With fashionable Milan as its capital, celebrated vineyards and grand lakeside villas, Lombardy is definitely northern Italy’s most glamorous region. But it is also an amazing place for outdoor sports enthusiasts and offers endless destinations for culture vultures. Here is a short list of top attractions across the province.
This is Lombardy’s prized national park where stunning panoramas of alpine valleys are peppered with traditional baita (chalets), quaint churches and diverse wildlife. Driving enthusiasts (and crazy cyclists) can tackle the famous Stelvio Pass – a 2km (1.2 miles) road with 60-plus hairpin bends that climb steeply through the mountains. Sane cyclists and hikers can enjoy the many paths within the park’s hills and mountains, which range from 650 metres (2,130ft) to 3,900 metres (12,800 ft) in height. If you enjoy camping, this is also a possibility.
Parco delle Orobie Bergamasche, roughly 45 minutes north of the town of Bergamo, is a protected natural park of 70,000 hectares at the foot of the Alps that border Switzerland. The wider region is referred to as Valtellina, which is famous for its delicious cheeses. It has peaks of over 3,000 metres (9,842ft) and offers over 1,000km (621 miles) of trails with varying difficulty ratings. It is best known for the ‘Flower Trail’, a sort of high-altitude botanical garden, and the ‘Orobie Trail’ (Sentiero delle Orobie), which leads trekkers through the Orobie Prealps that are wild and rugged, and you will most likely encounter steinbocks, marmots and eagles. En route you can find overnight mountain lodges.
This beautiful 18th-century villa is home to the former owner’s collection of American art. Each hall is dedicated to a celebrated 20th-century American artist inspired by light and colour. Among the Renaissance furnishings and ornate interior architecture, there are installations by the likes of Dan Flavin, Robert Irwin and James Turrell. The villa also has extensive grounds, where large-scale modern sculptures are set among Romantic temples and grottos. Brunch, lunch and dinner are served at the onsite restaurant, Luce.
Located on the western bank of Lake Como, this estate is one of the finest in the area and encapsulates the grandeur of the region. It can be reached either by boat or via a short hike and it features a wonderful garden with beautiful flowers and plants. These embrace a building dating back to the late 16th century and create a combination of art and nature that is hard to find elsewhere. Hollywood fans may notice that it featured in both Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002) and Casino Royale (2006) from the James Bond franchise.
From Tirano in Lombardy, take a breathtaking train journey through the Swiss Alps and arrive in chic St Moritz. The historic red Bernina Express train has the most beautiful route in Europe, climbing to glacial heights where you can see unparalleled views of Italian and Swiss mountain ranges. Ride over the spiral viaduct of Brusio and along the Bernina Pass to Engadin, watching the scenery change from lush green planes to snow-capped gorges and then kitsch chalets. From Milano Centrale, take a short train to Tirano where the Bernina express begins. The Bernina journey lasts approximately four hours, and then it’s up to you how long you spend in St Moritz visiting bakeries and drinking Swiss beer. Return tickets are roughly 70–80 euros (around US$80–95). For an extra fee, tour operators offer hotel pickup and a coach ride to Tirano, which can take the hassle out of your day trip and comes with the bonus of a guide along the way.
Italy’s best-kept secret is its sparkling wine region, Franciacorta. Franciacorta DOCG is said to rival Champagne, but because it is lesser known internationally, it’s more affordable. The sparkling wine is made with grapes grown on the slopes surrounding Lake Iseo, north-east of Milan. In a two-hour drive, you can find yourself among the rolling vine-covered hills on a tasting tour of one of the many celebrated vineyards. Ca’ del Bosco and Berlucchi are two of the biggest wineries, but if you prefer a more intimate experience it’s worth researching some of the smaller producers. Tasting tours typically cost between 20–40 euros (around US$25–35) and you can book online. Another popular way to experience the region is to combine wine-tasting with a scenic bike ride; check out this bike tour company.
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