10 Things To Do In Lombardy, Italy Travel Guide For Visitors


Are you looking for unique things to do in Lombardy, Italy? Well, you’ve come to the right place with this travel guide.

This past summer I was fortunate enough to spend an entire week traveling around the Lombardy region of Italy. Half of my time was focused in Milan. The other portion dedicated to visiting scenic rural places such as Chiavenna and Bergamo.

10 things to do in Lombardy, Italy

In Milan, I was surprised by the diversity of activities on offer – aside from just shopping. Including sampling cuisine unique to the city. Also, wandering around streets covered with tasteful street art. And finally experiencing fine dining and drinking in the evening.

Even more fascinating to me was how easy it was to escape the city and be fully immersed in the countryside. Merely, an hour or two by train allowed us to be straddling the border with Switzerland. Nearby the Italian Alps. Or marveling at the magnificent Lake Como.

The following is a travel and food guide of 10 unique things you can experience while visiting Lombardia.

10 Things to Do in Lombardy

Incredible street art in Milan, Italy
Incredible street art in Milan, Italy

Street Art in Milan

Let’s start out with something different. It seemed as though every time we went for a walk in Milan we encountered colourful graffiti. Unlike other cities, where graffiti is often a symbol of decay and squalor, the street art in Milan was highly sophisticated and tasteful. In particular, I recommend wandering around the neighborhoods of Leoncavallo, Isola, and Porta Ticinese. Moreover, you’ll encounter the best street art the city has to offer.

Here’s why exploring Milan’s street art is a must-do experience. From hidden alleys in Isola to the bustling streets of Porta Ticinese, Milan’s street art transforms the cityscape into a dynamic exhibition. These murals provoke thought, celebrate culture, and make art accessible to all. This is not just graffiti; it’s a cultural dialogue painted on the city’s walls.

What makes Milan’s street art epic? It’s the diversity. World-renowned artists like Blu, Shepard Fairey, and local hero Pao have left their mark here. Each piece tells a story about social issues, historical events, or purely aesthetic expression..

Planning Tips

  • Best Time to Visit: Spring and autumn offer pleasant weather, making it ideal for walking tours.
  • Wear Comfortable Shoes: You’ll be walking a lot, so comfortable footwear is a must.
  • Camera Ready: Keep your camera or smartphone charged and ready. You’ll want to capture the vibrant art you encounter.
Incredible Il Duomo Terrace views of Milan, Italy
Incredible Il Duomo Terrace views of Milan, Italy

Il Duomo Terrace

The Duomo, easily the most famous landmark in all of Milan, is a Gothic Cathedral currently listed as the 5th largest church in the world. Covered in marble, it is a marvel to witness by day and by night.

However, what many people don’t realize is that you can get some of the best views in all of Milan from high atop its terrace. From here you’ll enjoy incredible panoramic vistas. Also, you get a birds-eye view of people wandering about in the square below.

Why visit Il Duomo Terrace? For the panoramic views that stretch across Milan’s cityscape to the Alps on clear days. The terrace itself is a masterpiece. It features the elaborate marble craftsmanship that Il Duomo is famous for. Walking among the gothic spires and statues that adorn the roof is nothing short of inspiring. You’re literally stepping on a piece of history that dates back centuries.

For travel photographers, the terrace offers unmatched opportunities to capture the essence of Milan. Its juxtaposition of age-old architecture against the modern city skyline. This creates a striking contrast that’s perfect for stunning photographs. Unlike many historical sites, Il Duomo Terrace is remarkably accessible. Visitors can take an elevator up; however, stairs are also an option for the more adventurous.

How to Arrange Your Visit

  1. Booking Your Tickets: To visit Il Duomo Terrace, it’s best to book tickets in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons. You can purchase tickets online through the official Duomo di Milano website or through various tour operators that offer skip-the-line access.
  2. Choose the Best Time to Visit: Early mornings or late afternoons are ideal for visiting the terrace to avoid crowds and catch the best light for photos. Sunset on the terrace can be particularly spectacular.
  3. Consider a Guided Tour: For those interested in a more detailed exploration, consider booking a guided tour. Many tours not only include the terrace but also other parts of the cathedral, providing a comprehensive understanding of this magnificent structure.

Practical Tips

  • Wear Comfortable Shoes: The roof’s uneven surfaces call for sturdy footwear.
  • Check Weather Conditions: The terrace can be less enjoyable in inclement weather, so choose a clear day for your visit.
Creamy Risotto alla Milanese unique to Milan, Italy
Creamy Risotto alla Milanese unique to Milan, Italy

Risotto alla Milanese

We didn’t have a bad meal while in Milan (or Lombardia for that matter). But for a dish unique to the city be sure to try Risotto alla Milanese. This dish consists of a starchy rice that has a unique ability to absorb liquids such as cheese and butter.

With nothing but saffron, cheese and butter, the simplicity of this dish is what makes it a winner. Therefore, it is meant to be had as a primo (first course). But it is filling enough to be a meal in and of itself.

Risotto alla Milanese is a testament to the history and opulence of Milan. The dish is said to have originated in the 16th century. Thus, making it a storied part of local cuisine. The key ingredient, saffron, not only imparts a rich flavor and color but also connects the dish to Milan’s historical trade and spice routes.

What makes Risotto alla Milanese so tantilizing? It’s the saffron. This spice offers a distinctive taste. It’s both earthy and aromatic. Combined with creamy Arborio rice and a rich broth, the dish is a harmonious blend of simplicity and complexity. It pairs beautifully with local Lombardy wines; especially white wines that complement its richness without overpowering the saffron’s delicate flavor.

Whether it’s a luxurious restaurant or a cozy trattoria, Risotto alla Milanese can be enjoyed across various dining settings in Milan. Each chef brings their touch to the dish, yet all stay true to its authentic roots. It’s the perfect meal for cooler months.

Tips for Ordering

  • Ask for Recommendations: Don’t hesitate to ask the restaurant staff for wine pairing suggestions.
  • Watch it Made: Some restaurants prepare it in the dining area, so you can watch your meal being crafted.

BONUS: Breakfast in Milan is a sweet delight with a coffee!

Navigli district home to some of the best Aperitivo in Milan, Italy
Navigli district home to some of the best Aperitivo in Milan, Italy


Milan is home to pulsating nightlife. The best way to get started is with an aperitivo. Unlike other Italian cities, where the apertivo is merely cocktails and few random bites, Milan offers generous buffet spreads. It includes pizza, pastas, deli meats, desserts and more. Also, you’ll find a wide selection of beverages to tickle your fancy.

We found ourselves satisfied and full after having an apertivo for the first time in the Navigli District. This particular area is known for nightlife. It features some of the best restaurants. Come with 10-15 Euros in your pocket and be prepared to walk out feeling stuffed. Our favorite place was the Manhattan along the Navigli canal. Highly recommended!

Milan’s aperitivo isn’t just a happy hour; it’s a cherished cultural institution. This pre-dinner tradition offers a glimpse into the social and culinary fabric of the city. Aperitivo is typically held from about 6 PM to 9 PM. It’s more than just sipping cocktails; it’s about stimulating the appetite before dinner. Venues across Milan offer a variety of drinks accompanied by an extensive buffet of snacks and small dishes.

Why Consider Aperitivo?

It’s the atmosphere. Whether you choose a chic rooftop bar or a cozy street-side café, the setting is perfect for people watching and soaking in Milan’s stylish vibe. The food and drinks are superb. Classics like Negronis, Aperol Spritzes, and various wines are on offer, complemented by canapés, cheeses, olives, and more. Arrive with an appetite. The quality and variety can turn this into a light dinner all its own! Consider the neighborhoods of Brera, Navigli, or Porta Venezia for your first experience.

Making the Most of It

  • Arrive Early: To secure the best spots and enjoy a more relaxed experience, consider arriving right at the start.
  • Explore Different Venues: Try aperitivo at various places to experience different atmospheres and food offerings.
  • Ask Locals: Don’t hesitate to ask local residents for their favorite aperitivo spots. They can lead you to hidden gems away from the typical tourist trails.
Canal cruise ride down Milan’s Navigli District
Canal cruise ride down Milan’s Navigli District

Canal Ride

A canal cruise ride down Milan’s Navigli District is an absolute must. The rides are typically an hour. You pass by restaurants, cafes, bars and churches lined with colorful street art. Furthermore, it is a relaxing way to slowly take in the neighborhood. Do this while you plot where you’d like to cover on foot.

This network of waterways, once crucial for transporting goods, now serves as a charming backdrop for one of Milan’s most vibrant neighborhoods. They were engineered by none other than Leonardo da Vinci. This adds a layer of historical prestige to their already scenic charm. Originally they were designed to connect Milan to surrounding rivers and lakes. Now these canals have transformed into bustling hubs of activity. They’re lined with lively bars, quaint cafes, and unique shops.

What add a canal ride in Navigli to your itinerary?

It’s the unique perspective it offers. Gliding along the water, you get to see Milan from a different angle. The reflections of colorful buildings and the sunset skies make it a photographer’s paradise. The Navigli District is renowned for its vibrant nightlife and cultural scene. After your canal ride, you can explore art galleries, frequent artisan markets, or enjoy live music performances.

How to Arrange Your Canal Ride

Booking Your Tour

  • Choose Your Tour: There are various canal cruise options available, ranging from group tours to private rides. Decide what suits your schedule and budget.
  • Advance Booking: Especially during peak tourist seasons, it’s wise to book your canal ride in advance. This ensures you get a spot on the day that works best for your itinerary.

Getting There

  • Location: The main area for canal rides is centered around the Navigli Grande. The district is well-connected by Milan’s public transport, easily accessible by tram or metro.
  • Starting Point: Most tours start from the Darsena, the recently renovated ancient port of Milan, which itself is worth exploring.

Tips for a Pleasant Experience

  • Timing: Consider an evening cruise to experience the magical sunset views.
  • Weather Prep: Check the weather forecast and dress accordingly. Milan can be quite warm in the summer months, so light clothing and sunscreen might be necessary.
Delicious Polenta e Osei unique to Bergamo, Italy
Delicious Polenta e Osei unique to Bergamo, Italy

Polenta e Osei

How does polenta with bird sound to you? Don’t be fooled by the poorly translated English name (Polenta e Osei).

Because this is a dessert that is unique to Bergamo. It will satisfy even the most discerning of sweet tooth critics. This cake, with a chocolate bird placed on top, is something you’ll want to share with a friend considering how decadent it is.

Unlike its savory namesake, this dessert is a delightful confectionery made from marzipan. It’s crafted to mimic the appearance of the traditional polenta and birds dish but in a completely sweet form. It consists of a soft, yellow sponge cake (mimicking polenta) topped with chocolate (representing the bird). It’s all wrapped in a marzipan shell. The finishing touch is often a realistic chocolate bird sitting atop.

Finding the Perfect Spot To Try It

  • Local Pasticcerias: The best places to enjoy Polenta e Osei are local pasticcerias (pastry shops) scattered throughout Bergamo. These shops often have their unique take on the dessert, using recipes passed down through generations.
  • All Year Round: While Polenta e Osei can be found year-round, it’s often more prevalent during local festivals and the holiday season.
  • Ask Locals: Don’t hesitate to ask local residents for their recommendations on where to find the best Polenta e Osei.
Scenic train ride in the Lombardy region of Italy
Scenic train ride in the Lombardy region of Italy

Train Ride

Often taking transportation is just getting from A to B for most travelers. However, taking the train in the Lombardy region is a truly immersive travel experience.

You’ll pass through cities, scenic lakes and mountains and small villages.

I found myself wanting to put away my kindle and pay attention to what was going on outside of the window. My favorite route was from Milan to Chiavenna.

This is where we had a chance to marvel at Lake Como.

What makes train travel in Lombardy so epic? The views! Imagine gliding past Lake Como’s sparkling waters, the rolling vineyards of Franciacorta, or the breathtaking peaks of the Alps—all from the comfort of your seat. Lombardy’s trains are known for their punctuality and comfort. Train travel a highly efficient and relaxing way to explore the region.

How to Arrange Train Trips in Lombardy

Planning Your Route

  • Research: Start by mapping out the places you want to visit. Lombardy is home to major cities like Milan, Bergamo, and Brescia, as well as smaller towns near the Alps and the lakes.
  • Train Types: Choose from high-speed trains like Frecciarossa for long distances, or opt for regional trains for local explorations.

Booking Tickets

  • Online Platforms: Purchase tickets online through websites like Trenitalia or Italo, or use apps like Trainline for easy booking.
  • Local Stations: Alternatively, you can buy tickets at any train station. Most have multilingual ticket machines that are user-friendly.

Travel Tips

  • Validating Tickets: If you’re using a regional train, remember to validate your ticket before boarding to avoid fines.
  • Off-Peak Travel: For quieter journeys and cheaper tickets, try traveling during off-peak hours.
  • Luggage: Trains offer ample space for luggage, but keep your valuables close, especially on busier routes.
Learning hands on with an Italian cooking class
Learning hands on with an Italian cooking class

Cooking course in Cavernago

If you’re anything like us, you’re rather skilled at devouring tasty Italian dishes. However, if you actually want to learn how to make them from scratch, consider taking a cooking course. While in Cavernago, we had an opportunity to visit Malpaga Castle. This is where we dressed up like royalty and learned how to make pumpkin ravioli and beef tartare along with tiramisu for dessert.

Although I’m usually all-thumbs in the kitchen. However, this cooking course with Foodlab 3.0 gave me the confidence to potentially try some of these dishes back home for family and friends.

Vertemate Franchi Castle in Prosto di Piuro
Vertemate Franchi Castle in Prosto di Piuro

This experience combines the romance of an ancient castle with the hands-on thrill of Italian cooking. It’s a must-do for any food lover visiting Lombardy. Once home to the famous condottiero Bartolomeo Colleoni, the castle provides a stunning setting that transports participants back in time.

Imagine the satisfaction of enjoying a meal you’ve cooked in the grandeur of Malpaga Castle’s ancient halls. After the cooking session, you get to gobble up the tasty delights, making it a full-circle culinary journey.

Maximizing Your Experience

  • Dress Comfortably: Kitchen environments can be hectic and hot, so wear comfortable, non-slip shoes and breathable clothing.
  • Ask Questions: Engage with your instructors and learn not just how to make the dishes but also about the history and culture that surround them.

Vertemate Franchi Castle in Prosto di Piuro

It is not everyday that you have the opportunity to visit a castle. While in Prosto di Piuro, just outside of Chiavenna, we had the opportunity to tour the Vertemate Franchi Palace.

It was built during the 16th century by brothers Franchi. Wandering inside gives you a sample of their aristocratic lifestyle. This separates them from mere commoners.

Nestled near the Swiss border, Vertemate Franchi Castle is not your typical Italian castle. This Renaissance gem, surrounded by lush gardens and richly decorated interiors, offers a glimpse into the opulent lifestyle of the 16th century Lombardy nobility. Its unique architectural beauty and historical significance make it a must-visit for anyone traveling through Lombardy.

Visitors can explore rooms adorned with frescoes, fine furniture, and intricate woodwork. The castle also houses a collection of period costumes, textiles, and artifacts that enhance its historical ambiance.

Visitor Tips

  • Check Opening Hours: Make sure to verify the opening hours and tour schedules as they can vary seasonally.
  • Dress Comfortably: Wear comfortable shoes as there’s a lot to explore, from the extensive interiors to the sprawling gardens.
Bresaola Meat Festival in Chiavenna
Bresaola Meat Festival in Chiavenna

Bresaola Meat Festival in Chiavenna

I’ve been to a lot of festivals over the years. But never one centered exclusively around meat!

Every year in Chiavenna, the town celebrates its love for Bresaola.

Say, what? Bresaola. It closely resembles prosciutto. An air-dried meat that has been specially cured and aged for several months. Before taking on its dark red color.

I can honestly say we made it to all 14 stands as part of Dì de la Brisaola. This is where we sampled various kinds of this specialty meat.

It kind of ruined our plans for lunch but neither of us was complaining. The town itself really comes alive with marching bands. And the atmosphere is what really makes the event special in my opinion.

Final Thoughts

Our first introduction to travel in Italy, through the Lombardy region, left us craving more. We’re hopeful that we’ll be traveling more throughout the region. And also covering more of Italy in future months.

What are some of your favorite travel experiences? And foods you’ve sampled specifically in Lombardy and/or in all of Italy? Please let me know in the comments section below.

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  1. says: photography

    As a reader, I was captivated by Nomadic Samuel’s vivid exploration of Lombardy, Italy. His narrative not only showcased the expected highlights like the stunning views from the Il Duomo Terrace but also delved into hidden gems like the sophisticated street art in Milan’s neighborhoods. The personal touch, such as participating in a cooking course in Cavernago and the unexpected delight of the Bresaola Meat Festival in Chiavenna, added a delightful layer to the travel guide. Samuel’s experiences make Lombardy feel like a treasure trove of diverse and enriching adventures waiting to be discovered.

  2. Your vivid journey through Lombardy transported me right back to my own travels in the region, where I too was captivated by the vibrant street art of Milan and the delectable taste of Risotto alla Milanese. The transition from bustling city life to serene countryside, echoing with whispers of history, was a poignant reminder of the diverse beauty Italy offers. I’ve yet to experience the Bresaola Meat Festival, but your description has surely piqued my interest for my next Italian adventure!

  3. says: Jeremy Grant

    Reading about the incredible street art in Milan brought back memories of my own meandering walks through the vibrant neighborhoods, where every corner seemed to reveal a new artistic masterpiece. And the description of the Risotto alla Milanese made my mouth water, reminding me of the delightful meal I had in a cozy Milanese trattoria, savoring the creamy and rich flavors. Lombardy’s diverse landscapes and charming towns, as described in the train ride and castle tours, have ignited my wanderlust, making me eager to plan my own adventure through this captivating region.

  4. says: Johnson

    The vibrant colors and artistic talent truly made the city come alive. And let’s not forget about the mouthwatering Risotto alla Milanese that I savored in a local restaurant. The creamy texture and rich flavors were beyond compare. Lombardy is truly a treasure trove of unique experiences and culinary delights, and I can’t wait to explore more of Italy in the future.

  5. says: Edgar Perez

    I am visiting Italy in a month and one of the things I am most excited about is the food! Anytime I read articles on the food in Italy, it always looks so delicious!

  6. says: Natalie

    Saffron, cheese and butter…..mercy sakes, that sounds outstanding! I might need to take my stretchy pants to my next visit to the Milan area! I’ve visited before but only Milan and now pine away for visiting the surrounding area.

    We’ve taken the kids to Italy and had a wonderful trip to Rome, Bologna and the surrounding areas like Ravenna, and Amalfi coast. Everyone wants to go back….there is so much of Italy that looks marvelous – the people warm, the food outstanding, the history, the art. Wonderful! When I travel with the kids I write information for them so they can understand more about what they are seeing. It can be overload otherwise!

    We have to go back to Milan, now! I want to see the duomo without all the scaffolding, too! Street art seems to becoming more and more available, too, and I just love the medium. It is so fresh!

  7. says: Jams

    After doing long and far travels I have to settle down a bit more now but I don’t want to stop traveling.
    I decided to see more of Italy and this post comes very in handy for that!
    I will definitely go back to this blog when I visit LOMBARDY, .
    Thank for that!

  8. says: Afzal Zaheer

    I have once been to Milan and a sneak peak about the article transported me back in time to potentially the world’s most beautiful place.

    Thanks for sharing the post and helping me relive the moments gone by.

  9. says: samaira

    My husband and I are in the beginning stages of planning a trip to Italy in November and we found such an useful information about things to do in (LOMBARDY, ITALY) through this article. we can plan our trip according to the places you mentioned in this blog. Even you gave such a wonderful collection of pictures in this article and these pictures making us more excited to visit Italy as soon as possible.

  10. says: Sahil Bhardwaj

    Beautiful city, always wanted to visit this place. Pics are amazing, Canal ride and Train ride sounds great. Thanks for sharing 🙂


    Lombardy is the region great cities like medieval Bergamo and its high city, Brescia, Mantua Renaissance, Unesco heritage with neighboring Sabionetta

  12. says: John Smith

    Thanks to share all of things here.
    I like all specially Polenta e Osei. I never go there but i like to visit Italy once in my life. I like canal ride also.

  13. says: Ani Zonet

    The Vertemate Franchi Castle is very beautiful! Also another city where they serve aperitivo with pizza, pasta, meat and desserts is Turin, 1-2 hours from Milan.

  14. says: Maria Han

    Wonderful post, lovely pictures. Food is the best part while travelling, cooking course and attending the meat festival are something really awesome during your trip.

  15. says: farekim

    The view of the Duomo and the Galleria always impresses and the street musicians always seem to provide a pleasant atmosphere. From here you can do anything, whether it is to see a show at the Scala, shop, go to a drink/meal/gelatto or get to another part of the city.

  16. says: Rotella

    Wonderful place! Specially that yummy, delicious Polenta e Osei, I loved this. I would definitely add this place in my destination list. Thanks for sharing.

  17. says: William @ Encover

    Your photos are amazing. Italy is on my list for destinations for my next trip. I’ll be aiming to check out Lombardy on my way.

    Thanks Samuel!

  18. says: raman Kumar

    such a nice information you have shared i am also planning to visit italy this summer and i love to visit Il Duomo Terrace

  19. says: David

    Fabulous Places Samuel,Really The places are looking Stunning,I never Visit Like this,really awesome,i am very excited to read your article while,i am very happy,thanks…

  20. says: johnson

    I’m off to Italy in June and I am so excited! These pictures are making me-even more excited – it looks so beautiful there.
    I’ll probably fall in love With That country and never leave!

  21. Lombardy is a wonderful place, every traveler can spend some hours in Lombardy, This post exactly sharing my thoughts of things to do in Lombardy. additionally they can visit Italy tallwaterfall, golf club and Lake como.

  22. says: Zascha

    I’m off to Italy in June and I am so excited! These photos are making me even more excited – it looks so beautiful there.
    I’ll probably fall in love with that country and never leave! 🙂

  23. says: Kristy Chown

    Samuel, your work is absolutely beautiful! Found you through your asia street food videos 🙂 I’m going next year, but heading to Oceania in the summer. I love your photos! Great stuff. Did you end up meeting a teacher while working abroad, or you’ve stayed a one-man show?