The oldest part of the Masnago castle is an 11th-century crenellated tower. The current appearance is result of a series of modifications and extensions from the Middle Ages (11th – 13th centuries) to the 18th century, is one of the most important historical buildings in Varese. The main body of the castle dates from the 15th century and gave the castle the appearance of a mansion house, as may be seen from the façade overlooking the Mantegazza Park. Finally, the wing that was built into the pre-existing medieval fortress in the late 17th – early 18th centuries resulted in its present appearance as a country residence.
The Castiglioni family, who owned the Castle from the 15th to the beginning of the 20th century, were responsible for the exquisite frescoes. On the death of Marquis Paolo Castiglioni Stampa the castle was inherited by a female branch of the family, and was later sold to Angelo Mantegazza of Varese.
The frescoes, painted in the style known as International Gothic, date to around the mid-15th century, but were discovered only in 1938. Two of the interior rooms are frescoed: the Sala degli Svaghi (the “Pastime Room”) where the pastimes of the court are depicted, and the Sala dei Vizi e Virtù (“Room of Vices and Virtues”) illustrating the morals of the time.
The Castle’s magnificent rooms also host the Museum of modern and contemporary art.References:
Eketorp is an Iron Age fort in southeastern Öland, which was extensively reconstructed and enlarged in the Middle Ages. Throughout the ages the fortification has served a variety of somewhat differing uses: from defensive ringfort, to medieval safe haven and thence a cavalry garrison. In the 20th century it was further reconstructed to become a heavily visited tourist site and a location for re-enactment of medieval battles. Eketorp is the only one of the 19 known prehistoric fortifications on Öland that has been completely excavated, yielding a total of over 24,000 individual artifacts. The entirety of southern Öland has been designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. The Eketorp fortification is often referred to as Eketorp Castle.
The indigenous peoples of the Iron Age constructed the original fortification about 400 AD, a period known to have engendered contact between Öland natives with Romans and other Europeans. The ringfort in that era is thought to have been a gathering place for religious ceremonies and also a place of refuge for the local agricultural community when an outside enemy appeared. The circular design was believed to be chosen because the terrain is so level that attack from any side was equally likely. The original diameter of this circular stone fortification was about 57 metres. In the next century the stone was moved outward to construct a new circular structure of about 80 metres in diameter. At this juncture there were known to be about fifty individual cells or small structures within the fort as a whole. Some of these cells were in the center of the fortified ring, and some were actually built into the wall itself.
In the late 600s AD the ringfort was mysteriously abandoned, and it remained unused until the early 11th century. This 11th century work generally built upon the earlier fort, except that stone interior cells were replaced with timber structures, and a second outer defensive wall was erected.
Presently the fort is used as a tourist site for visitors to Öland to experience a medieval fortification for this region. A museum within the castle walls displays a few of the large number of artefacts retrieved by the National Heritage Board during the major decade long excavation ending in 1974. Inside the fort visitors are greeted by actors in medieval costumes who assume the roles of period artisans and merchants who might have lived there nine centuries earlier. There are also re-enactment scenes of skirmishes and other dramatic events of daily life from the Middle Ages.
Eketorp lies a few kilometers west of Route 136. There is an ample unpaved parking area situated approximately two kilometers west of the paved Öland perimeter highway. There is also a gift shop on site. During peak summer visitation, there are guided tours available. Visitors are assessed an admission charge.