Spreading south from the Swiss border, Lombardy boasts enchanting landscapes that include the lakes of Iseo, Maggiore, Garda, and Como, plus high altitude ski resorts like Livigno. It’s home to rich, historic cities, including Milan and Mantua, one of the key cities of the Italian Renaissance. It’s also a fabulous region for wine enthusiasts and foodies, with diverse cultures and mouthwatering traditional cuisine, while delicious wines primarily include sparkling wines along with reds from Nebbiolo grapes and rosé wines, produced from grapes grown around Lake Garda.
The lakes make it ideal for a family getaway that can include boat tours and summer swimming in the crystal-clear sapphire waters, while the mountains are ideal for hikers. The best places to stay are just as varied with the optimal destinations depending on your interests with everything from luxury boutique hotels in Milan to lakeside retreats in Como and traditional ski chalets in Livigno.
As the capital of Lombardy and Italy’s second-largest city, you’ll find the widest range of city attractions and sights in Milan. Piazzo Duomo sits at its heart, spread out in concentric circles, with museums, art galleries, and the fashion district of via Montenapoleone. The square is dominated by the Duomo (Milan Cathedral) and you’ll find the huge baroque-style Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II with flagship stores for Prada and Bulgari along with many other shops and restaurants.
For more big fashion designer names, head to the prestigious shopping streets of Corso Venezi, Via della Spiga, Via Manzoni, and Via Montenapoleone. You’ll find lots of art too, including famous street art in the neighborhood of Isola, and modern art at Civica Galleria d’Arte Moderna. Navigli is renowned for its nightlife, with Naviglio Grande lovely for a stroll while admiring the reflections of the illuminated city. Afterward, enjoy theaters, trendy clubs, or hip cocktail bars.
Como is the main town on Lake Como, the most famous of northern Italy’s lakes, covering over 56 square miles. It sits at its southwestern end along the border of Switzerland and boasts a charming Old Town with picturesque squares where the locals come to chat and dine. There are many outstanding eateries, upscale shops, lively bars, and some historic sites like the 10th – century Basilica di San Fedele. It’s the perfect place to enjoy glamour and stunning natural beauty, with many boat tours of the lake starting from here.
Well-known residents in this area include everyone from the Clooneys to Richard Branson while the cobalt waters of the lake are hemmed in by the snow-dusted Italian Alps. Desenzano del Garda is another great option for a lake getaway – it’s the largest town on Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake, and boasts a picturesque promenade, beaches, and enticing narrow streets lined with trattorias and boutiques.
Livigno is in the heart of the Alps right next to the ski slopes. When the snow has melted, it’s a hiker’s paradise with over 932 miles of trails. There are numerous hikes winding to high mountain peaks, including options for guided walks with everything from short treks to multi-day routes. The ski lifts can be used in the summer to quickly reach high altitudes and enjoy panoramic views overlooking the town and beyond. The ski boom in the 1960s is what really put Livigno on the map.
Today, there are 32 lifts, six gondolas, and more than 71 miles of slopes for everyone from beginners to the advanced, who can also enjoy heli-skiing. No matter what the season, you’ll find some fabulous spa hotels and opportunities for fine dining, that make it worth sticking around a while. Shopping is renowned here too, with over 250 duty-free retail stores.
Brescia is nestled in the foothills of the Alps, lying next to Franciacorta, one of the most famous wine-producing areas in Italy. Just 30 minutes away you’ll find local vineyards with lots of interesting stories and winemakers who are very passionate about their wine, including Selva Capuzza, run by the Formentini family who are dedicated to producing wine from traditional and indigenous grape varieties and will happily share their techniques and philosophies.
There are tours available from Brescia that will take wine lovers who are passionate about sparkling wines to explore it so you can relax and let someone else do the driving. They typically include visits to two wineries with different styles of production. The town itself is like taking a journey through Italian history with everything from impressive Roman ruins to the Venetian Renaissance Palazzo della Loggia and Piazza Paolo VI, with romantic medieval and baroque buildings that overlook it.
Brescia is also a great base for history enthusiasts with a history dating back more than 3,200 years, complete with the best Roman ruins in Italy’s northern region. It offers sun-soaked squares surrounded by imposing, centuries-old churches and other buildings, along with a magnificent castle. The huge castle sits on Cidneo Hill providing unparalleled views of Brescia and beyond while housing a number of museums and exhibits. It also hosts historical reenactments and festivals.
You’ll find some avant-garde structures too, including the first skyscraper built in Italy, Torrione, which was constructed in the early 1930s. The stunning city of Bergamo is tucked against the southern foothills of the Bergamo Alps, laid out in tiers, with its upper, older district, Citta Alta, characterized by cobbled streets and encircled by Venetian walls. Accessed by funicular, it has a beautiful Duomo and is home to the majestic Cappella Colleoni, a chapel with 18 th -century frescoes.
Romance-seekers often consider Lake Como which tends to get all the glory, but the town of Iseo along the shores of picturesque Lake Iseo is less crowded, more tranquil, and much more romantic. It sits along the southern shore and offers a spectacular view of Monte Isola, the largest lake island in Italy, and with few tourists around, you’ll have medieval castles, Romanesque churches, and lovely piazzas all to yourself. Another good option sits at the tip of a peninsula along the southern shore of Lake Garda.
The village of Sirmione is visually magnificent and it boasts grand villas that were once home to the lakes of Latin poet Catullus and opera singer Maria Callas, along with 13 th -century castles and fresco-filled churches. It’s particularly glorious in the spring when you can soak in the natural hot springs and take
advantage of the beaches with golden sands with few, if any, others around.
If you want to do lots of shopping, explore culture, art, history, and a wide range of other attractions, Milan is your ideal base. There’s something for everyone, and with a wealth of both traditional and modern eateries, you’ll find plenty of ways to feed your appetite too. There are so many places of interest. you could easily spend over a week here and not see it all, with the Duomo a top attraction, located in the liveliest part of the city, Piazza del Duomo. Construction began in 1386 and it wasn’t completed until 1813.
It’s also possible to climb to the rooftop and gaze out over Milan while getting close to the central spire with its gilded Madonnina. The best place in the city to stay for most visitors is here in the historical heart where you’ll be steps from iconic landmarks, art galleries, museums, and the fashion district of via Montenapoleone.
Como is the gateway to Lake Como, the lake’s largest city. It’s ideal if you want a lakeside getaway without the need for a car as it’s well connected to the rest of Italy via a high-speed railway line and it’s easy to get here by bus as well. There are many choices when it comes to tours, including boat tours and cruises on the lake, and you can easily hop on a ferry to explore other towns along the water too.
You’ll have convenient access to the Como-Brunate funicular that brings visitors to the town of Brunate which offers breathtaking views over the lake, the Italian Alps, and Como. The main square serves as the heart of the action and is home to Saint Mary Assunta Cathedral, built between the 14th and 18th centuries. You’ll find a wide range of cafes and restaurants here along with everything from boutique hotels to self-catering apartments.
Brescia was named a cultural capital of Italy, along with Bergamo. It’s the region’s second most populous city after Milan and boasts an immaculate historical center that spans everything from Roman ruins and Renaissance squares to medieval buildings, along with remnants of Italy’s Fascist period. All can be found in its four main squares. Piazza del Foro is home to the UNESCO-listed 1 st century B.C. Roman Forum archaeological complex with ancient frescoes, burial places, and temples.
But there’s another reason to stay here beyond the history – Brescia provides an ideal base for wine enthusiasts with many local vineyards that can be explored in the surrounding area as it’s located next to one of Italy’s most renowned wine-producing areas, Franciacorta. Visitors can enjoy the city’s own version of casoncelli, a type of stuffed pasta, in nearly every restaurant, while accommodation ranges from aparthotels and villas to boutique hotels and guesthouses.
Bergamo isn’t far from Brescia, just 33 miles away, so visitors can easily stay in one and visitthe other on a day trip, but if you want more of a tourist town, choose Bergamo. It’s a beautiful city nestled against the southern foothills of the Bergamo Alps, with its older neighborhood, the Upper Town, or Citta Alta, featuring cobblestone streets that are enclosed by Venetian walls, providing an especially enchanting atmosphere. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, complete with Roman ruins and the monastery of San Salvatore-Santa Giulia, it’s reached by funicular. You’ll also find a magnificent Duomo and the Cappella Colleoni chapel which displays 18 th -century frescoes. Citta Alta is one of the best places to stay in Bergamo if you want to soak up the historic atmosphere and you can easily reach the modern part of the town, Citta Bassa at the bottom of the hill via the funicular.
Livigno is a ski resort town and one of the best places to stay for those visiting in the winter who want to ski or enjoy other snow sports, as well as avid hikers coming during the warmer months of the year. It sits next to the town’s over 71 miles of ski slopes and offers 32 lifts and a half-dozen gondolas, providing options for everyone from beginners to the advanced. When the snow is melted, the lifts allow visitors to easily reach higher altitudes and enjoy spectacular panoramic views. There are more than 930 miles of trails to hike, with options for short but sweet routes to multiday adventures. Thanks to the ski boom of the 1960s, a wealth of facilities await visitors, including spa hotels and some of the region’s best duty-free shopping with over 250 duty-free retail stores, including everything from sport to souvenirs and high-end fashion.
The town of Iseo is a tranquil gem that sits along Lake Iseo, providing an excellent alternative to the more well-known towns around popular lakes such as Como and Garda. It’s sandwiched between the two at the foothills of the Alps and is most bypassed by summer tourists on their way to places like Varenna and Bellagio. It’s much less crowded and has a romantic air, sitting along the lake’s southern shore. Visitors can enjoy fabulous views of Italy’s largest lake island, lush Monte Isola, as well as some magnificent architecture and historical sights like Piazza Garibaldi, the main square, home to the statue of Garibaldi. The 12th-century Castle Iseo is well worth of visit and there are Romanesque churches to marvel at too. While Iseo is more serene than many of the other lake towns, it offers the highest concentration of restaurants, bars, and hotels on Lake Iseo.
If you want to be on Lake Garda and enjoy a more tranquil setting, consider Sirmeone which sits at the tip of a peninsula along its southern shore. This lesser-known village is strikingly beautiful while offering something for everyone, including beaches with golden sands for sunbathing, lakeside trails to walk, and thermal baths to soak in. If you’re into history and culture, you can check out Roman ruins, the Scaligero Castle, and some grand villas once home to Latin poet Catullus and opera singer Maria. There’s a wide range of shopping and dining venues, including Michelin-starred fine dining and lakeside eateries.
When it comes to accommodation, it offers it all, with hotels and apartment rentals. Some are honeymoon-worthy, including five-star villa hotels in the historical center. Plus, there are many day trips easily available. You might visit Bergamo or hop on the ferry to explore towns like Lazise, Bardolino, and Salo.
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