When visiting Lake Garda for a long weekend in April we tend to be a bit more adventurous than we are during a hot summer holiday when we prefer cool down on a lakeside beach and stick closer to home.
This year we were there the week before Easter and we finally got around to visiting the Castello Arco and the Borgo di Canale, both situated just north of Riva at the top of the lake. The Castello di Arco is a well known destination and somewhere I’ve wanted to visit for a while now, but it was the travels of Jeanette that inspired me to want to visit Borgo di Canale.
The Castello Arco is a 1000 year old castle perched on top of a rock in the middle of the Sarca valley. From a distance it doesn’t look real, more like a castle from a fairy story or cartoon. As with all castles, especially in this region close to many borders, ownership has changed many times in it’s rich history, I’ll let you find out more about that for yourselves when you visit. 1000 years of weather, war, fire and neglect had taken it’s toll on the Castello Arco.
Since it was purchased by the Municipality D’Arco in 1982, gradual restoration, love and care has meant that now it is possible to at least understand what a monument to history, legend, art and architecture the castle is. Towers, ancient water cisterns, frescoes and a stone prison (where legend has it that that the Count Of Arco locked his brother for over 30 years), are just some of the features that will have you marvelling at this wonderous place. Then of course there are the spectacular views.
The Borgo di Canale is a quaint medieval village in the comune di Tenno. It’s a only a tiny village but with its stone buildings and decorative balconies, its narrow streets, archways and underpasses, It is considered one of the most beautiful villages in Italy. It was abandoned after the WW2 but was re-inhabited in the 60’s by hippies and artists. Today Borgo di Canale is a thriving little community, home to café’s and galleries, including the Casa degli Artisti.
Casa degli Artisti is a gallery/workshop dedicated to the painter Giacomo Vittone which is visited by artists from all over the world. It hosts exhibitions, conventions, summer art courses and workshops. Another building to note is the Museo degli Attrezzo Agricoli, a museum dedicated to the agricultural traditions of the region.
The weather wasn’t brilliant, although good enough for a day out, there were’nt too many people about, probably saving themselves for Easter festivities, so there wasn’t much traffic on drive around Lake Garda, up to the north, along wonderous Gardesana. If we hadn’t left so late we could have taken a detour up to Tremosine along the Strada della Forra. The road made famous by James Bond in Quantum of Solace, twists and turns its way up the mountain through narrow tunnels and deep gorges. It’s not for the faint hearted but a fabulous experience with amazing views and described by Sir Winston Churchill as the eighth wonder of the world. Anyway as I said we left a bit late and we’d had that experience a few times, including our last visit so we gave it a miss and headed for Tenno and Borgo di Canale.
The weather wasn’t so bad early on and allowed for some spectacular views of snow capped mountains which were made even more beautiful by the pinks, whites and yellows of the blossom on the trees. We made a slight error thinking that the medieval town would be part of the main town, so we parked up and went for a walk when we reached the Tenno centro. Although it was an error it was worth for the walk through the pretty town, with it’s castle and spectacular view point, however time was tight so we didn’t hang around long and jumped back in the car and drove another couple of kilometres up to find the Borgo di Canale.
Although it’s small, it’s well sign posted so you can’t really miss it and it was easy to park at that time of year. Many tourists spots in Italy, Easter marks the beginning of the season and it was no different here, it was mostly closed. We did get to walk around the mazy streets, where builders were putting the finishing touches to seasonal repairs and renovations. We did also get to go in visit the Casa degli Artist. It was a short stop but inspired me to want to definitely go back.
Walking around I’d seen a route marker for Lago di Tenno, a small lake that I’d been recommended to visit. It was just a 30 minute walk but we didn’t have the right footwear so we jumped back in the car and drove a couple of minutes up to the bright turquoise lake. It’s a puddle in comparison to Lake Garda, but it is truly beautiful and enchanting and well worth the trek on from Borgo di Canale, or in our case the 2 minute extra car ride. After taking in the lake we had a rather pleasant lunch in one of the few restaurants that were open (pre-easter on a Monday). Then we got back in the car and headed for Il Castello di Arco.
Before I move on I would like to highlight that we saw numerous walking/hiking/biking route markers, so if you’re in to any of those I would definitely recommend the zone.
The scenic route down took us back to Riva, had we left earlier in the morning, or skipped lunch, we would have had time to stop at the Parco Grotta Cascata Varone, but we didn’t so we promised ourselves to go next time. At Riva we headed north along the Sarca Riva to Arco, we could already see the outcrop of rock with the magical castle perched on the top amid Mediterranean flora, Cypress and Holm Oak . As we got closer the vision looked less and less real, more like a work of art that had been superimposed on the view up the Sarca Valley.
We headed for Arco centro and found a place to park, we were lucky, two hours gratis. Leaving the car we could now see the castle towering above the old town, we quickly found the brown signs telling us which way to go. Apparently there are three ways up, but we didn’t know that until after and just took the first route we came across. By now it had properly clouded over, which in a way was a blessing because the walk up to the castle was steep. I don’t know why I expected any different, I’d read enough about other peoples experiences, and from the ground level you had to crick your neck up to it. A climb though it was, it was a beautiful walk through carefully tended olive groves, the views getting better and better.
We came to the gate and the ticket booth and paid €3.50 entrance fee (which turned out to be very reasonable), then continued up to explore the ‘Prigione del Sasso’, ‘Il Borgo Fortificato, ‘La Torre Renghera’, the 14th century frescoes and all the other marvels of history. Again I wont go into too much detail, better to explore it for yourselves, but I will add that there many informative info posts all along the route, and a fantastically informative video playing in one of the halls. The video can be viewed below if you want to pre-inform yourselves.
The views back to Lake Garda were truly wonderous, you could just glimpse the lake either side of Monte Brione, made even made even more enchanting on the day we visited. Sunny weather further down the lake set Monte Brione to an eerie glow, not quite captured on my phone camera. The views to the Laghel valley back up the Sarca plain from the ‘Torre di Guarda’ are equally stunning. All in all we had an unforgettable experience and recommend it.
April to September 10am to 7pm
October to March 10am to 4pm
Price: € 3.50 / € 2.00 ( 12-18/over 60 ) / € 3.00 ( groups min. 20 people
Trekking time from Arco centro 20-25mins
If you want to see the high part of the castle you need to arrive an hour before closing time.