The origins

Discover the origins of the city of Gallarate which date back to very ancient times and are linked to those of Milan.

The origins of the city of Gallarate date back to very ancient times and are linked to those of Milan. At the beginning of the second millennium BC., an Indo-European speaking Celtic population began to slowly migrate westwards, starting from a region south of the Ural Mountains, initially occupying the Rhine Valley in central Europe, and then spreading in all directions and reaching as far as England, Spain, Turkey and northern Italy in the Po Valley, and dividing locally into tribal federations.

The origins in the Civilization of Golasecca – Celts of Insubria

Around the thirteenth century. B.C., in the north-western area of the Po Valley, that today includes western Lombardy, eastern Piedmont and Canton Ticino, the civilization of Golasecca developed, their name deriving from the locality along the Ticino where the first finds were found. These constitute the oldest settlements in this area but their dating has been established more than 50 years after their first discovery in 1822, and after two centuries the very large area covering an area of about 20,000 sq km, is subjected to continuous studies and research.

Giovanni Battista Giani

The antiquarian abbot Giovanni Battista Giani was the first to find the remains of 50 tombs and mistakenly thought they dated back to the Roman period of the battle of Ticino in 218 BC. and the leader Hannibal, who with his 70,000 infantry and cavalry soldiers crossed the Alps and defeated the legions of the consul Publius Cornelius Scipio near the Ticino river. The abbot, who lived between the end of the 18th and mid-19th century, was born in Golasecca but was Milanese by adoption.

He left important observations on the structure of the tombs and on the objects found in them detailed in his 1824 work Battle of Ticino between Hannibal and Scipio, but was off by about 600 years having no previous studies to base his assumptions on, but his discoveries forever changed the knowledge of European protohistory.

In 1865, Louis Laurent Gabriel de Mortillet, one of the founding fathers of European archeology, correctly assigned the findings to a pre-Roman Celtic culture of the early Iron Age, due to similarities with the findings of the Hallstatt Culture, near modern-day Salzburg in Austria, and based on the intuition that the tombs contained objects in bronze but also in iron, and no Roman objects; he brought part of Abbot Giani’s collection to France, enriching the Musée des Antiquités Nationales of which he was Deputy Curator, a testament to the importance of the finds.

Recent studies

Subsequently, other studies were conducted at the archaeological site, and during the Stockholm Congress of 1874, numerous French, Italian and German archaeologists established the periodization as the Golasecca Culture, which ended with the Gallic invasion of the Insubres in 388 BC, and was divided from 900 BC onwards into three phases: Golasecca I (IX-VII BC), Golasecca II (VI BC) and Golasecca III (V-IV BC), preceded by the Protogolasecca phase divided into Ascona (XII-XI BC) and Malpensa (X BC), and still first from the Canegrate Culture (XIII BC).

On the basis of this cataloguing, it is reasonable to trace the origins of Gallarate back to the 10th century BC. even if the oldest finds of inhabited centers date back to the beginning of the 2nd century. B.C. The dating is possible thanks to the findings discovered following the archaeological investigation promoted in 1964 and undertaken from 1965 to 1969, by the Gallaratese degli Studi Patri under the direction of Angelo Mira Bonomi on behalf of the relevant Superintendence, throughout the eastern sector of the Valley of Ticino and Lake Maggiore, where the civilization of Golasecca arose.

In fact, in the large settlement, biconical urns with a “wolf’s teeth” decoration or twisted lines, and brooches with raised arches and simple violin arches typical of the Bronze Age were found, in groupings of tombs and in the remains of settlements in six distinct sectors of a single infrastructure on two large terraces identified in the Protogolasecca archaeological phase of the Malpensa type. The tombs with exclusive cremation funerary rites were all well-shaped in bare earth with a slab on the bottom and a slab to close the mouth, with frequent placing of glass cups inside the urn.

Malpensa Airport

Further discoveries from this period were found by chance in 2016 during the works for the construction of the railway connection between the two terminals of Malpensa airport; in detail, 81 burials with a collection of pottery, consisting of ceramic vases with the cremated remains of the deceased, and collections of metal objects with armillas (bracelets), fibulae (brooches) and rings. Over 300 finds, all inventoried, cataloged and restored, of which 77 original objects and structures are on permanent display at the train station at Terminal 2 of Malpensa airport.

The “non-place” transformed into an evocative showcase which brings to the attention of international visitors information on the origins of the Insubri, the first Celts of Italy to whom, during the following Iron Age, we owe, on the one hand, the development of a network of commercial contacts between the Mediterranean and central Europe, on the other, the foundation of important Lombard cities starting with Milan. Title of the exhibition: From Malpensa to the foundation of Milan.

Golasecca civilisation

Due to their need to settle near watercourses and strengthen trade, in the 9th BC century these populations from the Malpensa area moved further north, between Golasecca, Sesto Calende and Castelle Ticino.  As a matter of  fact, in prehistoric man passed from being a hunter and gatherer to becoming nomadic and then sedentary farmers, then moved from subsistence agriculture to market agriculture and commerce. In an era where there were no roads, waterways were the fastest means of transportation.

This vast area therefore became one of the major economic epicenters of an exchange system based on the existence of intermediary nodes that promoted the transfer of products over long distances to other areas of the Italian, southern and Mediterranean peninsula occupied by the Greeks, to the central area occupied by the Etruscans, and towards the north, home to the transalpine Celtic population.

The archaeological evidence of this great civilization is exhibited, as already mentioned, in the train station of Terminal 2 of Malpensa, as well as the Museum of Patri Studies of Gallarate and three other exhibition sites in the province: the Civic Museum of Sesto Calende, the GAM of Golasecca and the archaeological area of Monsorino. Although studies continue today, the civilization of Golasecca is still partly unknown and other sites are waiting to be investigated. Today the leading Italian expert on the Golasecca culture is Raffaele De Marinis, who has been studying Italian prehistory and protohistory since the 1980s. His studies allow an analysis of the finds dating back to the three periods, testifying to an evolution in the richness and typology of the grave goods.

First period

In the First period, IX-VII BC, the burials almost all have the same structure: a hole dug in the ground in which the urn is placed, sometimes with a slab on the bottom, or a well lined with pebbles. Sometimes the presence of circular enclosures of stones with a diameter between 3 and 5 meters has been found, probably circles of family burials. In all tombs, a clay bowl covers the urn. Grave goods include biconical cinerary urns with “wolf’s teeth” decoration performed with the false cord/twisted lines technique , biconical shaped glasses decorated with horizontal grooves in the upper half of the body, and later in a globular biconical shape with extended horizontal or helicoidal designs.

As for typical ornamental objects for clothing during this period, we see expanded bow fibulae and fibulae with large Mörigen-type bands, and also bracelets, rings, earrings, pendants, pectoral necklaces composed of chains and various elements indicating the rank of the deceased. In the 7th century BC. there is a clear division between male and female burials, the former associated with the biconical urn, while the latter with the situliform urn. In this phase, glasses are bell-shaped, with a globular body and an S profile.

From this moment on, funerary objects change, becoming grander thanks to contact with the Etruscan world and the establishment of long-range relationships. In fact, during this period the territory occupied by the Golasecca culture began to act as a link in trade between the Etruscan world and the transalpine Celts, as evidenced by the enormous quantity of imported material, especially Etruscan, found in the tombs of this period, such as objects of prestige and luxury like glass beads and coral, demonstrating the birth of a prehistoric aristocracy. Also noteworthy is the presence of knives, axes and spearheads.

Second period

In the second period, 6th century. B.C., there is a general increase in wealth both as regards the type of funerary objects and the quantity of luxury objects found. The territory remains an important transit center for trade with the populations of central-western Europe. Lavish burials begin to appear, an honor that also extends to women, unlike in the previous period. The biconical “wolf’s tooth” ossuaries disappear and are replaced by globular, biconical-globose and olliform urns, while the situliform urns continue to be used, flanked by the cylindrical bronze cistae with decoration typical of the civilization of Este: horizontal bands separated by thin cords, testifying to a Paleo-Venetian influence.

As far as ornaments are concerned, in this period the use of boat and bow fibulae persists, along with fibulae with coral incrustations or fibulae with long chains and pendants, while leech fibulae and twisted bow fibulae also begin to be used. Of note is the discovery of an urn containing the ashes of a warrior-prince with symbolic objects of power, such as a chariot and weapons, and luxury objects such as Greek-type bronze greaves and imported bronze pottery, demonstrating that in Golasecchi society, there was an aristocratic elite with a strong warrior connotation.

Furthermore, following a landslide came the discovery of the so-called tomb of the chariot , reserved for high-ranking individuals, where the ashes of the deceased were found inside a bronze container, while at the bottom of the tomb were the fragments of a four-wheeled wagon, already disassembled and broken up.

Third period

In the third period, V-IV century. BC, the large proto-urban center of Sesto Calende-Golasecca-Castelletto Ticino was progressively abandoned in favor of the Como area, probably due to the eastward shift of commercial routes lying along the Brescia-Bergamo-Como axis towards the Alpine passes. Consequently, the role of Golasecca as a nodal point of traffic decreased, while the importance of centers such as Como, Brescia and Bergamo increased.

Foundation of Milan

The foundation of Milan should also be placed in this period, an important new town covering a vast amount of territory located in the center of the Po Valley half way between the Adda and Ticino rivers, and between the lake district and the Po, allowing it to become a new large commercial port of call. It was with the opening of these new trade routes that new forms, and chromatic and decorative elements of Etruscan and Greek taste were imported. New forms with elements that were clearly imported appeared, such as “jugs with spouts” and ollas with eyelet-shaped rod handles or ollas with ovoid-shaped bodies, decorated with intensely chromatic stamps. In this period, the leech-shaped fibulae with long stirrups and the Certosa-type fibulae appeared. Gallic invasions caused the decline of the Golasecca civilization and the end of trade with Etruria and Greece.

The Celts – Gauls

Among the Celtic population, the Romans gave the name ‘Gauls’ to those who invaded Gaul and northern Italy from 388 BC. onwards after having crossed the Alps, and who gradually occupied the entire Po valley, clashing with the Ligurians and Veneti, whom they partly absorbed, and also with the Etruscans. In the city of Gallarate no settlements prior to the Romans are known, perhaps due to the destruction and re-use of existing building materials. However, evidence of Gallic tribes who lived in the city is provided by the walled slab on the external wall on the north side of the basilica which bears Gallic names: Samaus, Taeiei filius et Banuca Magiaci filia uxor.

Gallic tomb

It is assumed that the oldest inhabited center in Gallarate was built on the north bank of the Arno, where the basilica is located today. Its Gallic origins were also confirmed by the discovery, in 1949, of a tomb about 70 cm deep, whose findings can be ascribed to the 1st century BC. It was found in the current Piazza Ponti, named after the historic Gallaratese family, pioneers of the Italian textile industry and major benefactors of the city, who lived in a block of buildings now replaced by a complex that has left the porticos intact.

Today, a slab on the surface of the road  indicates the exact point where the oldest grave found in the city center was brought to light during road maintenance work. The tomb is an interred gneiss stone coffin with a quadrangular niche bordered by four large stone slabs 2.5m, 2.3m and 1.6m long, and 1m high with a thickness of 10cm. The bottom of the tomb is bare earth and the gneiss stone cover was found in three pieces.

Notable fundings

There are some very important pottery gave goods, which testifies to the high social status of the deceased, consisting of an olla with a lid, a baking pan made on the lathe, a large pan bearing the graffiti KAI on the bottom, a truncated conical cup, two paterae (low bowls) covered with ‘Campana B’ type black paint , and bronze grave goods including an Aylesford-type pan decorated with ears of wheat, a Gallarate-type biconical jug, a handle with heart-type connection belonging to the previous jug and a ring for holding strigils.

Another discovery of a Gallo-Romanesque cinerary urn necropolis was found in the mid-1800s during work on the land owned by Gaspare Uslenghi, whose findings were donated to the Museo degli Studi Patri in 1897. The findings include a truncated conical bowl with a recessed lip, two micro vases, a bell-type ceramic spool vase, two truncated conical cups of the late Golasecca category and two rounded Gallic type vases.

The Romans

As early as the 3rd century B.C., Roman penetration into the Gallaratese area began: in 222 B.C. the consuls Publius Cornelius Scipio and Marcus Claudius Marcellus crossed the Po and took Milan, later in 218 BC., the colonies of Piacenza and Cremona were founded as strategic outposts against the Gauls, as the Celts were called by the Romans. Between 197 B.C. and 187 BC., Rome occupied all of the Cisalpine area up to Ticino in the territories of Varese and Lake Maggiore. In 49 BC., Roman citizenship was granted by Caesar to a large part of the Cisalpine population, the Roman presence thus leaving its mark, even although some small towns organized after a Gallic-style agricultural-pastoral economy lived on.

With Augustus, the process of Romanization was completed in the city of Gallarate and in the neighboring areas of Cassano Magnago, Cardano al Campo, Arsago Seprio, Fagnano Olona and Orago. In 284 AD., under Marco Aurelio Massimiano, Milan became the capital of the western provinces of the Empire, drawing enormous economic and military advantages through the settlement of colonists.

A transition from Celtic to Romans

The gradual transition from Celtic culture to Roman customs was very slow. While the discoveries of necropolises in Gallarate and in neighboring municipalities dating back to this period are numerous, so much so that it has been possible to draw up an archaeological map. The findings in almost all the districts of the city are the result of excavations carried out in the second half of the 19th century and in the subsequent periods of 1896, 1921, 1950, 1969, and 1970. Among the most important finds are those in via Milano from 1969, carried out under the patronage of the Patri Studies and the control of the relevant superintendence, and at the location of the Monumental Cemetery, where different types of graves were found.

The oldest cremation graves, dating back to the 1st-3rd century, with the burnt remains contained in a sawn amphora, and various finds including a fragment of a jar that once contained precious substances such as wine and oil and was reused in the burial, a cylindrical olpe, a utensil, a bronze ‘Asse di Tiberiio’ coin and a silver ‘denarius of Vespasian’, all closed in by a stone slab. These findings demonstrate the existence of a vast incineration necropolis in the vicinity of via Mediolanum dating back to the beginning of the Augustan-Tiberian age. Cremation rites continued through the first centuries of the Roman Empire in accordance with the original ritual of the Celtic world until it was replaced by burials due to the spread of Christianity.

Christianity religion

In fact, in 323, with the Edict of Constantine, Christianity became the official religion of the state, so urns were no longer used to contain the ashes, but rather there were tombs in which to lay the body. The custom of including accompanying grave goods continued. In the necropolis of viale Milano, they also found graves about 2m long from burial rites, known as Cappuccina tombs, from the fourth century.

These were very widespread throughout the Po valley from Milan to the Pre-Alps, and were characterized by the presence of flat rectangular tiles with two overlapping lips of about 43x56cm  and 10cm thick arranged in the shape of a house to protect the body of the deceased; in addition, there were three large tiles on the ground of the pit to form the bed, with sloping tiles on both sides, and at each end, another large tile, with large pebbles surrounding the base. Finally, traces of a hearth pit with fragments of burnt animal bone and two focacce were found at a depth of 65-70 cm.

Roman coins

In the Crenna district, there are other necropolises from the Roman era worth mentioning, where various types of pottery and bronze coins, sestertii and denarii, from the era of the emperors Claudius and Hadrian were found; in the Moriggia district, examples of the oldest denarius coins of Julius Caesar minted around 49 BC by an illegal mint were found, marking the definitive act of rebellion by Caesar against the republican institutions. The coins depict an elephant on the march, trampling a snake, while on the reverse, pontifical emblems suggest support from the divinities for Caesar: a simpulum (ladle used in sacrifices for libations), an aspergillum (instrument made up of laurel or olive branches for sprinkling the altar or the victim with water or wine), a securis (axe) and an apex (headdress of the sacrificer).

The minting of this coin was of great historical importance because it presented the important message it wanted to convey in an allegory: the elephant symbolizes the greatness and power of Caesar, the elephant in the Punic language was called “caesar”, while the crushed snake represented the vanquished Gallic populations.

All the findings from the Roman era are exhibited in the Museo degli Studi Patri in Gallarate, including those from the neighboring cities of: Cassano Magnago, from excavations in 1897 – Iron Age necropolis, donated by Eng. Domenico Oliva; Jerago, from excavations in 1927; Arsago Seprio, from excavations in 1963 – findings from 1st century BC; Besnate, from excavations in 1975 – necropolis from the 1st century BC – 1st century AD; Cardano al Campo, from excavations in 1975 – a bronze coin of Licinius I, a decorated bronze bracelet, and a glass paste necklace suggesting it was a female tomb, datable to III-IV AD.

The Middle Ages and the Lombards

The Germanic population of the Lombards, setting out from the south of present-day Scandinavia, began its migration towards southern Europe starting in the 2nd century, and arriving in Italy in 568. They first settled in the city of Cividale, in today’s Friuli in north-eastern Italy , where they formed the first Italian Lombard duchy. Subsequently, they began spread towards the west, creating further duchies throughout the north of Italy. In the province of Varese there were three settlement areas: Castelseprio to take control of the river Olona river, Castel Novate for the river Ticino, and Arsago Seprio, the only settlement still preserved today as an open site that can be visited, located halfway between the other two.

Within the territory, groups of families were left at strategic points which, once established, constituted military detachments to ensure the defense of the occupied lands and maintain the goods and privileges of the rulers. These detachments were endowed with their own social autonomy but managed the area referring to the larger territory where the King resided located in Pavia, south of Milan . This group of families were given the name Fara. The presence of a district in the south of Gallarate near Piazza Ponti, called Fara, a name used until the early 1900s, suggests the settlement of a Lombard group took place under the control of the center of Castelseprio.

Furthermore, the traces of the presence of a church dedicated to San Michele of which only one alley exists, and another San Michele, in via Cavour, both no longer existing,  are currently the only elements in support of this thesis, but we can’t exclude future archaeological finds.

The Middle Ages and the Visconti era

Due to the various urban transformations of the following eras, few examples remain of the important medieval past of Gallarate: there’s the small church dedicated to San Pietro in the central square, part of the second cloister – today the seat of the Museo degli Studi Patri and originally part of the Franciscan complex composed of the church and convent, the bell tower of the Basilica and the castles on the hills of Crenna and Cajello.

Also dating back to this period is the typical conformation of the city which is divided into districts, and the construction of a castle of which only toponymic traces remain such as via Postcastello which runs behind the place where the castle once stood, i.e. the point where the current Basilica stands. The castle was built by the French to defend themselves from the invasions of the Hungarians. It took the form of a complex of buildings arranged in a closed group, a real fortified citadel with buildings, vegetable gardens and gardens, surrounded by a rough wall interrupted by towers, combined with a deep ditch.


One of the towers was kept and turned into the bell tower of the new church, as is evident from the lower part in stone and brick, where you can see the classic reuse of materials  that was typical of medieval customs; in fact, there is also a horizontal marble epigraph from the Roman era with elegant writing concerning a Roman family who settled in the Gallarate area, the cast of which is kept in the Museo degli Studi Patri.

Another inscription from the Roman era has also been reused as a cornerstone of the old provost’s house of Santa Maria Assunta. Once the period of invasion and the consequent need for defensive action had ceased, the properties were parceled out, as had occurred with the Franciscan complex, so much so that the area was called “pizzighettone” from the dialectical expression “divided into pieces”. At the beginning of the 16th century, there were already very few traces of the ancient castle remaining.

District of Seprio

Being part of the district of Seprio, Gallarate was involved in tragic episodes that took place between the factions of powerful families who fought over Milan. In the period between 1119 and 1128, there was armed conflict between the municipalities of Como and Milan which affected Insubria, Brianza and Valtellina, and ended with the destruction of Como. To protect the city, the first ramparts and a sturdy ballast were built in Gallarate, now completely destroyed, using the material of the embankment they had built to carry the waters of the river Arno which caused frequent flooding problems, outside the centre.

In 2002, traces of the ancient wall structures measuring 60 cm x 6 meters with  a facing of squared stones on one side and river pebbles bound with mortar on the other were identified, at a depth of just over a meter in the central square, and works were also carried in other streets to better define the medieval layout of the city.

Title of city

The ancient gates resisted until 1859, the year in which Gallarate was awarded the title of city with the Rattazzi Decree: Porta Capovico, at the crossroads between via Mazzini, the Sempione and via Roma; Porta Elvetica, at the crossroads between via San Francesco, via Roma and the road towards Varese and Switzerland; Porta Comasina, at the intersection of via Venegoni and via XX Settembre; Porta Milano in Piazza San Lorenzo towards the road that leads to Milan; Porta Fara in the hamlet of Arnate; and Porta Cardano, at the end of via San Giovanni Bosco.

The walls, on the other hand, were destroyed over several periods, the first time in 1166, the second time in 1262 when the city was occupied and sacked by 200 soldiers loyal to the Torriani family, opponents of the Visconti, who dismantled a third of the walls and in 1276 beheaded 34 noblemen loyal to the Visconti. In 1287, Gallarate became the capital of the large county of Seprio, following the destruction of Castelseprio by Ottone Visconti. In 1362, at the behest of Galeazzo II Visconti the walls were completely destroyed to prevent enemies from taking over. Between 1402 and 1450, Gallarate was therefore exposed to looting, and at the beginning of the 16th century, the population had to find refuge in the small church of San Pietro which was modified into a fortress with battlements.

Bloody event

In fact, during that period a bloody event occurred in Gallarate that went down in history as the massacre of Gallarate, in which the population demonstrated their courage and pride. “Gallarate was invaded, devastated, set on fire, almost destroyed, but it always rose again.” This is the phrase of the historian Pier Giuseppe Sironi referring to the massacre of 8 October 1521, a day “pregnant with mourning and blood” when the village of Gallarate “was invaded, devastated and looted by bands of soldiers involved in the wars and clashes for dominion over the Duchy of Milan, which afflicted the first decades of the sixteenth century”.

In that episode, the soldiers who wandered through Seprio breached the gates of Gallarate and devastated the village using all kinds of violence. We know the facts thanks to the Gallaratese notary Bernardino Brusatori and his Naufragium Italicum, a long story in five books about the war between 1520 and 1530, which he witnessed and which bloodied an Italy disputed by the great powers.

Terrible events

In his work, Brusatori recounts the terrible events of countless bands of Milanese refugees who threatened massacres, fires, looting and other war crimes so that the population would welcome them among their honest citizens. But the citizens refused, openly declaring “that they would rather experience extreme evils than give their assent to their underhand ways”. The soldiers wreaked havoc with the whole population, young and old, men and women, children and the sick, as well as animals and houses.

In the 16th-18th century, Gallarate lost its autonomy ending up, along with the entire State of Milan, under French and Spanish rule, continuing its primary role in the economy of the Upper Milan area. In 1786, it became the capital of the vast province of Austrian, the area previously called Insubria, and remained so until 1787. With the advent of Napoleon, the city became known for the presence of an enlightened bourgeoisie capable of combining new ideas of freedom with the prodigious Industrial Revolution. In 1859, following the annexation of Lombardy by the Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia to the Kingdom of Sardinia, the Rattazzi decree was issued.

This decree reorganized the administrative structure, dividing it into provinces, which were in turn divided into districts. Gallarate was designated as the capital of a district that included 73 municipalities including Busto Arsizio, Legnano, Saronno, Somma Lombardo which was created as a subdivision of the province of Milan and as the seat of the vice prefecture, and this organization continued into the new united Italy after 1861.

Railway station

The construction of the railway station under a united Italy helped to strengthen the central role of Gallarate as a hub for Lombard and international railway transport. «Going to Paris and staying there for a few months was just a matter of getting on the train one fine day in Gallarate, where the Orient-Express passed, and getting off at the Gare de Lyon… »This short text is taken from The Astrakhan Coat, a novel by Piero Chiara written in 1978 where the author refers to the 1950’s, a period in which Gallarate was a stop along the route from the province of Varese to Lake Maggiore and Paris with the famous train that from 1919 connected Paris to Istanbul.

There is another of Gallarate’s station in a passage from Ernest Hemingway’s Farewell to Arms where the protagonist, on his way to Stresa, recounts from his first person viewpoint that he notices the hostile looks from a group of soldiers who then «got off at Gallarate and I was happy to be alone.»

Fascist era

In 1926, the Fascist government, in a work of profound totalitarian political, economic and social restructuring undertaken by Mussolini, defined, along with 16 other new provinces, the bounderies of the new province of Varese and the district of Gallarate which was divided between the new province and that of Milan. The historian Luigi Ambrosoli defined the event as “a real revolution” which seemed motivated purely by political and geographical considerations.

In fact, it was a question of strengthening the border with Switzerland by setting up centers to which they could transfer police stations; they also wanted to reward localities where fascist action squads had been more active and penalize areas in which the presence of the organized labor movement was historically rooted. The new province of Varese was born by uniting territories previously incorporated in the administrative areas pertaining to Como and Milan.

Modern reorganisation

In this reorganisation, Milan lost a demographically important portion of territory with a high concentration of industry. So much so that the president of the province of Milan, Sileno Fabbri, addressing the Head of Government directly in the Corriere della Sera, declared that while he accepted the government’s decisions with “discipline” and “sincere spirit of collaboration”, publicly warned that the separation from Milan of such a fertile territory would have repercussions on the local and national budget, and reminded readers that the newborn provinces lacked the necessary structures for the fulfillment of the new functions.

Despite these declarations, it was then decided to raise the status of the small village of Varese to ‘provincial capital’, and to implement extensive modernisation projects of the structures and services. In 1930, Inspector Angelo Nicolato was sent to Varese by the National Fascist Party for an initial assessment of the activity of the newly formed federation, and to report on the political and trade union situation in the new territory. He found there was a somewhat inconsistent fascist credo and that the various territories did not seem to have blended well, with the deep economic and social differences resulting from different histories, remaining.

Loosing importance

From his reports we read: “Inhabitants of the Varese area are apathetic by nature and by habit: they are led to lose interest in everything that is not strictly related to their trade. (…) All of this contrasts sharply with the part of the province located in the plain and especially in Busto Arsizio, Gallarate, Saronno, which are industrial centers of the first order.” As a consequence, the city of Gallarate lost most of its considerable importance, partly due to the abolition of the districts, and partly to the closure of the sub-prefecture that was housed in the current Palazzo del Comune.

Resentment towards choices that today we would define as centralist simmered for twenty years during the 1900s, but discontent has continued in the population until more recent times; in fact, some people are still resentful of no longer being part of the province of Milan, while for others, this presents greater opportunities for emerging rather than remaining engulfed by the great Milanese metropolis. The debate returned fervently in 2012, when, in the end, it was found necessary to prepare a proposal for the reorganization of the borders of the provinces to be sent to the Council of Local Autonomies, a proposal that was never implemented.

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