Nestled in the heart of Lombardy and in the foothills of the Swiss-Italian Alps, Varese is the perfect launchpad for your cycling holiday from which to explore the best lakeside riding and the mountainous roads in between.
Lake Maggiore is 20km - 13mi away, Lake Lugano 15km - 9mi, Lake Como 80km - 50mi, Milan Malpensa Airport 40km - 26mi.
The southern end of area is relatively flat (approx 300 metres .a.s.l. – 990 feet .a.s.l.) and more peopled, but the northern end is hilly and mountainous (the peaks are approx 1.000 metres a.s.l. - 3,280 feet a.s.l. or more) as the lakes reach the foothills of the Alps in Switzerland.
Varese: bike rides, cycling routes, maps
The province of Varese can offer something for everybody: some flat riding, undulating routes and good climbing both keen cyclists who love to climb and slower ciclists. The more interesting bike rides wind toward Northern hills, towards Lake Maggiore and Lake Lugano.
Have a look at: road cycling routes.
- Monte Campo dei Fiori and Sacro Monte di Varese: a classic climb
- A taste of UCI Gran Fondo Tre Valli Varesine
- A list of cycling climbs close to Varese
- Cycle paths around Varese, or cyclists less fit or experienced
1. A classic bike ride: climb of Monte Campo dei Fiori and Sacro Monte di Varese
Monte Campo dei Fiori climb starts from Varese. Every local cyclist rides up more times in a year. On the top you can see the view of four lakes and Alpine chain. If the weather is good, you can see the Pianura Padana (Po Valley) and the tallest buildings in Milan as well.
The climb winds in the Regional Park of Monte Campo dei Fiori. Length 8.6 km – 5.3 mi, avg. 8%, max. 13%. After 4.4 km there is the fork: on the right you can climb up toward Santa Maria del Monte (1 km again), on the left you can carry on toward the top.
The Regional Park of Monte Campo dei Fiori overlooks the Prealps around the town of Varese. It includes two important mountains, Monte Campo dei Fiori (1,200 mt – 3,937 ft a.s.l.) and Monte Martica (1,030 mt - 3,379 ft a.s.l.), which are separated by Valley Rasa and by Brinzio village.
The park houses the Sacro Monte di Varese (880 mt – 2,887 ft a.s.l.) and the Natural Sciences Village which hosts the Astronomical Observatory, the Prealpine Geopysical Centre with its Weather Stations and Seismological Observatory and the Botanical Garden.
The entire park is easy to explore through its trails marked by signs offering clear information.
Monte Campo dei Fiori from Biandronno village on Lake Varese.
The bridge of the funicular railway which connects the Sacro Monte di Varese.
Climbing up to the summit of Monte Campo dei Fiori.
You can see Lake Varese and Lake Comabbio in the distance.
The lighter green spot in the higher part at the left side of the photo is the Malpensa airport.
Lake Varese as seen from the summit of Monte Campo dei Fiori.
In the distance you can see two smaller lakes (Lake Comabbio on the left - Lake Monate on the right) and Lake Maggiore in the higher part at the right side of the photo.
Monte Cuvignone and Alps in the distance from the summit of Monte Campo dei Fiori.
Lake Maggiore and Alps in the distance from the summit of Monte Campo dei Fiori.
You can see Monte Cuvignone and Monte San Martino in the central part of the photo.
Lake Maggiore and Alps in the distance from the summit of Monte Campo dei Fiori.
You can see the town of Luino on the shores of lake.
2. A tough bike ride : Gran Fondo Tre Valli Varesine
We have put together a route that can give you a feel for the race course of UCI Gran Fondo World Series Tre Valli Varesine which has taken place every year in Autumn in Varese. Of course you avoid the busier and boring roads for enjoing the most beautiful sections of the race course. The route is winding, among the Lake Lugano, Lake Maggiore and Lake Varese. You have to to tackle three climbs of the short race course: Alpe Tedesco, Ardena , and Brinzio , and two other climbs for connecting the sections of the route: Roggiano and Sasso di Gavirate.
Learn more UCI Gran Fondo World Series Tre Valli Varesine
3. A list of cycling climbs close to Varese
Their names are in native language.
Passo del Cuvignone da Cittiglio
San Michele dalla Valcuvia
San Martino al culmine
Passo del Sette Termini - da Grantola
Brinzio dalla Valcuvia
Salita di Marzio da Ghirla
4. Cycle paths around Varese: map and descriptions
A cycle paths network connects Lake Varese, Lake Maggiore, Lake Lugano and the the other smaller lakes: Lake Comabbio, Lake Ghirla and Lake Ganna. More the 100km - 63mi of flat cycle paths.
They are reserved for walkers, for roller bladers as well as for cyclists. Check out these easy bike rides. Occasional uphill sections, which are never demanding, make the cycle routes accessible even to less fit or experienced riders. Only a short stretch of cycle path Luino Valtravaglia Valcuvia is demanding.
Have a look at: cycle paths Map
4.1. Cycle path around Lake Varese
(Red route) This ride is just over 28 kilometres ride and a great way to discover the beauty of Lake Varese which sets against the resplendent backdrop of the Monte Campo dei Fiori Massif. The route also passes the ice-houses of Cazzago Brabbia. They are still perfectly preserved. These curious circular eighteenth-century buildings were used to store winter ice so that the low temperatures required to preserve fish caught in the lake were maintained inside all year round. There is a 3 kilometres gravel route which connects Lake Varese and Lake Comabbio.
4.2. Cycle path around Lake Comabbio
(Brown route) This is a 12 kilometres loop around Lake Comabbio. You can start from the park in Ternate, a quiet area of greenery with facilities, as well as a convenient car park. There are several gravel stretchs. The route isn't completly flat: there are several easy ups and downs. You will tackle a wooden bridge which for around 500 metres offers the thrill of riding suspended above the lake. There is a 3 kilometres gravel route which connects Lake Varese and Lake Comabbio.
4.3. Cycle path Valle Olona from Castiglione Olona to Castellanza - along River Olona
(Orange route) A 20 kilometres friendly ride (alongside the former Valmorea railway and the River Olona) that takes you from the picturesque village of Castiglione Olona, on River Olona, to the town of Castellanza. The first part of the route isn't paved. Along the way you can visit the village of Castiglione Olona and the Monastery of Torba.
Monastery of Torba, at Gornate Olona (Varese), lies at the foot of the archaeological park of Castelseprio, dates back to between the 5th century and 6th century, when the tower was built and used as a Roman military outpost of the nearby camp.
Church of the Collegiata and Museum, also known as the "Island of Tuscany in Lombardy", has ancient origins. It was a Roman military camp, then a village fought over by the Viscontis and the Torrianis, who, for a long time, sought to dominate this territory along the banks of the River Olona. The Renaissance was the period of greatest splendour for this place, due to the presence of Cardinal Branda Castiglioni.
4.4. Cycle path Alto Ticino from La Maddalena to Nosate - along River Ticino
(Gray route) This ride is 15 kilometres ride between Maddalena and Nosate. Toward North you can reach Sesto Calende,on shore of Lake Maggiore, along a road with little traffic that runs beside the River Ticino. Toward South you can reach Milan via Abbiategrasso, following the cycle path of Naviglio Grande.
4.5. Cycle path Ponte Tresa Valmarchirolo Valganna
(Green route) 8 wooded kilometres take you from Ponte Tresa, on shore of Lake Lugano, up to Valganna via Valmarchirolo. You wil ride on the former tramway which, in the first half of the 20th century connected Varese with Ponte Tresa and will pass through several tunnels and close to Lake Ghirla. The route is flat, except for a slight climb of just over four kilometres just after Ponte Tresa.
4.6. Cycle path Luino Valtravaglia Valcuvia - along River Margorabbia
(Purple route) This is a 15 kilometres flat route, mainly along River Margorabbia. It connects Luino, on shore of Lake Maggiore, and the village of Mesenzana, Grantola and Cuveglio. Plus there is a 9 kilometres route for climbing up to Cunardo. A part of the stretch isn't paved. You have to tackle a demanding stretch especially between Grantola and Cunardo where you cross the cycle path Ponte Tresa Valmarchirolo Valganna.
4.7. Cycle path Laveno Cittiglio
(Pink route) This 5 kilometres route takes you from Laveno, on shore of Lake Maggiore to Cittiglio, in Valcuvia. Laveno is the tourism capital of the Eastern shore of Lake Maggiore. Its harbour is quite important and has a ferry service connecting this little town with Intra on the Western shore of Lake Maggiore. Laveno offers tourists a remarkable lakeside promenade with porticoed buildings and pedestrian precincts. Monte Sasso del Ferro rises above the town. It can be reached by cable car and is one of the most popular scenic viewpoints on Lake Maggiore.
The former tramway partly turns into cycle paths
The former tramway which, in the first half of the 20th century connected Varese with several villages, now lends a few kilometres of its route to the cycle paths.
In the late 19th Century and early 20th Century the hinterland of the city of Varese enjoyed a boom time, becoming a countryside retreat for the wealthy Milanese upper-middle-class, who wanted holiday on the slopes of the Sacro Monte and Monte Campo dei Fiori. It also became a favoutite haunt of numerous visitors from UK, USA, Germany. In those days Varese was an attractive area in the Prealps. To encourage and make the most of this popularity with tourists, the area was equiped with a cutting-edge tram network that connected Varese to the all surrounding town as Luino, Angera, Ponte Tresa, Viggiù.
In 1895 the tram line was opened.
The company running the tram line closed in 1953.