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Last updated : Nov 2009
Lombardy
Lombardy - TravelPuppy.com
A prosperous region with very fertile soil, a temperate climate and, for the tourist, the spectacular lakes of Como, Garda, Maggiore (shared with Lombardy) and Lugano. In Lombardy, the Po Valley is the site of much heavy industry. High mountains in the north, marking Italy’s frontier with Switzerland, provide some excellent skiing and climbing. Lombardy’s most famous culinary inventions are minestrone soup and osso buco and translates literally to ox knuckles.

Milan

Italy’s most sophisticated city, Milan (Milano) is a financial and commercial centre of world importance and a rival to Paris in the spheres of fashion and modern art.

Its international character is marked by a concentration of skyscrapers found nowhere else in Italy, contrasting and competing with the landmarks of Milan, but built in the same boastful spirit of civic pride that, 500 years ago, gave the city its splendid Gothic Duomo (Cathedral). Even today, this is one of the world’s largest churches, and despite its size, it creates an impression of delicate and ethereal beauty due to its pale colour and the fine intricate carving that covers its exterior. The whole fabric of the city with its many palaces, piazzas and churches, speaks of centuries of continuous prosperity. The Castello Sforzesco, located in the west of the city, is a massive fortified castle, which now houses a number of museums. The Pinacoteca di Brera displays some of the city’s most valuable artistic treasures, while the Museo Poldi-Pezzoli houses a private collection of paintings, ancient jewellery and Persian carpets. Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, The Last Supper, may be seen at the convent of Santa Maria della Grazie. The Teatro della Scala (Scala Theatre) remains the undisputed world capital of opera and is well worth viewing for its magnificent opulence.

Pavia

South of Milan, the town of Pavia is home to several interesting churches and the 14th-century Castello, housing an art gallery, archaeology museum and sculpture museum.

The Certosa di Pavia, 10km (6 miles) outside of town, is a monastery famous for its beautiful design. Originating as the family mausoleum of the Visconti family, it later became the dwelling of a Carthusian order of monks sworn to deep contemplation and silence. However there are a chosen few who are allowed to give visitors a guided tour and tell the story behind their palatial surroundings.

Cremona

Cremona is the birthplace of the Stradivarius violin and is a charming haven of historic architecture. A walk around the Medieval Piazza del Comune offers various architectural treats including, the Torazzo, one of Italy’s tallest Medieval towers, the Cathedral, with its magnificent astronomical clock, and the Loggia dei Militia, the former headquarters of the town’s Medieval army. There are also two interesting museums, the Museo Stradivariano, housing a wealth of Stradivarius musical instruments, and the Museo Civico, displaying mosaics and relics from the Romanesque period.

Mantua

Mantua (Mantova) is the birthplace of a number of renowned Italians, ranging from Virgil, a statue of whom overlooks the square facing the Broletto in the Medieval town hal, to Tazio Nuvolari, one of Italy’s most famous racing drivers.

The churches, Sant’Andrea (designed by Alberti and the burial place of Mantua’s famous court painter, Mantegna) and the Baroque Cathedral in the Piazza Sordello are both important works of architecture. However, the most famous sites of Mantua are its two palaces, the Palazzo Ducale and the Palazzo del Te.

The Palazzo Ducale, once the largest in Europe, was the home of the Gonzaga family, and has a number of impressive paintings by artists including Mantegna and Rubens. The Palazzo del Te was built as a Renaissance pleasure palace for Frederico Gonzaga (known as a playboy) and his mistress, Isabella. The decorations by Giulio Romano are outstanding and well worth a look.

Bergamo

Located at the foot of the Bergamese Alps, Bergamo is made up of two cities, the old and once Venetian-ruled Upper Bergamo (Bergamo Alta) and the modern Lower Bergamo (Bergamo Bassa).

The old city is well appreciated for its ancient Venetian fortifications, palaces, churches and towers, including the 12th-century Palazzo della Ragione, the Torre del Comune, the Cathedral, the Colleoni Chapel and the Church of Santa Maria Maggiore. The modern city’s main attraction is the Accademia Carrara, one of Italy’s largest art collections, with paintings by Bellini, Botticelli, Canaletto, Carpaccio, Lotto and Mantegna, amongst others. The cities are connected by a funicular railway.

The Lakes

The great northern lakes lie in a series of long and deep valleys running down onto the plains from the Alps.

Lake Como is perhaps the most attractive, Lake Maggiore the most elegant (and populous) and Lake Garda the wildest and most spectacular. On the south shore of Lake Garda lies the peninsula of Sirmione, renowned for its mild, Mediterranean climate, its beautiful countryside and the Caves of Catullo, an archaeological site of a former Roman villa situated on the tip of the peninsula. The Sirmione Spa, the largest privately owned thermal treatment centre in Italy, whose sulphurous waters originate from the depths of Lake Garda, has long been one of Sirmione’s main attractions.