Friday, February 22, 2008

Visit to Peschiera

My most recent ride was a longish one, slowly winding my way to Peschiera. Peschiera is located at the southern edge of Lake Garda and is protected by a fortress. The fortress is on an island in the Mincio River at its outlet from Lake Garda. When Lombary-Venetia was under Austrian rule, Peschiera was the northwest anchor of four fortified towns constituting the so-called Quadrilateral.

The fortress at Peschiera played a prominent part in most of the military campaigns conducted in northern Italy after 1400, but especially so during the Napoleonic Wars. During the First Italian War of Independence, it was taken by the Piedmontese from the Austrians.

Medieval Lord Mastino della Scala began the town fortification works: the castle (Rocca) was constructed over a Roman building and in the 15th Century, the fortress was finally composed by a group of civil houses, surrounded by walls with towers disposed on five sides. In 1439 Peschiera was part of the Serenissima Republic of Venice. The town in 1549 had a new fortress which assumed a pentagonal shape. The town-walls were substituted with bastions, made with stones and earth, placed on the pentagonal base. This system of town-wall fortifications knitted the two ancient islands with singular and powerful fortified bridges, connecting together the two fortresses crossed by the main branch of the Mincio river.
This fortress configuration remained unchanged until the French arrival in 1796, after the fall of the Venice Republic. Initially the fortress was kept as originally, a border watch building. From 1800 and during the French domination (1801-1814) it was partially dismantled in order to build a set of fortications: a system of separate forts, which surrounded the town, on dominant positions, within the countryside.

Photos: an old map of the fortress; the main roadway into the town, part of the fortified walls, the inner harbor within the fortress, one of the corners of the pentagon (as indicated in the map in the light shading)

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