Let us tell you a story…
Morcote Castle has seen many famous figures from history within its walls:
it is said that Frederick Barbarossa stayed here for a few days during his descent into Italy, The Castle was also home to the Duke Filippo Maria Visconti, his commander Aloisio di Sanseverino, the Dukes Giangaleazzo and Francesco Sforza, Franchino Rusca II and Ludovico the Moor.
Its cliff-top location, overlooking the lake, has proved to be strategic since ancient times.
The remains of a massive tower in the castle bear witness to the presence of a watchtower dating back to Roman times. It is part of the vast defence system built along the Alpine foothills by the Romans. This tower was still in use in Lombard times with the same function; it was probably transformed into a fortress around the year 1100 during the time of the bloody wars between Milan and Como for dominance in the Ticino area.
The Castello di Morcote is mentioned in numerous documents dating back to the Dukes of Milan. The fortress was rebuilt to its present form by the Visconti, and later also by the Sforza towards the middle of the fifteenth century. It was used as a military base, directly controlled by the duchy in order to secure dominance over the region’s lands.
In contemporary texts, the castle is considered “an impregnable fortress without the great sacrifice of men and money”. It was inhabited by a warden, his family and about 10 or so soldiers. The castle rules were very strict: only one soldier at a time could leave the castle; the warden would have to leave his wife and children as a token during his absences; gambling and drinking were forbidden. Food and ammunition reserves had to be stocked for at least a year. The castle warden, however, could sell his own products, such as wine and olive oil, which even back then were produced within the castle’s countryside without paying duty.