The Torrione in Forio: from watchtower to museum
The Torrione is the most famous of the watchtowers to be found within the
municipality of Forio. These towers were built between the 15th and 16th
century when pirate raids became an unbearable scourge for the population
of Forio, which was decimated with every Saracen attack.
The Torrione can be seen from very far away. Indeed, when approaching Forio you can see it stand out among the houses by the harbour. It has a circular shape and is spread over two floors: the ground floor with its large panoramic terrace generally hosts art and photography exhibitions, while the second floor, accessed via an external flight of steps, houses the Maltese Museum featuring the work of the Verist sculptor who lived in Forio in the 19th century. An internal flight of steps climbs up to the terrace on the roof, with its cylindrical lookout station typical of Forio’s watchtowers.
The Torrione occupies a strategic position in Forio, where it stands upon a
block of tuff and dominates the entire settlement and the sea. It was the
first place pirate ships could be spotted. It would then signal to the
other guard towers in the municipality using large smoke signals. The
chimney used for this purpose can still be seen today.
In the 19th century, when pirates stopped infesting the island’s seas, the Torrione was turned into a prison. It now forms part of the historical and architectural heritage of the municipality of Forio and, as we have already mentioned, it is dedicated to art and culture.