2 - Toscolano Maderno, land of records
Sometimes, as I am out and about doing things, I look around and regret that Toscolano Maderno is a misunderstood beauty, so to speak, and not properly appreciated. Its charm is far greater than its fame.
I find it hard to understand why, given that this small town on the waters of Lake Garda not only has ancient roots but also boasts numerous records.
The Roman Villa of Toscolano Maderno
Toscolano's history is inextricably linked to that of the Lombards, but it was certainly the Romans who shaped the area and gave it its characteristic character.
If the Roman villa par excellence on Lake Garda is the one in Sirmione, you may be interested to know that the one in Toscolano Maderno is the only one whose owner is known for certain: thanks to an inscription found in the archaeological area, we know that the villa belonged to Marcus Nonius Macrinus, consul at the time of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, of the influential and powerful Nonii Arrii family.
Loggias, gardens, fountains, mosaics, frescoes and the large hall, probably used as a triclinium, are evidence of the magnificence of the complex, whose history is narrated in the small adjoining museum. The domus is not only open to visitors, but can also be 'lived in' thanks to the costumed representations that in the summer bring to life scenes from daily life in those days.
I don't know about you, but I have a real passion for historical re-enactments. So much so that I became the promoter of the one that commemorates the arrival of Saint Herculaneum on Lake Garda, the patron saint of the town: who knows why nobody had thought of it before.
Olive trees, olive trees and more olive trees
It seems that St Herculaneum, who was Bishop of Brescia in the 6th century, decided to move to the lake to escape persecution and abuse by the Goths and Lombards who had invaded northern Italy.
Most likely what he saw, among other things, were the olive groves planted by the Romans to produce the oil that the capital of the empire needed so much as fuel for lighting. Olive groves that became endless in the Middle Ages, when oil production became even more important.
And guess what?
In one of the oldest olive groves, recently recovered, an indigenous variety of olive has been discovered: another Toscolano Maderno record.
Speaking of records: Garda is the northernmost latitude oil production area in the world. I'm sure you won't leave without having tasted some of this green gold: at my Residence Virgilio I always have a few bottles available for guests to taste with local products.
The Paper Mills Valley
It is so called because the area crossed by the Toscolano (the stream that divides the villages of Toscolano and Maderno, now united in a single municipality) is dotted with the ruins of ancient paper mills.
If not the first ever, Toscolano is certainly one of the earliest settlements of paper production: the presence of a paper mill is mentioned as early as 1381.
One of these ruins has been recovered and restored and is now home to a simply fantastic museum. It's like stepping back in time, with the master papermakers explaining the manual procedure which, starting with the rags that were soaked and then waxed, gave life to the sheet of paper. You can see the old machinery, the maceration vats, the glue sack that the women cooked to wax the sheets.
The children have a lot of fun: there is a path for them to take home a sheet of paper made by their own hands.
Maybe I'm a romantic, but I think it's an exciting experience for young and old alike.
All about sport and open air
There's no denying it: Toscolano Maderno is a sportsman's paradise.
Maybe it's the vastness of the area or the climate, but here you'll be spoilt for choice: trekking, sailing, surfing, biking, golf and even rock climbing, which in Toscolano Maderno is the most beautiful and difficult after Arco on Mount Pizzocolo.
It just depends on how many days you have available.
It is no coincidence that every year there are important international competitions that attract spectators and athletes from all over the world. For example, the "Mad of lake", a steep and breathtaking bike race, the longest Urban downhill in Italy: almost 3 kilometres and 300 metres of altitude difference. Or the XTerra Triathlon of biking, running and swimming.
Okay. We're talking about top-level competition, perhaps not for everyone.
That's why I also offer my guests more leisurely alternatives, such as a walk along the picturesque Covoli walkway, which can be covered on foot, by bicycle and even with pushchairs. A simplicity that does not detract from the magic of the place.
Or a bike tour with visits to wine cellars and tasting of local wines.
Oh, I forgot: Toscolano is the longest beach on Lake Garda.
I told you: it's record land!