Home Culture Old chairlift of Riva del Garda Bastion: first lift to happiness back in 1954

Old chairlift of Riva del Garda Bastion: first lift to happiness back in 1954

by Redazione Garda Stories
Reading time 4 minutes
Nowadays, the most panoramic view in Riva can be reached by an ultra-modern glass lift but, in the distant 1950s, it was an adrenaline-pumping chairlift that carried the ladies and gentlemen of the dolce vita to the top of Mount Rocchetta.

Strong, mighty, massive. The Bastion in Riva del Garda, symbol of the “pearl” of Lake Garda, proudly rises atop of Mount Rocchetta. 

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Built by the Venetians in 1508 and destroyed by French troops in 1703, this bastion is absolutely captivating, and not just for the breathtaking panorama you can enjoy from up there – making it one of the most beautiful views in all of Garda Trentino – but also thanks to the brand new panoramic lift.

Old chairlift of Riva del Garda Bastion: first lift to happiness back in 1954 Culture
@Walter Sestili

Just two minutes of pure excitement that lead to the Venetian bastion, which also houses a lounge bar and restaurant. 

The new glass lift, with its view across the beautiful surrounding panorama, isn’t an entirely innovative idea. In fact, it was traced back to the past when, in 1954, an elegant chairlift had been built that became the preferred means of transport – until the 1980s when it was dismantled – for the ladies and gentlemen of the dolce vita in Riva. 

Vittorio Colombo, a journalist and great history buff – who delights readers with amarcord stories and anecdotes, nostalgic revocations,  in the most well-known newspapers of Alto Garda – confirmed this. 

Vittorio explained how the chairlift really marked an era that was first correlated to post-war reconstruction, then to the years of economic boom and the Riva of the dolce vita, ofevenings of dancing and orchestras on the wonderful terrace of the Rocchetta. 

“In the early nineteen-fifties, a question arose: ‘What could be done for the Riva of the future?’ The idea of creating a chairlift that connected the port of Riva to the Bastion then began to circulate, especially among the hoteliers, merchants, and entrepreneurs who had a clear idea on how the future would require winning creations.” 

Old chairlift of Riva del Garda Bastion: first lift to happiness back in 1954 Culture

“In the year nineteen hundred and fifty-one, on the 20th of May, in Riva del Garda, the following are present before me, Umberto Morghen, notary: Bacchi Isidoro – entrepreneur, Tonelli Carlo – hotelier, Cretti Achille – engineer, Santini Aldo. Among the aforementioned gentlemen, a limited liability company, with the name, Seggiovia Bastione s.r.l., is established.” 

This was how the historic deed for the newly established company began. The company’s “object and purpose is to  establish and manage the chairlift and manage the public café and restaurant and related activities”.

So building a chairlift wasn’t enough, as Vittorio explained. The Bastion had to become a balcony over the lake where one could enjoy a unique panorama and, at the same time,  an enchanting place to stop, enjoy something at the café and restaurant, and spend an evening dancing to the sound of an orchestra. 

Old chairlift of Riva del Garda Bastion: first lift to happiness back in 1954 Culture

Vittorio continued:

“The chairlift began to run in nineteen-fifty-four and did so for about thirty years, as was provided by the concession of the Servizio Funivie (Cable Car Service) of the Autonomous Province of Trento.

The nineteen-fifties had been encouraging, thanks to growing tourism in the area, and the chairlift of the Bastione was one of the most popular attractions for tourists, especially for those from Nordic countries.

Old chairlift of Riva del Garda Bastion: first lift to happiness back in 1954 Culture

Yet, it was nineteen-sixties when the chairlift experienced its golden age. These years were the decade of the dolce vita in Riva. The city was animated during the summer by a joyful, uplifting atmosphere, made up of starry nights, music everywhere, and a myriad of people who crowded the shores of the lake, especially in the evening, as they waltzed through all the captivating dance halls. 

The chairlift led to the sky of the bastion. You could go up for an evening of dances, with the sound of the juke box or bands that were popular back then. There was a dance floor in the open space near the arrival station, with outdoor tables and a dining service. It was the terrace of dreams with a breathtaking view of Riva and the gulf with their twinkling lights.

An evening at the Bastione was the winning card, the ace that conquered the hearts of the “tedesche” – the German girls – what they’d call all the girls from northern countries. 

In the nineteen-seventies, many things changed, and the boom was giving way to problems in various industries, to a disenchantment in the sentiment of the population, and so the glorious years of the Bastione chairlift were coming to an end. 

Then, in the mid-eighties, once the concession expired, the chairlift was abandoned.”

Vittorio and his story transported us to those golden years. The magic and disarming simplicity with which musical evenings were spent in the company of friends and, above all, of an incredible panorama that was able to thrill and “sing” in unison with the orchestra. Today, those years are just a memory. Different music, different dances. Bell-bottoms, the Twist, and Rock ‘n Roll are all obsolete, but what remains is the disarming beauty of Lake Garda admired from the Bastione. This, we’re sure, will always be a la mode

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