Last weekend I celebrated my birthday, by exploring Borghetto and Mantua with my parents. For those that don’t know, Lee and I are working on a campsite in Peschiera, where the river Mincio and Lake Garda meet. As well as being the place we first met, it is one of our favourite places on earth for its beauty and well-preserved history. As someone who’s fave hobby is basically time-travel, I can’t get enough of the area’s castles and fortified towns. One of the best to visit is Borghetto sul Mincio. Easily one of the most beautiful towns in Italy!!
The most romantic pasta
Before we get into where it is and what to do there, you have to know the story of ‘the love knot’. For many years, every June, thousands of people have come together along the bridge into Borghetto, to celebrate ‘Festa del Nodo d’Amore’. Essentially, a night of eating Tortellini, drinking wine and celebrating the romantic legends of Borghetto with fancy dress and fireworks.
So, other than Lady and the Tramp, what does pasta and romance have in common??
La Leggenda del “Nodo d’Amore” – The Legend of the Love Knot
During the 13th century, the ‘Count of Virtue’ and his soldiers, set up camp along the Mincio River in Valeggio, northern Italy. When the sun went down, they told stories of beautiful water nymphs, spirits of nature, cursed to live out their lives beneath the surface of the river as wrinkled old witches. It was said that the Spirits could be seen at night, free to dance along the water, before returning to the river at sunrise.
Upon hearing this story, Captain Malco caught a glimpse of one of these beautiful spirit-women. Naturally, he followed her along the riverside but she bolted, dropping her cloak as she went. This particular nymph was called Silvia. As she caught Malco’s eye, they instantly fell in love. She knew they could never be together and threw herself back into the water; leaving behind a handkerchief, tied in a knot. A symbol of her love.
Love always wins
Shortly after, the Count of Virtue throws a party and Malco recognises one of the dancers. It’s Silvia. The spark between them is obvious. Isabella, who is also head-over-heels in love with Malco, and totally jealous of this strange dancer, is furious. After complaining to her cousin, the Count, poor Silvia is arrested. Malco manages to set her free but in turn, gets himself arrested.
Perhaps feeling guilty, Isabella realises that Malco and Silvia are meant to be. Later the next night, she decides to help them escape together. Once broken out of his cell, Malco joins Silvia by the river again. Realising it is the only way for them to be together, they plunge into depths of the Minco river. As the lovers disappear beneath the surface, only one thing remains. A simple knot tied into a golden handkerchief. A symbol of their eternal love.
Naturally, the town has since become a place of romance and knot-like pasta shapes!
How to get there
You can fly into Verona or Milan Bergamo and use public transport or hire a car. If you are staying for a while, you can even road-trip all the way to Italy, as we did! If you don’t have a car, there are excursions from Peschiera that will take you to Vallegio, walking distance to Borghetto. If you’re feeling active, you can even take the cycle route!
What to do in Borghetto
Honestly, this isn’t one of those places where you need to ‘do’ anything. Just bask in the beauty! Take a tonne of photos, wander the streets and then take some more photos… But, of course, I have a list for you anyway!
Make a wish!
Borghetto is still home to several ancient water mills. Keep an eye out for this one where you can chuck a coin in the bucket for ‘Buona fortuna!’ Or good luck. (Extra good luck for anyone that can get it through the star!.. Probably…)
Leave your own symbol of love
Whether you’re on a romantic trip, visiting with friends, family or even going solo. Everyone loves an initialed ‘love-lock!’ Padlocks can be seen on bridges and fences across much of Europe, usually over rivers. Borghetto is no stranger to these and you can add your own in a couple of spots. So go ahead, leave a token of your love!
Eat & drink like the locals!
Now, I may be vegan, but I also love history, legends, and tradition. So, while I skipped the Tortelli on this occasion. I will still tell you about it (after all, these little ‘love knots’ are kind of a big deal in this town!) Traditionally meaty, there were some vegetarian options, including this cheese and truffle combination. Don’t forget that fresh Italian pasta will almost always include egg! You can even visit a tortellini factory and see how it has been made by hand for hundreds of years.
Aperitivo AKA Spritz O’clock
I actually hated Aperol Spritz when I first tried it. Since then, I’ve seen the error of my ways and this is my fave Italian tradition. You can grab a variety of spritz drinks, alcohol-free cocktails or something else and get snacks – fo’ free! Designed to encourage your appetite before a meal, most bars will offer crisps, olives or even buffets! In Borghetto, I recommend Cafè Il Mulino, where you can sit out on the deck over the river and admire the views!
Find a unique souvenir
No, I’m not talking fridge magnets- although I am definitely a collector! In Borghetto, there aren’t many shops, but they are all beautiful! Near the church, you will find handmade jewelry and ornaments, where I found the cutest sunflower earrings (made out of corn starch!) for just €5. Head to Acqua Terra e Fuoco (earth, wind, and fire) for all your natural soap, wooden jewelry, and linen dress- needs! They have shops in several towns, including Peschiera and Lazise.
Head up to the Scaligero castle
I don’t know about you, but I love a castle. This one, like many, is at the top of a hill. From Valeggio there is a steep ramp of cobbled stones and back down to the side of Borghetto it is all steps. You can admire the views of both towns from the top, read the history of the castle, and imagine what it once was. If you’re still feeling fit after all the steps, you can climb some more for €2 and walk across the top of the castle walls.
So, what do you think? Have you been to Borghetto or would you like to visit? Let me know in the comments! If you love Italy too or want to see what it’s like to work abroad then let’s be friends! Catch me on Facebook or Instagram and don’t forget to pin this for later!!