Lombardy is situated in the northwest of Italy and is one of the peninsula's few landlocked regions. Because the Lombardy region is 47% plain and 40% mountainous, it combines a variety of landscapes in a relatively small area: the Alps, the source of a multitude of rivers and lakes, the soft rolling hills, and the vast plain of the Po, Italy's longest river. In addition, the area contains the Ticino, Oglio, Adda and Mincio rivers, the three largest lakes in Italy, Maggiore, Como and Garda (shared with the Veneto and Trentino Alto Adige, the Iseo and Idro lakes, as well as the upland oases of the myriad Alpine lakes.
ITS FOOD & DRINK
There are innumerable local dishes to accompany a land so rich with history, literature and art: cotoletta (breaded veal escalope), risotto alla milanese (made with saffron), panettone (a cake typically eaten at Christmas), amaretti di Saronno (local liqueurs), and cheeses such as mascarpone, gorgonzola, quartirolo and taleggio in sum, a variety of tastes and traditions mixed with the flavours of the north. The cuisine of Lombardy has absorbed and elaborated on the traditions brought by the ancient invaders from the Celts and Longobards to the French and Austrians. Typical dishes include soups, polenta and stews. Don't miss the huge variety of risottos, alla pitocca with chicken, alla certosina with freshwater shrimp, and alla zafferano with saffron, nor the soups made with turnip, barley and wild herbs. There are also filled pasta and rich game dishes of duck, pigeon and hare. Tasty freshwater fish include eel, bleak, tench and pike. Lombardy is also famous for its sausage meat dishes such as cotechino from Cremona, salamelle (sausage rolled in bacon), salamis and cheeses.
Finally the region can also boast a long list of sweet dishes: sbrisolona di Mantova (a typical cake), torrone from Cremona (nougat), torta paradiso from Pavia (paradise cake, a type of sponge), the 'brutti e buoni' from Varese ('ugly and handsome' ╦ a sort of almond biscuit), and ultimately the ubiquitous panettone from Milan.
Lombardy is famous for possessing the largest area covered by lakes, including Lake Maggiore and the beautiful Boromee Islands; Lake Como, which bathes the cities of Como and Lecco; Lake Garda, which includes the spa town of Sirmione; Lake Iseo and the Franciacorta area, famed for its wines.
Lombardy is also a land of parks, and vast natural and cultural heritage. The Stelvio National Park, which covers an area of approx. 60,000 hectares in Lombardy, offers splendid natural landscapes dotted with ancient villages and masi (wooden and stone habitations) both in the valley floor and clinging to the mountain side, potent symbols of the balance between human settlement and nature. Lombardy has a large number of regional parks protecting rivers, mountains, forests and agricultural land, each with its own unique characteristics. Visitors to the Adda Nord Park can admire the landscapes painted by Leonardo, and Campo dei Fiori near Varese is home to a Sacred Mountain complex and the Capelle dei Misteri del Rosario. The Adamello and Orobie Parks also offer spectacular itineraries.
The cities of Lombardy offer a wealth of art the unmistakeable style of each one preserving its own distinct character. Milan, the capital of Lombardy, is a city of a thousand faces and has been called the 'City of the Madonna'. The ideal destination for lovers of top-class shopping, Milan lies at the foot of the Alps in the centre of northern Italy. It is the home of the Stock Exchange, finance and prestigious universities, and also boasts a rich artistic heritage. There are numerous churches, piazzas, buildings and museums to visit. Not to be missed is the 'Last Supper' by Leonardo, housed in the refectory of the Dominican monastery of Santa Maria delle Grazie.
The smaller Lombard towns are also rich in art works. For instance, the Piazza Vecchia in Bergamo dating back to the mid 15th century is well worth a visit. As is the town of Como, famous for its picturesque lake, landscapes and historic villas.
The Monastery of San Salvatore in Brescia is considered to be among the finest examples of High-Mediaeval architecture in northern Italy. Cremona is famed for its torrone (a type of nougat) and violins, and houses the Church of San Gismondo, which symbolises the evolution of the Renaissance in the city. City life in Mantua is centred largely on Piazza delle Erbe, surrounded by old merchantsÉ houses, Palazzo della Ragione and the Torre dellÉOrologio clock tower, the Rotonda di San Lorenzo and the dome of SantÉAndrea. In the mediaeval town of Lodi, the Tempio dellÉIncoronata, built in 1488 to a design by G.B. Battagio, is well worth a look. Visitors to Pavia, city of the 'hundred towers', great basilicas, churches and monasteries, can admire the towers in Piazza Leonardo da Vinci. Then there is Sondrio, the land of 500 churches and antique borghi (town districts), situated in the middle of the Valtellina and surrounded by an excellent wine producing area; Varese, the garden provence, and its historic centre, noble villas and castellanze (smaller towns); and finally Lecco, a town of austere, largely nineteenth century appearance set against a bewitching mountainous backdrop.
There is more to the region than provincial capitals, however ╦ there are many artistic cities to be visited. Monza is recommended for its beautifully preserved historic centre and imposing Royal Palace, as well as the splendid park which houses the famous formula 1 track. Lombardy also has a huge range of ski resorts to choose from, such as Livigno and Medesimo in Valsassina and Valtellina, to name but a few.
There are also a number of spa towns aside from Sermione, Salice Terme in the province of Pavia preserves many example of Artnouveau architecture, Boario Terme is not far from lake Iseo, and Trescore Balneare is located in the province of Bergamo.