Of the ten UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Lombardy, Varese has more than any other province with four: Sacro Monte, Monte San Giorgio, the Castelseprio-Torba Archaeological Park and Isolino Virginia.
Sacro Monte di Varese (Sacred Mountain of Varese) is a complex that includes Via Sacra (holy road), a cobbled devotional road that passes by fourteen chapels as it climbs the mountain. Skilfully integrated into the surrounding countryside, the Via Sacra takes to the top of the mountain at the Santa Maria del Monte Sanctuary.
Listed in 2010 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Monte San Giorgio is regarded as the world’s best fossil record of marine life from the Middle Triassic, a geologic epoch between 247 and 237 million years ago. The mountain has produced diverse and numerous fossils.
Castrum Sibrium was a military stronghold in Roman times and used over the following centuries by the Goths, Byzantines, Longobards and then the Visconti. It is located between the upland and the valley of the River Olona, near the Church of Santa Maria Foris Portas, that hosts some beautiful frescos.
Isolino Virginia is a triangle of land just a few yards off the west bank of Lake Varese, near Biandronno. Nearly the entire island is covered by luxuriant vegetation which is home to many wild animals. Flora includes willows, oak trees, common alders, water lilies, butcher’s broom and some rare varieties, such as the bald cypress. As the island is one of the most famous sites from the European prehistoric period, access to some areas is restricted.