Today, the Rocca Borromeo (Borromeo fort) in Angera is the symbol of the little town as it dominates it from atop a calcareous rock hill that gently slopes down towards the hinterland. On the opposite side towards the lakeshore, a sheer rocky cliff characterises the view of the castle from the lake, which is the protagonist of the landscape and the view from Arona, and from many other towns along the Piedmont shores of Lake Maggiore at the foot of the hills.
As with the other Borromean sites, this one is open to the public from the middle of March to the last half of October (precise dates change every year). Opening hours are from 9:00 am to 5:30 pm (last admission) every day.
The rocca – whose defensive structure dates back to Roman and Longobardic times – no longer bears the true signs of that period. The oldest part of its walls dates back to the 12th and 13th centuries.
The victory of Desio in 1277 by Archbishop of Milan Ottone Visconti marked the triumph of the House of Visconti over the House of Torriani. In 1449, the castle and the parish of Angera were purchased by the Borromeo family, who is still the owner today. Hence the Borromeo family – at that time, already the owner of the Rocca di Arona (Arona fort, which was later destroyed) – guaranteed control over lake traffic and navigation.
The view from the top of the Torre castellana (castle tower - one of the oldest sections of the castle) is of rare charm. Facing it on the south side is the Torre di Giovanni Visconti (tower of Giovanni Visconti), which was added in the 14th century.
The 13th-century Visconti wing is between the two towers on the west side. Inside is the Sala di Giustizia (Hall of Justice) whose series of frescoes play a significant role within the realm of Lombard painting from the period.
The rocca has been home to a unique, one-of-a-kind museum since 1988, the first in Italy and one of the most important in Europe. Created as the Museo della Bambola, it was expanded over the years thus proposing sections dedicated to children’s garments and toys. More information on the museum are available on this sheet.
After the fortunate show Il Paradiso in Terra (Paradise on Earth) in 2008, starting in 2009 the rocca in Angera has been offering visitors an outdoor journey to discover its medieval garden. It’s intended to be one of the sections of a larger historic-botanical itinerary on Lake Maggiore connected with the other Borromeo gardens: the baroque Italian garden on Isola Bella (Bella Island) and the botanical garden on Isola Madre (Madre Island).