The Castles of Cannero: Wonderful Ruins on Lake Maggiore

See the Castles of Cannero: wonderful ancient ruins located on rocky islets in Lake Maggiore, opposite Cannero and Cannobio, soon to be turned into a museum
Photos of the Castles of Cannero from Above
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See the Castles of Cannero: ancient ruins located on some rocky islets in Lake Maggiore, opposite Cannero and Cannobio, soon to be turned into a museum.

History and Legends of the Castles of Cannero

The Castles of Cannero were built between the 13th and 14th centuries and called "Malpaga." At the end of the 14th century the Mazzardi brothers, called "Mazzarditi," originally from Ronco (hamlet of Cannobio) lived there. At that time in Cannobio there was a dispute between Guelphs and Ghibellines. The Mazzardi between 1403 and 1404 decided to occupy Cannobio's praetorian palace. They took over Malpaga by invading Cannero, wishing to achieve a kind of small ''private state'' by making raids along the Verbano. Later, in 1412 Filippo Maria Visconti became duke of Milan, who in 1414 sent an army of 500 men to defeat the Mazzardites. Malpaga was defeated and the Mazzardites went into exile. In 1441 the Cannobiese fiefdom was granted to Vitaliano I Borromeo, then bequeathed to the next lineage. It is worth mentioning Lodovico Borromeo, who settled in the area of the Castles of Cannero in 1519 and created the fortress ''Vitaliana,'' in honor of the Paduan family founder of the Borromeos. Following the death of Lodovico Borromeo, the fortress was abandoned and left in ruins. It was difficult to defend as it was very close to the shore. The Duke of Milan Francesco II Sforza had the entire territory besieged between 1523 and 1524 but they were vain attempts. With the passage of time and centuries, the Castles of Cannero became the site for a haven for smugglers and forgers. In addition, the entire area was exploited by fishermen. In addition, these ancient fortifications have been the protagonists of ancient legends and tales due to their timeless charm. The most significant legend has it that, during foggy days, it is possible to catch a glimpse of a ghostly sailing ship passing around the castle demanding the ancient sunken treasure that was thrown into the waters of the lake by brigands, so as not to surrender it to Duke Filippo Maria Visconti.

Architecture and Structure of the Castles of Cannero

The architecture of the Castles of Cannero (VB) presents a medieval-type style. The outstanding feature of the structure is that it is set by a system of walls at the water's edge. The entire complex was born and was conceived as a real fortress in a unique lake setting. Analyzing the ancient ruin in detail, two main cores can be seen. The first, smaller, more or less triangular in shape, is connected to a single tower on the short side while the second core is larger and is flanked by the ancient residence-fortress and several towers. Finally, just a few meters from the first large islet is another area, also with some ruins. Obviously, the architecture in question is connoted mainly by the towers that are the basic landmark. Along the wall structure, there are several small windows from which it was possible to control the surrounding area. The Castles of Cannero have seen the passage of famous people who noticed the enchanting peculiarity of the place and the whole area. One recalls, for example, Queen Victoria of England who was struck by the Scottish appearance of the fortress. Giuseppe Garibaldi landed on the islet and stayed three days with his volunteers in 1848, after the Battle of Luino.

The Castles of Cannero Today: Visits and Attractions

The Castles of Cannero (VB) to date can only be visited externally through the organization of tours and boat routes. It is also possible to admire them from the shore, for example from Maccagno, on the Lombard shore of Lake Maggiore. The splendor of the ruins predominantly stands out from even distant vantage points. The Castles of Cannero tell ancient stories and are able to create a romantic and magical atmosphere thanks to their timeless charm. They are ancient ruins on the lake that become a point of attraction for tourists from all over the world. The solar catamaran, an environmentally sustainable boat, is chosen by many enthusiasts to visit the Cannero Castles and have an unforgettable experience. There are numerous photographs and films that are produced during an entire spring or summer season near the Castles, and this shows the great desire to immortalize, forever, a moment spent among the lakeside history of Cannero and Cannobio. Mystery and suggestion are two words that summarize very well the whole atmosphere, which can be felt in these magnificent areas of Lake Maggiore. Currently, the fortress complex cannot be visited for safety reasons because the islets in question have been abandoned for five centuries and are in a state of neglect. Only in the near future, the entire area will be regenerated thanks to an ongoing project that includes the opening of a museum, an infopoint, a docking point for boats, and more. It will then be possible to take real guided tours and fully enjoy the wonderful Castles of Cannero.

Flora and Fauna Around the Castles of Cannero

An important aspect to consider of the entire Cannero Castles (VB) area is the significant prevalence of flora and fauna dominating the area. On the subject of fauna, looking carefully at the area, one notices the presence of several species of waterfowl. For example, it is possible to mention the royal swan, the herring gull, and the greater porbeagle that have colonized the ruins. These birds have been able to locate the inaccessible and protected ravines of the Cannero Castles and choose them as their home base: all the mentioned species nest within the walls of the fortress. The rich vegetation growing around the ancient fortifications is another great protagonist of the whole scene, one can mention moss or various submerged oxygenating plants. During the spring and summer season, the whole area gives unforgettable colors and scents and becomes a tourist destination seen as romantic and mysterious. There are many adventurous swimmers who attempt to approach the picturesque Rocca Vitaliana in the warmer months of the year to take a closer look at the historic walls. As we point out, nature is the queen of the whole Castles complex and is the real piece that allows the whole of Lake Maggiore to be appreciated.

How to Reach the Castles of Cannero

Reaching the Castles of Cannero (VB) on Lake Maggiore in Italy is possible: By CAR: from the A26, exit at Verbania. Continue in the direction of the Italian-Swiss border along the SS34 coasting Lake Maggiore until you reach Cannero Riviera. -ON FOOT: not recommended but possible by following the SS34 (VB). -BY BIKE: following the SS34 (VB). -BY FERRY/BOAT: The Castles of Cannero can be reached via the Lake Maggiore Public Navigation Service with departure stations: -from Cannobio -from Cannero Riviera -from Stresa -from Luino: Cannobio arrival station -from Laveno Mombello: to Intra and then change to the Piedmont shore. In addition, there are several BOAT RENTAL and MOTORBOAT RENTAL points near the Castles of Cannero. - By PRIVATE: with an owned boat. For detailed information, please consult the official website of Lake Maggiore Navigation page carefully.

Conclusion: The Immortal Charm of the Castles of Cannero

The entire territory of the Castles of Cannero (VB) undoubtedly possesses an immortal charm that derives from its ancient history and tradition. The romantic and mysterious aspect of the fortresses makes the area an evocative and unforgettable destination; in fact, they appear masterfully in the film ''The Bishop's Room'' by Dino Risi (1977). The imposing mountains, the gentle flow of the water on the shores, the clear sky and the boats and ferries sailing by are just some of the characteristic elements that serve as a backdrop to the majestic Castles of Cannero and make this a unique place where tourists and passers-by love to stroll along the lakefront, enjoying the excellent panoramic view.


Can I visit the interior of the Cannero Castles?
Momentarily not but soon it will be possible.
What is the best time to visit Cannero Castles?
The best time to visit Cannero Castles is either sunset or sunrise.
Is there a boat tour that includes the Castles of Cannero?
Yes, through the Borromean Islands and Lake Maggiore Navigation service.
What legends surround the Castles of Cannero?
There are several legends surrounding the castles of Cannero, but the most important one has it that during foggy days it is possible to catch a glimpse of a ghostly sailing ship passing around the castle demanding the ancient sunken treasure thrown into the waters of the lake by brigands, so as not to give it up to Duke Filippo Maria Visconti.
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