Romantic Malcesine

Parking the car in a lot designated for our modern convenience, the automobile, we stepped out onto asphalt pavement. Turning in the direction of the historical center of Malcesine the asphalt soon gave way to narrow cobblestone streets. Daffodils waved their yellow heads in planters hung from balconies. A soft breeze from the lake tickled our faces. The sun brightly shining overhead cast shadows across the colorful houses that line the streets, making geometric patterns along their walls. The small lane opened up to a plaza on the shore of the lake. The water gently lapping against the wall of a tiny harbor where a few boats were moored and ducks swam happily through the ripples of the clear green water. Spotting a cafe at the edge of the plaza we stopped for coffee. The breeze was cold coming off the water so we opted to have our coffee inside. Sitting in front of a large window we could feel the warm rays of sun through the glass. The decor was modern yet inviting and comfortable with small round tables and leather arm chairs. After our coffee we continued to explore the town, aimlessly walking to and fro along the small streets and alleyways. The town was quite, not many tourist in sight this time of year. Only a few local women talking on the corners, a mother pushing her baby in a stroller. The aroma of tomato sauce and pasta, baking bread, coffee and something sweet wharfs down from the flats above our heads. We rounded a corner to find the castle looming above us. The castle is built upon a rugged rock that jets up from the water’s edge. It is said that there are tombs of Etruscans carved into the rock. The original castle was constructed by the Longobards of Alboino. Later destroyed and rebuilt several times. As a strategic border town, Malcesine was chosen as the headquarters of the Captain of the Lake in 1600. The council of Verona bought the castle complex, rebuilt and extended it transforming it into one of the most important buildings in the region. Frescoes and decorations in the Lombardi-Venetian style can be seen at the castle today. As the importance of the castle grew so did the importance of the town. Houses continued to be built around the castle walls forming narrow winding streets between the buildings. A harbor was built on the shore of the lake to receive goods. Until the 1900’s many of the villages along the shore of the lake were only accessible by boat. Boats are still a big part of the life in Malcesine, however, more for pleasure than for goods. In February the castle is closed. The lane leading up to its gates is lined with mimosa trees whose yellow flowers are already formed in tight little balls, ready to burst forth to celebrate the Day of Women on the 8th of March. There is much more to see but the sun is beginning to hang low in the sky. We promise ourselves that we will return for another visit sometime soon and walk towards our car.

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