Far from the tourist routes and the large metropolises there is a fascinating Lombardy, made up of lands immersed in nature and medieval villages overlooking the lakes. Here is a small selection of these little known little beauties.
1 – Zavattarello (Province of Pavia)
The name Zavattarello derives from the activity that was prevalent in the village for centuries, that of cobblers: the vulgar savattarellum literally indicates ” the place where slippers (savatte) are made “. A small medieval village in the Oltrepo ‘Pavese in the Alta Val Tidone, Zavattarello is surrounded by greenery , and is dominated by the Dal Verme Castle. In Zavattarello time seems to have stopped and tradition and modernity coexist in harmony, recreating an atmosphere of peace and serenity , linked to the rhythms of life of the past.
- Ideal period for a visit : 15 – 16 August Medieval days, 8 December Christmas market, visits to the castle from April to October.
- What to see in the city and its surroundings : The Dal Verme castle of Zavattarello; Valverde; Trebecco; Montalto Pavese; Tower of the Trees; Pietragavina.
2 – Bagolino (Province of Brescia)
Mountain tourist resort, located at the northern end of Vallesabbia, Bagolino is a medieval village that has preserved its original appearance intact , made up of houses of considerable height leaning against each other, winding streets, arcades and narrow stairways. Formerly structured in the shape of an inverted axis, Bagolino consists of two districts, that of Osna and Cavril . Particularly fascinating is via Portici , the ancient main road where trade took place.
- Ideal period for a visit : the last Thursday and Tuesday before the beginning of Lent, on the occasion of the Bagolino Carnival.
- What to see in and around the city : Parish church of San Giorgio; church of San Rocco; Military memorial of Monte Suello; the natural paths that wind around the village; the old cemetery; the museum house.
3 – Castellaro Lagusello (Province of Mantua)
The village of Castellaro, a fraction of the municipality of Monzambano, was born in the 11th century as a ” castelliere “: a simple wall with no houses inside, suitable as a simple temporary refuge located on the small heart-shaped lake . Built between the 11th and 12th centuries, the fortified village is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy , and for centuries it has been at the center of the expansionist aims of the nearby powers, which have shifted its geopolitical location. The current Lombard location is recent, and dates back to Napoleon who, having ceded the Veneto to Austria, kept the village to himself for military defense needs.
- Ideal period for a visit : end of November throughout the month of December, on the occasion of the countless Christmas events, and markets.
- What to see in the city and its surroundings : castle; villa Arrighi; church of San Nicola di Bari; Oratory of San Giuseppe; archaeological site.
4 – Cavernago (Province of Bergamo)
The origins of the village date back to Roman times when the territory was affected by the presence of the imperial troops. At the end of the Roman domination the territory was affected by the barbarian invasions, by the advent of the Lombards and the Franks. At the center of the conflicts between Guelphs and Ghibellines, in the village, given its strategic position, numerous fortifications , manors and two castles were built , which still make a fine show of themselves today. On the other hand, industrial settlements date back to the twentieth century, starting the economic development of the area.
- Ideal period for a visit : in August for the festival of the two castles.
- What to see in the city and its surroundings : the parish churches of Cavernago and Malpaga; Green oasis; the castle of Cavernago and the castle of Malpaga.
5 – Sabbioneta (Province of Mantua)
Born at the behest of Duke Vespasiano Gonzaga, Sabbioneta is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, for the particularity of its historic center and for its urban and architectural layout. The style is Renaissance and the numerous buildings of historical interest are the work of Lombard, Emilian and Venetian artists. It is enclosed by walls, around which numerous villages develop.
- Ideal period for a visit : Sabbioneta is an active village all year round with a calendar full of events and manifestations. the most characteristic, however, are undoubtedly the Toson d’Oro National Award in maro, the Sabbio Summer Fest in July and the “Sabbioneta meets” event, a series of literary meetings that take place in September and October in the city theater.
- What to see in the city and its surroundings : Gallery of the Ancients, Church of the Incoronata, Church of Santa Maria Assunta, Church of San Rocco, Synagogue and Jewish Quarter, Palazzo Ducale, Palazzo Giardino, Porta Vittoria, Porta Imperiale, Tealtro all’Antica, Duchy Museum.
6 – Cantù (Province of Como)
Despite being the fifth most populous city in Lombardy, Cantù has a historic center full of charm and offers both artistic and cultural and naturalistic itineraries , being just a stone’s throw from the countryside and the Brughiera Briantea Park .
- Ideal period for a visit : on the last Thursday of January there is a typical event, the Giubiana, which commemorates the death sentence of a woman considered a traitor to the city; in mid-August, when the August Fair is held; on the 3rd Wednesday of October, when the Fiera del Crocefisso is held.
- What to see in the city and its surroundings : Monumental complex of Galliano, Basilica of San Paolo, Basilica of SS Teodoro and Bartolomeo, Sanctuary of the Madonna dei Miracoli, church of Sant’Antonio Abate, church of Santa Maria, church of Sant’Ambrogio, castle of Pietrasanta, Porta Ferraia.
7 – Crema (Province of Cremona)
Crema is a small town that develops along the Serio river; its historic center is gathered entirely around Piazza Duomo and is characterized above all by Renaissance-style buildings . Thanks to its size, it can be easily explored on foot or even by bicycle, along the numerous cycle paths . Its ancient bond with Venice is very strong and can be seen from some details, such as the reproduction of the “winged lion” on top of the Guelph Tower .
- Ideal period for a visit : the central week of August, when a traditional culinary event takes place in Piazza Aldo Moro, in which Tortelli cremaschi, that is the typical dish of the city, are the protagonists; from 24 December to the last week of January, when it is possible to admire the Nativity scene of the Sabbioni;
- What to see in the city and its surroundings : piazza Duomo, cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Croce, sanctuary of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Palazzo Zurla, Palazzo Vescovile, Palazzo Albergoni Arrigoni, Civic Museum of Crema and Cremasco, sanctuary of the Beate Virgin of Mercy.
8 – Voghera (Province of Pavia)
Voghera is the main center of Oltrepò Pavese and rises on the banks of the Staffora stream. It is a city also known for being an important wine center , while its historic center, with its numerous buildings and palaces, manifests all its artistic and cultural heritage.
- Ideal period for a visit : every third Sunday of the month there is an important antiques market, called Sogno Antico.
- What to see in the city and its surroundings : the Duomo and the Treasury of the Duomo, the Castle, the Shrine of the Italian Cavalry, the church of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Palazzo Gounela, Casa Nava, the former Cavalry barracks of Vittorio Emanuele II, the numerous churches.
9 – Bormio (Province of Sondrio)
Bormio is a center immersed in the Stelvio National Park and, more precisely, it is located inside a basin surrounded by mountains. This position gives the city a perfect climate in every season of the year. Here, history and sporting activities come together to create an active destination 365 days a year. Finally, Bormio is also well known for its famous spas .
- Ideal period for a visit : destination suitable all year round for its spas and for nature, which makes it usable in winter for alpine sports and in the other seasons for trekking and hiking activities. In any case, in February it is possible to attend the Palio delle Contrade while in the Easter period you can see the floats called “Pasquali” parade.
- What to see in the city and its surroundings : Bormio thermal baths, Bormio Civic Museum, Torre della Bajona, Venini Military Fort in Oga, church of Santi Gervasio e Protasio, church of San Vitale, church of Sant’Ignazio, Alpine Botanical Garden “Rezia “.
10 – Livigno (Province of Sondrio)
Livigno is a highly tourist destination located between the Engandine and the Alta Valtellina, a well-known destination for winter and mountain tourism . Its valley is characterized by a series of wooden houses, which are the distinctive element of the city in the world: the bait , in fact, is the traditional residence of Livigno and is due to the characteristics of the territory, namely the forest, the meadow and snow.
- Ideal period for a visit : all year round, for sporting activities, both summer and winter; in particular, during the Christmas period, the famous Christmas Markets are very popular.
- What to see in the city and its surroundings : the Museum of Livigno and Trepalle, the Monument to the Fallen, the church of Santa Maria Nascente, the Beata Vergine di Caravaggio, the Chapel of the Madonna della Pace, the numerous churches, the Dairy of Livigno.
11 – Tirano (Province of Sondrio)
A few steps from the Swiss border, Tirano is known above all for being the terminus of the Bernina Red Train , or rather of the characteristic and panoramic railway line that connects Tirano with San Moritz, a luxurious Swiss town. Furthermore, the town center is full of ancient noble palaces, today transformed into museum houses, which alone can be visited, together with the only basilica in the province of Sondrio, or the Sanctuary of the Blessed Virgin.
- Ideal period for a visit : in winter, to board the little train among the completely snow-covered landscape.
- What to see in the city and its surroundings : Basilica of the Beata Vergine; Tiranese Ethnographic Museum; church of Santa Perpetua; church of San Rocco; castle of Santa Maria; bell tower of San Martino; Salis Palace; Palazzo d’Oro Lambertenghi; Bernina red train.
12 – Grosio (Province of Sondrio)
Grosio is one of the municipalities of the Mountain Community of Valtellina di Tirano, well known for its archaeological remains . In fact, the Grosio Rock Engravings Park is not to be missed . But, in its artistic and cultural heritage, there are also some very important churches and noble palaces, such as the Villa Visconti Venosta, which today houses the town hall.
- Ideal period for a visit : the first Sunday of Lent, on the occasion of Carnival.
- What to see in the city and its surroundings : Rock Engravings Park, San Faustino Castle, New Castle, San Giorgio church, San Giuseppe church, Villa Visconti Venosta
13 – Chiuro (Province of Como)
Already inhabited in prehistoric times, as evidenced by some remains, today Chiuro is considered the capital of Valtellina wine production and, right here, numerous companies and wineries in the Valtellina are located. The village is also very fascinating as it is surrounded by many apple orchards , as well as vineyards.
- Ideal period for a visit : from March to November, when the vineyards are in full bloom.
- What to see in the city and its surroundings : Stefano Quadrio’s castle; church of SS Giacomo and Andrea; portico of the Disciplini; church of the Madonna della Neve.
14 – Valdisotto (Province of Sondrio)
Municipality characterized by its uncontaminated nature, it develops along the banks of the Adda river . It is made up of several hamlets, each with its own history , such as that of Cespina , which houses the church of San Bartolomeo de Castelàz, which miraculously remained intact following the landslide of Val Pola in 1987, and the flood, which caused enormous and unspeakable damage throughout the Valtellina.
- Ideal period for a visit : in summer, when you can go along the nature trails by mountain bike and to participate in numerous events, such as the Blue Night of mid-August.
- What to see in the city and its surroundings : church of San Bartolomeo, church of Santa Maria Assunta and ossuary, Forte Venini di Oga, Stelvio National Park.
15 – Bienno (Province of Brescia)
Municipality of Val Camonica, Bienno is a well-known and appreciated medieval village as it is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy , and because it was awarded the “Orange Flag”, recognition for the most precious villages in the country. Today it looks like a real open-air museum, thanks to the initiatives of numerous artists who design new forms of art, in order to make the town known also as “Borgo degli Artisti”.
- Ideal period for a visit : in August, when the Bienno Market Exhibition takes place, where old crafts and crafts are exhibited.
- What to see in the city and its surroundings : Palazzo Simoni Fè; the Renaissance Francesconi Rebajoli Palace; Ethnographic Museum of Iron, Popular Arts and Traditions of Bienno; the House of Artists; Parish Church of Saints Faustino and Giovita; Colle della Maddalena; Hermitage of SS. Peter and Paul.
16 – Boario (Province of Brescia)
Boario Terme is a small fraction belonging to the municipality of Darfo Boario Terme, in the heart of Val Camonica. The main attraction of the city are the Thermal Baths , around which numerous hotels and wellness centers have developed, which welcome thousands of tourists all year round. There are four thermal springs, rich above all in iron: Silia, Igea, Fausta and Antica Fonte . From Boario, it is also possible to leave to follow trekking and mountain bike itineraries .
- Ideal period for a visit : in summer, to be able to combine the thermal stay, even the alpine sports.
- What to see in the city and its surroundings : Terme di Boario; Natural Park of Rock Engravings; Archeopark; Masso dei Corni Freschi; sanctuary of the Madonna degli Alpini
17 – Towns on Lake Como: Bellagio, Tremezzo, Menaggio
Lake Como is located 80 km from the city of Milan and is recognized by its inverted Y shape. It develops between the provinces of Como, from which the name derives, and that of Lecco and is a very popular destination not only for its rich naturalistic and landscape heritage , but also for the numerous and luxurious villas that surround its banks and which the most illustrious personalities of the international jet set have chosen as their home and location for important films. For lovers of outdoor activities , Lake Como offers numerous sports opportunities, also aquatic. The most famous place is Bellagio, characterized by narrow and steep streets. Tremezzo, on the other hand, is known for the famous Villa Carlotta, whose rooms and gardens can be visited. Finally, Menaggio is a medieval village characterized by palaces with arcades.
- Ideal period for a visit : in autumn, when all the small villages that surround the banks of the lao are tinged with red and orange colors.
- What to see in the city and its surroundings : Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo, Botanical Park, Villa Melzi and Villa Serbelloni in Bellagio, Villa d’Este Cernobbio, Isola Comacina and Sacro Monte in Ossuccio
18 – Towns on Lake Garda: Desenzano, Sirmione and Salò
Lake Garda is a lake that extends along three regions, Veneto, Trentino Alto-Adige and Lombardy. In the province of Brescia, the cities that overlook its banks are different, including Desenzano, Sirmione and Salò, among the most famous and popular. In particular, Sirmione is the best known location for its wonderful historic center enclosed within the walls of a castle, directly on the lake. Desenzano is the favorite destination for shopping and aperitifs . There are numerous activities that can be carried out, including certainly the navigation of the lake, water sports, but above all walking and shopping in the pedestrian streets of the luxurious cities.
- Ideal period for a visit : in summer, to be able to enjoy all the activities organized on the lake.
- What to see in the city and its surroundings : Desenzano (historic center), Sirmione (historic center, castle and Grotte di Catullo), Salò (historic center and museum), Malcesine (Palazzo dei Capitani).
19 – Towns on Lake Iseo: Iseo, Monte Isola, Lovere
Lake Iseo extends between the provinces of Brescia and Bergamo and is very popular thanks to the variety of attractions it offers: from the opportunity to relax on the lakeside beaches , to the charming historic centers full of shops for shopping ; from the wineries of the famous Franciacorta , to the trekking routes and visits to sanctuaries. Among the destinations that overlook this lake, Monte Isola is well known, a small green oasis of about 5 kilometers on which the Rocca Martinengo is located. Iseo, on the other hand, is undoubtedly the most popular place, loved by many visitors for its medieval style. Finally, Lovere, which since 2003 is part of the club of the “most beautiful villages in Italy”, thanks to its position between the sea and the mountains.
- Ideal period for a visit : from spring to autumn, to enjoy the right climate for outdoor activities.
- What to see in the city and its surroundings : Iseo (historic center), Montisola, Franciacorta (wine cellars), Torbiere del Sebino, San Pietro in Lamosa Monastery, via Valeriana, Pisogne (church of Santa Maria della Neve), Lovere (Lungolago, Basilica of Santa Maria in Valvendra, Galleria dell’Accademia Tadini, Civic Tower).
20 – Towns on Lake Maggiore: Angera, Laveno Mombello and Luino
Lake Maggiore, which stretches between Italy and Switzerland, sees several small villages that develop on the Lombard side which, unlike the more luxurious and perhaps more well-known Piedmontese resorts, offer peace and tranquility. Among the most visited destinations, the cities of Angera, Laveno Mombello and Luino, renowned for their parks and numerous churches . In particular, Angera is famous for its medieval fortress , which dominates the whole village and the lake. Laveno, on the other hand, is the only natural port of the lake and is very popular for its funicular, which leads to the top of Sasso del Ferro , from which you can enjoy a wonderful view of the lake and the surrounding Alps.
- Ideal period for a visit : from spring to autumn, to be able to walk among the villages and relax on the beaches.
- What to see in the city and its surroundings : Angera (Sanctuary Madonna della Riva, Civic Museum, Rocca Borromea, church of Santa Maria Assunta), Laveno Mombello (lakefront, Villa De Angeli Frua, Hermitage of S. Caterina del Sasso, church of Santi Filippo and Giacomo), Luino (Parco a Lago, Parco a Boschetto, church of Saints Giuseppe and Dionigi, church of Carmine).