It was our last day in the Veneto Region of Northern Italy and our main task for the day was to get to the train station in Verona to take us to Milan by late afternoon. Our tour operators decided that the perfect way to finish our 7 days with them was to take us to see a village for the morning on the way to catch our train. The village was called Borghetto sul Mincio (on the river Mincio), a hamlet of the larger urban area, Valeggio. It has made the list of one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. When people say that a village is built on a river, this usually suggests that the houses are built on the riverbank. At Borghetto, many of the houses are built over the river.
Our guides decided that our first stop for the morning was just a little outside of Borghetto at Ponte Visconte, an unusual multi-purpose structure that was built as a bridge, a dam over the Mincio River and as a fortification. It was built by Gian Visconti, the Duke of Milan (1351-1402), in 1393 as part of his plan to take over the major cities of Northern Italy. Visconti was an ambitious medieval ruler who wasn’t put off by the fact that his territory was caught between the ambitious Kings of France and the Holy Roman Empire on the other side.
In our inspection of this very old medieval bridge, we couldn’t help but notice that it was connected by fortified walls that led all the way up the hill to the neighbouring town of Valeggio. Dominating the skyline was an impressive castle. I was delighted to discover that this was yet another Scaligeri Family castle, the fifth fortress of this ambitious 13/14th century Veronese family that we had encountered on our wanderings around the Veneto Region. This spot was in ancient times the best ford across the Mincio River and in the Middle Ages, part of the border with the Holy Roman Empire. The fortified walls (the Scaligeri Serraglio) that made their way up the valley to the castle on the hill were also built by the de Scala family. Today there is an arduous walk that we could have done leading up to the castle but time wasn’t on our side. We had to be satisfied with inspecting the bridge that was built as an extension of these fortifications when the Visconti’s of Milan pushed out the Scaligeri Rulers of Verona.
From the Visconti Bridge, we drove down to the village of Borghetto and found ourselves a car park near where we would be having our lunch. However we had plenty of time for a stroll around this small village built around and over the Mincio River. The image on the right illustrates how close many of the houses are to the river and I couldn’t help but ponder that it would be a fine line between having a great view of the water streaming past the windows and on bad days , the river river streaming through your lounge room.
The best spot for viewing the village is the bridge over the river in the centre of town. We weren’t the only tourists to stop and take our group photos here. It is also from here that you can stand and ponder the roaring water charging under the bridge as well as under the houses built out over the water. Picturesque is the best word to describe the view from the bridge but there are other words (like ‘precarious’) that also come to mind.
From the bridge it was a very pleasant walk around this small, beautiful village. It was interesting to note that in the old days before electricity, water wheels were a common feature of the town. I could only presume that this was one explanation for why local citizens were happy to build their houses over the rushing water of the Mincio River in order to drive their looms or other machinery that needed the power of rushing water to operate. I couldn’t find any explanation for why the tourist below right needed a hat-rack in the middle of his tour of Borghetto.
Of course it was great to return to our restaurant, Antica Locanda Mincio, and sit in the shade of the trees, dining beside the river. It was a fabulous place to finish to our time in the Lake Garda region of Veneto.