The trails starts in Schiranna, on the Lake Varese. We then take the uphill Via Vigevano (which then turns into Via Valle Luna) and begin our climb. After just a few hundreds meters, as we cycle up the hill, we can stop to admire the changing landscape at our backs, with views opening onto the lake and surrounding countryside.
We then pass first the area of Calcinate degli Orrigoni, with its sports fields, and then the Masnago neighborhood, with the famous castle. The Castle of Masnago is Medieval in origin and was designed mainly as a defensive structure, as is evident from the massive square tower, built in the Twelfth Century. The tower was connected visually to other three similar structures in the Varese area, and would have been used as a look-out and signal tower.
Since 1995, the Castle of Masnago is home to the Modern and Contemporary Arts Civic Museum, showcasing major artwork from masters such as Pellizza da Volpedo, Balla and Fontana.
A quick look around the Mantegazza park and we can descend Via San Vito Silvestro, turning right at the street-light in Via Campigli. We then come to a slight downhill stretch leading to the roundabout facing the Police Prefecture of Varese and Villa Recalcati.
The first building was designed in the ‘20s, under Fascism, and is a characteristic example of the architecture in vogue at the time.
The second is a magnificent eighteen-century aristocratic residence, one of the many summer houses of the rich Milanese families who elected the lake as their holiday destination. Currently it houses the offices of the Provincial Government and the Government Prefecture.
Having passed the roundabout, we enter the area of Casbeno, first in Via del Monastero Vecchio, then in Via Monviso and Via Solferino, reaching the public gardens and finally Piazza della Repubblica.
We are now in the heart of the city center, and can cycle along Via Volta and Corso Moro, turning right towards the Basilica of San Vittore Martire. Together with the bell-tower and the Baptistry of Saint John (built in the Sixth and Seventh Centuries), the sixteenth-century Basilica is the religious heart of the city. We pass in the square in front of the church and take Via Albuzzi, a pedestrian street winding along the buildings of the old center. We then come to Piazza Carducci, from which we make our way back, passing by Corso Matteotti, previously the central artery of the town. Nowadays it is a pedestrian area, with many elegant cafés and shops.
We have now reached Piazza Montegrappa, the main city square, surrounded by Fascist architecture. In olden times it was known as Piazza Porcari (the Pig-herders' Square), or as Piazza Padella, the Pan Square, due to its triangular shape. When Varese was assigned the status of Province, in 1927, it was decided to whitewash the city with modern flair, and an entire neighborhood was knocked down to build this square. The most notable feature is a geometric tower, the Torre Civica, designed by architect Loreti in 1929.
We continue along Via Walter Marcobi and then through Via Sacco to access the entrance to the Gardens of Palazzo Estense, court residence and now seat of the Varese Municipality.