Inimitable, precious corners of history treasures of art and culture: we have jealously guarded the past to revisit in the present the culture and architecture that have alternated through times.
Even now, strolling though the centre with a careful eye, you can visit the ancient past.
Origins of the city are unknown: legends tell that it was founded by Queen Salodia or the Etruscan Lucuman Saloo, son of Osiris of Egypt. One thing is certain: Salò was an important Roman settlement, as shown by the Lugone necropolis (via Sant’Jago), the many finds and stone tables exhibited in the local Museum of Archaeology.
In the high Middle Ages,the city shared the same fate as Lombardy; the origins of the municipality of Salò are barely known: its autonomy from Brescia can be dated towards the end of the XIII century or the beginning of the next, and the most ancient statues conserved by the city authorities are dated 1397. Earlier documents concerning rules, dispositions and regulations are conserved almost in a perfect state in the Historical Archives of the Town Hall wich was governed by the general and special councils and represented by the Consul. Various committees, similar to presentday councils were responsible for ordinary and extraordinary administration.
Previous to the year 1334, thirty-four communes had been grouped under the Riviera Community, commonly known as the Magnifica Patria (magnificent homeland), under the protectorate of Venice from 1336 to 1349, then dominion of the Viscontis from Milan and from 1426 of the Venetian Republic. In 1377 Beatrice della Scala, the wife of Bernabò Visconti, wanted Salò to be the capital of the Magnifica Patria (and thus the city remained until the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797), the city was provided with solid walls and castle was built but unfortunately nothing remains of this today.
The general council of the Patria and its other institutions were all centred in Salò. The governor sent by Venice to this “terraferma” province also resided at Salò with the appropriate title of Provveditore di Salò (Superintendent of Salò) and Capitano della Riviera (Captain of the Riviera); he acted ad penal judge for the whole Riviera, while civil justice was entrusted to a Brescian podestà who also resided in Salò. From ancient times the borough had based its considerable economic prosperity on traffic and commerce, although there were important artisan activities such as the bleaching of linen which was then exported to the whole of Europe.
On 1 January 1797, the provisional Brescian government instituted the Canton of Benaco with the capital of Benaco, “aforesaid Salò” (this denomination was used only for a short period); after the times of Napoleon, Salò became part of the Austrian Lombardy-Venetian Kingdom from 1815 to 1859.
Salò was conferred the title of City in 1860 after being annexed to the Kingdom of Sardinia and before the proclamation of the Kingdom of Italy. The end of the nineteenth century saw a great development of tourism to the city (the port is also very active) which still finds its primary source of income in services.
The city can boast some illustrious members: Silvano Cattaneo (1508 ca.-1554/64), poet and philosopher; Bongianni Grattarolo (1519 ca.-1596/99), poet and historicist; Pietro da Salò ( mentioned 1535-1561/63), sculptor in Venice; Giuseppe Milio said Voltolina (1536-1580 ca.), poet and farmer; Gasparo Bertolotti known as Gasparo da Salò (1540-1609), lute-maker “inventor of the violin”; Ferdinando Giuseppe Bertoni (1725-1813) and Marco Enrico Bossi (1861-1925), organists and composers; Sante Cattaneo (1739-1819), painter; Mattia Butturini (1752-1817), teacher of Greek and rights at the University of Pavia; Angelo Landi (1879-1944), painter.
From September 1943 to April 1945, during the fury of the second world war, Salò was named Capital of Italy, of an Italy that was still split in two. October 1943 marked the creation of the Social Republic of Italy between Salò and Gargnano, also known as the Republic of Salò, a last attempt by Benito Mussolini and Hitler to reorganise Fascism in Italy.
Even more so today, Salò is a tourist resort of primary importance, a pole of gravitation for economy, commerce, justice and employment; above all because of its ideal geographical position on the lower banks of Lake Garda, bordering on Valtenesi and the reaches of Valsabbia.
Classified top of Italian municipalities for income and quality of life and services, the city can boast an excellent continuous development as a centre of direction because an important public offices such as: the Tribune, covering 39 municipalities with a population reaching practically 100.000 (more 400.000 during the summer) and the 100 square kilometres covered by the District Tax Office, the combined Registry and Archives office, the headquarters of the Carabinieri corps since 1897 and responsible for 40 municipalities, the Tax Police brigade since 1920, Traffic Police since 1959, an important unit operating with 113 (emergency calls) on a population of 200.000; the local Health Services, now comprising the former ASL departments 17, 39 and 40.
There are also numerous public offices of more than local importance: the Tourist Board existing since 1927, the National Forest Guards, the provincial Fire-fighting station, the District Labour Office for 12 municipalities, offices of the Lombardy Region for the agricultural forest, hunting and fishing sectors, the BIM Consortium with jurisdiction over the 12 municipalities, the School District nr. 40 since 1978 for several municipalities, the Meteorological Observatory and the nearby “Pio Bettoni” Seismic Station Founded in 1877, an ultra-modern Rest Home for the disabled and unit for people suffering from Alzheimers. Salò offers a wide range of education and has been the location of the State Science Lyceum since 1975, the Classic Lyceum since 1990, the Language Lyceum since 1993, the Lyceum of Communication, the State Technical-Commercial Institute and School of Surveyors since just after the last war, a famous Artists Workshop and a Music Academy.