Borghetto sul Mincio is one of the “most beautiful villages in Italy” (Borghi più belli d’Italia). And it is one of those places that seem unreal. Like a fairy tale. A few houses, only 160 residents. You arrive here crossing the Visconteo bridge and you discover a tiny village basically lying on the Mincio river , a perfect place for a romantic getaway and for taking pictures of an Italy that is already gone in many other places: Stone houses, some ancient watermills, the view of on the melancholic ruins of the medieval bridge and the Castle appearing among the trees on the hill.
But Borghetto sul Mincio couldn’t exist without Valeggio sul Mincio, the municipality (2 minutes by car, 10 minutes by foot). There is in fact no bakery, no post office, no pharmacy, nothing. All these things are in Valeggio. In Borghetto you can find only trattorias, cafés, pizzerias, souvenirs shops, B&Bs and hotels. The two were founded together by Longobards (VI – VIII century A.D.) . Their names mean flat site (Valeggio) and fortified settlement (Borghetto).
Borghetto sul Mincio – our visit
We started our visit in Valeggio, visiting the Sigurtà Park, second most beautiful park in Europe in 2015 and most beautiful Italian park in 2013. If you want you can read here my post about Sigurta Park. Then we strolled through the town, bumping into Villa Sigurtà, built around 1690 in neoclassical style based on the project of a Palladio’s disciple. In 1859 was the seat of emperor Franz Joseph‘s headquarters. In the XX century, the Counts had as guests Prince Charles of Wales and Maria Callas. Nowadays the villa can be rented for events and weddings.
The Castle and the pig
Then we headed towards the Scaligero Castle, and we had the most extraordinary “encounter”. Walking along a street, my husband noticed a sign hanging on a house fence: Non dare da mangiare alla maialina (Do not feed the -female- piggy). So we looked more carefully and there she was. A black quite little pig. She immediately came forward grunting and searching for cuddles. We petted her and left. And she, poor thing, started crying and moaning. My husband told she was spoiled but later confessed to me that he found hard to go away. Me too.
We later reached the castle following an uphill path (not very hard) from Valeggio (there’s a stairway from Borghetto but it is more tiring – I saw a bunch of people coming up and they seemed a bit weary). The castle was built in the XIII century by the lords of Verona. What’s now visible is the fortress, called Rocca. Of the main part of the complex, the actual castle, only the ruins are left. A legend narrates that a a knight was killed in one of the towers and his sword stolen. His ghost still look for it during stormy or full moon nights.
We continued our stroll around the little town, that offers a great number of cafés and restaurants. Plus several pastifici (pasta shops) where they sell fresh handmade pasta. The speciality of the town are the tortellini nodo d’amore, love knot tortellini, filled with meat and served in all the local trattorie with broth or butter and sage. They are so important here that there is also a special Festival, the third Tuesday of June. The citizens set some very long tables on the Visconteo bridge (650 metres long) and prepare tortellini for more than 4.000 guests.
The Love Knot – Il nodo d’amore
But why this name? Love knot? According to a legend, in the XIV cenury, the lord of Milan Gian Galeazzo Visconti was encamped with his troops on the river Mincio. The locals there narrated the story of some beautiful nymphs, turned into witches because of a course. During one night, the witches came out of the river and started dancing among the sleeping soldiers. Malco, captain of the guards, however, was patrolling the area and spotted a witch. He started chasing her til she lost the cloak. She was no witch but a beautiful nymph, called Silvia. They fell in love immediately and she gave him her golden handkerchief as love token.
The next night the soldiers were celebrating. Suddenly Malco spotted Silvia among the dancers. She joined them just to see him again. Isabella, noble lady in love with Malco, immediately realized what was going on and denounced Silvia as a witch. Malco helped her to run away, but ended up being arrested. That very Silvia visited him in jail and the two decided to escape through the only possible way, the river. When the guards reached the Mincio, they found nothing but the golden handkerchief, tied by Malco and Silvia to seal their love.
We finally went to visit the little hamlet, crossing the bridge. The ruins are those of the medieval bridge called Visconteo. It was built by order of Gian Galeazzo Visconti, duke of Milan, between 1393 and 1395 and was once connected to the castle by high crenellated walls.
Borghetto sul Mincio was once a ford, a crossing point on the river, in an area that every one desired: The Gonzaga (Mantua), the Scaligeri (Verona) and the Visconti (Milano) dynasties, Venice, then even Austria and France.
Along the river there’s also a famous cycle path. If you love cycling you can read my experience with the cycle path Peschiera del Garda – Mantua.
Now, as said, it is a charming tiny village devoted entirely to tourism. And quick to visit (30 minutes, I guess). More, of course, if you take pictures and stop to eat somewhere.
That said, we… meaning I 🙂 decided to spend the night in Borghetto because I wanted to be pampered in a special place (you can read my post about Maison Resola) and enjoy the quiet side of this lovely village. So, notwithstanding the touristy aim, you can still enjoy a romantic stay or dinner in this special corner of Veneto.