Conversation on Lake Garda, the SPEECH, is coined by local language characteristics, better called: town-dialects. Also the region, where the town is situated, has its great influence. For example, on the Veronese coast you can hear the speech of Brescia, wherever in Malcesine you can find the influx of Lombardo dialect, TOT COURT. In Limone they speak “Trentino”. Bresciana pronunciation sounds hard and “staccato”, but Veronese dialect, achieved from Venezia, sounds sweeter and softer. In Sirmione they speak a mixture of Veneziano and Lombardo dialect, one time the fishermen said, that they were “bilingual”. On the Gardesana coast today there live about 130.000 inhabitants, concentrated in the southern regions (Peschiera, Desenzano, Salò, Bardolino, Garda ): these towns have their origin in their ports, just like Riva and Malcesine, too. Here were trade-centres, the towns traded with the farmers of the back regions. The other little hamlets, nearby the coast earned their money like fishermen, farmers and by help of some sheep-herds. Habits and customs of Lake Garda are various and manifold, especially influenced  by foreign and exterior- effects. Even nowadays these customs  are well-cared for, not ever the big influence of the tourism is able to destroy it.  A great part of these habits ask for a  enormous vitality. SANTA LUCIA is SANTA CLAUS of Lake Garda. This religious cult-figure was taken over from the  supremacy of  “Serenissima” (Republic of Venice). Even today, on every 13th. of December this blind saint is directing her donkey through the towns, giving a present to all children, who, becoming exited, put outside, next to their door, hay, corn and  water for the little donkey, keeping their eyes shut strongly, because, who tries blinking, risks to become blind, too. Christmas processions  by shepherds with their sheep  you can always see at Gardone Riviera, all the inhabitants of the town take part of this festival. They represent by themselves the scenery of the Holy Night, with living persons and animals. The high-point is the arrival of the three kings at Epiphany.Every 15th. of August at Desenzano there is  a great popular festival  named “the night of the fairytales”, with tightrope walkers, jugglers and dancers. On the lake-promenade there is a traditional procession, every year it has another theme, in honour of all the guests, who have visited Desenzano during the years. At Christmas time, often you can meet groups of young people, going down the streets and singing Christmas songs, holding the holy star of Bethlehem. These customs are specially used at Valvestino and Tignale. The little processions are named LE BIGANATE’, the songs are rewarded by money or sweets. Let us tell about BRUJÈJ, one of the most antique tradition of Lake Garda. At the evening of Epiphany, on the hills, the squares and the fields there are made big bonfires. This ritual delivered from the time B.C, serving of purification and later – so they told – the fires helped to illume the Holy Family the way to Egypt. But in diverse towns, for example  at Torri del Benaco, they built up on the fire-place a big straw – witch, named “LA VECCHIA”. The witch will be incinerated, just like in the Medieval Times. CARNIVAL of Lake Garda is very famous at Garda, a town of the Veronese Region. There is a prince, named GRAN MAGNA AOLE (the big fish eater). This name has to remember the importance of fishing in the past time. The prince is accompanied by Queen ADELAIDE and KING OTTONE, historical figures of Garda.


In the neighbour town Torri del Benaco carnival is celebrated all year in September, there is KING BERENGARIO I, a historical figure, because the real KING BERENGARIO I… once upon a time … in 1905..lived  here in Torri, reigning for more than a month. Most beautiful are the celebrations of carnival at ARCO and at VARIGNANO, in the northern region. In Arco there is a procession with real coaches of the German “Hapsburg” epoch, ending with a great dancing party. More antique is the festivity in VARIGNANO. Here is a procession too, but they carried bamboo-pyramids, covered with laurel and coloured eggs, like  fertile symbols. In any case there are rituals against  carnival, named TRIDUI DEI MORTI, celebrated since the 16th. century. During this TRIDUI they decorate a scaffolding , they illuminate it and they dance around this frame, a quite great scenery!

This scaffolding has a golden cross in baroque stile. Even today these “TRIDUOS” are to find at BEDIZZOLE, CASTENEDOLO, BRESCIA and in MAGAS DI VALVESTINO. Here a black curtain hides the scaffolding, standing in the parish of the towns and illuminated by thousands of candle-lights. At the end of the pray, the frame will be exposed as  GLORIA OF TRIDUO. On the Veronese coast you can see that “machine” in Malcesine, during the last Sunday and the following Monday and Tuesday of carnival. A suggestive burning of a fisher boat (incendio della barca) you can see at Torri del Benaco, every 26th. of May, the celebration of SAINT FILIPPO NERI, a real popular festival. Talking about popular festivals we have to name “PALIO DELLE BISSE”. Typical fisher boats called “Bisse” – their ends are pointed and they have flat level- are rowed by a team of 4 young men, trying to win a race against competitors. The first BISSE-Regatta was organized at Salò in 1548, then till 1967, strangely enough this tradition vanished. The tourist -office of Lazise gave back this habit, followed by other towns of Lake Garda. Nowadays these races are taking place in 9-10 diverse towns during summer-time. The final trophy is called “BANDIERA DEL LAGO”.


Fairy Tales from Lake Garda

When the summer has gone and the days began to become shorter and shorter, the Garda Lake people started organizing their period of wintertime. Just in the second half of August they arranged meetings, named FILÒ, in the stables of the factories, every night. The barns were full of beasts and therefore warmer than the other rooms of the house. So, when it became dark, young and old, family groups came together, here. The stable, too, was the “guest room” for travellers. The glowing of an oil lamp gave the touch of a romantic atmosphere, the farmer-wives were spinning, the men were repairing tools and there was always something to tell, a little chit-chat. Time has come for fairy tales! The nowadays confirmed that those fairy tales were related nearly by the men. Farmers told stories, travellers told stories, men from other regions, who, asking for bed and bread, told some interesting and mysterious tales. There also were jugglers and singers, too, there was someone, who sang a lyrical song. The town Garda was very famous for these special meetings. The traditional tales of the Filò of Lake Garda are rural origins. The life of the fishermen was so different, because these men had to go to bed early in the evening and get up early in the morning at 2:ooh. The fishermen didn’t take part of these evening meetings but now join us and listen to our fairy tales. That is why LAKE BENACUS nowadays is called LAKE GARDA Once upon a time there was a little brook, called SARCA. Wandering and hiking for all the time, he became so tired, that he stopped his way, resting for a while. Between the bamboo, in the shadow of a jasmine bush, he discovered a nice water nymph, called GARDA. She was the daughter of the powerful river BENACUS. Garda was so lovely, her crimson dress was full of golden glitters, flowing curls bordered her sweet face. Sarca, the young boy-brook suddenly fell in love with the nymph, he forgot his way to hike. He was so full of love , that he had to call on Benacus, her father, asking him to merry his daughter. Benacus, the mighty river agreed, but Sarca, the little brook, had to give his approval to unit his water with the water of Benacus, creating in this manner a large sea and calling it GARDA. The consent was done and the marriage could begin. There were delicious meals, wonderful drinks and the loveliest nymphs. One of the guests was the witch MANTO. She forecasted a never ending love between Garda and Sarca, too, the birth of a son, the brook MINCIO. Mincio, grew up, began to hike and met the nymph MAIA. She donated him a son, a famous son, the poet VIRGIGLIO.

The formation of LAKE GARDA

Once upon a time there was a little town, called GARDA. All the time there was poverty of water. During a long draught the citizens of GARDA decided to engage an engineer, who was able to solve their great problem. The engineer proposed to build up a big well, his pay was high but the citizens agreed. First of all they had to promise all the richness of the parish at the engineer. And so they did. There were months and months of strength working, but the devil, in the shape of the engineer, wasn’t able to give water to the town. The men of Garda felt deceived and they began to protest heavily, but what did the devil he bewitched the town, the bells of the churches should be throw into the well, then a big water fountain should seat under water. The citizens of Garda didn’t understand the impact of this bewitch. Their indigence was so great. that they did, what the devil wanted. All the bells of the churches were thrown into the well, a powerful water fountain came into being and flood the whole town. LAKE GARDA was born.