Lake Idro and Culture

Medieval villages, churches and military fortresses

Lake Idro finds its cultural expression in its medieval villages, churches and military forts. The villages around Lake Idro, once fishing villages, still retain their historic beauty, with narrow, branching streets, porches and courtyards. Very characteristic in this respect are the villages of Anfo, Lemprato and Crone. In Lemprato, the remains of an ancient Reto-Roman village were found in 1980 in the place called ‘Castello antico’, just as Roman tombstones were found on the lakeshore, now preserved in the ancient church Santa Maria ad Undas in Pieve Vecchia from 1200.

In Ponte Caffaro, on the other hand, the 9th-century village of San Giacomo is worth a visit. The church of San Giacomo, at the time a place of pilgrimage, was run by Benedictine monks who taught locals how to farm and reclaim the marshy Pian d’Oneda. Also beautiful is Bagolino’s parish church, the church of San Giorgio from 1600, whose massive size towers over Bagolino’s historic centre. Inside, works by great artists such as Titian and Tintoretto can be admired. Bagolino is a mountain village of rare beauty of medieval origin with very tall houses leaning against each other, with porticoes, staircases, subways, wall frescoes, wooden attics, alleys of cobblestones and porphyry, a beautiful expression of medieval architecture.

From a cultural point of view, Idro Lake’s showpiece is certainly the Rocca d’Anfo, a military fortress built in the 15th century by the Republic of Venice and renovated in 1800 during the French occupation at the express request of Napoleon Bonaparte, and used by Giuseppe Garibaldi as headquarters during the battle of Monte Suello in 1866. Evidence of the battle itself can also be found along the provincial road that climbs from the town of S. Antonio to Bagolino, where the Ossuary was erected to preserve the remains of Garibaldi’s soldiers killed during the battle. There is also a memorial stone commemorating Garibaldi’s wound to his thigh. From the Rocca d’Anfo, one can admire the Venetian and Napoleonic Batteries, the old Venetian staircase with 600 granite steps, the long tunnels dug into the rock and the Observatory, which is located in the highest part and is a real jewel of Napoleonic military architecture.