Twenty three metres high, slightly eerie but nonetheless reassuring, the ancient Buccione Tower represents the lake's oldest surviving sentinel. No doubt you have noticed this sort of "elderly lady" that arouses a feeling of uneasiness and respect…
It has towered over the surrounding territory since it was built in the XII century, during the Middle Ages, in order to check the numbers of people passing through and to exact the due toll for the right of access to the Orta riviera. It has long been thought that the tower may have been of Roman or Longobard origins, though it was actually probably built by the Da Castello counts and served as an invaluable lookout to survey the lake and its surrounding plains.
In fact, people say that on a perfectly clear day its outline may be perceived in the distance from atop the cupola of the church of Saint Gaudenzio in Novara.
If you wish to inaugurate the spring season with a nice walk or cycle on a mountain bike, you can get to the tower along an unpaved trail, which begins at the little car park close to the Corconio quarry, not far from La Darbia. Go through the wood, which belongs to a natural protected area, then climb uphill for about 15 minutes till you reach the top: you will be struck by the most wonderful scenery which embraces the entire coast surrounding Lake Orta with the island of Saint Giulio right there in the middle and majestic Mount Rosain the background.
There are a couple of things I would like to tell you about this ancient tower. There used to be a huge bell situated on the top of the tower which would ring when danger was nigh and all the men in good shape would pick up their arms and come running to the scene. The bell also signalled important moments in the history of Italy: it cheerfully rang, despite being broken, in November of the year 1918 to herald the end of the First World War. After several years and substantial repairs and renovations, the clock, a fine example of 1600s wrought iron, was returned to its place of honour at the top of the tower.
A popular, old legend also tells a tragic story: at the beginning of the fifteen hundreds, Maria Canavesa, a widow, is alleged to have been killed with her son while striking the bell using a hammer to warn the riviera militia of the arrival of Carlo the Fifth's soldiers.
Arrow slits, crossbows and horse-shoes (brought to light during the most recent archeological excavations) remind us of our distant past still full of enchantment.