Guida dello studente: International Program A.Y. 2006/07


The city of Varese stands at the foot of the Lombard pre-Alps, historically an important crossroads for traffic between Switzerland and the Mediterranean port of Genoa.
It is renowned for its many old aristocratic homes with their magnificent gardens, now holiday homes owned by the well-to-do Milanese, or ideal places for conferences, meetings, exhibitions and study courses.
An element that has shaped life in Varese for centuries is its “Sacro Monte” (Holy Mountain): a huge religious monument, built by San Carlo Borromeo as a bastion of the Catholic faith against the Protestant influence. For this reason, all the sanctuaries that make up the Holy Mountain are dedicated to the Madonna, whose origins were debated by the Protestants.
For decades, this rich city has found its material wealth in the manufacturing industries that operate throughout the province, but its artistic wealth includes several fascinating prehistoric finds. Famous sites are the Golasecca archaeological area and the necropolis in Angera. Little remains from earlier epochs. Arsago Seprio still retains a monumental complex from the pre-Roman age, while the Santa Maria Foris Portas basilica in Castelseprio preserves beautiful frescos that probably date from the time of the Lombards. But the province's real artistic wealth is in its villas, sanctuaries and castles, such as the Madonna dei Miracoli sanctuary in Saronno and Somma Lombardo castle.
Most of Varese's inhabitants live in the tight network of towns that cover its industrial hinterland. Nevertheless, it is one of Lombardy's greenest
provinces, with protected areas and flora.
It enjoys the beautiful backdrop of the Alps and it is also known as the province of seven lakes: Lake Maggiore and Lake Lugano mark out the borders with Piedmont and Switzerland respectively, while the other smaller lakes (Varese, Comabbio, Monate, Ghirla, Delio and Ganna) are entirely located in the province.

Thanks to its strategic position, Varese is also one of Italy's most industrialised provinces. In fact, it is home to 23,000 manufacturing and craft industries that export over 30% of their production world-wide and generate employment to 175,00 people.

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Castellanza is in the South of the province of V arese.
More precisely it is located in the middle of the Olona Valley created by the slow flow of the Olona river (from the Gallic root - ol, big). The valley formed one of the most important routes of communication between the plains in the south of Lombardy and it was fortified with garrisons for guarding and controlling all traffic. Towers, castles, fortresses, camp ruins can still be seen today in various towns.
Castellanza's geographic location meant that it played a part in the Italian industrial revolution in the 19th  Century, especially in the economic and entrepreneurial development of Italy's textile industry. The driving force of the city was the Cantoni cotton mill, the first factory built in Castellanza.
It was named after the family who managed it for many generations. The Cantonis are known for building the houses for their workers and the first kindergarten for the workers' children.
They also put together the so-called "convitti", places where young female workers could go to learn home economics, sewing, religion and good manners.
That was a time of great prosperity but in 1960's the European textile industry entered a period of depression, due to cheaper products from Asia flooding the market. The Cantoni Mill's days of glory were over and it was forced into closure, causing mass unemployment in the town.
Today, Castellanza has regained its importance thanks to the University that is housed in the Cantoni cotton mill that has been beautifully restored by the famous Italian architect, Aldo Rossi.

- population: 14.570 people
- location: 28 Km from Varese and 40 Km from Milan
- transport: trains and buses to Milan and Varese
- typical dish: “cipolle ripiene” or stuffed onions.
- traditional parties:
    - festa patronale di S. Giulio (last Sunday of January);
    - festa patronale di S. Bernardo (third Sunday of September);
    - palio dei rioni with many sport competition among inhabitants of  the two  Castellanza’s neighbourood,    Castellanza e Castegnate (June)