Room 4

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Man and

the economy

The activities of the inhabitants of Lake Garda from the Republic of Venice until the 20th century. During the long domination of the Republic of Venice, the waters of the lake were sailed by boats that came down from Torbole and from Trentino carrying many goods, including the wood needed by lemon farmers on the shoreline of Brescia to cover their gardens. On several occasions, the lake, a place of traffic and work for a myriad of boatmen, fishermen and merchants, became also a place of war. Warships sailed the Garda and bombarded the towns along the coastline of Brescia at the beginning of the 18th century during the War of the Spanish Succession and a century later, it was the turn of the Austrian and French fleets to fight on the lake. Warships came back on the Garda during the Renaissance conflicts: the ships used were now armed steamboats, like those that patrolled Northern Garda in 1849 and bombarded Gargnano in 1866.

A great revolution in fishing methods was introduced in the middle of the 19th century with the use of the tirlindana, originated in Lake Como. Before that, due to the high cost of nets and trawls, most fishermen had been forced to depend on fish merchants or wealthy local citizens, but then all of them became able to cheaply and easily craft their own dindana, as it was called on Lake Garda. A time of profound changes had begun: fishing had started to become an individual activity that nylon nets and motor boats would revolutionise again in the 20th century.

The steamboat.

Paddles and sails, needed by all types of boat to navigate Lake Garda, remained popular until 1827 when a new means of navigation made its appearance: the steamboat.
The Benaco, a modern steamboat built from iron, set sail from Riva in 1843. After that, steam navigation became increasingly common on Lake Garda and in the following years dozens of new steamboats would follow the example of the Benaco. You can now examine the various typical work processes that were used along the coast of the lake with the support of the exhibits displayed in the museum and the additional in-depth information shown in the individual panels.


The Orangeries.

Starting from the 15th century, in order to make it possible to cultivate citrus fruits at this latitude, enormous masonry greenhouses known as orangeries were built along the coast of Lake Garda near the city of Brescia. From November to March, orangeries would be covered with planks and closed by large mobile wooden walls and large windows to allow light to filter into the greenhouse.
The orangeries of Prà de la Fam in Tignale and that of Castèl in Limone sul Garda, both part of the Museum of the Park, are two places that need to be visited to admire these unique structures; especially in spring when they are filled with the scent of orange blossoms and the charm of the ancient craft of their cultivation on the shores of the lake.


The processing of iron.

The largest production centre for the processing of iron in the area of Garda was founded in the 18th century in the small peninsula of Campione.
Linen used for bookbinding was produced in particular in Salò; this activity involved not only the inhabitants of the capital of Magnifica Patria—as the area of Brescia near the lake was called during the Venetian domination—but also many women from the surrounding villages and from Verona and Trentino. Already thriving in the second half of the 14th century, the paper mills of Toscolano experienced rapid growth in the following centuries.


The fine olive oil of Garda.

The silvery green of the olive tree crowns, their twisted trunks together with the terraces with their dry-stone walls and grass-covered sides represent some of the oldest elements of the landscape of Garda. The climatic conditions of this area are ideal for the cultivation of olive trees. Olives are harvested by hand in November and December and are then stored in well ventilated boxes before they are taken to the mill. At the Shared Cooperative of Tignale you can visit an interesting exhibition about the historic production chain of olive oil.


Laurel oil.

Founded in 1841 in Gargnano as an association of orangery owners, the company Lago di Garda extended its activities to the production of laurel oil in 1877 in order to deal with the crisis in the production of citrus fruit. Easily found in the countryside and along the lake roads, laurel plants could supply berries in abundance from which, through a boiling and crushing process, it was possible to obtain an aromatic oil very appreciated in Switzerland, Germany and Holland.


Flours and gristmills.

Many abandoned millstones have been preserved and today they are a melancholic testimony to a past that seems to be distant but it is not. Artisan grinding started to become less and less common only after the end of World War II when water mills started to become a common sight in each stream. A short video shows the grinding process.