of Carolingian architecture in the area. Dating back to the mid-9th century, it has a Latin cross plan with barrel vaults on the two side arms and a cross vault in the lantern. It is precisely on the two side arms that the original decorations of inestimable value are preserved. The peculiarity of this church lies in being one of the few churches in the territory of Verona to have survived the earthquake of 1117 and remain intact. It is considered to be one of the most important examples of Carolingian origin in all of Italy.

In romantic style, built between the 11th and 12th century, there is the church of San Severo. It contains frescos from the 12th, 13th and 14th centuries. But the original core of the church is even older, dating back to 893.

Do not miss the Monastery of San Colombano, the parish church of Santa Maria, the church of San Vito, the church of San Nicolò and San Zeno.

Non-religious monuments: civil and military architecture in Bardolino

The castle and the city walls are some of the most interesting places. The first castle here in Bardolino was built in the late 9th century when King Berengar allowed the residents to erect fortresses to defend themselves from invasions. Over the centuries the original walls were continually modified to meet different needs. In the Venice State Archives, there is a map dating back to 1439 which already shows the local topography where the walls surround the area with four towers on the sides and two entrance gates to the city, one that looks towards Garda, another towards Verona.

Inside the walls, there is the historic center. Here the houses were inhabited and built by the fishermen who built them like fishbones, one behind the other starting from the first house that stands on the beach of the lake. Even the streets have been built to facilitate the transport of the boats in front of each house, so they are perpendicular to the lakefront. It is the set of all the common features of Bardolino that make the historic center the main meeting place for tourists who choose this destination for their vacation.

What to do in Bardolino?

The beautiful beaches of Bardolino on Lake Garda are the most popular. You can practice water sports almost all year round, thanks to the mild climate. There is a variety of water bars and small restaurants along the banks where you can taste the traditional cuisine with dishes cooked of freshwater fish. Oil and wine are also the protagonists of the local cuisine. In Cisano, you can visit the Olive Oil Museum. There is a beautiful market to buy local products which takes place every Thursday from early morning until noon. There, many farmers come together offering only local food.

For young people, there are a lot of nightclubs, especially during the summer season when the heat attracts tourists from all over the world.

The most anticipated events of the year are the Bisse Regatta, the National Piano Competition Città di Bardolino”, the Chiaretto Festival in May, the Grape Festival in October, the Novello Festival in November and the Campanara Festival in Cisano in spring, the historic festival of “Osei” in early September.

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