Three days are the perfect amount of time to discover and fall in love with the Land of the lakes: spend them hiking in the prealps, the best way to get a great and complete view of the area, and getting lost in the past, visiting the Uneso sites in the province of Varese.
- The best way to observe lake Maggiore and its shores is to hike up to the surrounding mountains. If the weather is good hike up to Monte Lema, which is situated between Switzerland and Italty. The path starts from Dumenza and lasts 3.30 hours, but there is also a shorter one that starts from Rifugio Campiglio and lasts about 1 hour. From the peak of Monte Lema (1620 mt) the view is something unique: you can see many Alps and the Pianura Padana in the background, but also Piemonte, Lake Maggiore and Lake Lugano.
- There is also another path that passes through the old village of Monteviasco, and Piero, where you can see old stone mills and imagine how life was in the villages aroud Varese.
Where to stay: discover hotels on Lake Maggiore
What to do: a trekking with environmental guide
Take your time for a more quiet day after the trekking, and dedicate it to the history and culture of the province. Start from the south: there's an old hamlet that worth a visit.
- The village of Castiglione Olona has a very long history. A good place to start when visiting the village is the Church of the Most Holy Body of Christ, also known as the Villa Church, in the main square as it is a unique example of architecture influenced by Renaissance humanism.Opposite the church is Palazzo Branda Castiglioni, which is made up of two buildings - one from the fourteenth century and the other from the fifteenth century. They have both been added to over the years and contain exquisite fifteenth-century frescoes from the Lombard and Tuscan schools. A short walk up to the top of Via Cardinale Branda takes you to what remains of the door that once led into the ancient castle: this is where you find the collegiate church compound with the church and baptistery.
- After a pause, move to one of the most important UNESCO sites in the province: the Archaeological Park of Castelseprio. Located between the upland and the valley of the River Olona, Castrum Sibrium was a military stronghold in Roman times and used over the following centuries by the Goths, Byzantines, Longobards and then the Visconti. Ottone Visconti, Lord of Milan, ordered the demolition of Castelseprio in 1287, with the exception of the religious buildings. One of these was the Church of Santa Maria Foris Portas (Latin for ‘outside the gates’) that was built between the fifth and ninth centuries.
- End your day with a visit at Castello Visconti di San Vito in Somma Lombardo. The castle was built in the thirteenth century and lived in by the Visconti family from 1251. Part of the west facade was altered during the 17th century, as were the interiors, which were renovated in the Baroque style with exquisitely frescoed and lavishly furnished rooms featuring 17th century frescoes attributed to the school of Procaccini. A number of collections are on display in different rooms in the castle: there is a large, rather strange collection of shaving plates in the “Seasons Room”, a beautiful collection of 360 stuffed birds; a large collection of 16th century Spanish weapons and armour; and an interesting collection of finds depicting early civilisation in Golasecca.
Where to stay: discover all the Hotels in Malpensa area
What to do: a visit to Museum del Tessile, a guided tour to Parco di Castelseprio
Spend the last day visiting Lago di Varese and its shores. Lake Varese lies at the foot of Mount Campo dei Fiori and is bordered by the city of Varese and another eight towns in the province. Schiranna is one of Varese’s most popular lakeside destinations with visitors as it also offers the Zanzi Park and a great cycling route. The park is one of the city’s many leafy, green areas with picnic tables and other facilities to ensure a fun day out. The cycling route winds its way around the lake for about 30 km (nearly 19 miles), offering a fantastic way to keep fit or simple enjoy the picturesque countryside. Here you can easily rent a bike.
- One of the gems on Lake Varese is Isolino Virginia: the islet is a prehistoric site of global importance and a UNESCO site, that can be easily reached by boat from Biandronno or by bike or foot along the cycling route and footpath from Lake Comabbio. Finish the mornng with a lunch at the islet's restaurant and a tour of the local museum.
- Leave Biandronno and move to the last stop of the journey: the Voltorre Cloister in Gavirate. Dated to 1154, the charming cloister was built in mediaeval times although the foundations are definitely much older: it took many years to build and encompasses both the Romanesque and the Gothic eras. We know the architect behind the cloister was Lanfranco da Ligurno, a late twelfth-century “magister” sculptor, as he left his signature on the cloister, and the capitals at the head of the columns are recognised as the most valuable artistic element of the entire building.
@chiaraviaggiante and @progetto.rughe
Where to stay: discover all the accommodation in Varese
What to do: a glider pilot for the day
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Plan your stay and your experience in the land of the lakes.