with Nod, by Adrian Barnes
(review coming soon on unwrittenshades)
Though one of the smaller lake-side towns, Moniga Del Garda offers a few simple yet beautiful pleasures. One of them is the “castello”, situated on a small hill, just a five minute walk from the village centre.
The fortress dates back to the tenth century, when it was built as a defence from the Hungarian invasions. Although the inside now holds a normal residence (much like that of Padenghe), the outer walls are impressively intact.
The main entrance for both tourists and residents is under the former gate tower, now converted into a bell tower (unlike other castles, it is unfortunately forbidden to climb the tower, with the steps being noticeably in disrepair). However, there is also a smaller entrance on the opposite side, accessible through the park: it is this area that makes Moniga Castle my first Read-in Tranquillity post.
A small green area of land, surrounded by olive trees and herbs (residents – including me – pick their rosemary and bay leaves here), with a few benches placed along the path that follows it round from the castle. Simple, right? Just wait until you get to the view-point on the South-East side. On a clear day, you can watch over lower Moniga and a significant portion of the East side of the lake, being far enough to take in the sheer expanse of Garda, yet close enough (being around 1km from the port) to admire the sailing boats, the tourists on pedallos, and on a windy day, the force of the glistening waves. Conveniently, and surely not by accident, there is a bench in the perfect viewing position, just waiting for you and your book.
When to bring your book.
This spot is obviously better on clear days, however that doesn’t necessarily mean in summer – Italy has a strange climate where winter doesn’t automatically mean clouds. Personally, I prefer it out-of-season, when I am unlikely to be disturbed for hours. However, even in summer, this spot – considering its incredible viewpoint – remains fairly tranquil. I rarely find more than a couple of people at the top, unless there is an event. The only restriction is night-time: the whole castle area is only open in daylight hours, presumably to keep the privacy of its residents.
Other than reading?
For those of you who for some strange reason want to visit for reasons other than reading, the castle provides a few. There is a small kiosk bar on the decline of the South-East side, which shares in the stunning view, and provides a satisfying aperitvo to go with a choice of wines or a beer.
Speaking of wines, Moniga Castle is host to Italia In Rosa: a yearly wine festival, usually held over a weekend in June, which celebrates the famous Chiaretto wine created right here in Moniga. Tickets are generally around 10euros, and allow for entrance plus wine tasting.
In high tourist season, the inside of the back of the castle can also be transformed into a small concert area, for completely free, open-air gigs. Keep your ears open as you walk around Moniga, as the music is sure to bounce of the old walls and spread to the neighbours.