Lombardia (Lombardy)

Bellagio in LombardiaBordering Switzerland at its northern end, Lombardia is one of the biggest regions of Italy and by far the most heavily populated. Prosperity and a good standard of living have attracted many migrants into Lombardy from the south of Italy, as well as all over Europe and beyond. This puts a strain on the housing market and makes for some pretty dreadful traffic jams in the big conurbations, but don't be put off! Lombardia has a huge amount to offer.

 

In terms of history and culture, the cities and towns of Lombardy provide an absolute feast. You've also got great shopping in Milan, world-famous racing-driving in Monza, easy access to the mountains and a choice of fabulous lakes.

 

What to see and do in Lombardia

Enjoy the mountains

If you're staying in Lombardia, you're well placed for many of the best Italian ski resorts, so this can be great for days out in the winter.

 

For walking and communing with nature, the Stelvio National Park, straddling Lombardia and Trentino-Alto Adige, is a wonderful area to explore.

 

If you're a semi-serious hiker, I recommend you check out the mountains at Mandello del Lario, on Lake Como. When I lived in Milan, I quite often used to take a picnic and catch a train up there for a day's walking, and it was lovely.

 

Enjoy the lakes

Lombardia is famous for its abundance of beautiful lakes:

 

 

 

 

Explore Milano

As I've already mentioned, I lived in Milano for a couple of years and I loved it. I found it an intelligent, dynamic, high-achieving city with a great deal of cultural activity and a huge mixture of interesting people. Although Rome is officially the nation's capital, as Washington DC is of the USA, Milano is the equivalent of New York.

 

Some of the highlights of Milano are:

 

 

Leonardo da Vinci worked in Milano for many years, in the late 15th century, and left a lasting legacy in the Castello, the Duomo and the navigli, as well as his art. You can find out more on these two websites:

Leonardo da Vinci in Milan (in English)

Leonardo a Milano (in Italian but Google will translate it for you, if necessary)

 

Explore the other cities and towns

There are many other cities and towns in Lombardia that are worth visiting. They include:

 

 

 

 

Eating and drinking in Lombardia

The cuisine varies to some extent around the region but you'll generally find a lot of pasta on the menu, as well as risotto. Risotto alla milanese, with saffron, is of course a speciality of Milano - and very good it is too. As are scaloppine alla milanese, veal escalopes similar to Wienerschnitzel.

 

Some marvellous cheeses are made in Lombardia, including Gorgonzola, Taleggio and Grana Padano.

 

A lot of good wine is produced in Lombardia too, especially in the area known as the Oltrepò Pavese, part of the Po Valley that once belonged to Piemonte, and along the border with Veneto.

 

If you're in Milano and you feel like consuming a very large and fabulous pizza in a cheap-and-cheerful location, get down to Pizzeria King (via Ascanio Sforza 73, in the Navigli area). I have many happy memories of that place!

 

Recommended reading (and drama) from Lombardia

Alessandro Manzoni

Alessandro Manzoni is one of Italy's classic writers. His great masterpiece is I Promessi Sposi (The Betrothed). Written in the nineteenth century, the novel is set in the late 1620s, during the Spanish occupation of Lombardia. It's an involving story and, although it's long, it's surprisingly easy to read. I much enjoyed it even at school, aged 16. This is a book practically every Italian has read and I definitely recommend it.

 

Dario Fo

The playwright Dario Fo won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1997. While I wouldn't particularly suggest you read his work (unless you enjoy reading plays), I do recommend you see it at the theatre. If you speak Italian and can therefore do this in Italy, I think you'll really enjoy it. If you don't speak Italian, many of Fo's plays have been translated into English. Among the most famous are Can't Pay? Won't Pay! and Accidental Death of an Anarchist.

 

Io Sono l'Amore

Set in Milan in the early 21st century, the film Io Sono l'Amore (I Am Love) tells the story of a Russian-born woman (played by British actress Tilda Swinton) who marries an Italian industrialist and shares his life of privilege, until one day her head is turned by her son's friend. Love is depicted in its many forms, while Milano and the Italian countryside represent respectively wealthy, glamorous (slightly false) everyday life and rural, down-to-earth freedom.

 

For more information about Lombardia...

Buy a guide book for travelling around Lombardia.

 

Check out these websites:

Lombardia Region Tourist Portal

Welcome to Milano

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