There are plenty of reasons to visit Milan (Milano), Lombardy and the Lakes. From art collections both old and new, the sparkling nightlife and unparalleled shopping, to the prestige of opera at Teatro alla Scala (La Scala), Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, the gorgeous landscapes of Lombardy’s Lakes plus endless opportunities to eat the best of Lombard and Italian cuisine, this region has much more to offer in terms of its natural, cultural and architectural perspective.
Plan Your Trip to Milan, Lombardy and the Lakes
Lombardy is one of Italy’s most dynamic regions. It offers everything from world-class ski slopes to luxurious summer lake resorts. The region’s attractions include the glacial lakes and above them the Alps, which several writers throughout the ages have lauded as the closest thing to paradise.
Milan is considered Italy’s financial capital. It’s also the capital of fashion, luxury, culture and fun. Milan can be disappointingly modern and congested — and some travelers dismiss it as cold, boring and business-like. However, beneath the surface is a serious sense of history, and its historic buildings and art collections rival those of Rome and Florence. The imposing Duomo di Milano, located at the center of Milan, reflects the city’s creativity and ambition.
If you love to shop, Milan is one of the world’s great fashion centers, and offers experiences and goods for every taste. It’s home to global fashion giants such as Armani, Prada, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Versace; but also offers several less famous designers who help fill all those fabulous shops.
And then there’s the lakes of northern Italy — Como, Garda, Maggiore, and Orta. Millions of travelers agree that for sheer beauty, they have few equals. Along their shores are superb villas and near-ancient palaces with exotic formal gardens built in the 18th- and 19th-centuries, as well as fascinating sleepy villages lost in time, and dozens of resorts that were once Europe’s most fashionable, and which still maintain their powerful charm.
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Top Reasons to Visit Milan, Lombardy and the Lakes
1. Discover The Duomo: A vision in pearly white marble, the extravagant Duomo di Milano is an intricate and magnificent Gothic cathedral that aptly expresses the love of beauty and power that still drives Milan today. Commissioned in 1387 and finished nearly 600 years later, it has been captivating and exasperating visitors and conquerors alike from the very beginning.
Whether or not you agree that this structure is “one of the mightiest Gothic buildings ever created”, you can’t deny that its sheer size and intricacies are unequaled. It is the second-largest church in the world, with an estimated capacity of 40,000. Most times it’s empty, a refuge from the frenzy outside and the perfect sanctuary for reflection.
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2. Visit Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper: The Last Supper, the celebrated Leonardo da Vinci fresco and one of the world’s most famous works of art, is one of the reasons to visit Milan. This famous mural is hidden away on an end wall in the dining hall of the refectory adjoining the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie. It depicts Jesus Christ and his disciples at the dramatic moment he discloses that he knows one of them will betray him. To see it you must book in advance or sign up for a guided city tour.
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3. Experience A Night At Teatro alla Scala: Hearing opera sung in the lavish surrounds of the city’s legendary Teatro alla Scala (also called La Scala theater) is the ultimate Italian experience, and if you find yourself in Milan during the opera season (December through June), make it a point of attending.
La Scala dominates both as a symbol for the performer who dreams of singing there and for the opera enthusiast who attends. An unparalleled experience, audiences are particularly critical and are likely to heckle performers who do not measure up.
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4. Be Inspired By The Fashion and Design in Milan: When it comes to fashion, Milan leads and the world follows. The fashion houses of Milan have been fixtures on the catwalks since the Renaissance, establishing a benchmark for style worldwide. Besides London, Paris and New York, Milan is the arena where fashion giants, as well as up-and-coming designers, flaunt their latest designs both on the catwalk and on the street.
The focal point for fashion is the Quadrilatero d’Oro, Milan’s shopping quarter and one of the world’s most glamorous shopping districts. Catch a glimpse of fashion’s latest trends as you window-shop the afternoon away, or attend Milan Fashion Week in spring or fall to see fashionistas in their trendiest attire.
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5. Take A Funicular Ride in Bergamo: A funicular ride in Bergamo whisks you from the restless pace of city life up to the medieval grandeur of this magnificent city. This eastern Lombard city is situated behind a set of battered Venetian walls high on an Alpine hilltop, where it majestically overlooks the southern plains. It offers a wealth of art and medieval Renaissance and baroque architecture, breathtaking views and some fine dining.
Behind are the snowcapped Bergamese Alps, and a funicular that connects the modern Lower Town (Città Bassa/Bergamo Bassa) to the ancient hilltop Upper Town (Città Alta/Bergamo Alta). Bergamo Bassa’s long arteries and ornate piazza speak to its centuries of wealth, but it’s nonetheless dominated by Bergamo Alta, whose magnificent architecture and tangle of tiny medieval streets has a fairy-tale charm.
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6. Marvel At Lake Como, One of the Most Beautiful Lakes in the World: In the shadow of the snow-capped Rhaetian Alps is perhaps the most spectacular of the three major lakes. Hemmed in on both sides by steep, verdant hillsides, Lake Como (Lago di Como; also known as Lago Lario) is shaped like an upside-down Y, and is littered with villages, including the impeccable Bellagio and Varenna. Where the southern and western shores meet is the lake’s main town, Como, a chic, affluent Italian city.
There’s lots of things to do in Lake Como. The region features picture-book villages and palatial villas often graced with Edenic gardens, rose-laden arbors, hanging wisteria and bougainvillea. These heavenly gardens, like so many in Italy, are a union of two landscape traditions: that of Renaissance Italy, which appreciates order, and that of Victorian England, which endeavors to create the illusion of natural wildness. In addition to these gardens that are often framed by vast areas of picturesque farmland — fruit trees, olive groves, and vineyards — the mountainous terrain means that opportunities for enjoying bird’s eye-views of the lake and its towns are numerous.