The museum in history-rich Salò, called Museo MuSa, is well worth an extended visit. The building complex on Via Brunati is colourful in orange and yellow and used to house the Church of Santa Giustina and, until 1773, a boarding school of the Somasker Order. Later, the complex was used for schooling, but now it serves as a museum that primarily acquaints visitors with the eventful history of the small town on the south-western shore of Lake Garda – which is just four kilometres from the Eden Reserve in Gardone Riviera.
The MuSa brings together finds, works and documents from the long history of Salò – from Roman times to the rule of Venice in the 15th century and the years of the Italian Social Republic from 1943 to the end of the war. In addition to its interesting collections of paintings, the MuSa also regularly shows current exhibitions devoted to artistic and socio-political themes. In addition, concerts, shows, meetings and exhibitions take place at the MuSa throughout the year.
Gasparo da Salò: Contrabasso Biondo preserves sound for centuries
A separate cabinet is dedicated to the violin maker Gasparo Bertolotti, who was born near Salò in 1542. Bertolotti is better known under the name Gasparo da Salò and for founding a very famous school of violin making. His violas are iconic and are still sought after by viola players today because the instruments have lost none of their unique sound. A viola by Gasparo fetched 540,000 dollars at Christie’s in an auction about ten years ago, while his double basses are also considered outstanding. His Contrabasso Biondo is not only on display at the MuSa, but also played at various events. If you have the opportunity to attend one of the rare musical events where it is taken out of its display case and played, the warm sounds of the instrument, which was made in one of Gasparo’s workshops in Brescia over 400 years ago, are a worthwhile listen!
Museo del Nastro Azzuro: Remembering the Fallen of Many Wars
The Museo del Nastro Azzuro, the small military museum of the blue ribbon, has been integrated into the MuSa for eight years, documenting the sacrifices of Italian soldiers from the 18th century to 1945. The Fondazione Museo Storico del Nastro Azzurro was founded in 1976, and to this day, the foundation owns and manages these special collections.
The museum’s scientific collections also include the antique instruments of the Pio Bettoni meteorological-seismological observatory in Salò, set up in 1877 in the Santa Giustina tower. The meteorological observatory extended its observations to seismology in 1889, and thanks to the long, uninterrupted series of observations, it has European relevance.
The Four Graduals: Highlights of Late Medieval Book Art
A highlight of book art from the late Middle Ages is housed in the Museo di Salo with the four graduals. These parchment manuscripts, richly decorated with expressive, colourful miniatures, contain mass chants for the entire liturgical year. The four graduals were acquired by the Salò community in the mid-15th century. Three of the four valuable manuscripts have now been digitised; with the help of a touch screen, the books can be viewed and searched in their entirety.
Italian Social Republic 1943-1945: The dark chapter presented in multimedia
Salò and the south-western coast of Lake Garda are also known as the centre of the Italian Social Republic. The state was created in 1943 by Mussolini with the help of Hitler’s Germany – as a reaction to the armistice and the termination of the alliance with Germany by Marshal Pietro Badoglio as Prime Minister and King Vittorio Emanuele III as King.
Suddenly, the Italians were caught between two armies of occupation – the German formerly allied army in the centre and north and the Allied army in the south. Italy was thus divided into two states: the Republic of Salò in central and northern Italy and the Kingdom of Italy in the south. The liberation of the entire country by the advancing Allies was to take another six hundred long days. To add to the horrors of the bloodiest war in the country’s history, in which 443,000 Italians fell, a cruel civil war, the effects of which can still be felt today, tore Italy apart.
A completely renewed exhibition tour through very well-designed multimedia helps to document this dramatic historical period with battles between soldiers of the Social Republic and partisans with narratives from contemporary witnesses.
Salò today: one of the most beautiful places on Lake Garda
Salò, just 10 minutes away by shuttle from the Eden Reserve, is not only full of history but is also one of the most beautiful places on Lake Garda, with beaches, squares, promenades and a lively old town. Salò was first designated the administrative seat of the western shore in ancient times by the Visconti of Milan and later by the Venetians. The town has retained a very authentic atmosphere and is worth getting to know better.