The lemons of Lake Garda

Discovering the Brescia coast, between lemon gardens and historic villas

by Lavinia Colonna Preti
The lemons of Lake Garda — Lombardia Secrets

A fruit that, with its gardens of Eden, the characteristic lemon houses, has inspired the greats of all time, from Klimt to Goethe, who have described its wonder in their masterpieces.

Of Asian origin, the lemon arrives in Italy thanks to the Arabs and it seems that its cultivation in Lake Garda began in Gargnano in the 13th-century in a convent of Franciscan friars. Favored by the docile microclimate of the lake, its production was particularly encouraged under the rule of the Republic of Venice, which encouraged the birth of lemon houses, fascinating terraced structures designed to shelter the fruit from the cold.

A small miracle of human ingenuity, considering that today the lemon gardens of Garda are the cultivation of these citrus fruits, which normally require a warm climate, more northern in the world.

The lemons of Lake Garda — Lombardia Secrets
The lemons of Lake Garda — Lombardia Secrets

From there, the prized lemons reached Northern Europe via Torbole, in particular the Austro-Hungarian Empire up to Russia. The decline of their production began after the First World War mainly due, following the unification of Italy, to a lower cost of citrus fruits from the South and the discovery of synthetic citric acid.

The beautiful panorama offered by the area that goes from Riva del Garda to Gargnano, with its lemon groves, oleanders, and cypresses, has fascinated writers and artists of all ages. From J. Wolfang Goethe, who in 1786 in his legendary “Journey to Italy” will be enchanted by it, to Gustav Klimt who in 1913 stayed in Tremosine in the Morandi hotel where he painted various canvases en plein air, to David Herbert Lawrence, author of various novels including the famous “Lady Chatterley’s Lover”, who in “Twilight in Italy “, written during his stay in Gargnano in 1912-13, will devote a chapter to” The lemon gardens”.

The lemons of Lake Garda — Lombardia Secrets

In 1929, following the construction of the Western Gardesana, one of the most beautiful scenic roads in the world, which connects Riva del Garda with Limone and Gargnano, the area’s tourist revival also began.
Today, in fact, there are many lemon houses that have been “rediscovered”, such as that of Villa Bulgheroni in Maderno or that of Castèl in Limone.
Among the most beautiful still in operation, in Gargnano, the Gandossi family has restored the old La Malora lemon house, which takes its name from the nearby stream, where the renowned native Madernina lemon variety is grown. Today it is possible to visit it and buy the farm’s delicious products such as limoncino liquor or lemon jam.

Why you will love them
The Garda lemons are characterized by their round shape, pleasant acidity, aromatic fragrance rich in essential oils, and a very thin rind, perfect for use in culinary preparations.

Where to taste them
There are many chefs who have rediscovered the Garda lemons for their culinary inventions. Among the most famous, Riccardo Camanini of the beautiful Lido 84 who has created many recipes based on this fruit such as fusillone in bianco with capers, almonds, and lemon.

The perfect pairing
With lake fish or Mazara prawns that become truly special with a little grated rind of Garda lemons.

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