Thanks to its salubrious climate Cannero has been inhabited since ancient times. In the 14th century obtained its independence as a Comune but in 1524 the Sforza destroyed the village because they were faithful to the Visconti. Of the coast there are three small islands: “The Cannero Castles” know as the “Malpaga Castles”.
They are also an important part of the tormented local history.
They were built in the 12th and 14th centuries these isles became the base of the Mazzarditi Family to whom tales and legends of crimes were attributed.
To put an end to these raids the Castles were destroyed by Filippo Maria Visconti in 1414 and in the 16th century the Borromeo Family erected the Vitaliana Fortress on the site to protect the territory from invasion by the Swiss.
The serenity of Cannero and the Picturesque ruins have been a great attraction for visitors from all Europe who since the 1800’s have chose Cannero as a holiday destination. Its most illustrious guests have included G.B. Shaw, the Queen of England, English Lords and Winston Churchill.
Massimo D’Azeglio, wrote “I miei Ricordi” in his villa facing the Lake. Famous is also the villa “Sabioncella” in front of the Castles where Laura Mantegazza, a fervent patriot, lived and often had Garibaldi as her guest and assisted the General’s men wounded during the battle of Luino.
La “Linea Cadorna” da “L’Alto Verbano ambiente, itinerari, cultura”
Comunità Montana Alto Verbano - Edizioni TARARA’ (www.tarara.it)
A First World War history page can be read on the upper Verbano area through the well known Cadorna Line.
This defence line between Lake Maggiore and Ossola valley, wanted by Luigi Cadorna, a general original from Pallanza, had been started the first months of 1916. It includes a close net of military mule-tracks, trenches, artillery emplacements, sighting places, little hospitals and logistic structures and headquarters. It was carried out as a defence against a possible German attack through the Swiss border. It covers a 2000 meters height difference between the river Toce plane and Mount Massone and between Lake Maggiore (reaching Carmine Inferiore) and Mount Zeda.
Trenches and block-houses have never been used because the military strategies of “position war” afterwards decayed. Today they represent a patrimony of hiking paths as well as a military archaeological centre from many points of view surprising both for its magnificence and for offering a page of this century history. When the “Big war” broke out, Italy, which had been allied to Austria and Germany in the “Triple Alliance” for 32 years, declared, on august 1914, its neutrality. Nine months later, with the London “secret agreement”, it formed a new alliance with Great Britain, France and Russia. On may 23, 1915 Italy declared war on Austria and on august 27, 1916 on Germany. At the beginning of 1916 Italian military commanders were afraid of a German invasion through Switzerland, whose neutrality wasn’t considered to be sure anymore. This possible threat lead to the building of the defence line, whose project had already been elaborate in the former years. The fortified system was subdivided into four areas between Sempione and Orobie Alps, until the 2996 meters of the Devil Peak. One of this parts concerns the Upper Verbano territory.
Verbano’s tract included a continuous line of trenches and fortified emplacements, many of which were tunnels dug in the rocks, and this line went down from Mount Zeda (2000 meters) to Carmine Inferiore, between Cannobio and Cannero, on the lake shore. The Cannobina Valley was the fire area of this line, because it was considered as a possible passage for the invasion troops. In practice every crest line rising had nests of machine-guns and guns emplacements (Vadà, Bavarione, Spalavera, Morissolo, Carza). These defence line structure provided that on the northern and on the eastern side of the mountains there were continuous or intermittent lines of trenches and block-houses on different heights, while on the southern side, protected by the mountains peaks, there were access streets and a mule-track net, little hospitals, stores and officers accommodations. Cadorna street went up from Premeno to Colle and then went down to Cannero (nowadays it is completely paved); another street went up from Colle to Folungo Pass and then to Vadà Plane. Today this part of the street can be covered by cars until alp Archia (interesting military hand-made goods up and down this summer pasture mountains) and Folungo Pass; the upper part can be covered by feet along the path that went up to Mount Zeda. From Colle military mule-tracks went up to Mount Spalavera and to Morissolino.
A street, which can be nowadays covered by cars, went to Mount Morissolo (wonderful belvedere on the lake and the surrounding mountains) from the present Piancavallo Auxological Centre; another street was built up from the lower Barbè to Ronno and Oggiogno, where a mule-track went on to Morissolo.
Many of the Verbano hinterland streets, which today are paved roads suitable for vehicles and lead to summer pasture mountains and to tourist centres were built up as part of the defence system wanted by General Cadorna, who, coming form Verbania, knew these places well.
The construction of the Cadorna defence line lasted three years: from 1916 until 1918 and saw these mountains swarming with men. For this defence system from Sempione to Orobic Alps were built 72 km of trenches, 88 emplacements for batteries (11 into caves), 25.000 sq. m of barracks, 296 km of streets open to heavy traffic and 398 km of cart ways and mule-tracks. From 15.000 to 20.000 workers were usually employed here, with a peak of 30.000 workers during spring 1916.
Environmental impact was remarkable. In these areas the state of the roads was deeply changed and enriched, but above all the social impact was bursting. People could earn money especially during the war and everywhere the rising of stone-cutters and masons cooperative societies for the building works were to be seen. After 80 years, the works state demonstrate how well they were done. Due to the war requirements people of the mountains became masons. Also women could earn money by cooking and bringing food to the thousands of man employed, carrying water needed for the works, but also the stones for support and containment walls. Linea Cadorna 02Today, to reach Mount Zeda, we walk on these streets which are the same as for 80 years ago. And, from the top, it is possible to read the never happened war scenery. This rich streets net, built up by Verbano mountain people under military engineers direction, has now become a precious walking net for modern hiking.