Sometimes, as I am out and about doing chores, I look around and regret the fact that Toscolano Maderno is a misunderstood beauty, to put it mildly, and not properly appreciated.
I find it hard to understand why, given that this town lying on the waters of Lake Garda not only has ancient roots but also boasts numerous records.
The Roman Villa of Toscolano Maderno
Toscolano's history is closely linked to that of the Lombards, but it was certainly the Romans who shaped the area and gave it its characteristic imprint..
If the Roman villa par excellence on Lake Garda is the one in Sirmione, you may be interested to know that the one in Toscolano Maderno is the only one whose owner is known with certainty: thanks to an inscription found in the archaeological area, we know that the villa belonged to Marcus Nonius Macrinus, consul at the time of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, of the influential and powerful Nonii Arrii family.
Loggias, gardens, fountains, mosaics, frescoes and a large hall probably used as a triclinium testify to the grandeur of the complex, whose history is narrated in the small adjoining museum. The domus is not only visitable, but also 'liveable' thanks to the costumed representations that depict scenes of daily life in those times.
I don't know about you, but I have a real passion for historical re-enactments. So much so that I have become the promoter of one that commemorates the arrival of Saint Herculaneum, the patron saint of the town: who knows why no one had thought of it before.
Olive trees, olive trees and more olive trees
It seems that Saint Herculaneum, who was Bishop of Brescia in the 6th century, had decided to move to the lake to escape persecution and abuse by the Goths and Lombards who had invaded northern Italy.
Most likely what he saw, among other things, were the olive groves planted by the Romans to produce the oil that the capital of the empire badly needed as lighting fuel. Olive groves that became endless expanses in the Middle Ages, when oil production became even more important.
And guess what?
In one of the oldest olive groves, recently recovered, a native variety of olive was discovered: another Toscolano Maderno record.
Speaking of records: the Garda area is by far the northernmost latitude oil-producing area in the world. I am certain that you will not leave without tasting some of this green gold.
The Valley of the Paper Mills
They called it this because the territory crossed by the Toscolano (the stream that bisects the villages of Toscolano and Maderno, now merged into a single municipality) is dotted with the ruins of ancient paper mills.
If not the first ever, Toscolano is certainly one of the earliest paper production settlements: the presence of a paper mill is reported as early as 1381.
One of these ruins has been recovered and restored and is now home to a simply fantastic museum. It is like stepping back in time, with the master papermakers explaining the manual procedure that, starting with the rags put to soak and passing through the waxing process, gave life to the sheet of paper. You can see the old machinery, the steeping vats, the glue bag that the women used to wax the sheets.
The children, then, have a lot of fun: there is a path just for them, which allows them to take home a sheet of paper made with their own hands.
I may be a romantic, but in my opinion it is an exciting experience for adults and children alike.
ALL SPORTS AND FRESH AIR
There is little to do: Toscolano Maderno is a sportsman's paradise.Perhaps it is because of the vastness of the territory; perhaps it is because of the climate, but here you are spoilt for choice: trekking; sailing; surfing; biking; golf; even climbing: the most beautiful and difficult climbs on Mount Pizzocolo are in the Toscolano Maderno area, after those of Arco.
It just depends on how many days you have available: it is no coincidence that major international competitions take place every year, attracting spectators and athletes from all over the world. For example, the 'Mad of lake', a steep and breathtaking bike race, the longest Urban Downhill in Italy: almost 3 kilometres and 300 metres of altitude difference. Or the 'XTerra', an international Triathlon race of biking, running and swimming.
OK. Let's talk about competitive racing at the highest level, perhaps not suitable for everyone.
That's why I also propose quieter alternatives to my guests, such as a walk along the picturesque Covoli walkway: it can be covered on foot, by bicycle and even with pushchairs. A simplicity that takes nothing away from the magic of the place.
Or a bike tour with visits to wineries and tasting of local wines.
Oh, I forgot: Toscolano is the longest beach on Lake Garda.
I told you: it's record land!