Salò guide

Salò trip planner

A vacation guide to Salò on Italy's Lake Garda

Salo, on Lago di Garda

Benito Mussolini, the Fascist dictator who brought Italy into World War II on the side of the Axis, made his last stand at Salò, a genteelly faded resort on Lake Garda's western shore just a few miles down the coast from Gardone.

The altar of the Duomo of Santa Maria Annunciata in Salo, Lake Garda
The altar of the Duomo of Santa Maria Annunciata in Salò. (Photo by Luca Giarelli, CC-BY-SA 3.0)
Until the 1940s, Salò was famous chiefly for producing the world's first violin-maker, Gaspare Bertolotti, and for its Gothic 15th-century Duomo with some nice Renaissance altars and frescoes by Romanino and Paolo Veneziano.

The end of Mussolini

Mussolini's Fascist regime over all of Italy came to end after his disastrous alliance with Hitler put Italy on the losing side of World War II.

As the Allies and Italian partisans slowly pushed north up the peninsula, the Nazis decamped from Rome and set up Mussolini with a puppet regime based, of all places, here on Lake Garda. This was the short-lived Republic of Salò (which lasted from 1943 to 1945).

I've always assumed they sited it here because Mussolini's Nazi handlers felt more comfortable having German-speaking Italians so close, just up the road in Riva, but likely it was because it would be easier to beat a hasty retreat up over the Brenner Pass into Austria should that time come.

Hotel Villa Fiordaliso, Gardone Riviera, Lago di GardaHotel Villa Fiordaliso, Mussolini's last hideout. As the allies got closer, Mussolini and mistress Claretta Petacci went into hiding in nearby Gardone Riviera at the Villa Fiordaliso, now a lovely (but not cheap) Relais & Chateaux boutique hotel of five rooms with a top restaurant and patio dining by the lake (, doubles from €350 online » book ).

A room at the Hotel Villa Fiordaliso, Gardone Riviera, Lago di GardaHotel Villa Fiordaliso.Eventually, the couple did attempt to flee across the Alps, but were caught by partisans and shot in the town of Mezzegra on Lake Como.

Their bodies were later strung up on Milan's Piazzale Loreto and stoned by the mob. The Nazis were defeated, the Fascists denounced, and Italy became a Republic in 1948.

Codacil: In the ensuing half century, Italy averaged a new government every nine months. Then another, post-modern breed of strongman came along, Silvio Berlusconi. For most of a decade, until the end of 2011, Italy was run by Berlusconi's coalition party, among which was the neo-Fascist Alleanza Nazionale party (which long kept a photo of Benito Mussolini hanging in its headquarters, and which was later incorporated into the ruling "The People of Freedom" party).

To add yet another twist, one of the old Alleanza Nazionale members—who, as of 2012, is still serving as a "People of Freedom" government deputy—was Alessandra Mussolini, a former actress and pop singer...and granddaughter of the dictator (also, for what it's worth, niece of Sophia Loren). Though progressive on some issues, but she's still pretty right-wing. She once said, in response to a transgender MP who called her out on her neo-Fascist proclivities, "Better a Fascist than a fag."

Tips & links


Salò tourist office
closest office: in Gardone Riviera
Corso Repubblica 8
tel. +39-0365-20-347

Recommended hotels in Salò
How to get to Salò

Desenzano del Garda, at the southwestern corner of Lake Garda, is a stop on the main VeniceMilan train line. From Desenzano, you can catch any of 1–2 buses hourly to Salò (50 min.; There are also several buses hourly to Salò from nearby Gardone Riviera (6 min.).

How to get around Lake Garda

If you don't take a tour or have a rental car (recommended), the easiest way is by bus ( or—less frequently but far, far more scenically—by boat (

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Salò tourist office
closest office: in Gardone Riviera
Corso Repubblica 8
tel. +39-0365-20-347

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