Valtenesi is the hilly area of vineyards and olive plantations that slopes down to the lake between the bays of Padenghe and Salò.
It is made up of seven districts – Padenghe, Moniga, Manerba, San Felice, Puegnago, Polpenazze and Soiano. Ancient villages, castles and villas can be found nestling in the fields and on the lakeside there are small villages where hotels, houses to let, campsites and beaches await the tourist. Valtenesi produces some of the best Brescian wines (Groppello and Chiaretto for example) but is also famous for its extra-virgin olive oil.
Both the wine and oil can be bought directly from their producers (see “Brescian wines” and “Local foodstuffs”) and it may be possible to stay on some of these farms.
Like many of the villages in Valtenesi, Padenghe is overlooked by a Castle, this one dates back to the 10th – 15th centuries.
Other buildings to see are the small church of Sant’Emiliano (12th c.) and the large and imposing Villa Barbieri (Town Council) which harmonises nicely with the nearby Parish church.
Moniga is a very elegant village.
At its edge stands a Castle with round towers and crenellations which was built as a defence against the Hungarian tribe invasions in the 10th century. Inside there are old houses and it is one of the best conserved examples of its kind in southern Garda. Passing through the old centre one reaches the port lined by bars and trattorias. Moniga is known for its excellent restaurants, sunny beaches facing Sirmione, and Chiaretto wine; it is a member of the National Association of “Wine Cities”.
The areas in Manerba are: Pieve Vecchia, Solarolo, Montinelle, Gardoncino e Balbiana. Manerba is spread over on of the most outstanding promontories on Lake Garda. Known still today as “Rocca di Manerba” (Manerba Fort), there are unfortunately no remains of the ancient castle built on the top of the promontory by the Longobards in the 8th century. Below the rocky outcrop, which falls sheer into the water, there are lovely little bays with pebble beaches and a causeway that joins the mainland to the tiny San Biagio island; it is altogether a perfect area for canoeing. Not far away there is the port of Dusano and beaches at “Il Torcolo” and “La Romantica” suitable small children.
The Romanesque church of Santa Maria is worth visiting for its frescoes and Roman tombstones.
The peninsular of San Felice is also beautiful with Garda Island just in Front. There used to be monasteries on the island between the 13th and 18th centuries but now it is in private hands and a Venetian Neo-Gothic style villa built at the beginning of this century has replaced them. Just outside the village stands the Sanctuary of the Madonna del Carmine (mid-15th century with fine frescoes) while in the centre the Parish church has an altar-piece by Romanino featuring the “Madonna with San Felice and other saints”. The nearby beaches are also very pretty, especially the Baia del Vento, where it is possible to swim.