The Rocca of Angera: an Ancient Fortress on Lake Maggiore

Explore the majestic Rocca Borromea of Angera in the southern area of Lake Maggiore, and admire a prestigious landscape and visit the inside of the fortress.
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Explore the majestic Rocca Borromea of Angera in the southern area of Lake Maggiore. You will admire a prestigious landscape and visit the inside of the fortress.

History and transformations of the Fortress of Angera

The Rocca di Angera features several buildings that were erected at different times between the 11th and 17th centuries. Initially, the property belonged to the archbishops of Milan. The actual construction began in the 13th century.
At the historiographical level, Angera is connected to the House of Visconti. The latter in 1277 triumphed in the Battle of Desio. The event is celebrated in the frescoes of the Hall of Justice. During the Visconti period, the Rocca underwent significant reconstruction and expansion works that continued for more than a century.
On January 18, 1449, the Council of Nine Hundred of the city of Milan, at the time of the Ambrosian Republic, validated the purchase of Angera and the Rocca to Vitaliano I Borromeo for the sum of 12,800 imperial liras. From that moment until today, the Rocca di Angera becomes the home and symbol of the Borromeo family's political order. To the oldest nucleus, dating not later than the Lombard period, belongs the square tower located in the western portion of the Rocca. The first extensions of this original structure were undertaken between the 13th and 14th centuries. When Cardinal Federico Borromeo was awarded the title of marquisate of Angera by Philip IV of Spain in 1623, the Rocca was in a state of great neglect. It was regenerated later at the behest of Julius Caesar III (1593-1672) and then Antonio Renato Borromeo (1632-1686). In the second half of the 17th century, prominent Milanese painters were called in to decorate the prestigious rooms. Examples include the Santagostino brothers, Antonio Busca and Filippo Abbiati. In addition, the Rocca di Angera was restored once again thanks to the wishes of Princess Bona Borromeo. The fortress has returned to its former glory and is home to Europe's largest Doll and Toy Museum. Finally, in 2017 the Ala Scaligera was also redesigned and designed for contemporary art activities.

The Medieval Garden of the Fortress of Angera

The Medieval Garden at the Fortress of Angera dates back to 2008. It was created with the intention of repurposing and re-enacting what might have been the original Rocca. In fact, the basis of the creation is a very careful study based on illuminated manuscripts and historical documents. Basically, the Medieval Garden of the Fortress of Angera is organized in different parts and with different plants and flowers. It is characterized as a picturesque place where nature, history and culture come together to give visitors a unique experience. The real soul of the place is in the Small Herb Garden which gathers medicinal herbs, dyer's, medicinal herbs and flowers in twelve beds. The beds are grouped according to their function. Another wonderful feature is a grove of hazel, cypress and oak trees bordering a stream that leads toward a pond with iris flowers, which bloom amidst goldfish. Then there is the Princes' Garden adorned with a rose garden and a shady pergola built around a fountain. Lake Maggiore, plants and flowers are the real stars of the entire garden which paint the atmosphere with extraordinary and timeless colors throughout the year. Finally, in the Verziere part of the garden, visitors can observe vegetables, herbs grown in coffers surrounded by apple trees, apple trees and pomegranates. A delicate air and sweet scents envelop the whole area. The Medieval Garden of the Fortress of Angera is a wonderful glimpse where one can experience a magical moment in the midst of greenery, near an ancient fortress.

The main rooms of the Fortress of Angera and their treasures

The main halls of the Fortress of Angera are historical environments rich in culture and charm. The entire complex is the harmonious sum of several constituent architectural elements.
In detail, there are five rooms erected from the century after the year 1000 until the 17th century: the Castellana Tower, the Scaligera Wing, the Visconti Wing, the Giovanni Visconti Tower, and the Borromeo Wing. The fortress is of considerable size and stands out in the landscape. The most significant rooms are those of the Buon Romano, Mythology, Ceremonies, St. Charles, and the Borromeo Fasti. Inside them are paintings, important portraits, and valuable furnishings. Of extreme value is the Hall of Justice, which was completely frescoed shortly after the Battle of Desio in 1277. The author of the fresco is an anonymous master known as the ''Master of Angera.'' Three overlapping registers can be recognized in the pictorial cycle, and in the main one the historical exploits of Ottone Visconti against Napoleone della Torre are represented and narrated. The Hall of Ceremonies is adorned with a series of fresco tears dating from the first half of the 15th century. They came from the Borromeo Palace in Milan and were brought to the Rocca di Angera in 1946 following a bombing razing the town palace. These masterpieces were made by the school of Michelino da Besozzo, show one of the most outstanding examples of late Gothic Lombard painting of secular subjects. Finally, mention should be made of the Ala Scaligera, which takes its name from the heraldic motifs frescoed on the walls commissioned by the owner of the time, Bernabò Visconti, in honor of his consort Regina della Scala. The decorations are repeated in every room, a lower band of about 60 cm painted faux boiserie is noted, and from here black and white rhombuses emerge, alternating with floral motifs with the Visconti bison and the symbol of the Scala.

The Museum of Dolls and Toys at the Fortress of Angera

The Doll and Toy Museum is located inside the Rocca di Angera (VA) and was founded in 1988 by Princess Bona Borromeo Arese. It is considered the largest in Europe in this field as the collection stands out for its quality and variety. Concretely, the museum is structured along 12 rooms located in the Visconti and Borromeo wings. In addition, there are two monothematic sections. The first is dedicated to dolls from non-European cultures while the second is reserved for automatons from the 19th and 20th centuries. The latter was inaugurated in 2002 and brings together some examples created in France and Germany between 1880 and 1920. At the time, the movement of these automata was accompanied by musical arias usually derived from operatic notes. The dolls in the collection were made from the 18th century to the present. They are characterized by being well-dressed and adorned with precious outfits such as necklaces, earrings and hats. Finally, the Doll and Toy Museum includes historical toys and furniture models from the important collection of Roberta della Seta Sommi Picenardi. These are true masterpieces, executed with the same craftsmanship with which the real furniture was created.

The Rocca di Angera today: tours and events

The Rocca di Angera (VA) today is a cultural place open to the public.
It is possible to visit it at different times depending on the season. The opening of the 2024 season is scheduled from March 16 to November 3, 2024.
From March 16 to October 26, 2024 daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (last entry), castle closing at 6 p.m. From October 27 to November 3, 2024 daily from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (last entry), castle closure 5 p.m.
In addition, hours may be subject to change depending on extraordinary events.
Contemporary art projects and exhibitions can be visited inside the Scaliger Wing.
The single adult ticket is euro 15 or euro 14.50 if you buy online. The single youth ticket is euro 10 or euro 9.50 if purchased online. Group rates range from euro 13 to euro 12. Children visit the Rocca di Angera for free. For detailed information, we recommend that you carefully consult the official Rocca di Angera page on the Borromean Islands website.

How to reach the Rocca di Angera

The Rocca di Angera (VA) on Lake Maggiore is easily accessible:
  • - ON FOOT: from the center of Angera following Via Rocca Castello,2,21021, Angera (VA). A scenic route of about 15 minutes uphill is followed.
  • - BY CAR: with Autostrada dei Laghi in the direction of Gravellona Toce, exit at Sesto Calende, continuing on highway 629 in the direction of Angera. There is free parking in front of the entrance to the Rocca.
  • - By BUS: via the public transportation service of Autolinee Varesine - line No. 20 with Angera stop.
  • - By TRAIN: via the State Railways (Milan-Simplon line)with Arona stop. Or by Trenord (Laveno).
  • - By BOAT: via the Lake Maggiore Navigation Service.
  • - By AIRPLANE: note the distance from the main airports: Turin Caselle 135 km km - Milan Malpensa 25 km - Milan Linate 85 km - Bergamo Orio Al Serio 110 km.

Finally, there is also a public non-scheduled speedboat service.

Conclusion: The Timeless Charm of the Fortress of Angera

The Rocca di Angera (VA) on Lake Maggiore is a place full of charm and history. The rooms of the fortress, the Museum of Dolls and Toys and the Medieval Garden lead the visitor to an extraordinary environment where nature, history, culture and tradition come together to provide a unique experience. The Rocca di Angera is set in a wonderful landscape where the lake and the mountains are the real protagonists of the whole scene and nature paints a unique glimpse. Tourists, visitors and passersby are fascinated by the Rocca di Angera, which is a cultural landmark for the entire lake area.


What are the opening hours of the Rocca di Angera?
Opening hours of Rocca di Angera are from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. or 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. depending on the season.
Are there any contemporary art exhibitions inside the Rock?
Yes, at the Scaliger Wing.
What can I see in the Medieval Garden?
At the Medieval Garden you can see the rose garden in the Princes' Garden.
How can I get to the Rocca di Angera?
You can reach the Rocca di Angera easily by car.
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