The town of Arco is located to the northern end of Lake Garda in Lombardy (northern Italy), in an attractive setting with sheer cliffs to one side and overlooked by a castle.
It stands at the southern end of the Sarca River valley which flows on into Garda Lake, and the position- protected by the mountains - allows the area to maintain a mild climate, so the city has been a holiday resort for several centuries.
A visit to Arco will usually start from the castle...
According to some sources, the construction of Arco castle originated in the Middle Ages, and was erected by the residents of Arco - only later becoming the property of the local noble family of the Counts of Arco, who dominated these lands.
The castle was abandoned during the 18th century following a siege by French troops in 1703. A careful restoration in 1986 and others in subsequent years have allowed the discovery and recovery of some cycles of frescoes depicting knights and court ladies of medieval times.
Sanctuary of Our Lady of Grace
The houses of the old town, hugging the ancient castle cliff, offer an interesting route to follow through Arco, starting with the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Grace. This shrine and the nearby monastery were built between 1475 and 1492 at the behest of the local count.
Over the following centuries the building has undergone several renovations, but arches and some columns with plain capitals dating from the early construction of the 15th century are still visible in the cloister.
Inside, the shrine holds a wooden statue of the Virgin Mary, probably also dating from the 15th century.
Collegiate Church of the Assumption
Enter the Collegiate Church of the Assumption, a 17th century work if the late Renaissance by G.M. Filippi, the architect of the Imperial Court.
"Collegiate" comes from the Latin term "Collegium", and indicates that there was once a community of priests who lived communally here.
Inside the church, which has one aisle, there is a marble statue dedicated to the Assumption, perhaps by the sculptor Gabriele Cagliari da Verona.
Among the altars, of which five are works by Domenico Rossi (1675-1696), the fourth on the right, enclosed by an iron railing and brass, is dedicated to the Blessed Sacrament, and the second left altar is dedicated to Mary Magdalene - it was sculpted by brothers Christopher and Sebastian Benedetti di Castione in the 18th century.
On the first altar on the left is a painting of the “Madonna and Child Jesus, Two Angels and St. Michael the Archangel”, attributed to Felice Brusasorzi (1539-1605, a Mannerist painter), and the choir is a work by Giacomo Benedetti di Desenzano del Garda completed in 1731.
Near the chancel there are two entrances in the floor that lead to an underground tomb, where the canons of the Collegiate and local Counts were buried in the past.
Among the civil buildings of interest in Arco note the Palazzo Marchetti. This building, originally called the “Palace of St Peter”, dates from the 16th century and is located on the east side of the Collegiate Church of the Assumption. The building was owned by Count Arco until the mid-19th century.
Inside the building there are several cycles of frescoes from different ages and artists, while at the southern entrance of the building there is a prominent portal attributed to the painter and sculptor Giulio Romano (1499-1546).
Palazzo dei Panni
Another noteworthy Arco palace is the Palazzo dei Panni ('Palace of Cloths'), which was built in the last decades of the 17th century. Its construction was ordered by Count Gianbattista of Arco (died 1722) and a powerful witness of the local Counts of Arco is still visible on the portal, dominated by the family coat of arms.
Towards the end of the 18th century the building was converted into a woollen mill, from where the name of 'Cloths Palace' is likely to derive.
Other Arco activities and spa
In addition to being a city with strong medieval connections Arco has long been known primarily as a 'winter health resort city', and as a result there are several buildings dating from the late 19th century.
Typical monuments of the “winter health resort city” are the Casino (now the Library); a monument to the founders of a mountaineering company; a monument to Archduke Albert (1559-1621) and a continuous series of villas and baths dating back to the birth of Arco as a spa resort.
Arco also has some other features of artistic interest; for example, a statue dedicated to Giovanni Segantini (1858-1899, an important local “Divisionist” painter) ; and near the apse of the Collegiate there is also the famous “tettoia” [“penthouse”], with which tourism at Arco started.
Attractions and heritage close to Arco
Among other religious buildings of interest close to Arco the Church of St. Apollinaris of Romanesque origin and in the village of Prabi is particularly remarkable. The façade and exterior were painted between the 15th and 16th centuries, while the interior holds precious 14th century frescoes.
Also worth mentioning are the Church of St. Martin (located in San Martin, it was completely rebuilt during the 16th century - inside there are several cycles of frescoes from the Italian Renaissance) and the Church of San Rocco (located in the village of Caneve, and dating from the 14th century).
There is also a long tradition of good food here which we recommend you sample during a visit to Arco! The local cuisine is very tempting, especially in winter, with dishes such as potato “gnocchi” with bacon, “rucola” and “ricotta”, “Franciscan tagliatelle”, “ravioli” with bacon, apples and nuts with melted butter, “Spaghetti Guitar” with crisp vegetables, cream of potato and leeks with crispy bacon all being popular.
See also history of Arco.
Arco is just a few kilometres north of Riva del Garda, one of the most popular resorts on the shores of Lake Garda.
Map of Arco and places to visit
Arco places to visit
See more places nearby in the Trentino-Alto Adige guide