History

The Garda Island is at present owned by the Cavazza family, but over the centuries it had various names which were nearly always linked to the different owners: insula Cranie, island of Monks, Lechi island, Scotti island, de Ferrari island and later Borghese island. ​

130 Gallic-Roman tombstones found on the island prove the inhabitance of it during Roman times. Abandoned to its own ends during the centuries of the decline of the Roman Empire, it became a game reserve at the end of 879. he first historical mention can be found in a decree by Carloman in 879 which documented the donation of the island to the monks of San Zeno of Verona. Around 1220 St. Francis of Assisi visited many areas of northern Italy including Lake Garda, which in ancient times was called Benàco, on his return from the Orient through Albania and Dalmatia.

 

St.Francis believed it to be an ideal place for his monks as it was so far from the world and made a simple hermitage in the rocky part to the north. The island became an important ecclesiastic centre for meditation which hosted illustrious religious personalities, such as father Francesco Licheto from the noble Lechi family from Brescia, who in 1470 instituted a theology and philosophy school on the island.
The death of Father Francesco Licheto marked the beginning of a period of decadence for the religious community of the island. From 1685 to 1697 it was a convent for novices where the monks went into retreat.

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In 1797 the by now outdated monastery was suppressed definitively by Napoleon and it later became the property of the state and in the following years had various owners including Count Luigi Lechi from Brescia (1817). Luigi Lechi ordered important restoration and construction work to then pass it on twenty years later to his brother Teodoro, ex general of the Napoleonic army, who made further alterations with the added to the terraces on the front of the villa.   

 

 

In 1860 it was dispossessed by the State and given to the army. The idea to build a fortress was though abandoned and was sold at auction; the property was awarded to Baron Scotti who sold it to Duke Gaetano de Ferrari of Genoa and his wife, the Russian Archduchess, Maria Annenkoff.    Between 1880 and 1900 the new owners dedicated their time to planning and realizing the park, building containment walls towards the lake and importing fertile earth and exotic plants. The palace was enriched by Italian garden terraces with elaborately designed hedges and flowering bushes. Before the Duke’s death in 1893, the two of them together conceived the project of a palace to be built on the site of the old Lechi villa. The villa in Neogothic-Venetian was built between 1890 and 1903, on the project by architect Luigi Rovelli.​

 

The extremely complex building has its own stylistic unity and a rare stateliness. The façades are decorated by acutely arched windows and in the south-west corner stands a tower crowned with crenellation in stone with flowered neo-gothic style decorations. After the death of the Archduchess, the island passed in inheritance to her daughter Anna Maria, wife of Prince Scipione Borghese of Rome. Anna Maria loved the island very much and made it her home until the end of her life, taking care of the park and the family memories.​

In 1927, on the death of the Prince, the Island passed down to her daughter Livia, married to Count Alessandro Cavazza of Bologna who kept it in an excellent state to leave it to his son Camillo who in turn left it to his wife Charlotte and their seven children. Today they continue to passionately look after the park and the palace where they live.​