An extensive network of trails connects the Castro fortress to Solto Collina. The nature trail (CAI trail 565 C) follows along ancient mountain paths and the central point for excursions is the peak, where San Defendente (St. Defendens) rises at 674 metres above sea level, in the Esmate area. San Defendente offers an extraordinary view of the lake, from Lovere to Monte Isola on the southern shore, and on Corna Trentapassi, the imposing and steep mountain dominating the Brescia shore. For this reason, it is one of the favourite places in Solto Collina, ideal for walks and the location of a highly attended festival that takes place on the first Sunday of July. The church is currently managed by the local Alpini (mountain military corps of the Italian Army) group.
Documents dating back to 1574 bear witness to the wills left in relation to the construction or renovation of the building which was preserved over the centuries by the laics living in the annex structure of the church.
The church is canonically oriented, with the front façade facing west and the sanctuary facing east (integrated in the residential dwellings); the bell tower and sacristy stand on the right. The façade has four rusticated Sarnico sandstone ashlar pillars that demarcate the door flanked by two windows and a tripartition that reminds us of the elevation at St. Roch in Riva di Solto. Most likely the structure was originally a portico destined to welcome wayfarers.
The bare interior features a nave covered by a wooden roof and the sanctuary topped by a barrel vault. The only altar in Riva black marble with polychrome inlays, like the predella (platform), dates back to the 17th Century. The altarpiece was recently stolen from the oratory: the painting depicting the Madonna and Child with St. Defendens and St. Francis is dated 1632 commissioned by the Foresti family.
Cover photo credits: Linoolmostudio