Lombardy is a region located in northern Italy. It is bordered on the north by Switzerland, by the Emilia-Romagna on the south, Veneto to the east, and Piedmont to the west. One of Italy’s largest regions, Lombardy is home to cities like Bergamo, Brescia, Cremona, with its capital being Milan. Lombardy is home to a wide range of landscapes, including the breathtaking mountain chain that boasts the Valchiavenna, Valtellina and the Camonica Valley.
Situated on the flat plains of the Po Valley, Milan is Italy’s most cosmopolitan city, home to Europe’s two most powerful football teams and is at the epicentre of Italian fashion where international fashionistas, designers, supermodels and paparazzi descend upon the city twice a year for its spring and autumn fairs. This is certainly one of the best places in Italy to shop, or window-shop. Milan being the main industrial, commercial and financial centre of Italy, is as such, home to important financial institutions and company headquarters .
Most of Milan’s points of interest and attractions are located in the city centre. If you are arriving by train from Milano Centrale or Milano Porta Garibaldi, take the metro to reach the city centre. Get off at the Duomo metro station at the Piazza del Duomo. In front of you stands the Milan Cathedral also known as the Duomo di Milano. The Gothic masterpiece took nearly six centuries to complete and as of today stands as the 5th largest cathedral in the world. Just opposite the Milan Cathedral, is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, referred as Milan’s living room. Shopping is the Galleria’s main activity, and fashion flagships radiate out from the twin powerhouses of Prada and Gucci. You can continue your shopping spree in Milan’s fashion district located in Via Montenapoleone, Via della Spiga and Brera.
Afterwards, continue north to La Scala (Teatro alla Scala), a world-renowned opera house. Visit its La Scala Theatre Museum, which contains a collection of paintings, statues and costumes. Next go to the Castello Sforzesco and don’t miss a visit to the different museums within the complex. Continue to the western part of Milan to reach Santa Maria delle Grazie, a UNESCO World Heritage Site which contains the famous mural of the Last Supper painted by Leonardo da Vinci.
Milan > Bergamo
Bergamo is a city rich in art and history, located to the northeast of Milan (50 min trip). Have a pleasant walk in the morning and, since Bergamo is divided into two (the town on the plain and town on the hill), dedicate the first part to lower Bergamo.
Walk along the tree-lined avenue that starts at the station and head to Piazzetta Santo Spirito in the lower part of Via Pignolo, a very old street that leads to upper Bergamo. The atmosphere in the square is tranquil, and your eye will be drawn to the facade of an unfinished church. Inside, you will find the splendid altarpiece by Lorenzo Lotto.
Take the Via Tasso road from Piazza Santo Spirito to reach the city centre. The street is lined with majestic buildings and shops. The left-hand side is dominated by the Provincial Authority building and further ahead, by the former Town Hall, both built in the second half of the 19th century. The road ends at the Church of San Bartolomeo, which houses the Martinengo Altarpiece, another work of Lorenzo Lotto.
Lower down the road is one of Bergamo’s best known areas. It is known as the Sentierone. This spacious area is the place where Bergamo’s inhabitants like to meet for their traditional walk. The Donizetti Theatre (on the left) is one of the area’s most important buildings. Continue to Via Venti Settembre, Bergamo’s traditional shopping street, which starts after the columns of the Sentierone. The road leads to an open space, which on the left opens up onto the Piazza Pontida, once the heart of intense trading activities. After admiring the medieval Vicolo delle Torri and the Monastery of San Benedetto take the Via Botta, which leads into Viale Vittorio Emanuele. At the end of the road you will find the funicular railway station. Take the funicular to climb the hill and admire the continuously changing panoramic views. The hilltop, in Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe, is the perfect starting point to discover the old city.
At the crossroads between Via Lupo and Via San Lorenzo, is the Gombito Tower. Take a detour towards Piazza Mercato del Fieno, which is the site of the city’s History Museum. Afterwards, return to the Gombito Tower to visit the magical Piazza Vecchia, an extraordinary place, considered one of the most beautiful squares in Italy. In this 15th century square, your eye is immediately drawn to the Contarini Fountain in the centre. In a corner stands the Civic Tower, known also as the Campanone (large bell tower). After Piazza Vecchia, following the main road of Via Colleoni, you will come across the Teatro Sociale (Social Theatre) designed by Leopoldo Pollack; the Piazza Mascheroni with its Bell Tower; and the Citadel along with the Civic Archaeology Museum and the Natural Science Museum. This area leads to Colle Aperto, where public transport buses and coaches filled with visitors arrive. On your way back you will see the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore.
Bergamo > Brescia
Brescia is one of the few cities in northern Italy where important remains from the Roman period still surprise visitors (50 min trip from Bergamo). Start from Piazza della Loggia, Renaissance jewel in Venetian style, where ancient inscriptions and friezes were set into the facades of Monte Nuovo and Monte Vecchio palaces. From this square, take Via dei Musei, the former Roman main road, and visit the heart of the ancient city, the Forum, dominated by the Capitolium, the temple built by Emperor Vespasian in 73 AD. Look at the remains of the theatre to the east of the temple and then enter Palazzo Martinengo, where two archaeological sites of great beauty, the remains of private domus, a tavern and a spa, can be found.
Continuing along Via dei Musei, reach the Longobard monastery of Santa Giulia, founded by Desiderius, the last king of the Longobards, in the eighth century. It houses the Museum of the city, where more than 14,000 artefacts and works about Brescia history and art are on display in the buildings which compose the monumental complex: the domus dell’Ortaglia archaeological site, the Longobard church of San Salvatore, the Romanesque church of Santa Maria in Solario and the sixteenth-century nuns’ choir. This extraordinary site, along with the archaeological area of the Capitolium, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
From the monastery you can walk to the castle, an imposing medieval fortress with breathtaking views over the city, and then reach Piazza Paolo VI, where you can enjoy a glass of excellent Franciacorta wine, comfortably sitting opposite the beautiful stone facades of the cathedral.
Brescia > Cremona
Cremona (1h trip from Brescia), is the ideal place for a cultural excursion that will lead you to the discovery of a rich and prestigious heritage of monuments, history and traditions that are thousands of years old, artistic craftsmanship which are famous all over the world, and a gastronomy with dishes of old and tasty peasant recipes. The great economic wealth of the old medieval commune has left incomparable testimonies in the historic centre, parrticularly in the imposing Piazza del Comune which is surrrounded by great monuments forming a rare evocative vision, and make this Piazza one of the most harmonious medieval complexes in Italy.
The musical past of Cremona and its art of violin making have left many attestations, such as those relating to Antonio Stradivari’s life. Discover his house and, not far from Piazza Roma, a modern statue in his commemoration. Don’t foget a visit to the Stradivarian Museum.