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On the path of the poet – Malcesine’s Castello Scaligero

27 December 2023

“The wind, which blew against me yesterday, and drove me into the harbour of Malsesine, was the cause of a perilous adventure, which I got over with good humour, and the remembrance of which I still find amusing. According to my plan, I went early in the morning into the old castle, which having neither gate nor guard, is accessible to everybody.”

This passage by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, taken from his book Italian Journey (1816 & 1817), introduces his stay in Veneto. The German poet also includes a sketch of the Castello Scaligero in Malcesine (VR), on the north-eastern shore of Lake Garda. Made famous by Goethe’s account of his visit, it has recently undergone a lighting redevelopment – the lighting design, the work of Lucearchitettura with the support of L&L Luce&Light fixtures, has made the fortified structure even more captivating.

The castle is accessed through a new entrance, splendidly framed in light from Bright 2.4 fixtures, 5W 3000K 45° CRI>90, with built-in anti-glare hoods. Recessed into the ground at the feet of the entrance’s two successive arches, the fixtures create depth, highlighting the cannonballs’ rounded forms with dramatic chiaroscuro effects.

Beyond the entrance, two Ginko 2.0 projectors are installed in the wall: 5W 3000K and 4000K CRI>90, with 13°x52° elliptical optics in the first and 45° optics in the second, and asymmetrical snoots on both. They masterfully illuminate remnants of frescoes, probably the remains of a Scaligeri chapel. In the north-eastern corner of the courtyard, at the base of the tower, the same fixture, this time in a 3000K version with 45° optics, illuminates a 14th-century fresco depicting the Madonna and Child.

Rondò 2.1 step lights, 2W 3000K, with radial optics, are installed in the ground to illuminate the passageway connecting the first courtyard to the second, on the exterior of the Scaligeri residence, with their light extending to the low wall in front. The same fixtures light the perimeter of a raised space known as Rivellino, from which the village, lake and western flank of Mount Baldo can be admired. Today it is used to celebrate fairytale weddings, with a breathtaking view of Lake Garda. The passageways with vaulted ceilings are lit by Litus 1.6 recessed fixtures, 3.5W with diffuse optics.

Bright 2.4 fixtures, 5W 4000K 34° CRI>90, light the huge olive and laurel trees from the ground up. The rock from which the western part of the castle rises is highlighted by Ginko 3.0 projectors, 10W 3000K, with 13°x 58° optics and asymmetrical snoot. These are mounted on stakes and positioned among the rocky clefts. The third courtyard, the highest and northernmost, is reached by a ramp and through an impressive Scaligeri portal. Here, Ginko 1.0 projectors, embedded in the parapets, emphasise the stone’s three-dimensionality and create a pattern of light on the wall below.

Such a complex design required a multi-level approach that fully respected the site and the surrounding environment, taking into account both the building’s aesthetics and monumental nature, and the functional flow within the castle. Lucearchitettura’s experience with restoring historic buildings and extreme sensitivity to the ancient site have given the entire castle a fresh look with a more respectful, restrained lighting scheme that doesn’t alter the landscape’s appearance. The small Ginko 1.0 projectors, 3.5W 3000K, with 58° optics, are a striking example of this. Completely contained in the thickness of the uprights under the handrail of the parapets, and with their anthracite finish helping them meld into the architecture, they create rhythm, spreading a soft light that caresses the pathways and extends to the opposite wall.

A soft light was also used for the two imposing 12-metre-high facades of the Palazzo Veneziano facing the lake and the Palazzo Scaligero in the intermediate courtyard. Stainless steel Stra 5.0 fixtures, 37W, in a customized Tunable White version (3000K–5000K), are recessed into the ground at a distance that reduces the contrasts of light and shadow produced by the stone’s irregular surface. Their wall washer optics efficiently direct the light output towards the facade and up to the cornice, emphasizing the height of the walls.

The lighting design makes clever use of different colour temperatures. These vary from 2200K to 4000K, the contrast enabling visitors to identify three of the castle’s historical phases: pre-1000, when the tower was constructed by the Lombards, from the 1100s to the 1300s, the time of the Scaligeri and Visconti families and the mediaeval residence, and the 1500s with the Venetian domination and the construction of the Palazzo Veneziano. The castle reached its current conformation in 1800, with some additional details left by the Austrian domination.

This choice is the result of a particular consideration for history: a lighting design that seeks to converse with the present while speaking for the past, almost like a guide describing its story. The light is warm and natural in the tower, the ancient nucleus of the entire construction, then becomes colder and colder as you move towards the exterior and approach the water, a fundamental element for the Venetians, masterly navigators of rivers, lakes and seas.


Photocredits: Alessio Tamborini

L&L Luce&Light

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