Gardone – The Spa Town of Europe
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The period of mayoral tenures of Luigi Wimmer and his successor Angelo Fuchs is often referred to as ‘Belle Époque’. Some of the most impressive residencies were built at that time by influential Austrian and German families.

Richard Langensiepen, an industrialist from Westphalia specialising in the construction of pumps and combustion engines, purchased the house (present day Villa Ruhland) and the surrounding property from Dr Rhoden. The plot included an olive grove by the upper course of the river and around a 70,000m2 park. Richard’s son, Max Langensiepen, a passionate botanist, set up a plant nursery at the property with the support from Emily Wimmer. From there, he exported seedlings and saplings of palms and other Mediterranean plants to Scandinavian countries.

By the year 1897, the German community of Gardone grew to such numbers that the town officials accepted their request to build an evangelical church designed by a Danish architect Aage von Kauffmann. The construction of the church was funded by the residents who originated in Frankfurt.

In 1904, August Rhoden opened a clinic going by the name of Pension Quisisana, still serving its original purpose today, but known as Villa Gemma.

The number of the well-off visitors prompted the establishment of a casino, which in 1912 was forced to close due to a decree issued by the town council which prohibited gambling. The casino was later converted into a public area hosting theatre plays, cinematic shows and others.

Strolling along the shore, it is impossible to miss Hotel Fasano designed by Fritz Schumacher from Bremen. Another building worth noting is the hotel Savoy Palace, which was built in 1906 by a gentleman called Schäfer, who was also responsible for the construction of Villa Alba, which belonged to Langensiepen. The Savoy Palace was later taken over by D’Annunzio and renamed into Rimbalzello.

The town grew in accordance with the plan set out by Wimmer and Fuchs, who also served as the official town architect. The carefully designed character of Gardone full of parks and green areas brings about the harmonious atmosphere clearly depicted in the postcards printed at the turn of the 19th century.

The tourist season lasted all year long, and in 1912 and 1913 Gardone was visited by nearly 13,000 guests. One of the most notable frequent visitors was professor Henry Thode, a renowned German art historian, the director of the National Museum in Frankfurt, who at some point purchased the Cargnacco property from one of Wimmer’s daughters. Thode’s fame and reputation enlivened the cultural tissue of the town through a series of lectures on the Italian Renaissance given by the professor himself in the old Casino building. He also brought his own collection of books and photographs of works of art, which served as the basis for the establishment of a historical complex know as Vittoriale. His wife, Daniela Senta von Bülow, Franz Liszt’s (famous Hungarian composer) granddaughter, brought her grandfather’s Steinway piano to the Cargnacco estate, which was recovered after the war and donated to the La Scala Theatre in Milan.