Parco Golfo della Quassa: a Green Lung on Lake Maggiore.

Discover the tranquil winding path through the lush greenery of the Parco Golfo della Quassa, a place to spend your spring on Lake Maggiore in extreme serenity.
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Discover the tranquil winding path through the lush greenery of the Parco Golfo della Quassa, a place to spend your spring on Lake Maggiore in extreme serenity.

Introduction to Parco Golfo della Quassa

The Parco Golfo della Quassa in Ispra, in the province of Varese, is a serene place nestled on the shores of Lake Maggiore where extreme natural beauty provides a backdrop for the entire area, offering magical emotions to be fully experienced. It is a park that is grafted between the territories of Ispra and Ranco, so as to be considered a link between the two small Lombard towns. In the spring season, there are many people and tourists who take a walk in the greenery of this wonderful place. The park is home to flora and fauna typical of Lake Maggiore and allows all passersby moments of peace and recreation. Generally, thanks to the bicycle path that connects Ispra and Ranco, there are many bicycle enthusiasts who decide to cycle through the entire area. All kinds of visitors, in this park, can conduct different experiences. The Parco Golfo della Quassa is a real green lung in the territory of Varese, it is a reference point for all people who want to take walks within a completely natural area. Finally, the whole park is enriched by historical and traditional elements that make this place a cultural site of great excellence.

The geological wonders of Quassa

The Parco Golfo della Quassa has unique geological features, such as erratic boulders left by Quaternary glaciations. Of extreme importance is the Sasso Cavallaccio Natural Monument. This is a regional natural monument located on Lake Maggiore in the municipality of Ranco (VA). It is also considered a protected area at the legislative level (by D.G.R. 38949 of May 22, 1984). Basically, it protects the Sasso Cavallaccio or Cavallazzo (Sass Cavalàsc in local dialect), a colossal erratic boulder which rises a short distance from the shore on the shallow and marshy waters of the Quassa Gulf. The area described is located near the border between the Municipality of Ranco and the Municipality of Ispra. It is proper to point out the etymology of the name, which most likely derives from the shape that vaguely resembles that of an equine head. On a historical level, Sasso Cavallaccio was first described by geologist Antonio Stoppani. Geologically speaking, this natural monument is a schistose megalith composed of serpentine. Its shape is prismatic sharp-edged tavular and is characterized by a steep slope. (It measures area 5x8 m). Sasso Cavallaccio is just one of many erratic boulders found in the area between Ranco, Angera, Sesto Calende and Ispra. Since they all have the same lithological formation, the hypothesis is that they originated from the same landslide, perhaps in the area of the Gotthard or Simplon valleys. Later, the boulders would have been transported by the glacier covering the entire Lake Maggiore area in the last Würm glaciation (24,000 to 10,000 years ago). It should be noted that at the base of Sasso Cavallaccio is the "giants' pothole": a special cavity, located toward the lake, visible only when the lake level is low, formed through erosive action. All these elements testify to the work, always active, of our Earth.

A walk through history

Parco Golfo della Quassa in the past was a marshy area and for this reason not very cultivable. Quassa derives from ''guazzo'' meaning mud. Over the centuries, the entire territory has undergone several morphological and geological transformations as there have been Quaternary glaciations. Of notable importance is the Sasso Cavallaccio Regional Natural Monument, which was described at the time by the Italian geologist, paleontologist, patriot and presbyter Antonio Stoppani. He is one of the most important personalities in the history of geology and glaciology in Italy. He supported, strongly, the Risorgimento for the Unification of Italy and believed in a policy of reconciliation between church and state. In addition, he published scientific and popular texts. One popular scientific work of great interest was ''Il Bel Paese''(1876) which remained for a long time among the most popular educational books in Italy. From this reflection, it can be understood how the Parco Golfo della Quassa was noticed and studied even at that time for its environmental uniqueness. The area today is referred to as the Ranco widespread museum as it is characterized by an extensive area surrounded by greenery dotted with scenic, environmental, tourist, cultural and historical points. Walking along the Parco Golfo della Quassa bike and pedestrian path is like taking a trip through the local history of Lake Maggiore. Starting from Ranco, in fact, the path leads to the Ispra Love Walk where you can admire the famous kilns: direct evidence of lime production activity. In addition, several small churches can be encountered in the area of the park trail, signaling faith and Christianity near Lake Maggiore. Historical monuments such as the Villa Quassa Gate can also be seen. In general, today the park is characterized as an excellent destination for walking and cycling in the wonderful paths that weave over a very large area.

Flora and Fauna of the park

Parco Golfo della Quassa (Va) is home to a wide variety of flora and fauna.

The flora, typical of the Lake Maggiore area, is characterized in that connected to the San Quirico. It is found, for example, Scots pine, birch, late plum, oak, locust, ash, willow, aspen, and chestnut.

At the faunal level, mammals, amphibians, reptiles, birds, bony fish and cyclostomes are present.

Mammals are divided into:
  • insectivora (hedgehog, common shrew, dwarf shrew, water shrew, European mole).
  • chiroptera (dwarf bat, southern earwig).
  • carnivorous (common fox, marten, weasel).
  • rodentia (common squirrel, gray squirrel, dormouse, wild mouse, house mouse).
  • lagomorpha (European hare and wild rabbit).

Some of the most important amphibians are the spotted salamander, green frog, tree frog, common toad and agile frog.

Some of the most significant reptiles, on the other hand, include the green lizard, wall lizard, esculapian coluber and common viper.

Birds fall into numerous categories including
  • Podicipediformes (e.g. Great Crested Grebe)
  • Pelecaniformes (e.g. Cormorant)
  • Ciconiiformes (e.g. Little Egret)
  • Anseriformes (e.g. Royal Swan)
  • Accipitriformes (e.g. Buzzard)
  • Gruiformes (e.g. Hen Harrier)
  • Charadriiformes (e.g. Snipe)
  • Columbiformes (e.g. Wood Pigeon)
  • Strigiformes (e.g. Owl)
  • Apodiformes (e.g. Swift)
  • Coraciiformes (e.g. Kingfisher)
  • Piciformes (e.g. Green Woodpecker)
  • Passeriformes (e.g. Swallow, lark).

Later, bony fish such as eel, bleak, perch and pike are also encountered.

A significant aspect to note is the semi-natural status of the entire Quassa Gulf Park area. The term semi-natural indicates a wild species with an altered appearance such as a mowed meadow, hedgerow, or extensively exploited meadows. These semi-natural habitats represent sources of ecosystem performance because they can foster biodiversity. The latter is also derived from the various agricultural activities that take place near the park. The whole area is therefore considered a true cultural landscape asset to be safeguarded.

Recreational opportunities

Parco Golfo della Quassa is a perfect place to spend your free time and to indulge in moments of tranquility and recreation. There are numerous spots and vistas where one can relax in the shade of some plant or near some picturesque bench. Tourists, passersby, and sportsmen who walk through and visit the park stop in front of the banks of Lake Maggiore to fully enjoy the panoramic views that the whole area offers. Mainly, people like to walk through the park among the trees or take advantage of the bicycle path and choose to visit the park on their bicycles. In general, it is the bicycle and pedestrian paths that provide moments of peace in the immense greenery of the park. Natural sites are favored such as the Sassone, the Sulphur Fountain and the magnificent Sasso Cavallaccio. In addition, the Quassa Gulf Park is rich in historical and cultural elements such as the Gateway of Villa Quassa, the Villa Quassa, the Little Church of St. Quirico and the spiritual center of the Don Guanella House. Toward Ispra, the famous Castelbarco is also remembered. Near the park, there is a tourist service such as an info point, marina, Lake Maggiore Navigation service, bike and boat rental, and camping service. In addition to the various and wonderful sites to visit, mention should be made of the ease of access to the Parco Golfo della Quassa, in fact, it is an extensive area where both older and younger children can conduct fantastic experiences.

Conservation efforts

Parco Golfo della Quassa is not only an excellent green area but also a site rich in historical elements. The park area used to be marshy and called ''Quassa'' (from guazza meaning mud). Between the tip of Ranco and the tip of the Ispra Furnace, in fact, lies the Gulf of Quassa. It is the only extended stretch of coastline with northern exposure in the entire Lake Maggiore. This uniqueness has ensured that the entire area is protected with great effort. Obviously, over time this area has undergone and still undergoes great transformations at the morphological level. There have been numerous efforts throughout history to preserve this green lung. Due to its marshy nature, the gulf, over time, has been little exploitable and colonizable. In the postwar period, there was opposition from some landowners. They were fighting to prevent the passage of the provincial road that was being built close to the shores. Over the centuries, the marshes were almost completely drained. Nevertheless, anthropization reached other areas. In the 1970s, the last Varese nucleus of the European Marsh Tortoise (now extinct) was isolated at Quassa in a puddle. Currently, the Quassa area stands out for its rarity due to its undeveloped grassland expanses. It is a strip of pure lake to be protected. The goal of the administrations and municipalities (Ranco, Ispra and others) has been to identify a landscape, environmental, cultural, historical and tourist protection and conservation plan for the entire area. A comprehensive plan for the establishment of the Quassa Gulf Local Park of Supra-Municipal Interest was born in 2005. The mayor of Ranco and Ispra collaborated with architect De Cesare. The process ended with approval in the Province of Varese, Provincial Council Resolution No. 57 of 02/16/2010. The local park was considered as the best vehicle to start a protection project.


Parco Golfo della Quassa (VA) is a must-see destination for anyone who wants to spend moments of serenity and peace in nature and especially on the beautiful shores of Lake Maggiore. It is a park with a strong environmental, landscape, cultural, historical, tourist and sporting value. A combination of heterogeneous elements that allow the visitor an exceptional and unforgettable visit. It is an ideal place for all those who wish to escape from the hustle and bustle of daily life. Families, friends, engaged couples, seniors and children will find in this park a unique territory where they can conduct extraordinary experiences, surrounded by the many opportunities that are offered.

Frequently Asked Questions

What makes Parco Golfo della Quassa unique?
What makes Parco Golfo della Quassa unique is its 'immense size.
What historical sites can I see in the Parco Golfo della Quassa?
In the Parco Golfo della Quassa you can see natural historical sites such as Sasso Cavallaccio or artistic historical sites such as the Gateway of Villa Quassa.
What conservation efforts are underway at Parco Golfo della Quassa?
The conservation efforts that are underway at Parco Golfo della Quassa are identified in the overall grand plan for conservation and protection of the entire area.
How can I get to the Parco Golfo della Quassa?
The Parco Golfo della Quassa can be reached by car, bicycle, foot, and ferry.
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