“Garden city”, they call it, just like that. And it's not difficult to understand why. Varese is a delightful microcosm, made up of green parks and prestigious buildings, well-kept gardens and romantic walks by the lake.
Sitting on a bench in the wonderful Este Gardens, I observe the gushing fountains and flower beds and I think back to the emotions that Varese can evoke. Art, nature, sport and romance are condensed into a pretty city with a discreet charm and a thousand opportunities.
I came to Varese to visit the extraordinary Villa Panza, an eighteenth-century residence with a sumptuous garden, home to one of the most precious collections of modern art. The villa, purchased in the thirties by the Panza spouses, now houses a collection of works of art that draws inspiration from the themes of light and colour and contains one hundred and fifty minimalist and environmental masterpieces. In addition to the indisputable artistic value of the creations on display, the scenographic impact of neon sculptures and installations, placed in the princely halls or in the large spaces of the ancient stables, also appears remarkable.
Sant’Ambrogio, another place not to be missed is represented by the elegant Villa Toeplitz: commissioned by a banker of Polish origin, the villa is surrounded by greenhouses, flower beds and fountains, a chapel and a bowling alley. Inside the park there is the Castiglioni Museum, born from the donation of thousands of finds made to the Municipality of Varese by the brothers Angelo and Alfredo Castiglioni who have conducted research missions and ethnological and archeological documentation especially in Africa.
Palazzo Estense, now the seat of the city hall, is also a beautiful historic residence that embellishes the centre of Varese. The palace was designed to be the summer residence of the court of Francesco III d'Este, Duke of Modena and lord of Varese, and was built to a design by the architect Bianchi in the second half of the eighteenth century. Behind the large building there are the large Este Gardens built in imitation of the Schônbrunn gardens in Vienna and travelled every day by tourists and citizens who walk peacefully in this large green space.
Varese is also synonymous with sacred art, devotion and history. A few kilometres from the city centre, in fact, on a hill overlooking the gentle slopes around, stands the famous and evocative Sacro Monte, counted as a UNESCO heritage site. A cobbled road a couple of kilometres long climbs a path dotted with seventeenth-century chapels to the culmination of the Via Sacra, namely the majestic Sanctuary of Santa Maria del Monte. Surrounded by a handful of houses, shady alleys and steep staircases, suggestive underpasses and delightful Art Nouveau villas, the large church looks powerful and solemn and offers a grandiose panorama.
Yet everything in this area appears exciting, even the places that do not stand out, even the areas further down the valley, those surrounding the small lake, are capable of transmitting a feeling of magic. Recently returned to holiday spot again, Lake Varese is famous for its rosy sunsets, lush nature and the peaceful atmosphere that surrounds it. The more energetic visitors will be able to walk the perimeter thanks to a cycle path of remarkable quality. Those who love sunbathing on the beach, on the other hand, can take advantage of the Lido della Schiranna. And don't forget that between April and November there is a navigation service that starts from Biandronno and leads to Isolino Virginia, a triangle of land located a few meters from the west bank. It is one of the most important sites of European prehistory, as it preserves the remains of an ancient Neolithic stilt settlement.
The gentle breeze of the lake and the ripples of the water give me an extraordinary and very sweet feeling of well-being. And it is no wonder that the famous writer Stendhal also fell in love with this city, so much so that he defined Varese and its territory as a "magnificent vision".