“There is a beautiful village in every country.” (Lailah Gifty Akita)
Lake Garda is full of beautiful little towns and villages; some filled with quaint little cobbled streets and narrow buildings, their aged features causing people to stop and stare, others have mountainous views, fabulous hillside rambles and stunning lakeside restaurants where you can enjoy mouth-watering dishes with locally produced, seasonal treats.
However, Borghetto sul Mincio, a village of ancient mills, is just a short cycle ride down a peaceful riverside track from Peschiera-del-Garda, and is possibly the most beautiful of them all.
Why Everyone Should Visit Borghetto
At the heart of this splendid little village, runs the Mincio river, a 75km waterway running from Peschiera-del-Garda to Mantua (also known as Mantova), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Ponto Visconteo (the Visconti Bridge) is a focal point for the entrance to the village, and is where, each June, the festival of Love Knots (Festa del Nodo d’Amore) is hosted.
History of Festa del Nodo d’ Amore
Tortellini is a family favourite no matter where you head in Italy, but for the residents of both Borghetto and Valeggio, twinned villages on opposite sides of the Scaligero Castle, this pasta dish holds special meaning.
For locals, tortellini is also known as Nodo d’ Amore, or love knots after two lovers, comparable to Romeo and Juliet.
At the end of the 13th century, war was common-place around this area of Northern Italy and military encampments were often constructed along the river. Legend has it that on one particular evening, a court jester shares with the troops a story about how beautiful nymphs who live just below the surface of the Mincio had been cursed and where now condemned to a life as evil, horrific-looking witches. On occasion, the spell would be lifted however, which meant that the nymphs would return to dry land and taunt the sleeping troops.
One evening, the commander of a troop, Malco, awoke to this spectacle but instead of being frightened he became mesmerised by one nymph in particular, the beauty Silvia. Caught underneath her spell, one night Malco confessed of his love for Silvia, and she responded with delight that she too, had fallen deeply in love with the captain.
However, whilst Malco wanted Silvia to remain with him for eternity, her destiny meant that she would forever be banished to the river before each waking dawn. Before disappearing, she did however leave a parting gift for her love, a handkerchief tied in a knot, symbolising their undying love.
The following day, events unfolded, and a party was arranged. Silvia returned undercover as a dancer but was spotted by others and called out for the witch everyone thought she was. Malco, driven by love, jumped to her defence giving her just enough time to escape the guards. For his actions, he was arrested and jailed, but luckily absconded to meet up with his love once more.
When news reached the count, he orders his troops to find and kill the lovers. As this news reaches Malco and Silvia, she begs him to join her in her underwater world. Malco does not hesitate disappearing into the Mincio just in time to avoid capture. Before going however, they leave behind a golden knotted handkerchief as a symbol of their love for the troops to find.
Since that day, tortellini has become the symbol of this love and each June the Festa del Nodo d’Amore serves up over 550,000 pasta knots to those that have come together to celebrate this story of love.
Why You Should Visit Borghetto sul Mincio
The Festival of Love Knots is not the only reason to visit this charming little village. If you are not fortunate enough to visit during the month of June do not despair. Spread across this delightful little hamlet, numerous restaurants are all ready to serve you a portion of the mouth-watering dish. Alternatively, if you have a passion for cooking, why not visit the local tortellini factory, where you can see for yourself exactly how these little golden knots of pasta are made.
Once you have delved sufficiently into the culinary world, why not head up the hill and check out the views from the top of Scaligero Castle, or wander along the Visconti Bridge, to look out over the surrounding countryside.
Alternatively, if you are feeling in a sporty mood, why not hop on a bike and spend the afternoon cycling along the Mincio to either Peschiera-del-Garda or Mantua.
Whatever you decide to do, Borghetto, ultimately is a tiny village with a big heart and whether you have a day or an hour to explore, no visit to Lake Garda would be complete without spending time here.