The discovery in 1924 of tombstones with latin inscriptions to the Goddess Iside, signifies that the Etruscans were probably the first inhabitants of the area.
It is likely that they were colonies heading from the south heading towards the alps . Excavations and burial chambers in the Etruscan style are present in the rock face beneath the castle. It is perhaps from here the origin of the name “Males scilices “ cliff of the dead given as the definition of the name given to the town in 844 d.c.
A more recent interpretation open for discussion suggests the name could derive from “Mala Saxis” meaning “Bad Rock” due to the nature of the rocky calcified ground of the area.
LThe Longobards of Alboino were probably the constructors of the original castle on the cliff immediately above the lake.
It was first destroyed by king Childerico deeply offended by Autari who had married Teodolinda who had already been promised as wife to himself!
It was rebuilt towards the end of the 8th century when the Longobards where defeated by the Franks and Malcesine passed into the hands of Carlo Magno. Then to fight off invasion by the Ungheri barbarians, city walls were erected creating the town gateways “Porta Orientale” the eastern gateway being the best known.
During the feuds in 1145 Malcesine came under control of the archbishop of Verona. At this time it acquired independence as a township and gained the right to mint its own money. The leading family of Verona Della Scala followed and in 1277Alberto , to demonstrate strength and dominion , rather than true military requirements restored and rebuilt with great care the castle which takes its present name from this time and is called the Scaligero Castle.
In 1400 in order to defend itself from the Carraresi, Malcesine passed under the protection of the Serenissima Republic of Venice. This was a period of stability and prosperity. It was at this stage that a small federation “Gardesana dell’Acqua” made up of 1° townships of the lake come into being.
As a border town of this federation Malcesine was chosen as the headquarters of the “Captain of the Lake”. In 1600 the council of Verona bought this Scaligero building restored and extended it transforming it into one of the most important buildings in the town. Frescos and decoration in the Lombardi-Venetian style can be admired in the “Captain’s Palace “ today .
The Napoleonic wars against Austria meant invasion first buy Austrian then by French troops to Malcesine. At the fall of the Venetia Republic the French held Malcesine under rule, until the fall of Napoleon when Malcesine reverted to Lombardo-Veneto rule.
During these numerous wars the castle as a border fort was modified and consolidated for military use. With the armistice of Villafranca in 1886 Malcesine along with the territories of Verona become part of the Kingdom of Italy.