In defence of the land: towers, castles and trenches

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Defending his territory has always been one of man’s major preoccupations. To this end, many buildings of matchless technical and historical value were built, some in apparently inaccessible places.

The Lake Maggiore area was once an important trading crossroads, and its position as a frontier territory attractive to feuding Lords and Dukes has given its valleys and hills a wealth of medieval fortifications, originally built for defence, many of which are well-preserved today.

One of the best examples of defensive architecture in the area is the superb Rocca di Angera, a castle whose position high on a spur of rock gave it an incomparable view of any enemy invasion from the north, and the ancient Castle of Vogogna, a bulwark of the northern confines of the Duchy of Milan in the 14th century.

The area includes a number of towers, whose ruins are mute witnesses to a dramatic history of battles and sightings; these military fortresses, like the Visconti Tower at Invorio, the Buccione Tower of Armeno, and the Ferrerio Tower in Piedimulera, are still redolent of the atmosphere of the Middle Ages.

Some major routes of communication also had a defensive function long ago. One of these is what is now the Simplon Road, originally a mule-track ordered by the Emperor Septimius Severus in 196 AD to mark the confine of the Roman Empire.

Much more recently, the Cadorna Line, the brainchild of the Pallanza-born general Luigi Cadorna, was a system of defences against possible attack by the Austrians and Germans during the First World War.

This itinerary winds between history and legend, where bastions, trapdoors and bombardiers are part of the lexicon of tales of power struggles, contested inheritances and heroic battles. These places of historical interest all provide information panels to guide you through the epic events of Lake Maggiore.