Palazzo Estense, today the Town Hall, is one of the most popular visitor destinations in Varese.
The Palazzo was originally the residence of Francesco III of Este, who visited Varese in 1755 and was so delighted with the beauty of the town’s setting that he wanted to possess it as his domain.
Duke Francesco purchased the pre-existing villa, the Villa da Tommaso Orrigoni, and engaged the architect Giuseppe Antonio Bianchi to restore it and lay out the magnificent gardens.
The design took its inspiration from the major Italian and European residences, and involved the partial demolition of houses in the area. From 1766 and 1777 Giuseppe Antonio Bianchi was responsible for building the balconies on the main façade, the dining room, the guest rooms and the kitchen quarters including the bakery, kitchens, ovens, copper pantry and breakfast room; after 1779 the engineer Lodovico Bolognini was engaged to design the billiard rooms, the duke’s chapel dedicated to St John the Baptist, and the riminato (a wooden pediment decorated with carved eagles and a sundial).
The gardens were designed in the French style, based on strict rules of perspective, surrounded by hornbeam-covered berceaux and enlivened by tree-lined walks, flower beds and lawns. Another feature is a large round pond in the open space in front of the Palazzo.
The gardens are lit up in summer on the occasion of the "Sound and light display" – an unforgettable experience.