Borghetto, a pearl on Mincio river
04 October 2023
The perennial roar of water, the mills, the nature, the enchanted atmosphere: here is Borghetto, a fairy-tale village of medieval origins, nestled on the border between Veneto and Lombardy. This tiny fraction of Valeggio sul Mincio is in fact a real pearl that has nothing to envy of places much better known for history, culture, events and food and wine traditions.
Water has always been an essential element in the history of Borghetto, which has regulated the relationship between man and nature, marked the boundaries, created work and marked the rhythm of the mill blades. The village was in fact strategically fundamental for centuries, as a ford point that allowed the movement of merchants, travelers and entire armies. For this reason we can safely say that Borghetto has a real vocation for hospitality, well rooted in its history: travelers, traders and pilgrims of every era have always found here a place for the night, a hot dish and a good glass of wine. This place suspended between sky, water and earth was long disputed first by the lordships of Scaligeri, Gonzaga and Visconti, then by the Republic of Venice and even by Austria and France. The origins and the medieval and Lombard past of the village are clearly readable everywhere, simply by walking in its picturesque streets: the ancient Romanesque parish church of Santa Maria, on whose ruins the church of San Marco Evangelista was built, the magnificent bridge-dam, commissioned by Gian Galeazzo Visconti and included in the defensive system of the Castello Scaligero of Valeggio, the statue of Saint John of Nepomuk, a saint originally from Bohemia and patron of rivers and bridges. Only with the passage of the Republic of Venice in the 15th century, Borghetto became the "village of mills", fundamental for the wheat milling and rice husking activities of what had become a very important agricultural center. These activities were carried out by hand until the 20th century, when they moved on to industrial production, but even if they had not been used for decades, the blades of the mills now offer extremely evocative glimpses of a place that seems suspended in time.
As we know, official history is often accompanied by myths and legends, which help us to explain, in a very picturesque way, the origins of local customs and traditions which are still well rooted in the community. In the case of Borghetto, the best-known legend could only be linked to its gastronomic product par excellence: the tortellino di Valeggio, also known as the "love knot". The story tells of the love between Silvia, a beautiful nymph who lived in the waters of the Mincio river, and Malco, the valiant captain of the troops of the Lord of Milan, Giangaleazzo Visconti. In fact, it was believed at the time that the river was populated by splendid nymphs who came out to dance at night, but who were condemned by a curse to transform into horrid witches. One night the witch-nymphs went out and started dancing among the sleeping soldiers of Gian Galeazzo Visconti's troops, camped right on the banks of the Mincio. The captain of the guard Malco, however, was keeping watch and suddenly got up and chased one, discovering that it was actually a beautiful nymph, Silvia. The two fell in love and the nymph gave Malco a golden handkerchief as a pledge of eternal love. The following evening, during the celebrations, Malco recognized Silvia among the dancers who had moved among the men out of love for him. The looks that the two exchanged, however, made Isabella, a noble lady in love with the captain, jealous, and she denounced Silvia as a witch. The guards intervened to arrest her, but Malco allowed the nymph to escape. Imprisoned, the captain received a visit from Isabella that same night, who asked him for forgiveness. At that time Silvia also appeared and proposed to her beloved the only possible escape route: not on earth, but in the waters of the river! The two headed to the Mincio, chased by Visconti's guards: when the lord of Milan also reached the river, he only found the golden silk handkerchief knotted by the two lovers to seal their love. And it is precisely this golden knot that skilled hands have been trying to reproduce for generations, wrapping a tender heart of meat in a very thin sheet of fresh pasta. To celebrate this local excellence, for more than 25 years the inhabitants of the village have organized an extraordinary event every third Tuesday of June, the love knot festival: the Visconti Bridge is closed to traffic, and a table over a kilometer long is laid out to host around 3.000 people for dinner. A real dinner-show where the tortellino is the undisputed protagonist.
The perfect match for a plate of tortellini from Valeggio? It can only be a glass of Custoza DOC, the white wine typical of this area. The freshness and light aroma of this dry white, in fact, combine very well with the delicacy of the love knot. Custoza DOC is obtained from white grape varieties, such as Garganega, Trebbianello, Bianca Fernanda, Malvasia Toscana, Riesling Italico, Sauvignon Blanc, White Pinot, Chardonnay and Incrocio Manzoni, grown in the morainic amphitheater of lower Lake Garda. And it is precisely the special microclimate and the characteristics of the soil that give this wine its particular aroma and pleasant flavors.
Have we intrigued you enough and can't wait to discover this enchanting area?
If you are a lover of outdoor activities, the most suitable way to spend a pleasant day in this area is certainly to take the Mincio cycle path which connects Mantua to Peschiera del Garda, stopping along the way (perhaps for lunch!) right at Borghetto.
If you want to enjoy a food and wine tour departing from Verona, join our group tour that will take you to discover Borghetto and the land of Custoza. Leave with us!