One of the reasons why Varese is known as “the Garden City” is because… it is plenty of parks! Each one having its own features, there is quite a number of green hidden corners where one can linger, take a walk, read a just picked-up book at the public library, spend some time with family. And it is known that to each park, or garden, belongs a beautiful villa.
The Heart of Varese
The most centrally located villa in town is Villa Mirabello, since 1948 belonging to the Municipality of Varese and now being the venue of the City Archaeological Museum. The Villa was built by Count Gaetano Stampa di Soncino in the highest part of the Giardini Estensi in the 18th century and enlargened in 1839 by also building stables. The surrounding beautiful Park allows to appreciate quiet walks among majestic century-old trees, such as for instance the Cedar of Lebanon.
At a small distance we can step into the splendid park of Villa Torelli Mylius - or simply Villa Mylius, as it is normally called - as well owned by the Municipality and used as public garden. The construction of the main building dates back to 18th century. The romantic-style garden where we can take a stroll nowadays is the result of a redecoration done by the Mylius family at the beginning of 20th century, by adding large meadows, ornamental exotic conifer and Mediterranean broadleave trees, as well as a tree-shaped swimming-pool on the highest side. In the 80’s of last century sports fields and other spaces were added, so that nowadays Villa Mylius park is a meeting point for families, young people and sportspeople wanting to spend out-door time.
Out of sight
On the hill of Biumo Superiore, after walking along a long and imposing avenue inside the park, we will meet the Villas Ponti, a group of residential villas built between 17th and 19th century by industry owner Andrea Ponti - the main building in the Gothic style has his name in fact. The oldest building instead is named Villa Napoleonica and dates back to the end of 17th century, though redecorated in the neoclassical style between 1820 and 1830. Stables as well belong to the complex and, most important, a park in English style of 56 thousand square metres and many types of trees and plants. It belongs to the Chamber of Commerce of Varese and is the venue of many meetings and events.
At the end of a long avenue in the Sant’Ambrogio area there is a gate. When it is closed it just seems the entrance of a nice villa. Once open it lets you into a place which seems enchanted. Villa Toeplitz lays at the top of a public park of 4 hectares, with greenhouses, tennis court and swimming pool. It was built in 19th century by Hannesen family as a country residence; in 1914 it was purchased by Josef Leopold Toeplitz, a Polish banker, and since then many changes have taken place there. Since 1972 it belongs to the Municipality of Varese. Within the Park, the Ethnological Archaeological Museum is located, consisting of an important collection of findings collected by the Castiglioni family during many trips to Africa.
Close to the centre of the small village of Bisuschio, we can find Villa Cicogna Mozzoni, an imposing Renaissance complex built between 15th and 16th century (the precise year is not known). One of the most famous “mansions of delights” of Varese and Lombardy areas, the Villa was intended to be the hunting lodge for the family. Afterwards the original building was widened and architecturally arranged in order to take the U-shape that we know today, rich in history, elegance and charm. The internal garden has as well been subject to important changes along the centuries, to the point of becoming even more spectacular thanks to the two fishponds decorated with statues and balconies; on top of that, despite at the beginning it had been planned to be an Italian-style garden, in the nineteenth century it was transformed into an English-style garden, adding greenhouses and a tennis court.
Villas belonging to FAI (Fondo per l’Ambiente Italiano)
Very few kilometres from the centre of Varese, discreetly out of sight, it lays Villa Panza, an architectural jewel dating back to 18th century, thought and built as a “simple” country residence by Marchese Paolo Antonio Menafoglio. At the beginning of 20th century the building was enlarged but it was only Count Giuseppe Panza who gave this Villa its final, and present, destination: starting at the beginning of years 50’s of last century the Villa became the venue of an art collections which, so far, consists of more than 150 works of art by American Artists of 20th century. In 1996 Giuseppe and Giovanna Panza di Biumo gave the Villa to FAI as a gift.
As well planned as a country residence and a FAI property since 1989, the magnificent Villa della Porta Bozzolo is located in Casalzuigno. It dates back to 1500 and, despite its original destination, over the following two centuries it became a rich and elegant house - a “mansion of delight” as it was described those times – in a sophisticated decorative style which was typical of the noble families (the Della Porta family, in this case) who used to live there. The rich Library belonging to the family as well as many family memories were handed over by senator Camillo Bozzolo. The main building is completed by stables, barns and a very big crusher. Nevertheless, the highlights for which this Villa is renowned is the incredible, gorgeous, Italian-style garden, marked by a long prospective avenue which leads to the highest and most panoramic view of the park.
To summarize, many are the beautiful and majestic villas (and gardens) which deserve a visit… And which would be a better occasion than the weekend from 27 to 31 July, in the occasion of the World Rowing Championship under 19-under 23 on the Lake of Varese?