Italy’s north is moulded by scenic diversity, linguistic wit and economic drive. We are, of course, talking about Lombardy, the nation’s leading economic region with its twelve provinces and the capital Milan. Ranging from alpine scenery bordering on Switzerland in the north to Italy’s most famous lakes to the fertile Po Valley in the south, a total area of 23,863 km² and nearly ten million inhabitants stand for charming variety and even have their own language variety, the Lombard language. There is so incredibly much to discover here. Where to start, you wonder? Best with the top 10 sights of Lombardy by ZAINOO!
Befittingly, we start our journey in the capital, home of the third-largest church in the world in terms of total area. The face of Gothic Milan Cathedral, also called Duomo di Santa Maria Nascente in Italian, with its baroque highlights alone is pretty moving. More than 2,000 sculptures made by Italian and foreign artists grace the walls. And what about the detailed glass windows, the glorious organ, the unreal view from the roof… you can’t help but rave just thinking about the glorious cathedral.
Villa del Balbianello at Lake Como
You might have already seen this picturesque location in a Star Wars or James Bond movie. In fact, Villa del Balbianello not only attracts tourists from all across the globe, but also filmmakers from Hollywood. And who could blame then? The house on the shore of Lake Como was built on the ruins of a Franciscan monastery, its two towers still standing to this day. Find classic Mediterranean flora in the garden and enjoy relaxing hours in the shade or the sun on one of the many benches.
The Last Supper in the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan
Italy’s is home to great minds and artists. Only few of them reached the level of the universal genius Leonardo da Vinci. Find one of his most famous works, a mural painting depicting a biblical scene from The Last Supper of Jesus, in Milan’s Dominican monastery Santa Maria delle Graze. This Renaissance milestone has become an ideal for contemporaries and successors. To this day this 4×9 m large painting with a perspective depth unmatched during this era has lost nothing of its charm.
In 2007 the then-team of the British automotive show “Top Gear” named the Stelvio Pass the “greatest driving road in the world” – and who wanting to retain the pristine glory of their teeth would dare to disagree with Jeremy Clarkson? Fantastic serpentines along the Passo dello Stelvio lead through the heart of the mountain massif. The divine mix of green meadows and craggy mountain giants fills you with wonder. Mountaineers love the surrounding summits. It hardly comes as a surprise that the Stelvio Pass is supposed to be added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites soon.
Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo
One of the most unusual yet beautiful basilicas is waiting for you in Bergamo. Santa Maria Maggiore was never finished – it’s missing, among other parts, the west face and the nave. However, the glorious porch is shining back at you from afar. This elaborate northern gate with its pillars and figurines once served as a place of judicature. The inside, which is shaped like a classic Greek cross, hints at eventful and artistic times with its tapestries, candelabra and frescoes.
Mantua’s historic city centre
Mantua is Italy’s Capital of Culture 2016, and with good reason. The picturesque historic city centre offers the perfect backdrop for a series of exciting events and exhibitions. Surrounded by Mincio River, you’ll find numerous palaces and churches mainly dating back to the rule of the powerful Gonzaga family. They reigned over Mantua from 1328 to 1708. Simply stand in the middle of Piazza Sordello in the heart of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and look around – how glorious the sight is! Cap off your day by going on a boat tour on Mincio River and enjoy La Dolce Vita.
Capitolium of Brixia and San Salvatore / Santa Giulia in Brescia
Another group of buildings that are part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site – due to their historic and architectural diversity ranging from (pre-)Roman times to the Renaissance – can be found in Brescia. The temple Capitolium once was the centre of the Roman city Brixia, today’s Brescia. It has since been turned into an archaeological complex that yielded many a fascinating discovery. San Salvatore or Santa Giulia was already established as a convent in 753. Several small churches and the museum lead you on the traces of century-old history.
Sirmione on Lake Garda
A particularly picturesque small town is waiting for you on the southern shore of Lake Garda. Sirmione is situated partially on a peninsula extending into the lake. It’s also located at a thermal spring. Mild climate, healing power, diverse vegetation – but there’s even more to this holiday dream-come-true! You can reach the Scaliger castle, an altered Roman fort, via a draw-bridge. The ruins of a Roman villa can be found a short way outside Sirmione. They are regarded as one of the most important archaeological excavation sites of Northern Italy. Relax a bit in the thermal bath of Catullus and recharge your batteries.
Tremosine sul Garda
We move on to the western shore of Lake Garda. Judging from its topography alone, Tremosine sul Garda is fairly unusual for a municipality located on the shore as most of its area is spread across a high plateau with its highest point, Monte Caplone, reaching an impressive altitude of 1,976 m. Stroll through the awe-inspiringly beautiful nature park Parco Alta Garda Bresciano between mountain ranges and valleys, and come across old chapels and churches. The view of the lake and the administrative centre in Pieve from the mountain tops is breathtakingly beautiful.
Hermitage of Santa Caterina del Sasso on Lago Maggiore
Let’s round this off and change scene to Lago Maggiore. The hermitage and pilgrimage monastery of Santa Caterina del Sasso was built on an escarpment directly at the lake. Once hardly accessible, it can now be reached via lake and land by steep stairs or a lift. The contorted architecture was adapted to the mountain and is an experience in its own right. You will discover numerous frescoes during your round tour. Despite suffering damage due to damp, they still look impressive. The centre of the church holds the coffin of the hermit Alberto, who is regarded as the founder of this site.
Round the lakes, across mountains and valleys, and through genuine cosmopolitan cities – hardly any other Italian region can match the rich variety of Lombardy. Get to know this special region and its numerous sights, and discover many other aspects of this fascinating country with the travel suggestions by ZAINOO!