Originally from Asia, lemons were introduced to Italy by Arab traders in Venice, leaving a lasting imprint on the local culture. The lemons grown in Garda are a unique variety known as ‘Madernina’: round, juicy and fragrant with a thin peel, perfect for making a range of delicious products. The lemon trees were supported by a wooden structure called a ‘castèl’ to keep them upright and protect the fruit-laden branches during harvest. Thanks to the skills of specialised growers, the Garda area produced a remarkable yield of around 12 million fruits per year, with the trees bearing fruit four to six times a year. The ‘Madernina’ variety was highly prized for its juice, which was sweet, unlike the sour lemons from Amalfi. However, after Italian Unification and the elimination of customs duties, lemons from Amalfi and Liguria became more competitive due to their lower production costs. Garda's limonaie were labour-intensive, since the wooden and glass structures had to be assembled and dismantled every year. This meant a higher price for the fruit, but provided much-needed winter protection. Specialised tools were created to meet the needs of the growers.
However, after 1850, a disease called gummosis struck the lemon plants, bringing the golden era of Garda lemons to an end. Despite this, some lemon house owners have worked to restore and preserve this precious historical heritage.