Built during various stages starting in the XI century, the fortress fell under the control of the Visconti after the Torriani forces were defeated during the battle of Desio; this marked the start of this Milanese family’s dominion not only over Lake Maggiore, but throughout the entire duchy.
When the fortress passed to the Borromeo Family in the XV century, construction of the last wing began, thus completing the structure of four main sections and a central tower. The fortress fits perfectly into the incredible scene that spans from Lake Maggiore to the Lombard Prealps ending with the massive Monte Rosa mountain.
The five buildings embody a quiet harmony, and are splendid examples of Lombard medieval architecture. The various stages of construction can only be identified if you take a closer look. Inside, you’ll discover installations of top-quality temporary and permanent exhibits. Worth seeing are the finely restored frescos, one of the most complete Doll and Toy museums in Europe, extremely rare majolica pottery, expertly crafted wrought iron and a temporary exhibition that’s installed every year in the recently restored Scaliger wing.
The wall painting in the Hall of Justice, the one representing Ottone Visconti’s triumphal entrance into Milan, is a splendid example of fourteenth century Lombard painting. Painted entirely by the Maestro of Angera, it continues to be one of the most interesting examples of profane painted art in the region today, and represents the crown jewel of the entire complex. The Hall of Ceremonies holds frescos which were brought here from another Borromeo building and are well-preserved, as are the lively tapestries hanging in the hall dedicated to Saint Charles, and the oil on canvas paintings in the Hall of Splendor.
Occupying thirteen rooms in the building, the Doll and Toy Museum is truly amazing, without a doubt. Princess Bona Borromeo Arese opened the museum to the public for the first time; it is the most extensive of its kind in Italy, and one of the finest in Europe. Handmade dolls, doll furniture and china, accessories, intricate doll clothes, toys representing different eras, automatons… this and much more is waiting to be discovered. This museum is a testimony to the cultural evolution that has occurred in the toy sector.
In strong contrast to the historical rooms in which it is displayed, since 2017 the contemporary art exhibition has brought a modern vibe to the Scaliger wing; it is highly praised by a demanding public and is in line with the times. Some of the artists who have brought their prestige to the seasonal exhibitions include Marina Abramovich, Anselm Kiefer, Vanessa Beecroft, Anish Kapoor, Giulio Paolini, Ettore Spalletti, William Kentridge and so many more representatives of modern-day art. We can’t wait to find out what the 2020 exhibition theme will be.
The Fortress is set in a unique context, and is surrounded by a splendid example of the medieval garden on two sides. Very different from the other gardens you’ll find on Lake Maggiore, the garden here is a perfect reproduction of a garden from the past. It has been created by faithfully following the rules of that time; a careful study of historical and ancient texts has made it possible to recreate a real medieval vegetable garden in which visitors can discover all the areas that characterized these types of gardens. From the Garden of the Prince to the Orchard, passing through Small Herbs, nothing has been left to chance in the reproduction of this small earthly paradise.
On more than one occasion, the lake’s strategic position has been a crucial factor in making it the center of power, and its owners have always declared it as such.Scopri