The origins of culture, art and tradition
Prehistory and ancient times
The finding of remains of stilt-house settlements beside Lake Garda and the hamlet of Cisano showed that the first villages date back to the Bronze Age. In 1986 digs in Cisano showed traces of piles within the lake bed. Nowadays there’s no evident trace of their existence but the near museums show important finds such as utensils and crockery. Those findings allowed scholars to reconstruct the life style of old inhabitants of that age: from hunting to the plants they consumed; a very interesting discovery was the finding of traces of grape seeds belonging to theVitis Silvestris, that testifies to the presence of vines since ancient times.
Remains of stilt-houses from the 1986 dig
There have also been findings dating back to Ancient Rome: coins, boundary stones, sculptures and cemetery remains. Although there’s no evidence of the presence of real villages, Ancient Romans might have built houses and funerary structures in the area whose remains were found in some ancient churches. As an example ruins of a Roman necropolis were found near the ancient chiesetta di San Pietro. The use of wine too dates back to Ancient Rome; the findings of farming settlements and the remains found in numerous areas of the Region testify to it; some of these remains were related to the use of wine in religious rites (situlae and paterae) or to wine conservation and transportation (amphorae). However the first written sources testifying to the presence of vines in Bardolino arrived during the Early Middle Ages, together with the representations of bunches in some churches of the surroundings.
San Pietro digs
The origin of the name
The name “Bardolino” has Lombard origins and it means “Lombards’ small place”.
The Middle Ages
For a long time Bardolino was the scene of the barbarian invasions like the rest of the Italian territory. Since 568, after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, the region was inhabited by the Lombards who dominated the north of Italy including the Garda area. At that time the whole Verona shore was gathered into a single municipality whose county seat was Garda. The village became so important as to give its name to the lake by replacing the old one, that is Benàco.
Medieval fresco in S. Zeno
The Early Middle Ages was also influenced by the strong power of Colombanian monastic movements including the powerful San Colombano abbey of Bobbio.The monks started evangelizing the community and they encouraged the development of the area. Taking advantage of the climate and the land they promoted the vine and olive oil plantation (the latter was also used for liturgical aims). The Lombards dominated the north of Italy until 774, before being defeated by the Franks guided by Charlemagne. Between the ninth and the tenth century the region protected itself from the invasions through castles and fortresses; the Bardolino castle was built at the end of the ninth century when king Berengario allowed the inhabitants to built strongholds to protect themselves
The tower, one of the medieval castle ruins.
In the following centuries the castle went under various modifications and the Scaligeri finally gave the tower, doors and streets their current structures. In the twelfth century Bardolino was an autonomous municipality run by the vicinia and it had its own statute. In 1222 a “corporation” was found by gathering some families that were authorized to fish beside the town seaside. Fishing influenced the construction of the built-up area giving it the typical comb-shaped structure. Houses were built one behind the other starting from the first one that was located on the shore. This structure engendered perpendicular streets allowing to pull the boats in front of the houses.
Bardolino map, Seventeenth century drawing
As streets were perpendicular to the shore, they allowed to easily transport the boats and to safely place them in front of the houses.
Modern period and Contemporary History
Bardolino followed the destiny of the Scaliger Signoria; later it was ruled by the Visconti dynasty and then it went under the power of the Republic of Venice from 1405 to 1797. During this last period Bardolino became the centre of the venetian navy on the lake; that period was the height of the village’s splendour due to trade development and the birth of magnificent buildings. After the short Napoleonic period, Bardolino went under the power of the Austrian monarchy together with the whole Kingdom of Lombardy – Venetia.
Villa Carrara Bottagisio
In 1848 Bardolino rose up against the Austrian troops and it suffered their reprisals: fires, raids and executions lasted until 1866, when the village was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy. During that period the economy of the region was mainly based on handicraft, fishing and agriculture; this last was characterized by products of excellence such as olive oil and wine. It should be remembered that just in the nineteenth century the wine production of the region started being referred to as “Bardolino”.
In the twentieth century the Bardolino became even more famous and it started to be known as the Garda “local wine”. Starting from the 50s tourism modified the old structure of the village and it became its main industry. The tourist traffic was initially limited, as the only tourists visiting the lake were rich house owners; the first Sunday flows of tourism started during the Fascist Era. New businesses and ventures rose such as beach clubs, dance halls, swimming competitions and heliotherapy; since then they never stopped and they were at the height of their success during the 60s and 70s.
Lido Cornicello in the 40s