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:
The Château de Chaumont was founded in the 10th century by Odo I, Count of Blois. The purpose was to protect his lands from attacks from his feudal rivals, Fulk Nerra, Count of Anjou. On his behalf the Norman Gelduin received it, improved it and held it as his own. His great-niece Denise de Fougère, having married Sulpice d'Amboise, passed the château into the Amboise family for five centuries.
Pierre d'Amboise unsuccessfully rebelled against King Louis XI and his property was confiscated, and the castle was dismantled on royal order in 1465. It was later rebuilt by Charles I d'Amboise from 1465–1475 and then finished by his son, Charles II d'Amboise de Chaumont from 1498–1510, with help from his uncle, Cardinal Georges d'Amboise; some Renaissance features were to be seen in buildings that retained their overall medieval appearance. The château was acquired by Catherine de Medici in 1550. There she entertained numerous astrologers, among them Nostradamus. When her husband, Henry II, died in 1559 she forced his mistress, Diane de Poitiers, to exchange Château de Chaumont for Château de Chenonceau which Henry had given to de Poitiers. Diane de Poitiers only lived at Chaumont for a short while.
Later Chaumont has changed hands several times. Paul de Beauvilliers bought the château in 1699, modernized some of its interiors and decorated it with sufficient grandeur to house the duc d'Anjou on his way to become king of Spain in 1700. Monsieur Bertin demolished the north wing to open the house towards the river view in the modern fashion.
In 1750, Jacques-Donatien Le Ray purchased the castle as a country home where he established a glassmaking and pottery factory. He was considered the French "Father of the American Revolution" because he loved America. However, in 1789, the new French Revolutionary Government seized Le Ray's assets, including his beloved Château de Chaumont.
The castle has been classified as a Monument historique since 1840 by the French Ministry of Culture. The Château de Chaumont is currently a museum and every year hosts a Garden Festival from April to October where contemporary garden designers display their work in an English-style garden.