Varese (Lombard: Varés) is a pleasant hillside city in Lombardy, a few kilometres from the Swiss border, with a cosy historic centre, stunning views of the namesake lake and the Alps and plenty of opportunity for outdoor and indoor activities.

Understand edit

Sacro Monte

Varese is the capital of its province. Its strong tourist vocation developed by the beginning of the twentieth century when the completion of quick connections to Milan, recreational and guest facilities.

Not far away from Milan, Como, Lake Maggiore and Swiss cities such as Lugano, Locarno and Bellinzona, Varese is a perfect base for visiting other centres and sites in Northern Italy and Switzerland.

Get in edit

By plane edit

The nearest airport is Milano-Malpensa that can be reached in 20 minutes by car. There's a well served railway connection to Varese via Milan.

By car edit

Autostrada dei Laghi A8 from Milan. Coming from Switzerland exit in Mendrisio and drive to Varese going through the customs of Stabio-Gaggiolo

By train edit

The "Servizio Ferroviario Regionale" connects Varese by train to other major cities in Lombardy and Switzerland (Canton Tessin). Services are provided by Trenitalia and Trenord railway network.

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 €1.40 for 90 minutes.

Taxis can be found on the main roads or reserve at +39 0332 241-800.

Prior to or during your visit to Varese, you can look at the local Convention & Visitor's Bureau site, which has all the local news and events that are happening around the city.

See edit

Palazzo and Estensi Gardens
  • 1 Centro storico.
  • 2 Palazzo and Estensi Gardens with Villa Mirabello. 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. The park hosts Villa Mirabello, a Tudor style building, today the seat of the Archeological Museum [dead link].
Villa Mirabello
Villa Toeplitz
The historic centre
  • 3 Villa e Parco Augusta.
  • 4 Villa e Parco Recalcati.
  • 5 Villa e Parco Torelli Mylius.
  • 6 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 (16th 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 17th-century Lombard style. Its marvelous façade overlooking the garden is an evidence of the neoclassical period. Today the Villa hosts an important contemporary art collection.
  • 7 Castello di Masnago e Parco Mantegazza.
  • 8 Villa e Parco Toeplitz.
  • 9 Palace Grand Hotel.
  • 10 Sacro Monte.     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 Sacro Monte of Varese is a devotional complex located in "Parco del Campo dei Fiori", a natural reserve 6 km north of the city. 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 16th-century complex whose origins go back to the 5th-6th century AD, as attested by the archaeological excavations in the crypt which are open to the public.
  • 11 Museo Baroffio al Sacro Monte.
  • 12 Casa museo Lodovico Pogliaghi.
  • 13 Schiranna and lake of Varese. The "Lido of Schiranna" is one of the most pleasant places of the lake, a few minutes from the city centre of Varese. The park is a moment of leisure and it's a really quiet and reserved place that allows you to disconnect from daily monotony. 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.
Lake of Varese from Gavirate
  • 14 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Varese and its Province host four major UNESCO World Heritage Sites, two of them in the city territory, the Sacro Monte and the Alpine Prehistorics pile-dwellings on the lake of Varese. In addition, few kilometers from the city, in Gornate Olona, you can visit the Archeological area of Castelseprio-Torba, part of the UNESCO's patrimony of the "Longobards in Italy. The centres of power (568-774 A.D.)" and the Saint Georges's Mount, a transnational UNESCO World Heritage site (CH-I), one of the most important fossil deposit in the world.

Do edit

Sacro Monte, the sanctuary
View of Sacro Monte

Swimming & ice-skating


Hiking, alpinism and skiing


Events edit

Varese offers quite different events from music to cultural festivals, religious feasts, white nights, cinemas open air and exhibitions throughout the year.

Buy edit

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.

Lake Maggiore and Monte Rosa from Campo dei Fiori

Eat edit

You will be spoiled for choice when eating out in Varese. From small pizzerie to top-end 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.

Mid-range edit

Splurge edit

Drink edit

A multitude of bars and cafes are situated in the city centre. In the summer your best bet is just to wander in 1 Corso Matteotti and 2 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 in the district area of 3 Biumo Superiore, close to Villa Panza and Villa Ponti. At 4 Sacro Monte you'll find different bars and very elegant restaurants, from whose terraces you can admire a spectacular view that embrace Alps, lakes and pianura Padana. A stop even just for a coffee is recommended for example at Hotel al Borducan and Ristorante Albergo Colonne. Tasty dishes can be enjoyed even at Ristorante Milano or Ristorante Montorfano at the end of via Sacra and, in piazzale Pogliaghi, a few minutes on foot from the centre of Sacro Monte, at Trattoria Il Ceppo.

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

Budget edit

Mid-range edit

Splurge edit

Go next edit

This city travel guide to Varese is a usable article. It has information on how to get there and on restaurants and hotels. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.