Starting from Sirmione and going down along the banks of the Mincio river, in an itinerary that you can ride by bike, there are some well-preserved Scaligeri castles, inserted in an area rich in nature and culture, being between Lake Garda and the morainic hills, between the provinces of Brescia, Verona and Mantua, mostly within the Mincio Park.
The Della Scala family dominated the area around Verona between the 13th and 14th centuries, becoming one of the most important families in northern Italy. Its complex defensive system of fortification and encastellation of the borders was made necessary by the pressure of conquest east of Venice, west of the Milanese Visconti, south of the Mantuan Gonzaga. Between the middle of the thirteenth century and the end of the fourteenth century the Scaligeri built around Verona at least thirty fortifications and a wall 16 km long, which was the extreme defensive line to the south.
The Scaligero Castle of Sirmione
The Castle of Sirmione, along with its dock, which is one of the very few remaining intact examples of medieval fortified lake harbour, was built on the waters of Lake Garda, in a very particular context where the architecture is compared and reflected directly with the waters of the lake, creating a unique monumental and landscape of extraordinary charm. Built in the first half of the fourteenth century, it is one of the best preserved fortresses of Garda and one of the most visited attractions of Lombardy. The Scaligero Castle is located at the entrance of the historic center of Sirmione.
The Scaligero Castle of Ponti sul Mincio
The Castle of Ponti sul Mincio is the first stronghold that the visitor meets, starting from Lake Garda to the south, along the banks of the river Mincio. The construction surrounds the top of a low hill, which is leaning against the village of Ponti sul Mincio. The first nucleus of the castle was probably built in the twelfth century, but the current layout is attributable to the second half of the thirteenth century, during the Scaligeri rule. Enclosed within four towers, in addition to the keep, the Castle is a stronghold to defend the territory and observe the vast valley of the Mincio.
The Scaligero Castle of Monzambano
Similar to the previous one, the Monzambano Castle is erected on an existing relief of two contiguous hills and separated by a slight depression placed behind the town. The current complex, built by the Scaligeri family around the end of the thirteenth century, is the result of an enlargement of the previous castle (attributed to the twelfth century), much smaller, which occupied the northern side. The castle is accessible through a single door, located on the eastern side, once equipped with a drawbridge. The mighty keep is located in the south-western corner, and was originally flanked by a large building. The defensive system was completed by five other shielded towers, two placed in an angular position and three in an intermediate position.
The Scaligero Castle of Valeggio sul Mincio
From the top of mount Ogheri, the Scaligero castle of Valeggio sul Mincio dominates the entire valley of the river Mincio and the picturesque village of mills of Borghetto. The original structure of the castle, dated to the tenth century, suffered serious damage due to a violent earthquake in the eleventh century: of this structure survives only a unique horseshoe-shaped building. In the second half of the thirteenth century the Scaligeri strengthened the defensive system of the Castle, incorporating some houses and a small Romanesque church. The castle has an almost rectangular floor plan and is divided into three separate fences: the square of arms; the court of arms, protected towards the village by a ravelin; the residential court with the keep.
The Mincio was a natural boundary, but the Scaligeri in the fourteenth century began to improve the defences on the right bank of the river, taking advantage of the existing reliefs and fortifications, and working for the construction of a new defensive urban enterprise, constituted by the Serraglio. In size it exceeded the walls of Verona, it was 16 kilometers long and extended from today’s Nogarole Rocca, passing through Villafranca and up to Valeggio sul Mincio. Today the defensive system has almost disappeared.