Scaliger Castle in Sirmione. Italy
The town of Sirmione is located on a narrow strip of land extending more than four kilometers into the southern part of Lake Garda. The castle itself is 1 kilometer from the end point of the promontory.
Scaliger’s Castle in Sirmione has become one of the most majestic medieval fortresses in Europe built on water.
View of Scaliger’s Castle from above
History of Scaliger Castle
Thanks to its mild climate and good location on the peninsula, the settlement of Sirmione has been around since ancient times. Once a small fishing village, it grew to quite a decent size. In written sources about the travels of Emperor Antoninus Pius, it is called the city of Serm Mansi.
The first fortifications appeared here during the Roman Republic. They were built on the site of the present-day castle to protect the port and the houses of the wealthy people of Verona.
In the 3rd and 4th centuries the fortifications were strengthened, but this did not help to save the city from destruction when it was invaded by barbarians. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, the Germanic tribes of the Lombards settled in northern Italy.
An interesting fact – the word “Lombardy” (the region of Italy, where the castle is located) comes from the name of the tribe of Lombards.
In the 1260s, Sirmione came into the possession of the powerful della Scala family of Verona. Members of this family were called Scaligero (or Scaligeri).
The Scaligero family contributed greatly to the development of Verona and the cities in the north of the country. However, tragic events are also associated with this family. In 1276, for example, Mastino I della Scala massacred entire families of his political opponents in a struggle for power.
Shortly thereafter, Mastino I ordered the construction of the Castle of Sirmione not only to strengthen Verona’s defenses, but also to demonstrate his power and political might.
During the reign of the Scaligers, several other castles were built in northern Italy along Lake Garda (including Castelvecchio in Verona and the Scaliger Castle in Malcesine). But the castle in Sirmione is deservedly considered the most majestic and beautiful of them all.
The way to the castle, surrounded by water on all sides, was only through a drawbridge.
The entrance to the Scaliger Castle
The huge walls and massive towers withstood any attack. Later, prison cells were built in the high towers because of the impossibility of escape. On one side of the castle adjoined small harbor walls. They rose right out of the water and protected the personal fleet of the Scaliger family.
This is where the Scaliger fleet was kept.
In 1405 Verona and the surrounding towns were annexed to the Republic of Venice. A little later the Venetian garrison was stationed at Scaligero Castle.
Since the castle played an important role in the governance of Lake Garda, the Venetian magnates maintained and strengthened its defenses.
At that time, a new stone wall was built around the harbor and the castle. Venetian patrols have been stationed there ever since.
The decline and rebirth of Scaliger Castle
In the 16th century the architect Michele Sanmicheli built a new fortified fortress with towers at Peschiera del Garda (south of Sirmione). The Venetian garrison was moved there and the Scaliger castle was used as a storehouse and military arsenal.
During the Napoleonic wars, the territories belonging to Venice were conquered and French troops were stationed in the Scaliger castle until 1814.
In 1861, after the unification of all the independent Italian states, Sirmione became part of the Kingdom of Italy.
At first, the government was not interested in the fate of the castle. But by the end of the XIX century hot thermal springs were discovered in Sirmione. As a result, the city became a resort and a huge spa center. As in the days of ancient Rome, wealthy Italians were fascinated by the picturesque places and chose the town to rest and build their homes.
Thanks to this, Scaliger Castle began to revive. At the beginning of the 20th century the castle came into state possession and after restoration began a new life as a tourist attraction and museum.
Scaliger’s Castle Tour
The Castle of the Scaligers is surrounded on all sides by water and is the majestic guardian and protector of the city. Now you can admire its imposing tall towers and the drawbridge that connects it to the mainland.
By the way the drawbridge is the only entrance to the castle.
The first thing you see when you enter the castle is its main courtyard, surrounded by angular towers.
The main courtyard of Scaliger Castle
Behind the three large towers is a fortress 47 meters high, under which were the dungeons. Climb the stairs to the second courtyard. From here you can climb to the top of the tower, from where you have a breathtaking view of Lake Garda.
View of Lake Garda from Scaliger Castle
The legend of Scaliger Castle
As a rule, any self-respecting medieval castle has its own legend, usually a sad one. The castle of Scaliger is not exempt from this rule.
According to legend, the castle was home to the kind young man Ebengardo and his beloved Arice.
One stormy night with heavy rain and wind, a knight named Elaberto Marquis Feltrino knocked at the castle gate and asked for shelter.
The hosts let the knight stay for the night. However, Elaberto, struck by Arice’s beauty, decided to possess her by night in her room. Taken by surprise, the girl began to scream in fear, and Elaberto stabbed her.
Awakened by his beloved’s screams, Ebengardo ran into the room, where he found Ariche lying already lifeless. Blinded by rage, he killed Elaberto with the same knife and soon died of languor.
Locals say that the soul of young Ebengardo still wanders in despair through the castle on rainy nights.
The Castle of Sirmione as a tourist attraction
It must be said that the Scaliger Castle is a symbol of the city of Sirmione and one of the most visited castles in Italy.
Sirmione is a very popular place on Lake Garda. Only in 2017 it received more than 1 million 200 thousand tourists. In addition to the castle, tourists were also attracted by other attractions, such as hot springs or the grottoes of Catullo. In the summer, the Scaliger Castle hosts various art and theater shows.
The castle is available to visit every day except Monday. However, it is better to see the opening hours beforehand. It is possible to change the opening hours in summer and winter. The first Sunday of each month entrance to the castle is free.
April 1 to September 30: Tuesday to Saturday: 09:00 to 19:15, Monday and Sunday: 09:00 to 13:45; October 1 to March 31: Tuesday to Saturday: 08:30 to 19:30, Sunday: 08:30 to 13:30. The day off is Monday. Box office closes for 45 minutes early
The Castelli dei Scaligeri or Scaliger Castle is the main attraction of Sirmione on Lake Garda in Italy. It was built in 1277, but some of its elements include ancient Roman masonry.
The Castle of the Scaligers was an important outpost of the Veronese fleet. It is a quadrangular structure with massive towers around its perimeter, and entrance to it is still only possible from one side via a suspension bridge.
The castle is located in the historic center of Sirmione and is its main observation point, offering panoramic views of Lake Garda, the pier and the tiled roofs of the old town.
The Scaliger dynasty built several similar structures on the shores of Lake Garda, but it is the castle in Sirmione which is considered the best preserved to this day.
In the middle of the XIII century the lands of Sirmione fell under the dominion of the Scaligers. In 1277 the construction of the castle by Signor Mastino I della Scala began in order to protect the land from attacks by rival clans. The castle was intended to cut off the enemy’s access from the mainland to the narrow peninsula, which is why it was built at the backwater and partially on the water.
The Scaligers owned the castle for only 110 years (from 1277 to 1387), and over the years the fortress changed hands with several owners, including noble families of Franks, Austrians and Venetians. In 1405, Sirmione and its castle came under the rule of the Republic of Venice, which placed its military garrisons in the fortress. This rule lasted until the end of the 18th century.
Over time, military fortifications were created in neighboring towns. For example, at Peschiera del Garda, a powerful fortress was erected at the end of the 16th century. Sirmione could not withstand the competition, the Venetian garrisons were transferred there, and the Scaliger castle was equipped with a military warehouse. It continued to be such until the unification of Italy in 1861, after which the new government for a long time lost strategic and historical interest in the castle.
Only at the very end of the XIX century in Sirmione were discovered hot healing springs, and it acquired the status of a resort. The development of tourism led to the extensive restoration of the castle and turned it into a tourist attraction, which it remains to this day.
What to see
Scaliger Castle – it is first of all an ancient fortress, of which almost nothing remains of the interior decoration. Therefore, when you enter inside, the monumental architecture of the building catches your eye immediately. Here you can see:
- the courtyard,
- the towers,
- an ancient suspension bridge,
- an ancient dock, surrounded by walls,
- loopholes and other defensive details.
The dock, where the castle masters’ flotilla used to hide, is one of the unique constructions that have survived in such places to this day. Together with the transparent water of the lake, it looks the most advantageous. Along it are laid ancient stone staircases and narrow corridors, which can also be passed.
The most popular among tourists the castle towers and roof, where you can climb and look at the massive walls, ceilings and the famous jagged ends of the walls.
The highest tower of the Scaligers castle rises above it by almost 50 meters and offers a panoramic view of the city and the water surface of Lake Garda. Its internal spiral staircase has 146 steps that can be climbed by any tourist. This is included in the price of the admission ticket.
A separate attraction of the castle visitors call the white swans, which have taken root here and swim in the water moat and the lake, creating an atmosphere of relaxation.
Ticket price to Scaliger Castle in 2022
The price of the ticket to the Scaliger Castle depends on the age of the visitor and is calculated for a full day of stay on the territory.
There are discounts for pensioners over 65 years and full-time students (on presentation of supporting documents).
Prices are subject to change. Before visiting, see the Scaliger Castle in Sirmione’s official Facebook page for up-to-date information.
How to get to Scaliger Castle in Sirmione
Scaliger’s Castle is located in the heart of Sirmione, so while in town, you can get to it on foot from anywhere. But many tourists tend to see it coming from other places in Italy.
The nearest major cities to Sirmione are Milan and Verona. They are the departure point for tourists to the resorts of Lake Garda, including Sirmione.
One of the most convenient and developed ways of transportation is the intercity bus . There is a route number LN026 to the city. It departs from Verona bus station, which is located opposite the train station of Verona. It stops within walking distance from the castle. The stop is called Sirmione. From it to the target – about 700 meters and no more than 5-7 minutes walking through the ancient neighborhoods. Buses between towns run at 30-40 minute intervals throughout the day. The exact schedule is here. The bus makes many stops in the resort towns of Lake Garda. The total travel time is about 1.5 hours.
Another way to get to Sirmione and the Scaliger Castle is by train. From the railway stations of Verona and Milan there are regular trains, but the nearest railway station is in the town of Desenzano del Garda. From it to Sirmione – 8 km. So, you need to take the same bus.
You can also reach Sirmione and its castle by car from Milan, Verona and other cities of Italy. To do this you need to follow the signs on the highway A4. Travel time is up to 30 minutes. There are parking lots in the city, they are paid, but it is possible to leave the car for a full day. Or you can use mobile cab applications: KiwiTaxi and others.