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Varese is a city in Lombardy. Varese is a pleasant hillside town located a few kilometers from the Swiss border, with a strong tourist vocation developped at the beginning of the twentieth century.


Varese offers a cozy city centre, stunning views of the namesake lake and the Alps and plenty of opportunity for outdoor and indoor activities. Not far away from Milan, Como, lake Maggiore and the major swiss cities such as Lugano, Locarno and Bellinzona, Varese is a perfect base for visiting other centres and sites in Northern Italy and Switzerland.

The area around the lake of Varese is pretty characteristic. It has a kind of flair and sense of history that tends to impress its visitors in a sense deeper than only from a touristic point of view. It has been appreciated for its beauty and uniqueness for ages. In 1817 Stendhal wrote himself about the region as an « ensemble magnifique; au coucher du soleil, nous apercevions sept lacs. Croyez-moi, mon ami, on peut courir la France et l'Allemagne sans avoir de ces sensations-là ».

Get in[edit]

By plane[edit]

Milano Malpensa international airport [19] can be reached in 20 minutes by car. There's a well served railway connection to Varese via Milan [20] A bus service is availble from Terminal 1 and Terminal 2 to Gallarate and Varese. Some European or national flights arrive at Linate airport[21] This small but rather efficient one-runway airport is just 7 km close to the city centre of Milan. It is mostly serviced by airlines to domestic destinations and some European destinations. Lugano airport is a closer international airport in Canton Tessin (Switzerland) [22] with flights arriving from many European cities. Swiss International Airline, Flybaboo and Darwin Airline offer discount web special prices to Lugano from many parts of Europe.

By train[edit]

The "Servizio Ferroviario Regionale" connects Varese by train to other major cities in Lombardy (R lines). Services are provided by Trenitalia [23] and Ferrovie Nord railway network [24]

By car[edit]

The city can be easly reached by car from Milan with an eight-lane motorway (A8, the Autostrada dei Laghi). Because of heavy traffic, it is strongly recommended not to drive during working days. From Switzerland exit in Mendrisio and drive to Varese going through the customs of Stabio-Gaggiolo.

Get around[edit]

Varese is small enough to get around on foot, and many of the streets are pedestrian-only. Nevertheless if you want to reach and visit towns and villages spread over the area, such as Sacro Monte and S. Ambrogio Olona, we would advise you to use the public transport network, that comprises several lines. Some are mostly within city limits (Urbani) and some are Extraurbani (crossing city limits). Buying a ticket at newstands and bars before boarding is better, otherwise you can buy it on board at the same price of €1.30 for 90 minutes [25]. Taxis can be found on the main roads or reserve at phone number +39.0332.241.800

Prior to or during your visit to Varese it is suggested that you look at the local news site [26] which has all the local news and events that are happening around the city.

See[edit][add listing]

Palaces, villas and castles[edit]

Palazzo and estensi gardens
  • Palazzo e Giardini Estensi Residence of Francis III of Este during his Signoria, granded him by the lordship of Maria Teresa of Austria. The palace was built by the architect Giuseppe Bianchi between 1766 and 1771. The parterre of the gardens (Italian style, French influence) is spectacular.
  • Villa e Parco Mirabello Tudor style villa inside a vast park dominating Mirabello hill; today the seat of the Archeological Museum.
Villa Mirabello
  • Villa e Parco Augusta Marvellous Villa built in the late XIX century, surrounded by a green park with majestic old trees which frame a peculiar neoclassical gazebo.
  • Villa e Parco Recalcati In Casbeno, the most ancient "Castellanza" of Varese, there is Villa Recalcati, elegant building built in the XVIII century, restored in the XIX as Grand Hotel Excelsior. Since 1927 the Villa is the seat of local public institutions. An extensive park in italian style surrounds the Villa.
  • Villa e Parco Torelli Mylius Built as a convent devoted to farming and sheep-breeding, it has been modernized over the years. It's surrounded by a large pleasant garden, which is worth visiting.
  • Ville Ponti e Villa Panza In Biumo Superiore, in the noblest of the ancient "Castellanze", there are Ville Ponti, a complex of two villas, one in Venetian style (XVI century), the other in neoclassical, both of them used as congress centers, surrounded by a magnificent english park. Just in front the entrance of Ville Ponti, there is Villa Panza, architectonic masterpiece dating back to the first XVII century Lombard style. Its marvellous façade ovelooking the garden is an evidence of the neoclassicla period. Today the Villa hosts an important contemporary art collection.
  • Castello di Masnago e Parco Mantegazza XV century castle. Its most ancient part is the medieval tower belonging to defensive fortifications. Surrounded by a magnificent park, today it's the seat of the Contemporary and Modern Art Museum.
  • Villa e Parco Baragiola Built at the end of the XIX century, it has a remarkable wide english garden with particular attention to botanical aspects. Once, there was one of the most important italian racecourse. Today it hosts the Tactile Museum.
  • Villa e Parco Toeplitz Formerly built as a country house for Polish aristocrats, it offers romantic bucolic walks amid fountains, well designed gardens and fruit trees.
  • Palace Grand Hotel One of the most important exemples of "Art Nouveau" in Varese, built in 1913 by architect Sommaruga. The hotel is located on the top of Campigli hill and is surrounded by a wonderful and panoramic park.


Basilica San Vittore
  • Chiesa di S. Antonio Abate 15th century church, was remodelled by architect Giuseppe Bernasconi between 1606 and 1614. The façade is sober and the interior is in rococo style. Every year on the 17th of January there's a popular feast on the church square, where a tall bonfire is lit.
  • Chiesa di S. Giuseppe Built as an Oratory in 1504, it contains decorations and frescos of the XVII century.
  • Chiostro di S. Antonino Built as a Benedictine nun convent from 1571 to 1786, when was closed by Emperor Josef II. Today it has been restored to luxurious apartments.
  • Basilica S. Vittore The main church of the town:neoclassical architecture, centre of the ancient Borgo, embraced by buildings of various periods. Close to the Basilica stands the imposing Bell Tower, calles "il Bernascone" because of the name of the architect Giuseppe Bernascone.
  • Battistero di S. Giovanni Battista The most ancient monument of Varese; built between XII and XIII centuries, it rises at the foot of the Bell Tower; in the Baptistery is preserved an important series of frescos.
  • Chiesa S. Stefano Important romanesque church located in Bizzozzero, a quarter of Varese. Inside the monument preserves Gothic and late-Gothic frescos. The bell tower of X-XI century stands outside.
  • Chiesa di S. Martino Small plain XVI century church, at one time situated outside the Borgo walls, next to a Benedictine nunnery.
  • Schirannetta Romanesque church of XI century, located in Casbeno and dedicated to the Purification of Mary. The façade is decorated with late-Gothic frescos. Every year there is a feast with the benediction of candles and pregnant women.
  • Chiesa della Madonnina in prato In Biumo Inferiore, the widest of the ancient "Castellanze", there is the church of "Madonnina in prato" with a barocco façade and strong "telamoni" that carried the porch built in the XVII century; inside there are beautiful frescos.

Squares and streets[edit]

  • Piazza Monte Grappa The core of the town. A tall firtree, the streaming fountain and the soaring Civic Tower dominate the square. It was built in 1927 under fascist regime, when Varese became provincial capital.
  • Piazza della Repubblica Once marketplace and dirll-ground, used for military training. Here stand the big monument to the Unknoun Warrior and the modern structure of th recently built theatre
Piazza Monte Grappa
  • Corso Giacomo Matteotti The most known street of the town: traffic-free, lined with buildings of the XVII and XVIII centuries, coffee houses and fashionable shops.
  • Piazza del Podestà opens along Corso Matteotti; a bronze monument to the "Garibaldino" stands in the middle. The monument is a copy of the original in grey stone by the artist Leone Buzzi from Viggiù.
  • Arco Mera Opens along the arcades of Corso Matteotti, connects Piazza Podestà and Basilica di S. Vittore: originally it was meant to join the religious and civil centres. The arch was built in 1850, at the expanse of the canon Luigi Mera.
  • Via Albuzzi - Casa Perabò Varese merchants' historical residential area, remarkable vestiges of Gothic art are still visible thanks to the beautiful terracotta window.
  • Piazza Carducci Is at the end of Corso Matteotti and links it to via Albuzzi and via S. Martino, once the border of the Borgo.
  • Broletto Delightful courtyard of 16th century, surrounded by opens galleries, is a part of Palazzo Biumi. In the past it was a market for grain, today it's enlivened by nice shops ovelooking the inner "garden".
  • Sala Veratti Beautiful refectory of S. Antonino convent; it's now an art exhibition room accessible from via Veratti.
Villa Panza

Museums & Galleries[edit]

  • Villa e Collezione Panza [27]
  • Civico Museo di arte moderna e contemporanea
  • Musei civici di villa Mirabello [28]
  • Museo etno-archeologico Castiglioni [29]
  • Museo tattile [30]
  • Museo Baroffio al Sacro Monte [31]
  • Casa museo Lodovico Pogliaghi [32]
  • Sala Veratti
  • Sale Nicolini
  • Galleria Ghiggini [33]
  • Galleria Punto sull'Arte [34]

Lake of Varese, Lido della Schiranna and Virginia island[edit]

Lake of Varese from Gavirate

The "Lido of Schiranna" is one of the most pleasant places of the lake, a few minutes from the city centre of Varese. The area has been re-evaluated and the park that you can cross is a quiet little oasis of green, with benches and shady trees, where you can safely read or sunbathe. Not far away there is a dining area with a large swimming pool for adults and children, just opposite the lake! The park is a moment of leisure and it's a really quiet and reserved place that allows you to disconnect from daily monotony. Among cormorants, gulls, herons and moorhens, you can safely walk the pedestrian path and, during summer weekends, take the ferry to the other side of the lake. Absolutely not to lose a visit to "Isolino Virginia", regarded as one of the most important Prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps, from 2011 added to the UNESCO World Heritage Site [35]

Sacro Monte[edit]

Sacro Monte

The Sacro Monte di Varese (literally ‘Sacred Mount of Varese’) is one of the nine "sacri monti" in the Italian regions of Lombardy and Piedmont which were inscribed on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 2003. The devotional complex is located in "Parco del Campo dei Fiori", a natural reserve 6km north of Varese. It consists of fourteen chapels that were constructed between 1604 and 1623. The devotional path ends at the shrine of Santa Maria del Monte, a XVI century complex whose origins go back to the V-VI century AD, as attested by the archaeological excavations in the crypt recently opened to the public.

Do[edit][add listing]

Sacro Monte, the sanctuary


  • Palaghiaccio, via Albani, 33 Tel. +39.0332.241300
  • "F. Fabiano", via Copelli, 7 Tel. +39.0332.831450
  • Club Laguna Blu, via Garoni, 7 Tel. +39.0332.281919
  • Relais sul lago, via Macchi, 62 Tel. +39.0332.310022
  • Robur et fides, via Marzorati, 51 Tel. +39.0332.284475


  • Palaghiaccio, via Albani, 33 Tel. +39.0332.241300


  • Racecourse "Le Bettole", viale Ippodromo, 27 Tel. +39.0332.280489

Hiking and Skiing

  • CAI Varese, Club Alpino Italiano, via Speri della Chiesa Jemoli, 6 Tel. +39.0332.289267
  • Sci Club Escursionisti "Campo dei Fiori", via degli Alpini, 1 Tel. +39.0332.242438
  • Sci nordico Varese, via San Gottardo, 41 Tel. +39.333.1296056


  • Società Canottieri Varese, via dei Canottieri, 21 Tel. +39.0332.321098

Buy[edit][add listing]

Many major labels and designer boutiques (Versace, Hermes, Stefanel, Swarowsky, etc.) can be found in Corso Matteotti, the city centre pedestrian main road. High street brands can be found in the adjacent streets and squares, such as piazza Monte Grappa, piazza Carducci and piazza Giovine Italia.

There are some large undercover shopping centres. "Le Corti" in piazza della Repubblica host sports, shoes, clothes, make-up and electrical stores, as well as the "Centro Commerciale Belforte", a vast supermarket discount with cafés and restaurants in the outskirts towards Como and the Swiss border.

Eat[edit][add listing]

You will be spoiled for choice when eating out in Varese. From small pizzeria's to top-end, expensive restaurants, you can be sure to find a place that suits your budget and taste. Most places to eat are open daily. Some may close one day a week but this varies. Times may be susceptible to change depending on the season.

Depending on where you are eating, the prices can range from €5 for a good pizza to €25 for a three course meal in a restaurant. However, again it depends on whether you are in a top-notch restaurant where the price can escalate to over €50 per person or whether you are eating somewhere with good food but without all the frills!


  • Vecchia Trattoria della Pesa, Via Carlo Cattaneo 14, Tel. +39.0332.287.070
  • Al Mattarello, Via Francesco del Cairo 26, Tel.
  • Bologna, Via Broggi 7, Tel. +39.0332.234.362
  • Osteria del Centenate, Via Centenate 15, Tel. +39.0332.236.422


  • Ristorante Palace Grand Hotel[36], Via Luciano Manara 11, Tel. +39.327.100
  • Tana d'Orso, Via Mottarone 43, Tel. +39.320.392
  • Il Gestore, Viale Aguggiari 48, Tel. +39.0332.236.404

Drink & Snacks[edit]

A multitude of bars and cafes are situated in the city centre. In the summer your best bet is just to wander in via Carlo Cattaneo, piazza Giosuè Carducci and piazza Giovine Italia, otherwise, if you want to get away from the busy tourist spots, you can find quaint little bars towards the lake and Sacro Monte.

In summer enjoy gelato, an excellent Italian ice cream. The quality mark "gelato artigianale" indicates gelaterie that produce their own ice creams, without industrial processing. Bakeries are open every day, you can enjoy great and inexpensive bread-related food, such as pizza and focaccia. You can find a bakery almost everywhere in Varese, and is a good alternative to bars for a fast lunch.

Sleep[edit][add listing]

Varese offers a wide range of hotel options, right in town, from B&Bs to posh four stars and communal hostels. Be sure to book ahead in the summer, but the rest of the year it's possible to just show up and find something as long as your budget is flexible.


  • Casa Lory, Piazza Milite Ignoto-angolo Via Oriani (S. Ambrogio), 21100 Varese, +39.348.2425920, [2].  edit
  • Canonichetta, Vicolo Canonichetta, 1, 21100 Varese, +39.0332.231474.  edit
  • Il Parco e gli Affreschi, Via Fincarà, 27, 21100 Varese-Sacro Monte, +39.0332.1670943, [3].  edit
  • Villa Patrizia, Via Ettore Ponti, 26, 21100 Varese, +39.0332.320556, [4].  edit
  • Villa Adriana, Via Virgilio, 59, 21100 Varese, +39.0332.212234, [5].  edit


  • Repubblica di Oz. B&B and Apartments, Piazza Giovine Italia 3, 21100 Varese, +39. 333.8590055 (), [12].  edit


Stay safe[edit]

Varese is as safe town compared to the biggest cities of Northern Italy. Anyway the density of quite expensive shops may make pickpockets a problem, especially in the city centre. Although you shouldn't have problems walk alone late at night, pay attention after railway stations as well as the central piazza della Repubblica.

In an emergency, call 112 (Carabinieri), 113 (Police), 118 (medical first aid) or 115 (firemen).

Get out[edit]

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