Today I want to tell you about this beautiful little village which we came across by pure chance a few days ago.
It is called Borghetto and it is located on the river Mincio – the fast-running waters of which flow straight from Lake Garda all the away to the river Po 65 km away. We had spent the day at the Sigurta Garden Park – a huge green expanse famous all over Italy with its tulip displays – and seeing that the one million tulips planted there had not bloomed just yet, I was feeling disenchanted just a touch.
You know that feeling when you have harboured some great expectations only for the present not to really live up to them?! Well, it is a really unpleasant way to feel and it can spoil an otherwise perfectly wonderful day. Just then my husband got a text message from an acquaintance of his who, by pure coincidence, had been at the same park earlier in the day, but we hadn’t managed to bump into him (the place really is huge). So, the text message said: ‘Are you still at Sigurta? Don’t miss going to Borghetto once you are done there.’
And ‘done’ we were. With feet achy from all the walking around, we slowly trundled towards our little red car. We passed by a bunch of road signs one of which simply said ‘Borghetto’ and pointed the way. Our minds were made up.
We piled in, set up the GPS and a minute or two later were already driving down a zigzagging road which opened a splendid view in front of our eyes.
A mighty castle crowned the high hill to our left.
To the right the fast and furious Mincio sped forward. A huge gate made of medieval bricks marked the place where the river was crossed by the road. ‘Wow!’, we said. Unimaginative, I know, but we were so struck by the scale and the powerful structure of the gate, that it was easier to exclaim the first cliche that came to our lips, rather than spoil the moment of visual delight whilst trying to find the right words to form a splendid phrase.
The gate was splendid anyway, even though you could tell it had suffered extensively with the passage of time. Here and there large chunks of the medieval masonry were missing and a metal structure had been inserted in it to make sure that it would stay upright for many more decades and centuries to come.
Our little red car drove through the gate and another simple yet very evocative ‘Wow!’ was uttered by us. A couple of hundred yards down the road another huge medieval gate stood up. It was in a much better shape than the first one and, apparently, together with it had been part of a fortified bridge used by the medieval Scaligeri dynasty (who ruled Verona and its adjacent lands) to guard the approach to their castle on the hill.
It was really amazing to think that both the bridge with its gates and the castle on the hill had been built over six centuries ago. It seemed such a feat especially considering that the masons of yore didn’t have at their disposal the modern tools and machines we now have (and in spite of this we often fail to produce such amazing builds).
Anyway, just as we were driving through the first gate, I happened to glance sideways to the left and this is when I saw them – a row of old mills which had been built right across the river bed. ‘Wow! Stop! Stop! Stop the car!’, was all that I could say. You must be thinking that we are mainly monosyllable in our family. It wouldn’t be strictly true, but sometimes words fail me and this was one such moment.
Luckily, on both sides of the road between the two gates of the bridge there were parking spaces provided for people to stop, get out and simply admire the gorgeous view.
Mincio’s clear waters ran really fast below us. We could see a couple of white swans carefully going through their grooming routine right in the middle of the river.
The mills seemed to be functioning, too. But, instead of milling flour or any other such thing, from our high point it looked like they had been turned into restaurants and eateries and people were sitting round the tables outside. Really tall reeds were growing on the shores of the river below our feet.
It was really beautiful to see it all, whilst leaning against the ancient masonry of the bridge’s gate. Italy has this uncanny habit of surprising you with breathtaking places – small villages and one-of-a-kind sights. You just need to venture outside of the main cities and large tourist areas to experience encounters which can inspire the poet in you.
Back in the car, we followed the road leading down to the old mills.
It was now really late in the afternoon, more like an early evening in fact. People were out for their end of the day walk, leading dogs and holding their children’s hands. They would all sit on the benches by the river and spend some quiet time just taking it all in.
Birds were flying above the river waters and every now and then they would take a cooling dip.
The river was so clear that it was easy to see its pebbly bed. Just then a long-legged model caught my eye.
Soon though a majestic white swan swam nearby and, fickle as I am, I lost all interest in the duck. It couldn’t take it and it flew off.
The sun was colouring Mincio with its golden and orange rays.
We walked towards the bridge leading to the old mills. On the left hand side several pubs and restaurants caught my eye with their beautiful signs.
The old mills – turned into eateries – enjoyed a brisk business. All the tables were occupied by people eager to enjoy the vistas and the local cuisine.
The mill wheels were still in place, albeit covered by a protective mesh with suspended lockets of love, but only one was turning fast, moved by the power of the water.
For several minutes we enjoyed the reversed view – the medieval bridge of the Scaligeri Family looked truly spectacular.
Apart from restaurants and gelaterias, there were several art and craft shops with some truly original offerings.
The atmosphere was very relaxed, with people milling around, enjoying their ice-creams and their early evening drinks. It felt like a truly magical place – quiet, peaceful, removed from the stresses of the world.
Such a beautiful moment! I am already looking forward to returning to Borghetto the first chance we get.