This is an excerpt from the book “Milan and the lakes, Lake Como and Lake Maggiore“
While the main attractions that should bring you to Angera is the Rocca di Angera (Angera Castle) with its Park and its Museum of Dolls, if you have extra time left, do not miss the small but interesting Museum of Archeology.
Angera Museum of Archeology
The Museum of Archeology is housed in a late Fifteenth Century building with a small courtyard and portico situated at no. 2, Via Marconi. The museum exhibits are displayed in two rooms, the first dedicated to Prehistory and Proto-history and the second to the Roman Era.
The pre-historical room illustrates the first traces of human presence in Angera, the oldest in the entire area around Varese, resulting from searches and digs performed from the second half of the Nineteenth Century onwards.
The finds, litchi works dating back to the end of the Paleolithic Age, mostly originate from the Tana del Lupo (The Wolf’s Den), a natural cave situated at the foot of the rock face which was later topped by the Fortress. Tools, weapons and faunal remains from the Mesolithic and Neolithic Ages were found in the same area.
This cave is better known as the Cave of Mithras, believed to have been dedicated to the cult of the ancient Persian God.
The second room mainly contains the wealth found in the great necropolis situated under the current cemetery, discovered between 1971 and 1979.
The digs brought to the light a large number of burial places dating back to between the end of the First Century B.C. and the Third Century A.D.. The ritual observed for the interment ceremony was prevalently direct cremation: the body, laid carefully on a wooden stretcher, was burnt directly over the pit in which it would then be buried alongside symbolic objects and offerings of food, drink and essences.
Do not miss the deathbed with terracotta decorations.
Only a very small part of the significant number of inscriptions and figurative monuments that gave the vicus (Latin for quarter or district) of Angera a monumental appearance during the Imperial Era are on display in the Museum.
The most important of these are on show at the Museum of Varese and the Museum of Milan, and testify to the presence of figures of high social standing and to the development of the settlement alongside the expansion of Roman traffic and interests in the Transalpine regions.
Angera historical background
The first signs of human presence in Angera, the oldest in the entire area around Varese, date back to after the ice age.
They include findings starting from the mid nineteenth century in the natural cave referred to as the Tana del Lupo (The Wolf’s Den), situated at the foot of the rock face which is topped by the Fortress.
The land continued to be inhabited by both hunters and gatherers, who preferred settlements close to lakes or in the vicinity of waterways.
Etruscan exchanges with the regions of Europe inhabited by Celts passed through the territory of the Golasecca civilization, mostly across the Ticino river. This controlling and pivoting role for the passage of goods and people continued over time and became even more important during the Roman era when Angera – the current name which dates back to no earlier than the twelfth century – was called Statio (a stopping place to change horses), thus demonstrating the crucial role of Angera as a traffic nodal point.
From the end of the fourth century to the middle of the fifth century, the settlement underwent a period of decline, as shown by the burial places found amid the ruins of a large building in the center of the Vicus (Latin for quarter or district).
The Visigoths destroyed Milan, Angera and its center in the year 411. The land was given to Theodosius, the archbishop of Milan, who ruled until the area was destroyed by the Franks in 539.
The High Middle Ages witnessed the establishment of the first fortifications where the Fortress now lies, and Angera and its castle became part of the estate of the archbishops of Milan during the eleventh century.
During the thirteenth century, the Visconti were the seigniors of Milan and Angera, and in1397 Emperor Wenceslas nominated Gian Galeazzo count of Angera.In 1449, the Ambrosian Republic sold the fiefdom to the Borromeo Family, but not the title of count, which continued to be held by Ludovico il Moro “The Moor” who wished to outrank the Borromeo family and gain favor among the people of Angera, raising its status from village to town and establishing the captaincy headquarters of Lake Maggiore there.
Angera was under Spanish rule for two centuries, followed by the Austrians, whose rule lasted until 1861, except for a brief stint under Napoleon.
The Treaty of Worms, in 1744, ratified the passage of the western shore of Lake Maggiore to Piedmont, and so Angera became a border town, which led to the commercial decline of the town, later attenuated and re-established thanks to the construction of the Austrian customs port (completed in 1821) and later with the advent of the unification of Italy.