Palazzo Estense

Lake Maggiore & Around

From the 17th century, nobles and the rich, many from Milan, began to build second residences around Varese's historic centre. Of these, the most sumptuous is the Palazzo Estense, completed in 1771 for Francesco III d’Este, the Austrian-appointed governor of the Duchy of Milan.

From Via Sacco, the main entrance is surprisingly understated as the main graceful facade actually looks south onto the Italianate Giardini Estensi. The building now belongs to the town hall and cannot be visited, but anyone may swan through the entrance into the gardens, punctuated by ponds and, hidden on a rise behind Villa Mirabello, is a giant cedar of Lebanon.

From Palazzo Estense, villa fans could round off by walking half a kilometre from Via Sacco to the 17th-century Villa Recalcati, now seat of the provincial government. You can wander around the outside of the building.

Lonely Planet's must-see attractions

Nearby Lake Maggiore & Around attractions

1. Giardini Estensi

0.05 MILES

Set on a hillside just south of Varese's old centre, these picturesque gardens make a pleasant setting for a stroll. A large circular fountain, a pretty…

2. Torre Civica

0.11 MILES

Soaring high above Varese's main square, this enormous clock tower was built in 1933, and has quite the Fascist-era aesthetic about it. At the base, you…

3. Città Vecchia

0.13 MILES

North off Piazza Monte Grappa, the delightful pedestrianised Corso Matteotti signals the western boundary of Varese's tiny old centre, at whose heart…

4. Piazza Monte Grappa

0.13 MILES

Piazza Monte Grappa, on the cusp of Varese's old town, is fascinating for history and architecture buffs. The square was completely remade in grand…

5. Basilica di San Vittore

0.16 MILES

The showcase attraction of Varese's centre is this ornate basilica, built between the 16th and 17th centuries. The more stolid facade was an 18th-century…

7. Villa Panza

0.53 MILES

On a rise north of Varese’s centre, where the high walls of private residences enclose narrow, winding lanes, Villa Panza enjoys beautiful views of the…

8. Villa Recalcati

0.56 MILES

A magnificent 17th-century villa that houses the provincial government. In the late 1800s, it was transformed into a grand hotel, and hosted luminaries…