A former Roman military outpost, then in the hands of the Goths and Longobards, afterwards a place of prayer and work for Benedictine nuns: the place we know as Monastero di Torba is witness of a colorful past. Today the whole complex is part of the serial UNESCO world heritage site "The Longobards and their places of power" together with the archaeological area of Castelseprio.This historically very interesting site is property of the Italian Heritage Trust, FAI Fondo Ambiente Italiano. It can be visited regularly. Visitors can observe the progress of a recent archaeological excavation. A restaurant invites to rest. Kids can join the FAIr Play Family activities. Parking is available and for free.
Visit: Monastero di Torba, Gornate Olona, Province of Varese, LombardyThe millennial vicissitudes of an outpost that became a monastery. The place that would go on to become the Monastery of Torba, immersed in the lush woodlands of Varese at the foot of the Castelseprio archaeological site, started life in the late-Roman era (around the 5th century A.D.) as a military outpost. It subsequently passed into the hands of the Goths and the Longobards, before becoming a monastic seat – a place of prayer and work for Benedictine nuns. As was the case at almost all Benedictine monasteries, the complex at Castelseprio offered shelter to pilgrims and travellers. In 1453, it was abandoned by the Longobard monks and then converted into a rural farmstead. A place rich in art and historyThe Torba complex is formed by a range of different elements that bear witness to its rich history. The main tower, dating from the 5th and 6th centuries, is an important example of military architecture: the buttresses and masonry are less imposing the higher up the structure you go, becoming architectural forms rather than supporting structures. Internally, the first and second floors, which were once used respectively as the burial chamber and the oratory, play host to a number of rare and highly significant 9th-century frescos. The building that once housed the nuns’ cells and the meeting rooms opens out onto the courtyard, with its triple arched portico, which was altered when the complex was used as a farmstead to create new residential spaces, before being restored in 1977 by the Italian Heritage Trust, FAI Fondo Ambiente Italiano.Centuries of simplicityAnother fundamental element is the small monastery church, which dates mostly from the 11th century, with the exception of the 8th-century crypt and the 13th-century apse, with its vibrant motif of alternate bands of pebbles and bricks and its highly refined rounded arches.The interior has a single atrium, with wooden-trussed roof and plastered walls. Thanks to a painstaking restoration process, the atrium has retained its original simplicity of form, so typical of medieval monastic churches.Today the whole complex is part of the serial UNESCO world heritage site "The Longobards and their places of power" together with the archeological area of Castelseprio.