Lombardy is located in Northern-central Italy and is home to around 10 million people, many of which live in the region’s capital, Milan. Lombardy is situated at the foot of the Italian Alps and is famous for its freshwater lakes, rivers and distinctive landscapes of mountains, dramatic valleys, ancient forests and iconic towns.
With over one-sixth of Italy’s total population living in Lombardy, a major center of industrial output, it’s easy to forget that the region also boasts some of the nation’s most beautiful towns. Lombardy is an important cultural hub and has 11 out of 58 of Italy’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The region was also the birthplace of countless pioneers of Italian science and culture, including Virgil, Antonio Stradivari, Alessandro Volta, Pliny the Elder and several Popes.
The most popular city in Lombardy is obviously Milan. It is the financial capital of Italy. But in the article, I am focusing on other great towns in Lombardy that are worth visiting.
Nicknamed the ‘Pearl of Lake Como’, Bellagio is a heavenly resort town that sits on the shore of Lake Como and has been a popular holiday destination since Roman times. Famous for marking the meeting point of the 2 branches of Lake Como, Bellagio is an elegant town that welcomes thousands of visitors each year. As most of us the United States know, Bellagio is also the name of the most spectacular casino in Las Vegas!
With up-market hotels, traditional restaurants serving fresh lake-caught fish and a wide range of churches, museums and other cultural highlights to explore, Bellagio is undoubtedly the jewel in Lake Como’s crown. Situated at the base of hills that rise up from the lakeshore, Bellagio is ideal for outdoor enthusiasts with plenty of hiking, fishing and cycling to take part in throughout the year.
For those seeking a more tranquil retreat from the hectic modern world, you can take boat trips around the lake, visit local attractions and relax in a water-front cafe while marveling at the wonderful scenery. You can visit the stunning Villa Melzi, a 19th Century villa with lovely curated gardens where you can see Egyptian statues that were brought back to Italy after Napoleon’s campaign in Northern Africa. The Villa Melzi also has an interesting on-site museum that exhibits Roman and Etruscan artifacts.
Just a stone’s throw away, the Basilica of San Giacomo is an impressive 12th Century Romanesque church that houses spectacular mosaics and works of art that are attributed to the Perugino school. The historic center of Bellagio, traditionally called ‘Il Borgo’, has steep, cobblestone streets with pastel-colored buildings and a great choice of bars, restaurants and independent boutique stores to make your time at the lakeshore as indulgent as it is enjoyable.
Best known for its annual Carnival, Bagolino is a small town on the slopes of the Sabbia Valley in the forested foothills of the Italian Alps. With breathtaking scenery and the beautiful Lake Idro nearby, Bagolino is too often overlooked by tourists, even though it’s a great place to visit or to live.
Some of Bagolino’s highlights include the stunning 17th Century Church of San Giorgio which is situated on an impressive rocky outcrop overlooking the valley. Within the church, you can see artwork by Italian masters such as Tintoretto and Titian. The town is also well known for its unique cuisine that includes the delicious Bagoss, a type of cheese that is only made in this area and has a salty flavor with hints of chestnuts.
Each year, the town hosts the much-loved Bagolino Carnival which takes place in the days preceding Lent. During the festival, the townsfolk and visitors enjoy fireworks, parades and traditional dancing, performances and live music. A great town for Expats and tourists, Bagolino is hugely popular with Italians but only the savviest travelers are aware of it.
Bergamo is a beautiful hilltop top town that’s located 55 km from Milan. The town is best known for its low-cost international airport but Bergamo is one of the nicest towns in the region. With an interesting culture to explore, magnificent views and architecture that is inspired by both Lombard and Venetian styles, Bergamo is a unique town with a lot to offer visitors to the area.
Bergamo has a long history that stretches back to the Middle Ages although in the 15th Century, it was ceded to the powerful Republic of Venice. The Venetians ruled over Bergamo for almost 4 centuries during which impressive Renaissance walls were built around the city. Today, these defensive walls are one of Lombardy’s 11 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
Bergamo has convenient access to Milan, the fashion capital of Italy, but it also has its own cultural attractions and offers visitors a much lower cost of living and accommodation. The town’s central Piazza Vecchia is a stunning square that is surrounded by many of Bergamo’s buildings of historical significance. Nearby, the Capella Colleoni is a 15th Century chapel that houses the tombs of the Notable Venetians such as Bartolomeo Calleoni, a former General of the Republic of Venice. Meanwhile, the Accademia Carrara di Belle Arti di Bergamo is a fantastic gallery that houses many renowned works of art, including masterpieces by artists including Carlo Crivelli, Vittore Carpaccio, Giovanni Bellini and Andrea Mantegna.
Bergamo is a great destination for relocating Expats, particularly if you want to experience a laidback rural lifestyle while still having easy access to Milan, the economic and industrial capital of Italy. Equally, the town is a popular destination for visitors to the region who want to get off the main tourist trail and enjoy a quiet vacation in the picturesque foothills of the Italian Alps.
Desenzano Del Garda.
Located on the southwestern shore of Lake Garda, Desenzano del Garda is the largest of the towns surrounding the lake and offers a wonderful quality of life for its residents and visitors to the area. This lovely Lombardy town has been one of the region’s top holiday destinations since the 1st Century when the Roman elite from Verona would vacation beside the lake.
Definitely, one of Lombardy’s must-see towns, Desenzano del Garda has a lively atmosphere with lots of trattorias, bars, boutique stores and modern gourmet restaurants to while away the days by the lakeshore. With yachts and boats moored along the shoreline, lakeside beaches to relax on and lots of great hiking trails to explore, the town is a real holiday haven amongst the pristine natural beauty of the area.
There’s plenty to see and do in and around Desenzano del Garda. You can visit the Medieval castle or the nearby archaeological ruins where you see extremely well-preserved Roman mosaics. For an all-encompassing overview of the history of the town, you can visit the town’s Archaeological Museum where, among other fascinating exhibits, you can see the oldest plow in the world! For a unique morning excursion, the Desenzano del Garda’s 16th Century church has a dramatic façade and contains a magnificent painting of the Last Supper by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.
Desenzano Del Garda is around 130 km East of Milan and less than 45 km to the West of Verona which makes it easy to reach from the main regional travel hubs. The town makes an idyllic destination for Expat retirees but it’s also a great place for young professionals who work remotely or are willing to commute to the surrounding cities during the week.
This luxury lakeside resort town is widely admired for its Art Nouveau villas, local silk products and independent stores. Extremely well-rated by tourists, Expats and local Italians, Como is one of the region’s premier lakeside towns. With gorgeous boutique hotels dotted throughout the town, delightful restaurants along the shore and picturesque promenades to stroll along in the evening, Como epitomizes the Dolce Vita of Lombardy. Situated at the head of Lake Como, Como is easy to reach from Milan by car or train and has great links to the other lakeside towns by ferry or hydrofoil.
As well as ancient Roman ruins, Medieval churches and a rich Renaissance heritage, Como is an elegant town that was also home to the famous Alessandro Volta, the inventor of the electric battery. The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta is the town’s major church and is the 3rd largest religious structure in Lombardy. You can also visit other attractions such as the Neoclassical-inspired Tempio Voltiano which memorializes the achievements of Volta or take a ride on the Como-Brunate Funicular, a funicular railway that takes you right up the hill to the gorgeous town of Brunate.
Monte Isola is a spectacular town on Monte Isola island in the middle of Lake Iseo. Easily reached by an extensive network of ferries that run regular daily services, Mont Isola is the largest lake island in South and Central Europe. It’s also amazingly peaceful on the island because cars are banned although you can still get around by bike or moped.
There are 11 villages and hamlets that make up the town of Monte Isola with several churches containing 15th to 17th Century frescoes, religious art and statues. There are also lovely lakeside cafes and restaurants and several hotels and rental apartments for visitors.
One of Monte Isola’s main attractions is the shrine of the Madonna della Ceriola which stands at the highest point on the island, more than 600 meters above the lake. You can also visit the 15th Century Martinengo fortress and explore the Baroque San Michele church which is famous for its wood carvings and well-preserved frescoes. The island is perfectly suited for a relaxing break in amongst your own slice of paradise in the middle of a Lombardy lake.
Lombardy Has Beautiful Towns.
Lombardy is world-famous for its capital, Milan, but its smaller towns are the treasure troves of the true essence of the region. From luxury lakeside resorts to glamorous towns that are perched amongst the foothills of the Italian Alps or romantically marooned on islands in the lakes, Lombardy’s towns offer visitors and Expats a wonderful opportunity to enjoy Italy at its very best.