Although it’s probably more famous for its capital and gorgeous lakes, Lombardy is full of hidden gems to explore. There are plenty of little towns and villages that are well worth a visit. You can discover the true culture of this very varied Italian region. The best part is that all these small towns are surrounded by rolling hills, and beautiful mountains, so that wherever you are you can’t escape the fantastic views.
Mr. Misadventures and I were able to explore parts of this beautiful region when we were living close to Geneva and I always wished we could have spent more time here. If you’re lucky enough to have the time to thoroughly explore Lombardy, here are the top twelve little towns to tick off your list.
Cornello dei Tasso
Cornello dei Tasso is an adorable little village that is only reachable by foot. The most interesting historical titbit about Cornello dei Tasso is that it’s where the first postage stamp in the world was issued. Walking around its cobbled streets you can learn about the roots of the post office and its international trade. Take a break to sample the traditional handmade ravioli, casonsei, filled with a delicious blend of cheese, breadcrumbs, egg, garlic, and parsley.
Mantua once named the capital of culture, is a great place to explore. The reason it’s such an important representative of Italian culture is its significant role in the history of opera. The medieval and renaissance city has many places to explore including the Palazzo Te, Ducal Palace, and the Rotonda di San Lorenzo. You can also find local markets selling handmade crafts and local delicacies. You’ll never be without something to do while you take in the town’s fascinating history.
Cassinetta di Lugagnano
There are also plenty of things to do in Cassinetta di Lugagnano, a commune in the metropolitan city of Milan. It’s home to some of the most luxurious noble Milanese villas but it’s also rich in fauna and idyllic natural scenery. You can take a boat tour along the Naviglio Grande canal, which has plenty of great restaurants on its banks. Enjoy the views of some of the grandest holiday homes of the most important noble families in Lombardy, and sample the local cuisine while you’re there.
Capo di Ponte
Capo di Ponte is an ancient village and home to Italy’s oldest archaeological park, the Naquane Park. Here you can view an impressive collection of rock art and engravings. Established in 1955 to preserve prehistoric and proto-historical engravings, Naqaune Park actually covers over 14 hectares and is surrounded by chestnut, fir, beech, and hornbeam trees. You can walk through the trees on a manmade path and view all the ancient rock engravings. Definitely a unique experience.
Bagolino is a charming mountain village home to cows and festivities. It’s famous for Bagoss cheese which is exclusively produced in Bagolino from cows only fed on local grass. It’s also the setting for the annual Transhumance Festival. This is traditionally to celebrate the returning of the cows. The cows spend wintertime in cowsheds after a summer up in the mountains and locals cheer as they pass. Both a gastronomic and folkloric event, it’s definitely worth stopping by if you happen to be in Lombardy in mid-October. You could also check out the Bagolino Carnival at the start of Lent.
Crema boasts beautiful gothic cathedrals and the stunning Piazza del Duomo. It’s also a great place for art lovers and has plenty of baroque displays to see which decorate the exquisite religious architecture. Many of the churches contain class frescoes of significance and the most famous is probably the Santa Maria della Croce, a circular sanctuary and masterpiece by Bramante dating all the way back to 1493. There’s also a pretty impressive art gallery displaying work by local painters from the present day and going back over centuries.
Livigno is a resort in the Italian Alps not far from the Swiss border. You can ski in Livigno among other activities. The ski season is pretty long stretching from late November to early May. It’s a beautiful place to ski and you’ll feel like you’re in a fairytale setting. There are plenty of other adrenaline-fuelled activities to try such as snowboarding, helicopter rides, and paragliding. Livigno is the perfect spot in Lombardy for thrill-seekers. If you prefer, you can simply enjoy the mountainous scenery and go for a walk in snowshoes. It’s one of the best places in Italy to get a true experience of the Alps. The best skiing I ever experienced was in this area of Italy and I always reminisce about my annual trips Mr. Misadventures and I did to ski here!
Milan isn’t exactly a little town, but it deserves a mention. If you’re traveling to Lombardy you’ll most likely fly into Milan. It’s worth spending a few days exploring the capital of the region. It’s an ideal choice for sports fans and with its established football stadium. You can learn more about famous sporting events such as the time when Milan Vs. Milan Ends With Aerial Bombardment. Check out the fantastic variety of architecture, culture, and nightlife too. Milan is a cosmopolitan city with a little something for everyone, including apertivo!
Sirmione is situated on the southern bank of Lake Garda. It’s a resort town, but full of culture and charm. It’s a perfectly picturesque little peninsula. Sirmione has more historical attractions than some of the other lakeside resorts, and you can visit the castle, grotto, and fortress. There are also some luxurious thermal baths you can relax in after a long day of soaking up the culture.
Zavattarello, also known as the green pearl of Oltrepo Paese, is a peaceful town surrounded by untouched nature and wild fauna. The landscape has a classic postcard feel and the rows of vines actually resemble views of Tuscany or Umbria. Zavattarello is also steeped in military history. The Jacopo dal Verme castle fortress overlooks the town which is full of medieval houses and Romanesque churches. The surrounding dense forest made it an ideal location for a military fortress and it’s definitely a place where time seems to standstill.
Gromo is a lovely little hamlet, hidden around the side of a dark cliff you can see going up the Seriana Valley. The medieval and magical feel of Gromo almost makes you feel like you’re in a movie or fantasy series. The city is actually known for the production of weaponry, making it comparable to Toledo in Spain. There’s even a museum of white weapons and parchment where you can check them all out along with beautiful displays of armor. If you’re hungry after looking at all that weaponry you can stop for a snack at one of the local delicatessens or quaint village restaurants.
Monte Isola is made up of the islands Montisola, Loreto, and San Paolo in Lake Iseo. You can explore the islands on foot, by bicycle, or by bus. It’s ideal for island walks, picnics, or you can even take a boat tour. This towering island is the main feature point of the lake and you climb rural stairs to the top of the island for spectacular views. You can also follow a hiking trail all around the island. It’s famous for its fishing history and you can still get a feel for this today.
These are just a few of the hidden gems to discover in Lombardy. You could literally spend years covering the region and still find somewhere new to visit. There are many charming little villages, all with their own unique characteristics and culture. If you’re planning a trip to Italy, choose wisely, and enjoy exploring these picturesque villages.
How about you? Have you been to this part of Italy? Do share! Is Lombardy on your Italian wishlist? So tell!
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