Known as the Garden City of Italy, Varese is an enchanting corner of Lombardy boasting crystal-clear lakes, mountainous hiking trails and colourful, historic sites.
The calming waters and beautiful sites around Lake Maggiore draw tourists from all over the world. And for good reason!
Covering an area of 82 square miles, Lake Maggiore is Italy’s second-largest lake and one of the most famous in Europe thanks to its stunning blue waters and Mediterranean temperatures.
The three Borromeo Islands, featuring gardens with exotic plants and gardens, can be accessed by boat and there are tons of fun activities for visitors like island-hopping, water sports, boat tours and sunset cruises.
Lake Maggiore is divided between the regions of Piedmont and Lombardy and sits on the south side of the Swiss Alps. Surrounded by botanical gardens and expensive, luxury villas, it’s also the largest lake in southern Switzerland.
Varese is most famous for its enchanting green gardens and beautiful natural scenery.
But history is everywhere you look throughout the region and Varese’s links to its past are especially true at Castelseprio Archaeological Park — the site of a former Roman Empire fort.
Here you will see an array of highly significant Early Medieval frescoes along the walls of Santa Maria foris portas (which translated means the church ‘outside the gates’). These rare paintings were only discovered in 1944 and date back over 1,500 years.
Together, the Church of Santa Maria and the nearby Torba Abbey monastery were named UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Feeling peckish? The Lombardy region has a delicious, hearty cuisine which features popular dishes like cassoeula, risotto and bresaola.
Dishes in Lombardy prominently feature rice, polenta and fish from lakes like Varese, Garda, Como and Maggiore.
Varese enjoys a simple cuisine that features specialities like bruttiboni biscuits (the biscuit’s name means ‘ugly, but good!’.
Varese is also famous for its locally-produced honey, white asparagus and gorgonzola cheese.
Want some more food recommendations? Check out 9 foods to try in Lombardy here.
The first word that springs to mind once you’ve spent time in Varese is elegance. After all, its stunning array of gardens were commissioned by noble families for their mansions.
Palazzo Estense, which is a Baroque palace built for Francesco III d'Este (the Duke of Modena and Reggio) is a perfect example of how Italy’s royalty used to live in the 18th century.
Stroll around its exquisite gardens and enjoy a guided tour of the palace itself.
Today, it’s an historic site which attracts tourists from far and wide, but it is also still used for concerts, weddings and conferences. A G6 summit was held at Palazzo Estense back in 2010.
If you want to mix historic sights, incredible architecture and a relaxing walk through nature, then keep the faith because the Sacro Monte has got you covered.
The Sacro Monte are a series of nine different chapels located throughout Lombardy that have been credited as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Varese’s Sacro Monte is located just a few kilometres away from the city and is surrounded by a small medieval village inside a regional park known as the ‘Field of Flowers.’
There are 14 chapels in total dotted throughout the mountainous landscape, which is a pleasant 2 km ascent that offers enjoyable views of the green scenery all around.
This mountain uphill walk, combining faith and culture, will lead you up to the sanctuary where the village of Santa Maria is located at the top.