Over the centuries this diverse Italian territory has been distinguished by the uniqueness of its architectural development, with a multitude of religious buildings and urbanisation of all types. The result of a long and fragmented political reality, from the Middle Ages onward numerous mediaeval citadels, villages and towns were constructed up and down Italy and still today constitute a considerable portion of the Italian artistic heritage because of their uniqueness. From the lakes to the mountains, the loveliest townships in Lombardy are a perfect tourist attraction for a Sunday outing that is on everyone’s doorstep.
The towns between Lakes Maggiore and Como
Each town is a book of history, unique in its own way. In the north of the province of Varese lies Curiglia con Monteviasco, an agglomeration of a small number of districts perched deliciously on the Lombard Pre-Alps and known especially for the stone houses with pioda stone roofs, in the exquisite outpost of Piero.
An old fishing town, the pearl of Lake Maggiore, Angera, dominates the Verbano with its Rocca Borromeo, also housing the Doll’s Museum and a rediscovered medieval garden.
Still in the province of Varese, we make mention of Castiglione Olona, where there still exist traces of its ancient Lombard settlement and feudal origins, and charming Arcumeggia, the painted town, where from 1956 to today tens of frescoes have been painted on the houses.
While Lake Como offers some of the most spectacular panoramas in Lombardy, places like Ossuccio (now Tramezzina) and the medieval township of Caglio will really take you back in time.
Worthy of note is the medieval township of Corenno Plinio which, with its castle, rises on a promontory on the east bank of the Lario. Thanks to its geological features, the Lario offers enchanting landscapes, even with the Orrido di Bellano and Orrido di Nesso, small hamlets and gorges on the different banks.
Sondrio and Bergamo: townships amid breathtaking nature and paths
When the territory gets harsher, it is no less evocative for this. Among the lost and rediscovered natural places in Lombardy are the rural villages ofSavogno and its “twin” Dasile: reachable only on foot, these evoke life in full contact with nature. With its majestic castle and the numerous historic remains, among which the Rock Incisions Park, one of the jewels of Italian Artistic Heritage in Valtellina is Grosio.
Leaving San Pellegrino Terme in a northwards direction, the towns of Camerata Cornello and Cornello dei Tasso offer breathtaking passages; Ornica is a lovely mountain village in the heart of the Val Brembana, while Gromo is the show-piece of the Alpi Orobie.
In the low Bergamo area lie Pagazzano with its Visconti fortification, and Cavernago, known as the town with two castles (Cavernago and Malpaga). It’s hard to forget Lovere, mirrored on the waters of Lake Iseo, marrying the charm of the small town with a fable-like atmosphere.
Brescia, Mantua and Cremona: treasures to be discovered
On the west bank of the Benaco, the evocative Tremosine sul Garda leaves you spellbound with its sheer terrace over the lake and its artistic and archaeological riches. While Gardone Riviera is a much-appreciated target for tourists, picturesque Bienno, in Val Camonica, is renowned as an ancient town of smithies and artists.
The south of Lombardy is replete with spectacular small towns, not only within fortified areas but sometimes as places of leisure or prestige. This perfectly describes Sabbioneta, built in the sixteenth century for the Gonzaga dynasty following the principles of the ideal humanist city: its extraordinary story has ensured its listing in the Unesco World Heritage Sites.
Remaining in the area of Mantua, the fortified town of Castellaro Lagusello rises in perfect harmony with nature, while among the treasures still to be discovered in the vicinity of the Oglio river is another Italian marvel: we refer to Soncino, a township enclosed within the fifteenth century walls, where the Rocca Sforzesca impresses, as well as the underground areas, open to visitors.
Places just a stone’s throw from Milan: a trip out of the city towards Lodi and Pavia
On the plain, or near the hills, Sant'Angelo Lodigiano and San Colombano al Lambro are good representations of the evolution into real cities of townships that conceal very ancient origins, while in the suburban area Lodi Vecchio and Rivolta d'Adda celebrate the rich Lombard artistic heritage.
On the ancient Via, we come to Stradella and the Rocca di Montalino, while, still in the soft hills of the Pavia Oltrepò area, among the most beautiful towns are picturesque Fortugnago, Zavattarello (with its Dal Verme castle) and the medieval center of Varzi, distinguished by its numerous towers.
A few minutes south of Milan lies the ancient town of Certosa di Pavia, Morimondo with its famous Abbey and the enchanting scenarios of Robecco sul Naviglio.
Each town is unique and characteristic: to leap backward in time all you need is the desire to explore the vast artistic heritage of the Italian territory. From the lakes to the mountains, in Lombardy, there is a multitude of citadels, villages and medieval towns which are only waiting to be discovered and conserved. Even only a short way out of Milan.