Here are 15 cities and towns that you need to visit in Lombardy, Italy.
In more ways than one, Lombardy is the richest Italian region. It is also the fourth largest. It stands in the north of the country and is dotted with must-see landmarks, UNESCO World Heritage sites, crystalline lakes, and places of natural beauty.
Here you will also find some of the most striking in looks and interesting in terms of history and art cities and towns in Italy. For example, Lombardy’s capital Milan is known for its Duomo, Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper, and as one of the most important centres of the world’s fashion industry.
Each year, many people flock to Milan attracted by the prospect of seeing famous museums and masterpieces and/or of shopping in the city’s high-fashion boutiques. The nearby three large international airports make a visit to Milan super easy from anywhere in Europe and the world.
Yet, Lombardy is not all about Milan. This Northern Italian region is also rich in smaller cities and quirky towns where you can get truly close to history, art, nature, and the authentic Italian way of life.
So, in this blog post today, I want to introduce you to 15 fabulous cities and towns in Lombardy, Italy. For completeness of records, Milan is among them. There are also many hidden gems on the list like Brescia and Limone sul Garda.
I had the pleasure of visiting all of these 15 entries during the six years that I spent living in Italy. While my family and I resided in the neighbouring Italian region of Veneto, the excellent local road and railway connections and our constant desire to explore often had us cross into Lombardy for day trips or longer stays.
Now, I want to share with you everything that I learned about the best cities and towns to see in Lombardy. Perhaps you are planning a visit to Milan, are looking into ideas for interesting places to discover in the North of Italy or need suggestions for easy day trips in the area.
I hope that this alphabetical list of cities and towns in Lombardy will give you many starting points for explorations of the region, exciting visits to local landmarks, and perfect places to use as a base during your stay here.
At the end of this blog post, I have also included lots of practical tips for your visit to Lombardy. From how to travel around this Northern Italian region to what tours and activities to enjoy here, it’s all geared to make your travel planning as smooth as possible.
Have a look!
15 Must-See Cities and Towns in Lombardy, Italy (With Map, Photos, and Insider Tips)
1. Bagolino – The Carnival Town of Lombardy, Italy
Bagolino is a tiny town built on a steep slope in the deep Valley Sabbia in the Prealps of Lombardy. The road to it turns and curves through the mountains revealing breathtaking views over the nearby Lake Idro.
Although small, Bagolino has three unique things that make it a great destination in this verdant corner of Lombardy in Italy:
- Bagoss – a type of cheese that is produced only here. It has a lovely dense and salty flavour with hints of walnuts and chestnuts. Having a thick slice of Bagoss in a soft bread roll feels like a feast in itself.
- Church of San Giorgio – this 17th-century church has a prime position on the edge of a rocky promontory. Standing in its loggia feels like being in an art gallery – the tall mountains and the town spilling down the steep slope seem to have been painted by an Italian master. Inside the church, you can admire masterpieces by Titian, Tintoretto, and Palma the Young.
- Bagolino Carnival – a unique celebration taking place in the days before the start of Lent. The whole town comes together to have fun. The local people split into two groups – the Balarì and the Mascher – to recreate many centuries-old traditions.
Visiting Bagolino for its Carnival is a great experience to have in Italy. Authentic and completely local, this is a celebration that has been classified as one of the most important ethnological discoveries of the last 200 years. Thanks primarily to its isolated mountainous position, Bagolino has managed to preserve a carnival tradition like no other. In fact, the source of the music and the choreography of the dances of the Bagolino Carnival is yet to be determined.
I had the chance to spend a day at Bagolino Carnival back in 2017. I wrote this blog post about it detailing our experiences there. Seeing the local people dressed for the occasion and immersing themselves with happy hearts in the carefully preserved local traditions is a memory I’ll cherish forever.
2. Bellagio – The Lake King of Lombardy, Italy
Bellagio is a small Lombardian town with large international fame. It enjoys a prime location right at the meeting point of the three branches of Italy’s famous Lake Como. Thus this elegant town offers splendid views three ways – up towards the Alps and down the Como branch and the Lecco branch of the lake.
Hundreds of thousands of people visit Bellagio each year. It’s easily one of the most popular destinations in Lombardy in particular and in Italy in general. The hubbub takes over the town’s historic streets with visitors eager to experience the best of Lake Como.
They say that Bellagio is where the famous Roman author and magistrate Pliny the Younger used to have two villas. One called Tragedia and the other – Commedia. Apparently, he would split most of his time between the two. Lucky man!
Tragedia was on a small elevation above the lake. Commedia was right on the water so that Pliny the Younger could easily fish from his bedroom. Although the exact locations of the two ancient villas are unknown, it’s easy to understand why many experts think that both Tragedia and Commedia were where the town of Bellagio stands nowadays. The setting is perfect plus it provides splendid views and the Ancient Romans were true masters at picking the best locations for their abodes.
Well, most people are not lucky enough to have a villa (or two) in Bellagio but here are some of the best things you can see and do here during your holiday in Lombardy:
- Punta Spartivento – this the point where Lake Como splits into three branches with the Lecco branch to the right, the Como branch to the left, and the upper branch of the lake pointing straight up to the north. It’s a truly charming spot and a must-see when in Bellagio.
- Villa Melzi – a beautiful lakefront villa from the early 19th century. It has a carefully curated garden where you can see Egyptian statues (from Napoleon’s campaign in Egypt), and a Venetian gondola. It also has a small archaeological museum with Etruscan and Roman finds.
- Basilica of San Giacomo – an imposing 12th-century church in the Lombard Romanesque style. Among its many masterpieces are mosaics from the early 20th century and a ‘Deposition of Christ’ attributed to Perugino’s school.
- Church of San Giorgio – a small 12th-century church. This is where a precious wooden statue of the Madonna is preserved. The statue is one of the religious symbols of Bellagio. Each September, the town celebrates its feast day. This is when the local people carry the Madonna in their hands through the streets of the historic centre.
- Historic centre – traditionally referred to as Il Borgo, Bellagio’s historic centre is a wonderful maze of steep narrow streets and tall pastel-coloured houses. Dotted with small shops selling local crafts, elegant boutiques selling pricey Italian fashion, and a seemingly endless number of eateries, it’s a great place to explore on foot.
- Catch the Ferry/Hydrofoil – throughout the day ferries and hydrofoils regularly connect the many towns on the shores of Lake Como. Catching a ferry or a hydrofoil is a great way to enjoy the fantastic natural setting. Sitting on the deck and watching Bellagio slowly drifting away in the distance is a very cinematic experience. An easy and inexpensive ferry trip you can take from Bellagio is to the town of Menaggio (see point 10 below) right across the water.
If you can, try to visit Bellagio and Lake Como during the low or the shoulder seasons. Otherwise, this is a very popular destination in Lombardy and the high season sees a great influx of people. As the town is so small, navigating the crowds can become quite a task.
Having been to Bellagio both during and outside of the high season, I think that fewer crowds mean a bigger chance to truly immerse yourself in the atmosphere of this lakefront town.
Tours and Activities in Bellagio, Lombardy:
Click here for a long list of tours and activities at Lake Como provided by different companies. There are food and wine experiences, sailing and boat cruises among many other things. Picking one will help streamline your sightseeing plans for this beautiful lake and the towns around it, especially if you are only spending a limited amount of time here.
3. Bergamo – The Gem of Lombardy, Italy
Bergamo is a gem of a city with a beautiful hilltop location, a wonderful collection of must-see sights, and this relaxed atmosphere where you immediately immerse yourself in the Italian way of life. Bergamo is especially interesting as it is a curious mixture of Lombard and Venetian styles and influences. With a millennial history, in the Middle Ages Bergamo was a Lombard Duchy. However, in 1428 it was ceded to the Republic of Venice. The Venetians kept hold of the city for over three and a half centuries. They built around it a ring of massive defensive walls which nowadays are on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
While many people have heard of Bergamo on account of its busy airport, most travellers who fly in here, usually, quickly head to nearby Milan or other destinations in Italy. Don’t make the same mistake! If you are spending a few days in Lombardy, then make time to explore this small and very beautiful city. After all, Bergamo is just over 45 mins away by train from Milan (and right next door to one of Italy’s major airports!).
You will quickly notice that Bergamo has two parts:
- Citta’ Alta (Upper City) – this is Bergamo’s old town where the architecture of the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Baroque meet and mingle. Perched on top of a hill and surrounded by the mighty Venetian walls, this is the beating historical heart of the city.
- Citta’ Bassa (Lower City) – this is Bergamo’s modern expansion on the flatlands beyond the 16th-century Venetian defensive walls. Expect large imposing buildings, wide boulevards, and bustling shopping streets. The central part here is known as Centro Piacentiniano – as it was designed almost a century ago by the Roman architect Marcello Piacentini. It has a raw angular elegance to it, lots of light, and it gives you the feeling that you can see ahead for miles, so straight are its main streets.
There are many must-see sights, historic streets, and hidden corners to discover one by one during your visit to Bergamo in Lombardy. Here are some of the very best things you can see and do here:
- Centro Piacentiniano – go for a short walk around Bergamo’s modern central part to admire the architecture and get your bearings in the city.
- Funicular – take the funicular from Citta’ Bassa to Citta’ Alta. The ride is short, steep, and a lot of fun.
- Piazza Vecchia – a beautiful central square surrounded by some of Bergamo’s most important historic buildings. Apparently, the famous Swiss-French architect Le Corbusier described Bergamo’s Piazza Vecchia as the most beautiful square in the world!
- Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore – an expansive church richly decorated with amazing frescoes, stuccoes, and tapestries.
- Capella Colleoni – this church-cum-mausoleum has one of the most stunning marble exteriors you will see in Northern Italy. Inside, the chapel is covered in frescoes and houses the tombs of the 15th-century captain-general of the Republic of Venice Bartolomeo Colleoni and his daughter Medea.
- Palazzo della Ragione – an imposing 12th-century building that has changed its purpose several times throughout the centuries – from town hall and tribunal to library and even theatre!
- Museum of the Stories of Bergamo – this is a network of six historic places and museums. Visiting them one by one will deepen your understanding of and your appreciation for this beautiful city in Lombardy, Italy.
- Accademia Carrara di Belle Arti di Bergamo – this is an important art gallery that also has a renowned academy of fine arts under its umbrella. Its Pinacoteca houses many masterpieces by some of the greatest Italian artists. Among them are Andrea Mantegna, Carlo Crivelli, Vittore Carpaccio, and Giovanni Bellini.
- Polenta e osei – round off your exploration of Bergamo with a taste of the local Polenta e Osei cake. It’s made of polenta, sponge, chocolate, butter, liquor, hazelnuts, and marzipan. It’s then decorated with chocolate birds on top. Quite the treat!
I loved visiting Bergamo’s Civic Tower. Known locally as Campanone, this is the tall bell tower on Piazza Vecchia in Bergamo’s Citta’ Alta. We were up there just taking in the views when the bells suddenly started ringing the hour. The deafening sound made me almost jump out of my skin!
In the shadow of Campanone, don’t miss the Palazzo del Podesta. This beautiful palace nowadays houses the Museum of 16th-century Bergamo where you can learn more about life in the city under Venetian rule. On the ground floor of the palace, there are significant archaeological excavations showing Bergamo’s Roman ruins, too.
For a taste of what Bergamo has to offer, have a look at this short video of the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Bergamo. It’s beautiful! Or you can see more photos of Bergamo’s skyline on my blog’s Facebook page.
Tours and Activities in Bergamo, Lombardy:
Click here for walking tours of Bergamo provided by different companies. Picking one will help streamline your sightseeing plan for this beautiful city in Lombardy, especially if you are only spending a limited amount of time here.
4. Brescia – the Roman Queen of Lombardy, Italy
Brescia keeps itself firmly off the beaten track. Yet, this second-largest city in Lombardy, Italy has a lot to offer to the traveller eager to discover unique sights and breathtaking landmarks.
With a history that spans over 3,200 years, Brescia is a lively and exciting city. Its monumental Roman ruins are the best-preserved Roman public structures in the whole of Northern Italy. Its sun-lit squares are surrounded by imposing historic churches and buildings. A massive medieval castle crowns the hill at the bottom of which the city stretches out. Most curiously, Brescia also has a stable of some of Italy’s most avant-garde buildings. Among them is the country’s first-ever skyscraper. Called Torrione – the Big Tower – it was erected between 1930 and 1932.
Brescia is just over 30 mins away by high-speed train from Lombardy’s capital Milan. Here are some of the very best things you can see and do in this exciting Lombardian city:
- Monumental area Roman Forum with Capitolium of Brixia – imposing Roman ruins with an underground floor where you can see beautifully preserved Roman frescoes. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
- Monumental complex of San Salvatore-Santa Giulia – an enormous museum with over 11,000 works of art and archaeological finds. It’s housed in a former monastery. Expect impressive Roman excavations, endless rooms with priceless artefacts, stunning fully frescoed spaces. Absolutely gorgeous and inspiring. A must-see! This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, too!
- Brescia’s Castle – this is a huge castle which nowadays houses several museums and exhibits. Its position on the steep Cidneo Hill offers unparalleled views of Brescia. The castle also hosts festivals and historic reenactments.
- Large central squares – Brescia is blessed with some of the most beautiful historic piazzas in Italy. Don’t miss the Art Deco Piazza della Vittoria (with its Torrione – the first skyscraper built in Italy) and the Renaissance Piazza della Loggia (with the inspiring Palazzo della Loggia and the beautiful astronomical clock).
- Duomo Vecchio and Duomo Nuovo – the Old and the New Cathedrals of Brescia.
- Teatro Grande – a lavish opera house.
I absolutely love Brescia and everything this exciting city has to offer. Turning every corner here reveals yet another beautiful surprise. My best tip for Brescia is to simply head out and explore the city with your most comfortable shoes on your feet. Enter every church, every small museum. Sit at a cafe’s outside table on a sunlit piazza and immerse yourself in some people-watching and architecture-gazing. However, keep the bulk of your time for the Santa Giulia City Museum. It is absolutely enormous and there is so much to see here. My favourite things were the Cross of Desiderius, the Roman ruins, and the many fully frescoed spaces. Such a visual delight!
Brescia needs at least a couple of days to cover in some depth its many sights. This is a truly multilayered city where many landmarks present a mix of many historical periods. You can actually see how history happened here and how it shaped the city.
Part of the pleasure of being in Brescia is simply to stop and look, take it all in, and even imagine how imposing and grand the architecture must have been centuries and millennia ago. Don’t think of Brescia as a place to rush. For all there is to see and do here, the amount of information and impressions is such that you need time to truly see it, enjoy it, absorb it, and fully commit it to memory.
Tours and Activities in Brescia, Lombardy:
Click here for sightseeing tours of Brescia and food and wine experiences in and around Brescia provided by different companies. Picking one will help streamline your sightseeing plan for this beautiful city in Lombardy, especially if you are only spending a limited amount of time here.
5. Como – The Town of Silk and Volts in Lombardy, Italy
Como is a charming town on the shores of Lake Como in Lombardy. With a history that spans millennia, nowadays Como is rich in Roman ruins and gorgeous architecture. Many people head to Como as it is so easy to get there from Milan. The town also offers quick access to the other towns dotted along the shores of Lake Como.
The lives of several famous personalities have been intrinsically connected to the town of Como in Lombardy. Among them are the ancient Romans Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger. Uncle and nephew, the former was a Roman statesman, naturalist, and author of Natural History (which is considered to be the first-ever encyclopedia). The latter was a lawyer, author, and magistrate of Ancient Rome whose letters have survived throughout the millennia and give us precious historic information about the past.
Another famous person with a close connection to Como was Alessandro Volta – the inventor of the electric battery whose name has become a standard unit of measure.
There is lots to do and see in and around the town of Como. Here is a shortlist with some of the very best things here:
- Duomo – officially known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, this is the main church of the town of Como. You will find it in the historic walled centre. It is the third-largest religious building in the Northern Italian region of Lombardy. It’s preceded only by Milan’s Duomo and the monastery of Certosa di Pavia.
- Tempio Voltiano – this is a Neoclassical building inspired by Rome’s Pantheon. It hosts a museum dedicated to Volta’s life and achievements.
- Life Electric – a monument to Volta, its shape replicates the electric tension existing between the two poles of a battery. Its author is the renowned architect Daniel Libeskind.
- Porta Torre – this is the main entrance of the old town.
- Town walls – the defensive walls of the town of Como were originally built in the 1st century BC by Julius Caesar. They were destroyed in the 12th century and then erected again.
The town of Como is famous for its silk textiles. Locally produced and with traditions that date back to the 14th century, Como’s silks are prized all over Europe and the world. To learn more about the local silk production, you can visit the Museo della Seta in town. High-quality silk products are easy to buy here, too.
Tours and Activities in Como, Lombardy:
Click here for a long list of tours and activities around Lake Como provided by different companies. From sightseeing tours and day trips to boat tours, helicopter rides, and food and wine experiences, everything is covered! Picking one will help streamline your sightseeing plan for this beautiful corner of Lombardy, especially if you are only spending a limited amount of time here.
6. Cremona – The Town of Violins and Torrone in Lombardy, Italy
Cremona is a beautiful town in Lombardy, Italy. It’s known all over the world for its violin-making traditions. Among the highly skilled luthiers that called Cremona home throughout the centuries were the famous Andrea Amati and Antonio Stradivari.
Cremona is also known all over Italy for the delicious local nougat called torrone. Traditionally, it’s prepared for the Christmas season. Each year in November, a large festival is held in town dedicated to this delicacy and its artisan makers. The torrone of Cremona is made with egg whites, honey, sugar and blanched almonds. It can be scented with vanilla, cedar or cinnamon. It is thought that its name comes from the Latin verb torreo which means ‘to toast’.
The torrone of Cremona can be either soft (made with ground almonds) or hard (made with whole almonds). Its recipe is centuries-old.
In addition, Cremona has a gorgeous historic centre dominated by the town’s large cathedral and tall bell tower. Going for a walk around town, you are bound to spend long moments admiring the facades of the historic buildings and palazzi here.
Cremona is just over an hour away by train from Lombardy’s capital Milan. Here are some of the very best things you can see and do in this lovely town:
- Museo del Violino – a beautifully curated museum where you can explore the history and traditions of violin-making and the role of Cremona at the heart of this delicate art.
- Cathedral, Torrazo, and Baptistery of Cremona – a must-see ensemble of three imposing buildings at Piazza del Comune in the historic centre of the town. Cremona’s 12th-century Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta has an extensive collection of works of art in addition to beautiful frescoes. The art critics call it the Sistine Chapel of the Po Valley. The Torrazzo is a sturdy bell tower that dates back to 1525. 111 m high, currently it’s the world’s oldest still-standing brick structure taller than 100 m. Embedded in its facade is the world’s largest astronomical clock. The Baptistery is an octagonal building next to the Cathedral.
- Museo Civico Ala Ponzone – come here for the large collection of art by painters from Cremona and Lombardy. Masterpieces by Caravaggio and Arcimboldo make this museum a must-see. Don’t miss the music rooms here, too. In them, you will discover a rare collection of plucked string instruments with the oldest of them dating back to the 17th century.
- Palazzo Comunale – originally built at the start of the 13th century, this medieval building has high porticoes with frescoed ceilings and has a strong connection to the history of Cremona.
Put a bit of time aside to visit Cremona’s Archaeological Museum. Here you can find out more about the town’s Roman past and admire fragments of Roman mosaics in a restored domus.
If Cremona is your base for your explorations of this corner of Italy, then pencil in day trips to the nearby towns and cities of Crema in Lombardy and Piacenza and Parma in the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna. Another great destination in the vicinity of Cremona is the small village of Grazzano Visconti. Built in the Neo-Gothic style and with a beautiful castle at its heart, it’s a curious place to visit. Here you can learn more about the traditional local crafts and the count who brought the village back to life.
Tours and Activities in Cremona, Lombardy:
Click here for tours of and activities in Cremona provided by different companies. Picking one will help streamline your sightseeing plan for this beautiful town in Lombardy, especially if you are only spending a limited amount of time here.
7. Desenzano del Garda – The Largest Town on Italy’s Lake Garda
Desenzano del Garda is the largest town on Italy’s largest lake – Lago di Garda. You will find it just over an hour away from Milan. This makes it one of the easiest to visit towns in Lombardy. Considering how pretty it is, Desenzano is a must-see destination here.
With its long promenade and curving streets dotted with boutiques and trattorias, Desenzano del Garda has a very hip air to it. The blue waters of the lake gently lap at the town’s nearby beaches. White yachts and boats are moored in straight lines just off the shore. In the distance, you can glimpse a long promontory with the medieval castle and the Roman ruins of Sirmione (see point 14 below).
Here are some of the very best things you can see and do in and around Desenzano del Garda – a pretty as a picture lakefront town in Lombardy, Italy:
- Medieval Castle – over ten centuries old, it was erected at the same spot where the Romans once had had a fort and a town. Nowadays, Desenzano del Garda’s hilltop castle offers splendid panoramic views over the town and the lake. It also hosts concerts and theatrical performances in the summer.
- Roman Villa – an important archaeological find. Come here to admire the beautiful and well-preserved Roman mosaics. It is thought that Desenzano’s name is a corruption of the name of the owner of the villa – a Roman citizen called Decentius.
- Archaeological Museum – a well-curated museum where you can see the oldest plough in the world.
- Duomo – a late 16th/early 17th-century church with an imposing facade. It stands in Desenzano’s historic centre. Inside it, you can admire a very dramatic Last Supper by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo. Interestingly, the painting is executed in portrait orientation rather than the traditional for the Last Supper theme landscape orientation.
- Old Harbour – a very picturesque small port surrounded by centuries-old palaces.
Many festivals and events take place in Desenzano del Garda all throughout the year. Make sure that you check the local listings to see what’s on during your visit. I particularly loved going there on day trips around Christmas. Here is a short video from a Christmas event staged in Desenzano del Garda in the last days of 2017. As you can see, there is entertainment, people are out in force, and lovely Christmas lights are projected on the facades in the historic centre of the town.
In summer, there are many nearby beaches to sunbathe. Swimming in Lake Garda is quite nice, too. Or you can drive up the western shore of the lake, visiting the other Lombardian towns here – from Salo’ to Limone sul Garda.
Tours and Activities in Desenzano del Garda, Lombardy:
Click here for tours of and activities in Desenzano del Garda provided by different companies. Picking one will help streamline your sightseeing plan for this beautiful town in Lombardy, especially if you are only spending a limited amount of time here.
8. Limone sul Garda – The Town of Citrus Groves in Lombardy, Italy
Limone sul Garda is an elegant town on the shores of Lago di Garda – Italy’s largest lake. Limone is famous for its citrus groves. Planted on terraces fortified with stone walls, hundreds of citrus trees grow around this small Lombardian town giving it a decidedly Mediterranean feel.
Hence, citrus fruit and particularly lemons are everywhere in Limone sul Garda! From handmade scented soaps to beautiful ceramics, lemons are stamped, carved, and moulded into dozens of beautiful local products. Plus, the restaurants and eateries here serve delicious lemonade made with locally-grown lemons. It’s incredibly refreshing on a hot summer day!
Curiously enough, the name of Limone sul Garda doesn’t come from ‘lemon’! Linguists have established that its etymology is rooted either in the Celtic word limo or lemos meaning elm or in the Latin term lima (file) in reference to a river, the current of which erodes the ground.
Up until 1932, Limone sul Garda was reachable only by boat or through a steep mountainous path. Apparently, due to this relative isolation throughout the centuries, the locals are famous for their longevity. Many people here reach 100 years of age!
Here are some of the very best things you can see and do in and around this pretty as a picture lakefront town in Lombardy:
- Limonaia del Castel – a restored terraced citrus grove where you can learn more about the centuries-old tradition of growing citrus fruit on the shores of Lake Garda.
- Porto Vecchio – Limone’s old harbour is a picturesque place to explore. It offers stunning views across the lake and is lined up with local restaurants and gelaterias.
- Old churches – walking around the historic centre of Limone sul Garda, you will come across several old churches. Visit them for their lovely frescoes and to learn about the local stories and traditions.
- Strada del Ponale – go for a walk or a bike ride along this brand new path. It follows the old track that centuries ago connected Limone sul Garda to the nearby town of Riva del Garda.
- Ferry to Malcesine – take a ferry to the town of Malcesine across the lake. The crossing lasts only about 20 minutes and it opens beautiful panoramic views over the medieval town of Malcesine and the tall mountain – Monte Baldo – behind it.
When visiting Limone sul Garda, put a bit of time aside to go for a drive on the nearby Strada della Forra. It is known as one of the most scenic roads in the world! It was also featured in the James Bond movie, Quantum of Solace.
Strada della Forra leads up to Tremosine sul Garda – officially, one of Italy’s most beautiful villages. Up there and surrounded by old stone houses, you can enjoy majestic bird’s-eye views of Lake Garda.
9. Mantua – The Renaissance Pearl of Lombardy, Italy
Mantua or Mantova (as they call it in Italy) is a beautiful city to visit in Lombardy. Dotted with exquisite palaces with endless fully frescoed rooms, Mantua’s historical centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Three artificial lakes (created in the 12th century!) surround Mantua on three sides. Under the rule of the Gonzaga family, Mantua became one of the most eminent centres of the Renaissance.
For all it has to offer to the visitor in love with history, music, and art, Mantua is still very much a hidden gem in Italy. Walking around its cobbled streets, you will be forgiven to think that you’ve been transported several centuries back in time. Had it not been for the patina left by the hands of time, everything here – from churches and houses to narrow streets and large open squares – looks just like it was hundreds of years ago.
Here are some of the very best things you can see and do in this must-see Renaissance city in Lombardy:
- Ducal Palace Museum Complex – this is Italy’s biggest architectural museum complex. Built between the 14th and the 17th centuries, it was the abode of Mantua’s then-ruling family – the Gonzagas. The visit to Mantua’s Ducal Palace is both elating and overwhelming. There is so much to see here! Particular attention deserves the Camera degli Sposi (Bridal Chamber) frescoed by one of my favourite Italian Renaissance painters – Andrea Mantegna.
- Palazzo Te – this is a 16th-century Renaissance palace of leisure with breathtaking frescoes.
- Rotonda of San Lorenzo – the most ancient church in the city. It’s built on the spot once occupied by a Roman temple dedicated to the goddess Venus.
- Basilica of Sant’Andrea – this 15th-century church is one of Mantua’s many Renaissance masterpieces. It was built over four centuries and it’s crowned by a large dome.
- Bibiena Theatre – a beautiful 18th-century venue where Mozart gave a concert at 14 years of age. It’s known as the Scientific Theatre because it was originally built to host the assemblies of Mantua’s scientific community.
- Casa di Rigoletto – one of Giuseppe Verdi’s most famous operas – Rigoletto – is staged in Mantua. Nowadays, Rigoletto’s House is where you can learn more about the story of the tragic jester of the Duke of Mantua.
Mantua is famous for its food. Make sure that you sample the local delicacies. Among them are pumpkin tortelli, cotechino sausage, and Sbrisolona cake. The latter is sold in shops all over the city and makes for a wonderful yet inexpensive present.
If you have a bit of time on your hands, then schedule a trip to Sabbionetta. Founded in the 16th century, this Lombardian town was built to represent the ideal Renaissance city. Together with Mantua, Sabbionetta is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.
Tours and Activities in Mantua, Lombardy:
Click here for a long list of tours and activities in Mantua provided by different companies. From walking tours to food and wine experiences, everything is covered! Picking one will help streamline your sightseeing plan for this beautiful Renaissance city in Lombardy, especially if you are only spending a limited amount of time here.
10. Menaggio – The Cute Lakefront Town in Lombardy, Italy
Menaggio is a tiny town on the shores of Lake Como in Lombardy, Italy. You will find it right across the water from Bellagio (see point 2 above). Ferries connect the two all throughout the day and the crossing lasts only about 15 minutes or so.
Small and easy to navigate on foot, Menaggio has a pretty historic centre and many lovely streets to follow randomly while taking in the beauty of the local pastel-coloured churches and houses. It’s a great place to spend a couple of hours at. Alternatively, use Menaggio as a base for your exploration of Lake Como and easily travel up and down the shores to several other small Lombardian towns.
Here are some of the very best things you can see and do in and around this cute lakefront town in Lombardy:
- Historic centre – with Piazza Garibaldi opening splendid views over Lake Como and Via Calvi dotted with local boutiques and small shops, the historic centre of Menaggio is a pleasure to explore on foot. Walk up to the oldest part of the town where narrow streets preserve their medieval outlines. A picturesque bridge arches over the Senagra stream and provides the perfect inspiration for a photo or two.
- Villa Vigoni – a 19th-century villa with an English garden that can be visited as part of a guided tour. You will find it in Loveno – a hamlet of Menaggio.
- Villa Balbianello – a beautiful 18th-century mansion with a magnificent garden. You will find it in Tremezzina – a small town down the road from Menaggio. The villa has been used as a setting in several movies including Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones and Casino Royale.
- Villa Carlotta – a 17th-century villa with a fascinating botanical garden. You will find it in Tremezzina – a small town down the road from Menaggio.
- Local beaches – for a swim in the waters of Lake Como, head to one of the beaches around Menaggio. Lido di Menaggio and Lerai Beach attract both locals and visitors.
I loved Menaggio’s promenade. This long paved path follows the lakefront and opens spellbinding views over the towns of Varenna and Bellagio across the lake. Beautifully landscaped and with dozens of patches planted with colourful blooms, walking on the promenade here is a delight for the eyes and the soul.
Tours and Activities in Menaggio, Lombardy:
Click here for a long list of tours and activities at Lake Como provided by different companies. There are food and wine experiences, sailing and boat cruises among many other things. Picking one will help streamline your sightseeing plans for this famous lake in Lombardy, especially if you are only spending a limited amount of time here.
11. Milan – The Capital of Lombardy, Italy
Milan is Lombardy’s capital and also Italy’s wealthiest city. This is a hustling and bustling metropolis where you can certainly feel the modern heart of Italy beating a frenetic drum. In comparison with other smaller Italian cities and towns, at a first glance Milan may seem a bit grey, rough around the edges, and even a tad uninspiring. You just need to look deeper beneath the surface to easily discover impressive sights.
Many tourists boldly state that there is not much to see in Milan. Others come here exclusively to shop. Yet, Milan has a lot to offer to those seeking to see for themselves Italy’s masterpieces in terms of history, culture, and art. Whatever I say about Milan here, it’s not going to be enough. It’s best to see this large and important Italian city with your own eyes. You can easily spend a week or longer here and still have many sights left to tick off. There really is lots to do and enjoy in Milan!
In a tiny nutshell, here are some of the very best things you can see and do in the Lombardian capital:
- Duomo of Milan – one of the largest Gothic cathedrals in the world. With its lacy facade, it is a sight to behold.
- Sforza Castle – home of the rulers of Milan for many centuries, nowadays this formidable fortress houses many must-see museums and libraries.
- Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper – this most famous work of art doesn’t need an introduction. The mural is in the Refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. To make sure that you will be able to see it, it is advisable to book your ticket well in advance.
- Pinacoteca di Brera – this is Milan’s main public art gallery. Among the masterpieces that you can admire here are works by Andrea Mantegna, Piero della Francesa, Raphael, and Caravaggio.
- Biblioteca Ambrosiana – a historic library with an art gallery. It’s a place that preserves a dozen of Leonardo da Vinci’s manuscripts together with his famous Codex Atlanticus.
- Navigli – Milan’s ancient navigable canals and nowadays, a lively quarter with lots of eateries and fun events.
I loved visiting the museum of La Scala Opera House in Milan. If you are a music and opera aficionado, put it on top of your bucket list for the capital of Lombardy.
I also enjoyed seeing Milan from the rooftop of Galleria Vittorio Emmanuelle II – one of the world’s oldest shopping centres. It was so interesting to see its glass dome from a position that was level with it.
Tours and Activities in Milan, Lombardy:
Click here for a long list of tours and activities in Milan provided by different companies. From skip the line tickets and sightseeing tours to specific attractions and great day trips, everything is covered! Picking one will help streamline your sightseeing plan for the capital of Lombardy, especially if you are only spending a limited amount of time here.
12. Monza – The Lombardian City of the Italian Grand Prix
Monza is the third-largest city in Lombardy, Italy. It’s very close to Milan, so it makes for an incredibly easy visit as the train journey there is on average only 10 mins. While Monza stays firmly off the beaten tourist track, there is a number of great sights to explore here. Including the Autodromo Nazionale di Monza – a historic race track that has been hosting the Italian Grand Prix since 1950!
In addition, here are some of the very best things you can see and do in this Lombardian city:
- Duomo – Monza’s Cathedral of San Giovanni looks like the little sister of Milan’s Duomo in terms of the shape of their facades. Monza’s Duomo though has a striking striped pattern in black and white marble. The 6th-century Chapel of Theodelinda is incorporated inside the cathedral. Theodelinda was born a Bavarian princess and became Queen of the Lombards by marrying their King – Autari. She was a Catholic and convinced him to convert to Christianity, too.
- Arengario – a 13th-century civic building in the heart of the historic centre. In the past, it was Monza’s town hall and hosted the meetings of the town’s councils.
- Monza Park – this is Europe’s largest walled park. It incorporates he Autodromo Nazionale di Monza. The park is crossed by the River Lambro and has expansive lawns and a wooded part.
- Villa Reale – surrounded by Monza Park, this is a lavish palace in the Neoclassical style. It was originally built towards the end of the 18th century as a summer residence for the Archduke of Austria.
Tours and Activities in Monza, Lombardy:
Click here for tours and activities in Monza provided by different companies. Picking one will help streamline your sightseeing plan for this interesting city in Lombardy, especially if you are only spending a limited amount of time here.
13. Monte Isola – The Lombardian Town on Europe’s Largest Lake Island
Monte Isola is the largest lake island in Europe. You will find it in Lago d’Iseo – a stunningly beautiful lake between Lake Garda and Lake Como. There are about eleven villages and hamlets here which are collectively referred to as the municipality of Monte Isola. While this is not a city or a town in the common sense of the word, I placed Monte Isola on this list of must-see cities and towns in Lombardy for two reasons. One is that Monte Isola was chosen as one of the top three destinations in Europe in 2019. And two, because this is a truly beautiful corner of Lombardy that has preserved its authentic character.
With a secluded location at the foot and on the slopes of a large mountain and with the crystal clear waters of the lake acting as a natural barrier, until recently not many people had heard of Monte Isola or Lake Iseo for that matter. This changed when in June 2016 the great artist Christo positioned one of his most impressive installations here – The Floating Piers.
Large crowds flocked to Lake Iseo to walk on water between the shore of the lake and Monte Isola. I had the chance to be among them and the experience was truly wonderful and memorable.
I also had a chance to return to Monte Isola several years afterwards and see the island and its municipality as they usually are – secluded, incredibly picturesque and so very authentic. Here are some of the very best things you can see and do in Monte Isola at Lake Iseo in Lombardy:
- Madonna della Ceriola – a centuries-old sanctuary built on the highest point of the island. It is thought that it was erected at the spot of a former pagan temple. Inside it, you can see a 12th-century statue of the Madonna holding the Infant Christ. The locals believe that the statue is miraculous and that it protects the inhabitants of the island.
- Hiking – Monte Isola is a hikers’ heaven. You can enjoy long walks along the island’s perimeter, up to the summit of Monte Isola, and through olive groves and sites of natural beauty.
- Rocca Martinengo – a late medieval fortress. Nowadays, it is private property.
- Loreto – a small island near Monte Isola. It’s surrounded by fortified walls and crowned by a beautiful castle. It’s private property and in principle is closed for visits. Sporadically, jazz concerts are held there offering a rare chance to step on the island. The rest of the time, it can be admired from the water
When visiting Monte Isola and Lake Iseo, don’t miss a chance to sample traditional local foods. The island is particularly famous for its extra virgin olive oil and different types of salami. The lake waters are teaming with fish. Dried sardines are a local delicacy.
Also, please, bear in mind that cars are banned on Monte Isola. The locals can drive motorcycles. Visitors can walk, hike, rent a bike, or make use of the small bus which connects the different villages and hamlets here.
14. Sirmione – The Unmissable Lakefront Town in Lombardy, Italy
For its location, history, and sights Sirmione is one of the most striking towns not just in Lombardy but in the whole of Italy. You will find it on the tip of the narrow promontory Sirmio that juts deep into the waters of Lago di Garda – Italy’s largest lake.
The promontory is so long that it seems to bisect this corner of the lake in two. Some experts think that it was exactly the effect produced by Sirmio that inspired Lake Garda’s original name – Benacus (from the Celtic word for ‘horned’).
Surrounded by water on three sides, Sirmione is a delight to explore. Its historic centre stretches out between a proud medieval castle on one end and imposing Roman ruins on the other. The narrow streets are lined up with picturesque houses draped with wisteria and bougainvillaea. There is lots to do and see in Sirmione. You can easily fill a whole day (if not more) here with sightseeing, sampling the local cuisine, and relaxing on the town’s famous beaches. Plus, don’t forget the local spas fed by mineral waters sprouting from the bottom of Lake Garda.
In a nutshell, here are some of the very best things you can see and do in Sirmione in Lombardy’s portion of Lake Garda:
- Scaliger Castle – a splendid medieval castle with crenellated walls and a fortified port. Click here for more details about the most beautiful castles around Lake Garda.
- Grotte di Catullo and Archaeological Museum – a vast archaeological park with the excavated ruins of a majestic Roman villa that was originally erected between the 1st century BC and the 1st century AD.
- Church of San Pietro in Mavino – built over a pre-existing pagan temple, this is Sirmione’s oldest church. Come here for its frescoes that span the period from the 12th to the 16th centuries.
- Beaches – Giamaica Beach and Lido delle Bionde are particularly famous.
- Spa resorts – the area of Sirmione has been known for its thermal waters since ancient times. Nowadays, large spa centres and facilities operate in town.
Round up your visit to Sirmione with a boat trip around the promontory on which this gorgeous town in Lombardy is built. Boats traditionally leave from the small marina next to the Scaliger Castle. You can either pay on the spot and join a tour with other tourists or you can hire a private boat. Advance booking is a good idea in summer when the town gets very busy. Have a look here for boat tours organised by different companies.
My favourite thing about the boat tour in Sirmione is when they take you to see one of the places where hot sulphuric waters come to the surface. Lake Garda is famous for its underwater thermal springs. You can actually see bubbles of air making their way up and you can imagine the thermal waters gushing at the bottom of the lake.
Tours and Activities in Sirmione, Lombardy:
Click here for a long list of tours and activities in and around Sirmione provided by different companies. There are walking tours, food and wine experiences, outdoor activities and boat cruises among many other things. Picking one will help streamline your sightseeing plans for this beautiful town in Lombardy, especially if you are only spending a limited amount of time here.
15. Varenna – The Town of the Lariosaurus in Lombardy, Italy
Varenna is another charming town on the shores of Lake Como in Lombardy, Italy. Tall houses huddle closely together in its historic centre. Their bright colours present a striking contrast to the velvety green mountains that surround the lake.
It is here that in 1830 fossils of a prehistoric animal were uncovered! They were of a marine reptile that would grow to about a meter in length and it lived in those lands during the Middle Triassic Age. The reptile was named Lariosaurus after the old name of Lake Como – Lario. It is thought that the toponym was based on the pre-Indo-European root ‘lar’ meaning ‘hollow place’.
In terms of human activity, the area of Varenna has been inhabited since the Bronze Age. In the Middle Ages, a thriving fishing village existed here. Nowadays, Varenna is directly connected to Milan by train thus making it one of the easiest to visit pretty towns in Lombardy. Walking around the historic centre here is a very pleasant experience. With their innate sense of beauty, the Italians love using plants and planters to decorate facades, walls, and gardens. This makes the whole town look like a garden.
Here are some of the very best things you can see and do in Varenna on Lake Como in Lombardy:
- Villa Monastero – a lavish villa with a terraced botanical garden. It affords some of the most iconic views of Lake Como.
- Vezio Castle – over a thousand years old, it was built by the Lombard Queen Theodelinda as a defensive military outpost. In the past, a strong defensive wall started from the castle and ran down on both sides of the hill all the way to the lake’s waters, thus holding in a tight embrace the town of Varenna. Nowadays, the wall is long gone. Yet the castle deserves a visit for the beautiful views it opens and also for its small exhibition dedicated to the Lariosaurus.
- Fiumelatte – this is one of the shortest rivers in Italy. It is only 250 m long. Fiumelatte flows only between March and September and it is dry the rest of the year. Its waters foam and bubble giving it a constant white appearance. This has inspired its name as Fiumelatte means the Milky River in English.
If you like hiking, you can use your stay in Varenna to do some walking on the Sentiero del Viandante. The route is 45 km long in total and spans the eastern shores of Lake Como. It dates back to Roman times and once stretched all the way from Milan to Switzerland.
Tours and Activities in Varenna, Lombardy:
Click here for a long list of tours and activities in and around Varenna provided by different companies. There are food and wine experiences, outdoor activities and boat cruises among many other things. Picking one will help streamline your sightseeing plans for this beautiful town in Lombardy, especially if you are only spending a limited amount of time here.
Map of 15 Cities and Towns to Visit in Lombardy, Italy
Discover 15 beautiful cities and towns to visit in Lombardy, Italy. Click on each pin on the map for local accommodation options.
Practical Information about Visiting the Cities and Towns of Lombardy, Italy
1. Where is Lombardy, Italy?
Lombardy is Italy’s richest and fourth-largest region. It stands in the north of the country. It borders Switzerland to the north, the Italian regions of Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto to the east, Emilia-Romagna to the south, and Piedmont to the West.
2. How to travel to and within Lombardy, Italy?
By plane, you can easily reach Lombardy from anywhere in the world. This is where three of Italy’s major airports are located. They are Milan Malpensa Airport, Milan Linate Airport, and Bergamo Orio-al-Serio Airport.
In addition, you can easily reach Lombardy from anywhere in Veneto, Emilia-Romagna, Piedmont, and anywhere else in Italy, really. There are good road connections between the main cities here.
You can also use public transport. Italy has a very well-developed railway system with fast and high-speed trains connecting cities and towns. For example, there are direct high-speed trains from Venice and Verona in the Veneto to Lombardy’s capital city – Milan. There are excellent train connections between Bologna in Emilia-Romagna and Turin in Piedmont to Milan, too. Click here to check train times and to purchase train tickets.
Within Lombardy, you can use regional and high-speed trains to reach the different cities and towns here. Click here to check specific train times and to purchase train tickets.
There is a good bus system in Lombardy, too. Buses connect the smaller towns and villages and the region’s larger cities.
3. When is the best time to visit Lombardy, Italy?
Lombardy in Italy is a great year-round destination. In summer, people come here to visit Lombardy’s capital Milan, to spend time at Lombardy’s lakes (with Lake Como a perennial favourite), and to explore the many options for relaxation and keeping active that the region offers.
In winter, Milan and the lakes are still very popular destinations. Plus, nearby there are many ski resorts.
4. Where to stay in Lombardy, Italy?
You can find all sorts and types of accommodation in Lombardy, Italy to suit every budget. From five-star hotels to budget camping sites, there is something for everyone. For ideas about the types of accommodation available in Lombardy in particular and Italy in general, have a look at this blog post:
This map gives you a quick visual idea of the price ranges of the many hotels and other forms of accommodation you can book for your stay in Lombardy in Italy. You can zoom in and out in order to search for a place to stay. You can also click on the option that interests you to find out more details or to make a booking.
If you click on ‘Accommodation’ in the top right corner and select ‘Experiences’ from the drop-down menu, then you can see some truly exciting experiences that you can book directly:
5. What are some great tours and activities to book in Lombardy, Italy?
Click here to see a long list of the best tours, activities, and experiences organised by different tour companies. You can narrow the options by pinpointing the city or town in Lombardy that you are interested in and the type of activities you want to book.
In addition, under most of the entries in this blog post, I have provided direct links to local tours, activities, and experiences. This way you can search for things to do in a more targeted way.
I hope this helps!
I hope you enjoyed this detailed introduction to 15 of the most beautiful cities and towns in Lombardy, Italy.
From the Lombardian capital – the city of Milan – to many hidden gems and lakefront towns, Lombardy is a Northern Italian region that can offer you exciting sightseeing, unique landmarks, and gorgeous urban settings. Exploring its cities and towns equals delving into the best of Italy’s millennial history, culture, cuisine, and art. From Roman ruins to Renaissance palaces, from lavish villas featured in blockbuster films to places huddled in the bosom of nature, the Lombardian cities and towns have a lot to offer to the curious traveller.
This blog post is packed with lots of useful information, insider tips, location and accommodation maps, and links to tours and activities for the different cities and towns in Lombardy.
I hope that after reading through it all, you feel galvanised to discover the places covered herewith for yourself.
Enjoy your Lombardian adventure!
More Helpful Lombardy Info for You
More Helpful Italy Info for You
Day Trips in Italy: Bologna to Venice, Milan to Verona, Venice to Verona, Milan to Venice, Florence to Venice, Verona to Venice, Venice to Padua
Best of Italy: Italian Piazzas, Italian Food, Italian Markets, Italian Coffee Culture
Northern Italy: 18 Best Cities to Visit, Major Airports
Friuli Venezia Giulia: Venzone, Most Beautiful Villages
Emilia Romagna: Bologna, Ravenna, Comacchio, Most Beautiful Villages
Marche: 6 Reasons to Visit, Gradara, Frasassi Caves, Temple of Valadier
Trentino: Best Cities and Towns, 15 Amazing Places, Rovereto, Lakes in Trentino, Lake Caldonazzo, Paneveggio and Pale di San Martino
Veneto: Best Cities to Visit, Top 15 Places, 30 Adventures, 15 Most Colourful Places
Venice: Essential Tips, Hidden Gems, Best Airports, Boats in Venice, Haunted Venice, Day Trips from Venice, Arco del Paradiso
Verona: Things to Do in One Day, Verona Opera Festival, Day Trips from Verona
Padua: Things to Do in One Day, 101 Facts About Padua, 10 Reasons to Visit Padua, Day Trips from Padua
Vicenza: Things to Do, Day Trips from Vicenza
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