Known as Castelasc in Lombard local language, the Castle of Cuasso is one of the most important defensive buildings in the province of Varese and Insubria. Founded in medieval times, it stands upon a hill which gives name to the whole city of Cuasso al Monte. Nowadays only ruins remain of the ancient structure.
Due to the lack of written sources, the history of the castle is still, in some respects, mysterious. The few studies and on-site digs have found out that it was built close to an ancient road that connected Milan to the alpine passages of San Bernardino Pass and Gotthard Pass. Its building on top of a gorge made the fortress impossible to seize. Its closeness to the river Cavallizza, which flows through an area rich in silver, lead and gold, could also suggest that it played a preeminent role in controlling the managing of the mineral wealth of the region.
The castle was built in many different stages. The most ancient tower, which dates back to Roman times, was enlarged during the Lombard age. Some believe that it was built by a Saxon workforce. Paul the Deacon, in his book Historia Langobardorum, records about 20,000 Saxons, who followed king Alboin in spring 568. The Saxons descended from the same ancestors, as both people had lived in Roman Germany during the first century A.D, in the area around the river Elbe. In 734 a part of 20,000 Arimannia left Italy, as they strongly disagreed with the Lombards' power. So, the Castle was surely a military defense of the road that connected Como and the Gotthard: in fact, before the bridge of Melide was built, the main road ran through it.
Later it was part of the Seprio's County, and it was permanently abandoned in the 13th century. Until the mid 16th century the castle of Cuasso housed the local parish; then, during the following centuries, it was used as a cemetery. Finally, the castle was brought back to its function of observation tower when the Cadorna Line was built.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.