Rocca d’Arona

Of the things that one can remember from an old visit, the promise of walls stretching alongside the high cliffs of the beautiful Maggiore Lake has remained. Though the town has suffered somewhat of a decline since the Middle Ages, when it was an important mercantile and naval base, the reduction in power has allowed for a partial preservation of the past: not as much as one could have hoped but still more than in many other locations.

What does it mean for the visitor? Layers of the defense system which once existed in Arona have disappeared. Only hints of the lake walls remain with numerous towers and structures on the cliff above the town. The cliff top is the main spectacle today, even if the medieval visitor would have been immediately impressed by their entrance into the town, whether by land or sea. However, the route up to the cliff was poorer than I would have liked (definitely either carry a stroller or leave it behind), though the rewards are well worth it. Climbing up also allows to appreciate the difficulty of having done so in an offensive capacity in a previous age.

The view onto the lake and the opposite shore is superb with the equally impregnable Angera visible across the lake—though I was surprised by how small it seemed from here. I don’t think I made out this castle as well from Angera though no doubt at one point in history (say when the towers of Arona still formed one massive) this would have been very easy to do.

What existed here prior to the acquisition of the town by the Borromeo in 1439 is difficult to guess from an amble through the town. The medieval defensive complex was clearly shaped and adjusted by the magnate family who left their own marks everywhere they could.

In the end, our visit was very enjoyable. I liked Arona which is also brought out by that it’s the first place for me to choose to write about when I thought of remarkable castle I had seen in the (relative) near past.

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