Lake Garda, especially its western bank from Limone to Salò, offers the visitor remarkable examples of architectural structures not found anywhere else, tangible witnesses of an era and a civilization.
The lemon houses originated in the thirteenth century, when citrus growing was introduced also around Lake Garda.
These characteristic "greenhouses" were constructed to protect the valuable plantations from damage in harsh winters. The lakeside inhabitants, until then tenacious peasant farmers, unsophisticated sailors and fishermen, transformed themselves into gardeners of lemon groves.
The whole economy benefited from this development as the production was plentiful, of high quality and almost exclusively intended for export to central European countries and Russia, with high profits guaranteed.
Today these monumental architectural greenhouses are still to be found along the lakeside, even in residential areas (for instance in Limone, Gargnano, Maderno ...), but the most impressive and well maintained is probably the Pra 'de la Fam lemon house, located near the port of Tignale.
The large greenhouse for lemon trees, separated from the lake by the main lakeside road, (the Gardesana) with impressive sheer rock face behind, and surrounded by century-old cypress trees, is of considerable landscape architecture interest.
The lemon house (limonaia) was the first example of a museum created by the Comunità Montana Parco Alto Garda Bresciano (a public body governing the local park area). The Comunità started the work of recovery of the three lower terraces, called the New Garden, in 1985.
After structural consolidation and the removal of weeds, dead trees, etc., the fixed elements required to cover the lemon house have been restored or reconstructed based on the original ones, with the windows facing the sun. The” limonaia” is then covered and closed using traditional techniques.
The lemon house has been equipped with systems such as that of illumination, automatic irrigation and an air heating system. Historically, on very cold nights in the lemon groves fires were lit that caused a lot of smoke inside the lemon house, requiring continuous supervision by the gardeners.
Eighty citrus trees were then planted (mostly lemon trees, with some mandarin* and bergamot orange specimens). The trees were planted using the traditional system and supported by the usual wooden frame with wood from plant nurseries in Liguria. The lemon house has been restored using traditional techniques, but in order to reduce the high costs of management,it has also been modernized.
Thus this lemon house cannot be considered to be an authentic example of a traditional “limonaia”, as are some others in the area.The Pra dela Fam lemon house is therefore a modern interpretation of what was a local agricultural tradition, rather than an authentic reproduction.