Just a stone’s throw off the shore of Lago Maggiore, near the town of Cannero and only few kilometers from the Swiss border, sit two tiny specks of islands on which one can find the ruins of an old fortress. These are the Castelli di Cannero, and while now they give a fairy tale mystique to the lake their presence was not always so idyllic.
It was in the early 1400s that the five Mazzarditi brothers built a stronghold here from which they held rule over the small villages along the coastline. Their reign was characterized by domination, raids, and terror. Finally the Visconti family, in a successful siege, was able to trap the Mazzarditi on the island, and kept them trapped in a standoff until the Mazzarditi surrendered for fear of starvation.
The islands soon passed from Visconti hands to the powerful but benevolent Borromeo family. The Borromeo rebuilt the castle, calling it Rocco Vitaliano, and they used it to protect their domain from Swiss raids from the east.
Still owned by the Borromeo today, the ruins now protect only wildlife that uses the crumbling walls as home, and the only raids that take place on its shores are those of the occasional small rowboats or motorboats that stop here to picnic or fish.