Lombardy is the glitz and glamour of Italy – a combination of the fashion-forward Milanesi and the luxury lakeside villas of Como, sprinkled with a bit of countryside charm.
Being Italy’s most modern and industrialized region and an area of diverse topographical landscapes, Lombardy boasts many things to do for both the laidback and adventurous female traveler.
This is the only guide you’ll ever need to Lombardy to have a perfect trip!
Arriving In Lombardy
Lombardy has two major airports and several smaller airports so that you can be flexible with flight bookings. Milan Malpensa (MXP) is the largest airport, while Milan Linate (LIN) is the other main airport.
Both airports are similar and easily accessible on the outskirts of Milan.
Secret Tip: If you’re flying on a budget and from within Europe, Orio al Serio Airport in Bergamo is a hub for RyanAir flights! Consider flying into Bergamo for your cheapest option of arriving in Lombardy.
You can also take a train or drive to enter Lombardy, as it borders Switzerland to the north.
Transportation In Lombardy
The easiest way to travel and explore Lombardy is by renting a car. It will offer you the most flexibility to get around the region!
Luckily, Lombardy is well-connected by regional trains. You can pretty much get anywhere your heart desires by train, even in the remote towns of the Alps like Tirano.
Lombardy is a mid-range to an expensive area of Italy to visit. Notable places like Milan and Lake Como are more expensive than less notable areas like Bergamo and Lake Iseo.
Almost everywhere will take credit cards in Lombardy. As it’s the most industrious region of Italy, it’s hard to be somewhere that is so rural that they take only cash.
Lombardy boasts a huge range of types and prices of stays, from traditional agriturismo (farm stays) to villas to luxury hotels, so you can really customize your trip to your budget.
Food In Lombardy
You’ll find many places to eat pizza and pasta in Lombardy, but the regional cuisine of the north is actually quite different from what stereotypes exist about Italian food.
Polenta, risotto, stews, and meat are more commonly eaten here than in the Mediterranean south. The robust diet of Lombardy’s inhabitants is a reflection of their climate and geography.
Some of the dishes you should definitely try are:
- Risotto alla Milanese
- Casoncelli alla Bergamasca
- Any kind of Polenta (with Fontina or Asiago Cheese is delish!)
- Cotoletto alla Milanese
City Breaks In Lombardy
Lombardy is the economic powerhouse of Italy. Industry and modernization are more common in this region than in any other.
You’ll still find traditional small towns and historic city centers, but you’ll also get to see how Italy is blending its rich cultural traditions while innovating for the future.
From mountains to lakes to world-renowned cityscapes, Lombardy offers unique experiences everywhere you turn. There’s no better place to start a guide to Lombardy than the heart of the region, Milan.
Milan is the second-biggest city in all of Italy and one of the most famous in the world for its fashionable, fast-paced lifestyle.
The allure and grandeur of Milan live up to expectation and potentially even exceed it as you climb up the Metro steps into Piazza Duomo.
Emerging into view is the centerpiece of the city, a behemoth of white stone that you can barely fit into one glance.
To the left of the Duomo is the breathtaking Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a shopping gallery glittered in blinding gold tiles.
Climb up the steps at the front of the Galleria to Terrazza Aperol to have aperitivo with a unique perspective of the Duomo.
Visit Milan’s modern sector to see an un-Italian kind of site – skyscrapers. Milan is known for its being the financial capital of Italy.
The Borgo Verticale are stunning modern apartment buildings now famous for the vertical plants growing off the entire structure.
My favorite off-the-beaten-path spot that the Milanesi have kept a secret from tourists is the neighborhood of Navigli. It’s an eclectic, young, and lively neighborhood connected by canals.
Here are some of the best hole-in-the-wall restaurants and bars, including Taglio and Le Striatelle di Nonna Mafalda.
I believe anyone visiting Lombardy should see Milan once. However, you don’t need more than one day of your jam-packed Italy itinerary dedicated to this city!
There is so much more to experience in Lombardy, which is exactly what I’m shining the light on.
A highlight of Lombardy is its second-largest city, 40 minutes from Milan, the perfect distance for a day trip.
Bergamo is a hidden gem in Lombardy. When compared to Milan or Lake Como, Bergamo is barely touched by tourism.
However, I don’t expect it to last for long since the city has so much to offer!
Bergamo is a unique city made up of two main areas – Città Alta and Città Bassa.
Città Alta, the upper town, is situated on a hill fortified by 16th-century Venetian walls. These walls preserve this city’s history, dating back to the middle ages.
Città Alta is a fairytale hilltop of cobblestone streets, ornate cathedrals, and stunning views over the countryside.
The easiest way to reach Città Alta is to take the cable car, or Funicular, from Città Bassa. It only costs 1-2 euros.
You can even take a second funicular from Città Alta up to the highest spot on the hill at Castello San Vigilio. An old military fort, the Castello San Vigilio is the perfect place to walk around for an afternoon stroll or even have your own picnic.
For a change of pace, visit Città Bassa, where you can shop on the main promenade of Via XX Settembre, or enjoy a cocktail at Roof Garden Restaurant with a view of Città Alta.
Italy’s Lake Region
Many know Lombardy for modern Milan, but more are beginning to know it for its luxe lake retreats. Lombardy is Italy’s lake region, with several of its biggest lakes located within it, Lago Maggiore and Lago di Garda.
You can’t go to Lombardy without experiencing this side of its landscape. Each lake has incredible views and picturesque towns to boast, so you can’t go wrong in choosing (choose them all if you can!)
Ever since the Internet found out about where George Clooney vacations, Lake Como has become one of Italy’s most popular destinations for a good reason.
Lake Como is easy to reach from Milan and a stone’s throw away from Switzerland. Dotted along its banks are tiny towns in hues of orange and red. Angle your neck ever so slightly above, and you’ll see the towering mountains: you’re at the foot of the Alps.
You can access Lake Como in a variety of ways. If you’re driving, you can drive to nearly every town along its banks (although watch out for limited parking.)
You could also take the train to Lecco and a ferry boat around the lake to some of its prettiest towns, like Varenna and Bellagio.
My personal pick for the best town to visit on Lake Como is Varenna. Not only is there a convenient parking garage (ah, the things that we grow to love as travelers) but Varenna is a quiet escape on what has become a touristy destination.
I’m not saying there are no tourists in Varenna because there are. There are just fewer than other towns, like Bellagio.
Plus, if you visit in the fall or the shoulder season, you’ll certainly avoid any crowds.
Check out Villa Monastero and stroll along the boardwalk.
I tend to lean towards planning trips that are off-the-beaten-path, but I have to say, I am a sucker for gorgeous Bellagio.
It is very touristy in the summer months, but its charm and beauty are hardly tarnished when you look out to the views, walk along the boardwalk, or grab a gelato while waiting for the ferry.
You can easily ferry between Varenna and Bellagio and even pay for your car to be transported on the ferry with you.
If you love the path not taken, then you’ll love Lake Iseo. It has a hearty and authentic quality to its people and its surroundings.
The only vacationers you will find here are other Italians and maybe a few Germans. It doesn’t boast the same colorful brigade of houses as Lake Como, but it does come with a gem of its own.
Said gem is Monte Isola, a large island in the middle of this small-ish lake.
You’ll be transported into an old Italian film upon stepping out of the transfer boat to Monte Isola.
A row of aged but charming houses-turned-restaurants, inns, and cafes take up the little space between the foot of Monte Isola’s hill and the soft lull of waves bouncing off the island’s edge.
Natives zoom by on their Vespas (because it’s too small for cars) while are others are arriving by boat, bringing what they’ve fished back home for dinner.
The amount of peace and serenity on this little lake island, combined with the genuine people and simple way of life, makes you want to start building your own casa beneath your feet.
When returning to the mainland’s shores at Sulzano, drive south on Via Battisti only 5 minutes to Darsena21. Here you’ll have another magical experience of an elegant aperitivo on an old dock.
The views of mountains and the sounds of waves will have you never wanting to leave.
My favorite of all the lakes in Lombardy is Lake Garda. It’s the largest lake in Italy yet feels intimate and romantic. The mountains drape down the lake from north to south, and windsurfers and boaters alike make good use of its soothing, calm waters.
Interestingly, Lake Garda is part of three regions of Italy. The west half of the lake belongs to Lombardy, while the east half is part of Veneto. The very northern part of Lake Garda is in Trentino-Alto Adige.
There is an abundance of beautiful towns along Lombardy’s coast of Lake Garda. My favorite is Sirmione.
Sirmione has all the picturesque frames anyone with a camera desires to shoot in Italy.
The town is built upon a tiny peninsula at the south of Lake Garda. Its medieval Castello Scaligero and the turquoise blue moat has become Insta-famous and has drawn interest from around the world to this small historic center.
The castle is spectacularly located beside the town center, where despite the bustle of shopper and eaters, you can hear the lull of the lake less than 100 steps away.
I’m not just recommending Sirmione because of its Instagram popularity. There is more to experience in this sweet town than the photogenic Castello Scaligero.
Its unique location as a peninsula reaching out into Lake Garda means you get nearly 360-degree views from its highest points.
My favorite part is a walkway that circles nearly the entire peninsula where you can be right next to the lake.
Sirmione also has an archaeological site of ancient grottos, the Grotte di Catullo, at the peninsula’s tip for a small entrance fee.
On your walk to the grottos, make sure to walk through the park of olive trees basking in the sunlight and take in the view.
At the beginning of this guide to Lombardy, I mentioned the variety of topographical landscapes. The region is home to Italy’s largest fertile valley, the Po valley through flows which the largest river in Italy, Po.
A dissonance is created when the valley meets the largest chain of mountains in Europe, the Alps.
Lombardy has a unique beauty because of these diverse landscapes and appeals to all kinds of travelers for the variety of things you can do.
San Pellegrino Terme
A best-kept secret of locals in Lombardy are thermal baths. QC Terme is a brand of spa thermal bath hotels in Europe (and even one location in New York!)
San Pellegrino Terme is one of their most beautiful retreats, as it’s tucked away in the mountains of Val Brembana.
Its ornately decorated hotel and dreamy infinity pool give you all the luxury feel but can be customized to fit your budget. You can stay the night or go for the day – in either case; you’ll still be able to take in the breathtaking views and experience a relaxing retreat.
If relaxing at a spa isn’t for you, but outdoor adventures are, look no further than Livigno. Near to the border of Switzerland, Livigno is as far north as you can get in Lombardy.
This small town is well-known for its skiing and mountain trails, so it is best to visit in the winter. Pack your boots and coats!
Extra Tips for Visiting Italy’s Lombardy Region
- Visit from the months of September to March to avoid the busy tourist season.
- Rent a car to make the most of visiting Lombardy, but remember to factor in tolls, parking, and finding accommodation with parking in your budget.
- Remember always to validate your tickets for public transportation in Italy to avoid a fine. There will be a small machine on a bus, in the train station, or boarding a cable car, where you’ll insert your ticket to be stamped.
After uncovering everything there is to know about Lombardy in this travel guide, the only thing left to do is pack your bags and discover this diverse and magical region of Italy for yourself.
We hope that this article has helped inspire you to visit Italy’s Lombardy Region. If you have any questions about the destination or have your own travel tips to share please leave these in the comments below.
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