Gardone Riviera
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Gardone was incorporated into the Kingdom of Sardinia in 1859, thus officially becoming an Italian territory. The future of the town and its further development will now be determined by the arrival of the Austro-Italian Wimmer family in 1861. In 1877, Luigi and Emilia Wimmer decide to but the Cargnacco estate (purchased later by d’Annunzio, a fascist ideologue and supporter of Mussolini), where they eventually settle in 1880.

A year later, the Wimmers open their first hotel, Il Pizzocolo. That same year, Luigi is appointed the mayor and begins the town’s transformation into an urban garden creating a spectacular space for relaxing strolls amongst meticulously cultivated flora. Partly, due to Luigi’s engineering eye but mainly thanks to his wife, Emily Holzgärtner, the town undergoes a tremendous transformation: friends begin to arrive, at first as the hotel’s guests, and then land buyers who, attracted by the climate and affordable prices, decide to make Gardone their home. The spa resort of Gardone will then be extensively promoted by doctors Rhoden and Koeniger in the German specialist press highlighting its unique climatic attributes, perfect for winter convalescence for those of poor and fragile health.

The aforementioned doctor Karl Koeniger purchases an 18th century building with a large garden and commissions Angelo Fuchs (an architect and a friend) to transform it into a 30-room sanatorium, which will go by the name of Villa Primavera. Today, the very same building serves as the local town hall. Together with Dr Rhoden, who settles in a small house right by the shore, he establishes ‘Kurverin – a committee for the spa resort of Gardone Riviera’, which promotes, initiates and finances public development projects through collection of Kurtaxe, the first of its kind climate tax in Italy. After a premature passing of her husband, Emily Holzgärtner-Wimmer decides to extend the family hotel and establish the Grand Hotel Gardone Riviera, a favourite holiday spot for an impressive number of visitors from Europe and Russia staying in Gardone. It is worth mentioning at this stage that the very house Dr Rhoden moved in will later serve as the foundation for Villa Ruhland.

Grand Hotel, Gardone Riviera
Image: Old postcard,