10 Things to do in Lombardy, Italy

10 things to do in Lombardy, Italy

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 with the other portion dedicated to visiting scenic rural places such as Chiavenna and Bergamo.

In Milan, I was surprised by the diversity of activities on offer – aside from just shopping – including sampling cuisine unique to the city, wandering around streets covered with tasteful street art, and 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. An hour or two by train allowed us to be straddling the border with Switzerland in 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

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, where you’ll encounter the best street art the city has to offer.

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 and a birds-eye view of people wandering about in the square below.

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. It is meant to be had as a primo (first course) but it is filling enough to be a meal in and of itself.

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

Aperitivo

Milan is home to pulsating nightlife and 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 (pizza, pastas, deli meats, desserts and more) and 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 and 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!

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 and you pass by restaurants, cafes, bars and churches lined with colorful street art. It is a relaxing way to slowly take in the neighborhood while you plot where you’d like to cover on foot.

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 dessert that is unique to Bergamo 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.

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 as you 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 where we had a chance to marvel at Lake Como.

Italian cooking class
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, 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, 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

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

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, which closely resembles prosciutto, is 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 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.

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: 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!

  2. 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!

  3. says: Afzal Zaheer

    Hi,
    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.

  4. 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.

  5. says: Sahil Bhardwaj

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

  6. says: SILVANA AZEVEDO

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

  7. says: John Smith

    Hi,
    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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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!

  13. 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

  14. 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…

  15. 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!

  16. 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.

  17. 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! 🙂

  18. 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?