palazzo estense varese

The “Little Versailles”, a pearl in the heart of Lombardy

One of the most significant places in Varese, symbol of the city, is Estense Palacea magnificent example of eighteenth-century architecture, a masterpiece by Giuseppe Bianchi that Giacomo Leopardi called “Little Versailles”.

The surprising building, which stands in Via Sacco not far from the center, is one of the destinations not to be missed during a visit to the “Garden City”.

The history of Palazzo Estense, a dip in the eighteenth century

The splendid palace was built between 1766 and 1771 to become the abode of Francesco III d’EsteDuke of Modena and Governor of Lombardy: in fact, the Duke, a guest of the Menafoglio family in Varese in 1755, was so impressed by the city that he requested it as a fiefdom from Maria Theresa of Austria and wanted to make it the seat of his court.

In 1765 he had thus bought the Villa of Tommaso Orrigoni and the Palace saw the light following the restoration of the villa based on designs byarchitect Giuseppe Bianchi: some existing houses were demolished and the spaces changed in order to better accommodate the court and be the ideal setting for sumptuous parties.

Bianchi then added two large wings to the original U-shaped plan of Villa Orrigoni and, inspired by the Schönbrunn Castle, the Viennese imperial residence, created one of the most exciting eighteenth-century gardens of all Lombardy: from the top of the hill, the view over the city of Varese is breathtaking.

Discovering the exterior and interior of the Palazzo

If the facade facing the city may seem rather “ordinary”, the one that opens onto the garden is embellished with typical shapes of the “Lombard baroque”, with neoclassical influences, with white string courses that stand out against the pink of the plaster e pilastersvertical structural architectural elements incorporated in the wall from which they protrude slightly.

On the front, the sundial dominated by the ducal eagle is noteworthy.

Crossing the entrance of Palazzo Estense, on the ground floor, the beautiful is unmissable Hall of Honor, or Estense Hall, where you can admire the central medallion frescoed by Giovan Battista Ronchelli, the illusionistic architectures by Bosellini, the large fireplace in polychrome marble and the precious crystal chandeliers. Today the hall hosts concerts and conferences.

On the first floor, they are certainly of interest the lamp holder details with putti in stucco and the four niches with female busts of the eighteenth century. Here is also the Ballroomembellished with paintings of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries including a valuable “Virgin with Child” of the Morazzonesca school.

All the magnificence of the Estensi Gardens

The most notable element of the complex is undoubtedly the Gardensnow a park open to the public, which extend into the background and join seamlessly with the park of Villa Mirabello.

They catch the eye there majestic fountain in the square in front of the Palace (26 meters in diameter), the ideal culmination of the garden, and then paths, colorful flower beds, belvedere, slopes, hornbeam avenues as well as the particular Ginko Bilobaa plant considered sacred in Japan, over 30 meters high and with a stem measuring 370 centimeters in circumference.

As soon as you enter the park, you notice a lively colored spot on the right that excites especially in autumn thanks to the coloring of the leaves: a stop on the bench under its branches is an experience not to be missed.


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