The chunky medieval Rocca di Angera fortress lords it over the town of Angera in no uncertain terms. From a distance, it is the first thing one sees. Inside is the 12-room Museo della Bambola, displaying the Borromeo family’s priceless collection of dolls. What better place for them than this towering, fairy-tale castle with its high, crenellated walls atop a rocky outcrop? Modest vineyards cling to the slopes around it.
The Borromeo clan bought the castle from Milan’s Visconti family in 1449. Various rooms and halls open on to the courtyard, among them the awe-inspiring Sala della Giustizia (Hall of Justice), with its overarching vault and lively 13th-century frescoes. From the tower there are commanding views. The doll collection counts more than a thousand items, while a separate collection of French and German mechanical dolls and figurines (dating from 1870 to 1920) perform highly amusing actions (including a monkey playing the violin and a granny urinating in a chamber pot) – don't miss the videos showing the dolls in action.
Ferries to and from Arona (€2.30; five minutes) leave every half-hour. The castle is a 1.5km walk from Angera's ferry dock.