Lombardy, or Lombardia in Italian, is a large region in northern Italy where you'll find the metropolis of Milan, beautiful Renaissance cities like Pavia and Mantua, and the popular lakes district that includes Lakes Como and Iseo and parts of Lakes Maggiore and Garda as well as beautiful mountains and valleys, one of which has a fantastic collection of prehistoric rock art sites.
Milan's Malpensa Airport is one of Italy's major international airports so visitors arriving directly from the United States often land there. The smaller Linate Airport serves mainly flights arriving from other Italian and European cities.
Continue reading to see Lombardy's top cities or lakes and valleys to visit.
Milan and Lombardy's Cities and Towns
From fashion giant Milan to the beautiful Renaissance city of Mantova, Lombardy has a lot to offer the tourist in a relatively small area. These are the top cities to visit in Lombardy:
Milan, Milano in Italian, is one of Italy's top cities to visit and also one of the most fashionable. Milan is a fast-paced city with a thriving cultural scene and is a great city for shopping. It also holds its share of artistic and historical sites, including the largest Gothic cathedral in the world and the famous Last Supper painting. Read more about Milan:
Brescia is the second largest city in the Lombardy region but is often overlooked by tourists. Brescia has Roman remains, a castle, Renaissance squares, and an interesting medieval city center. The Santa Giulia City Museum is one of Italy's best small museums, and the annual Mille Miglia car race starts and finishes in Brescia.
Mantova, or Mantua, is a beautiful, historic city surrounded on three sides by lakes. Mantova was one of the greatest Renaissance Courts in Europe and its Renaissance architecture makes it part of the UNESCO Quadrilateral, a district of historic cities in northeastern Italy with World Heritage status. The historic Ducal Palace is like a miniature town with more than 500 rooms, some with beautiful frescoes. Palazzo Te is also known for its frescoes, including some erotic frescoes.
Cremona is home to the famous handmade Stradivarius violins and there's a museum of violins. Cremona's compact historic center is picturesque and easy to visit on foot and the tall cathedral bell tower houses the world's largest astronomical clock.
Pavia is a university city on the bank of the Ticino River with Romanesque and medieval architecture and a good historic center. Outside the city is the famous monastery, the Certosa di Pavia, which can be reached by bus.
Bergamo has two parts. The old city, Bergamo Alta, sits on a hill above Bergamo Bassa, the modern city. Bergamo Alta is a medieval walled hill town with old squares, beautiful monuments and buildings, and great views. There's also a small airport near Bergamo, used by some of the European budget airlines.
Lakes and Valleys of Lombardy
Lake Como is Italy's most popular lake. The lake is ringed by beautiful villas and romantic resort villages. Lake Como offers water sports, hiking, and nearby winter sports. See also Lake Como Map and Where to Stay on Lake Como.
Lake Maggiore stretches clear into Switzerland and offers year-round activities. The lake is popular with tourists and with Milanese who comes to Lago Maggiore on the weekends.
Lago d'Iseo is a smaller and less crowded lake and offers water sports, a nature reserve, and relaxation. Nearby are the unusual pyramids of earth, a rare natural phenomenon.
Lake Garda, Lago di Garda, is Italy's largest lake and while the western part is in Lombardy, parts of the lake are in 2 other regions (see Lake Garda Map). The northern part of the lake is especially scenic. Nearby is Gardaland, a big amusement park.
Valleys of Lombardy
Lombardy has two beautiful valleys in the north of the region that offer great opportunities for hiking.
Val Camonica, the area north of Lago d'Iseo from Breno to Edolo, is known for its many prehistoric rock art sites, making it one of the world's best collections of prehistoric petroglyphs. The rock art of Val Camonica was Italy's first UNESCO World Heritage Site. Val Camonica also has some small medieval villages and castles and great hiking trails. A regional train runs up the valley from Brescia.
Valtellina is the northern part of Lombardy, stretching from Edolo to the western border of Lombardy through Sondrio. The Valtellina offers skiing and both summer and winters mountain sports.