Oodles of history and pretty little towns you’ve never heard of (but probably should have done!), there are a million and one reasons to head to the North of Italy. And then some! Situated in the very heart of Northern Italy, you’ll find the stunning region of Lombardy, an area often overlooked in favour of its more famous neighbours (think Veneto and Emilia-Romagna). Here are 10 epic reasons to visit Lombardy ASAP!
The quaint town of Pavia
Although we only spent two short nights in the university town of Pavia, I soon fell in love with the city, and am already planning my return! Located on the railway line between Milan and Genoa, Pavia has centuries worth of history packed into its cobbled lanes, a nearby monastery that’s thought to be the most beautiful in Europe and all the pizza you could ever ask for.
Once called the city of a hundred towers, thanks to an abundance of dizzyingly high turrets during medieval times, the town boasts quite the history, as well as an impressive list of famous former town residents long enough to fill a history book.
The Lakes of Lombardy
If there’s one reason you give yourself to visit Lombardy above all others, make it the lakes! Some of the most famous of the lakes in Lombardy include Lake Como, Lake Garda, Lake Maggiore, and Lake Lugano. While the Italian lakes are beautiful all year ’round, they truly come alive during summertime when all the eateries and hotels in the region are open, and the sun shines down on everything. Did someone say ‘picture perfect?’
All the UNESCO heritage sites!
For history buffs like me, Lombardy presents what seems like a neverending stream of stories, architecture and endless amounts of history. But perhaps that’s not at all surprising when you consider that the region was once a Kingdom in its own right, the Kingdom of Lombardy.
The area derives its name from the Lombards, a Germanic people who ruled the region from 568 to 774 CE. As an area of great importance in the history books, it definitely has a lot of historical attractions to visit. In total, there are UNESCO heritage sites in the region. Highlights include the Certosa di Pavia and the cave paintings of the Valcamonica.
Living History surrounds you
UNESCO world heritage sites aside, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of walking down cobbled lanes that have been worn away over the centuries, a subtle sign of time passing and the result of a million footsteps.
And there’s equally nothing quite like drinking your morning espresso in a small café that has been frequented by people for decades and open since before your great grandparents were born. During our trip to Italy, we stayed in rooms that were over five hundred years old, and we ate in restaurants that were once used as city prisons. If that’s not living history, then I don’t know what is!
Staying in an ancient building dating back over 500 years!
Italy is separated from nearby Switzerland, Austria, and Liechtenstein by the mighty Alps, a mountain range that dominates much of central Europe. In the winter months, the mountains are perfect for winter sports; skiing, snowshoeing, and snowboarding among other chilly activities. Come summertime, the mountains are popular with hikers and those who simply want to get more in touch with nature.
The underrated city of Bergamo
As budget airlines fly into the city’s airport, many opt to take a plane here to save on flight costs and splash out more on their accommodation and activities once in Italy. But that doesn’t mean visitors to the airport actually venture into Bergamo’s centre after their flight!
Instead, most visitors to Northern Italy opt to skip Bergamo in favour of more famous cities such as nearby Milan (which also happens to be a fashion and design capital, as well as the capital of Lombardy itself). However, I highly recommend a visit to the beautiful town of Bergamo as it is complete with stunning façades, incredible food and a charming old town!
Lombardy Cuisine and Regional Food
Italy in general (or should that be Eataly?) is known around the world for its tasty cuisine and abundance of local produce. And, of course, the Lombardy region is no different! While it’s true that the pizza may be better in Southern Italy, the cheesy stuff you’re served in any Lombardy restaurant is still easily better than anything you’d find at home. Traditional Lombardy cuisine includes local wines grown in the region and risotto alla Milanese (a risotto rice dish that is flavoured with saffron!)
Certosa di Pavia
One of the most beautiful monasteries in Italy, if not all of Europe, is that of Certosa di Pavia. Situated 8km North of Pavia, the monastery was first constructed at the height of the Gothic period, but only completed when Renaissance architecture became incredibly fashionable. This means that the monastery is now a beautiful blend of different architectural styles, and well worth a visit inside and out. A trip inside is free (though sadly no photography is allowed).The Certosa di Pavia can easily be visited on a day trip from Milan or nearby Pavia.
Alpine towns and countryside escapes
If there is one thing that sets Lombardy apart from much of the rest of Italy, it’s the abundance of Alpine towns in the region. And if I were to personally give one reason to visit Lombardy, it would be the sheer number of pretty little towns you’ve never heard of, but probably should have done! Even if you spend a week in Northern Italy, you could spend a night in each unique town and still have more places to visit…
The Duomo di Milano is one of the largest cathedrals in the world, and is certainly one of the most beautiful! The ecclesiastical building is the largest in Italy (St Peter’s Basilica is much bigger still but is classified as being part of the city-state of Vatican City!). Wander inside to admire its vast interior, venture up onto the terraces to get a bird’s eye view of the city, or simply wander around the Cathedral’s intricate façade to marvel at the many depictions on its complicated exterior.