Castello Scaligero di Sirmione
The Castello Scaligero (Scaliger Castle) in Sirmione is an extraordinary example of lakeside fortification and one of the most spectacular and best-preserved Scaliger fortresses. Built in the second half of the 14th century, the castle takes its name from the Della Scala family who dominated Verona and the area between the 13th and 14th centuries. The castle has a dock that still encloses a small part of the lake today.
The Scaliger family ruled Verona and a large part of the Venetian area from 1259 to 1387. The architectural features of the castle respond to the period of Cansignorio and Antonio II della Scala, i.e. circa 1360-1380, and the fortress was presumably built in a few years, but based on a unitary design which included a fortified port, the docks, for the fleet.
From the 16th century onwards, the importance of Sirmione defensive position fell, in favour of the fortress at Peschiera del Garda. In subsequent centuries, in the Napoleonic era, and then under Austrian domination, the Castle was used as armoury and barracks for troops. Afterwards it housed municipal offices, a post office, a Carabinieri accommodation and a small prison.
The current appearance was partly given by a restoration campaign begun in 1919.
The style of Castello Scaligero (Scaliger Castle) is similar to other fortresses in the area from the same period. Typical features of Scaliger architecture are the open-gorged towers, open towards the inside, while the dock is an exceptional example of 14th-century port fortification. The internal waters were buried by an accumulation of debris over the centuries, becoming completely covered over in the 19th century. Only following the restoration works, which began in 1919, they were finally cleared and the lake waters returned, and were officially opened to the public in March 2018, following restoration with the patronage of the Lombardy Region Museum Pole.
The entrance and the drawbridge
The entrance and the drawbridge The entrance to the Castle crosses a revelin, a structure protecting the castle gate, looking over Piazza del Borgo in Sirmione. From the main courtyard, crossing the south-eastern tower, you reach the allures which run around the four sides of the main courtyard crossing the three corner towers.
The southern side of the allures offers access to the 37 metre-high keep, originally the castellan’s residence and next to the soldiers’ dormitory, the garrison. The crenellations on the keep were all rebuilt in the restoration works around 1920 and from the top of the main tower there is an exceptional panoramic view of Lake Garda.
Entry to the docks is through the second courtyard. This small port offered shelter to the Scaliger and Venetian fleets, and is the only surviving example of a 14th-century fortified port. The docks are irregular in shape, perhaps specifically designed to protect the water inside from the “pelèr”, the north winds.
Piazza Castello, 34