Parco Campo dei Fiori (Field of Flowers Park) is a protected natural area north of Varese. The name is a bit of a misnomer as you won't find any field of flowers. Instead, the area is heavily forested and the most prominent feature is a ridge of 1,000+ m (3,000+ ft) peaks that run through its center. The 10 trail (Campo dei Fiori Sentiero 10 as it's known) encircles the ridge about 500 m (1,500 ft) below the peaks. (Recently the trail has been redesigned as the 310 trail, but everyone still knows it as the 10.)
The Giro Piccolo Campo dei Fiori (small loop) mostly follows the 10 trail taking an easier course for the eastern third of the loop through the val di Rasa (valley). The Giro Grande (big loop) traverses an additional ridge to return via the val Ganna. The Giro Piccolo will be of interest to intermediate riders, while the Giro Grande includes a more difficult stretch.
Like much of the riding in the area, most of the route is along wide gravel/rocky paths with a few sections of true singletrack. Generally, the ride travels beneath the forest and is quite peaceful.
This route starts from the train station of Varese, winding its way through the center of Varese up to Prima Cappelle. Beware this adds about 210 m (700 ft) of climbing to the beginning of the ride though. There is a regular commuter train (S5) to Milano as well as numerous regional train connections. You'll have to purchase a second ticket for the bicycle.
Alternatively, there is a parking lot frequently used by hikers and bikers in via al Poggio.
You'll want a GPX for this one as it takes a number of local roads through Varese and not all intersections are well marked.
From Varese station, use the MTB Project mobile app
or follow the GPX that you've wisely downloaded from the MTB Project website to the Prima Cappella. Unfortunately, this requires about 210 m (700 ft) of road climbing.
From Prima Cappella, follow Campo dei Fiori Sentiero 10c
on a short, steep descent down to Velate. This is one of the more technical sections of the loop with several stairs along the way. At the bottom of the descent, there is also a tricky creek crossing before you reach the village of Velate. Once you reach Velate, it is an easy ride past some stables to the parking lot in via al Poggio. This is an alternate starting spot if you have a car.
Continue past the parking lot to begin following Campo dei Fiori Sentiero 10a
. This first section of the loop is the most heavily traveled and does not require much technical skill although there are one or two steep, rocky inclines. After 4k (2.5 mi), veer to the right towards an open field with a small house. Just beyond the house, there is a singletrack (Sentiero Monte Morto
) that climbs along a river bed towards the namesake Monte Morto. Monte Morto is really just a prominence on the side of the ridge (don't worry, you're not climbing all the way to the ridge top). This stretch includes some rooty sections and a wet creek crossing. Eventually, it returns to the 10.
After Sentiero Monte Morto
, the 10a descends steeply towards Orino. This steep descent is filled with large rocks and occasionally leaves and other debris, so it can be somewhat technical. In Orino, the 10a becomes Campo dei Fiori Sentiero 10b
. The 10b is an easy doubletrack with much less traffic than the 10a. You'll cross several small streams that run down from the top of the ridge. There is one short, steep climb in 10b around 21.5 km (13.4 mi). Just after that, you'll descend to a cemetery.
Shortly after the cemetery, you'll cross a bridge over another small stream (Rio Caprera). A waterfall is visible from the bridge over the stream. Just after that, you'll pass a small roadside chapel before turning onto the paved SP45. It's best to take SP45 to the next town, Brinzio, but stronger riders may be able to handle the difficult climb and descent following 10b to Brinzio. (Note that the trail in this area is well marked and it is easy to get lost on several dead-end trails in this area, so you'll want to have downloaded the Campo dei Fiori Sentiero 10b
GPX if this is your intention).
If you're toasted at this point, take Campo dei Fiori Sentiero 10c
. If not, head through Brinzio to Campo dei Fiori Sentiero 15
. This is a difficult trail that climbs over a saddle between Monte Martica (1,026m/3,366ft) and a lesser hill just north of it. Both the climb and ascent are pretty steep in places. Although the path is nominally wide enough to be a doubletrack, the trail is filled with large rocks and debris and it can be difficult to pick a line through the muddle. For this reason, you might expect to walk some distance.
As you approach a small pond (Lago di Ganna), turn right on the Sentiero del Giubileo da Valganna a Varese
. This pathway was designated in 2000 to commemorate the pathway used by pilgrims traveling throughout Europe to Rome to seek penance for their sins in special "Jubilee" years designated by the Catholic Church periodically since 1300. The Sentiero del Giubileo is easier. A doubletrack heads through a marshy area with a couple of small lakes before paralleling the Fiume Margorabbia (river). The trail is quite flat and easy in this section. This continues for about 4 km (2.5 mi) until the trail crosses the busy SS233.
Once it crosses SS233, the trail becomes narrower still and climbs steeply (100m/300ft) for 0.6 km (1 mi) on the slopes of Monte Monarco. At this point it, reaches a gravel road. The gravel road descends 1.6 km (1 mi) to the Castello di Frascarolo (castle) on the outskirts of Varese. This castle is still owned by descendants of the Medicis and is not open to the public. From the castle, the route follows local roads to the train station.