The Cannero Castles on Lake Maggiore, the ruins of history
“Trapezoids, tetrahedrons, and shapeless, crumbling rocks”, motionless vestiges of a “cramped but terrible castle” that “for ten years was the scene of horrible crimes, and home to atrocious killings.”
With these words, the 19th-century writer Giuseppe Torelli described the fortifications abandoned on the small islands in Verbano, facing Cannero Riviera (today part of the municipality of Cannobio).
One of these castles “was known as ‘La Malpaga’. It sat on four rocks, from which four octagonal towers with merlons and arrow slits rose […] The general look was dark and sorrowful, like all the fortresses of that time.”
“La Malpaga” belonged to the Mazzarda family: five brothers who, “in a very rare coincidence, were united and unanimous in crime, as if in a traditional worship or a duty of honest principles.”
In the early 1400s, the brothers took over La Malpaga as well as Cannobio and Cannero, with the goal of creating a “private State” that would take advantage of the momentary weakness in the central power of the Duchy of Milan.
Ten years later, Duke Filippo Maria Visconti put an end to the foray of the five “Mazzarditi”. In 1414, while “intent on restoring his authority in all of Lombardy, he turned to Lake Maggiore and finally decided to destroy the Malpaga castle” (translated from G. Torelli, “Paesaggi e profili”, Florence 1861).
From then on, all that was left were these evocative ruins of history.