History of Lake Garda
A lake at the mercy of the city-states
The history of Lake Garda is defined by the development of the region and the surrounding cities of Verona, Trento and Brescia. Back in pre-Christian times, the area around the lake was inhabited by Venetians, Gauls and Romans in turn. In the Middle Ages it was mainly the Scaliger of Verona and the Visconti of Milan who dominated the region around Lake Garda and recognised and took advantage of its strategic importance. At the end of the 19th century the little town of Solferino at the southern shore of Lake Garda gained notoriety for it was here on the battlefields around the town that the battle for Italian unification was hard fought and won.
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Scaliger castle in Sirmione
Prehistory to the Middle Ages
The region around the lake was settled in the prehistoric period. Fertile soils in connection with the water formed a good basis for life. Veneti, Etruscans, Gauls and Romans settled here in turn. The neighbouring cities of Verona, Brescia and Trento developed in this time and dominated the region politically and economically. Following Lombard, Frankish and Bavarian rule it was the time of the Italian city-states during which Lake Garda acquired great strategic importance. The Scala family in Verona and the Visconti in Milan vied for influence and fought bloody battles on land and water. Even today you can admire the wreck of the sunken galleons while diving around Lake Garda.
Italian unification to the present day
By the end of the Middle Ages, the region of Lake Garda came under Venetian influence and at the end of the 18th century it was conquered by French troops – along with the rest of northern Italy. In 1859, Solferino, a small town on the southern shore of Lake Garda, gained notoriety. Here the Austrians were subject to a bloody battle against the Franco-Sardinian army. The victory of Sardinia against the Habsburg monarchy in Solferino not only paved the way for the unification of Italy but also led to the foundation of the International Red Cross by Henry Dunant and the drafting of the Geneva Convention.
Today, the development of the region around Lake Garda is still connected with that of the surrounding provinces, whose boundaries lead through the middle of the lake. These are the provinces of Veneto, Trentino Alto-Adige and Lombardy.