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Land of Lakes and Mountains
The name Lombardy is derived from the Langobards, who conquered and settled the land in the 6th century AD.
Even though Lombardy one of Italy's largest regions and certainly its most important for the economy, the area also offers a wealth of scenic beauty and artistic treasures to satisfy even the most demanding tourist. Lombardy is home, at least in part, to all of the large northern Italian lakes. Lake Maggiore serves as Lombardy's border to Ticino and Piedmont, Lake Garda represents the border to Trentino and Veneto and Lake Lugano forms the border to the canton of Ticino in Switzerland. Boasting magnificent mountain scenery and Milan's magnificent Palazzo del Duomo and plenty more besides, whether you seek relaxation, an active holiday, shopping or art in your holiday,Lombardy provides you with plenty of ways to spend your time.
Soncino is located in the heart of the Po Valley and has some interesting sights including the impressive Sforza fortress, which numbers among the best preserved in Lombardy, and the house of the Jewish printers from the 14th century, seat of the first printing shop for Hebrew script in Italy. The Renaissance church of Santa Maria delle Grazie is also worth seeing.
The Mincio leaves Lake Garda in Peschiera and flows from there to Mantua from whence it flows into the Po. Experience unforgettable moments during an idyllic river cruise in a lovely nature park. Let yourself be enchanted by the blooming sea roses, lotus flowers and water chestnuts as well as the numerous bird species. The best time for this cruise is from April to October and in July, to admire the water lilies in bloom.
About 1,700 people live on the forested Monte Isola, which with an area of 4.5 square kilometres and an approximately 600-m-high mountain is the biggest island on any European lake. Nine small villages, which are completely isolated, are located on Monte Isola. The island’s residents obtain their groceries by making trips to the mainland by boat. Far removed from the hectic of everyday life, this island is a wonderful place for relaxation, with no noise or fumes from cars.
Monte Isola is also attractive for hikers. The longest circuit trail is 9 km long. There are ferries from Sulzano to Peschiera Maraglio and from Sale Marasino to Carzano. The island can also be reached from Iseo.
The pilgrimage church of Beata Vergine Maria delle Grazie, consecrated in 1406 and located not far from Mantua, is particularly impressive. From the outside, this church does not look very different from other Gothic churches, but as soon as one steps inside, visitors cannot hide their amazement: a crocodile hangs from the ceiling and niches in the walls house 53 life-size figures out of fabric and papier mâché. They were made between the 17th
and 18th centuries and portray rulers, warriors and ladies, but also macabre execution scenes. In addition, the pilgrimage church is a proper cabinet of wonders of anatomical votive offerings, such as replicated hands, breasts, etc. On 15 August a national Madonna drawing competition takes place on the church square.
Mementos from all the highly acclaimed ‘golden voices’ of old - Giulia Grisi, Maria Callas, Gigli and many others are on display here, as well as material about composers and directors, but also set designs and backdrops are included. It is a hall of fame for 200 years of Italian opera. There are even curiosities such as a lock of Bellini’s hair or Donizetti’s pen holder. When rehearsals are not being held in the Scala Theatre, you can also have a peek at the world-famous opera house.
Leonardo’s mural is one of the most famous and most admired works in all of art history. However, the process of decay, which already started soon after its creation, only allows a faint glimpse of its original beauty.
Since Leonardo worked on the painting very slowly, he could not use the usual fresco technique, by which one painted on fresh plaster. Instead, he painted over a mix of oil and tempura, as one would for a panel painting, and underestimated the dampness of the brick wall. Thus, restoration work started soon after Leonardo died in 1519. In 1652 the monks cut a door into the wall below the Christ figure and the original was often badly damaged by restorations. Napoleon’s troops turned the refectory into a horse stall. During the last war a protective barricade of sand bags rescued the painting. In 1999 the last restoration work was completed, but moisture, mould and changes in temperature continue to afflict the painting. Work must be done on the painting time and again due to environmental influences.
An advance reservation and advance payment are required for visits to admire Leonardo’s world-famous work.
Visitors reach the refectory through a special entrance to the left of the church. Only small groups of no more than 25 people can view the painting at a time, in 15-minute intervals. Visitors must pass through three checkpoints for safety as well as dust protection of the painting.
There are no group discounts.
It is very hard to get tickets for an entire group, therefore the tickets should already be booked several months in advance, but even then there is no guarantee.
This stadium was built on request in 1927 for the president of Milan at the time, Piero Pirelli. Numerous renovations and extensions followed: in 1939, the curves of the first tier were added, in 1955 the second tier was built and in 1990 the third tier, as well as a roof, were added for the world championships. The stadium is one of the biggest in Europe and provides covered seats for over 85,000 spectators.
Football museum and tour through the San Siro Stadium Tours of the stadium as well as the football museum are offered when matches are not in
In recent years, various Outlet Villages, resembling those found in the USA, have been opened in Italy. Designer modes in every
style, lingerie, sports clothing, shoes and bags, household goods, etc. are offered in at least 50 shops lined up next to each other.
With discounts from 30 to 50%, it is a revolution in shopping. Almost all the important brand names are represented. These outlets can be found in Fidenza near Parma, Mantua, Serravalle Scrivia near Genoa and in the Franciacorta region near Brescia.
The villa makes a grand entrance through the broad avenue leading up to its doorstep. Around 1500, Giroldino Della Porta bought himself a piece of land here and built himself a country estate, which was gradually extended into a ‘villa rustica’ (a villa set on a large agricultural estate). Silkworm breeding and winegrowing were the principle industries. The airy cellar rooms can still be visited, in which the silkworms were bred, as well as a large grape press which bears testimony to the wine production. In the villa’s interior, visitors can admire magnificent paintings, the splendid, old kitchen, which seems like it was just in use, and the tastefully decorated salons, bedchambers and galleries.
The Cimitero Monumentale in Milan is not only a cemetery, but also a vast and fascinating open-air museum with statues, obelisks, temples and lots of stories that have woven themselves around famous Milanese personalities. It was laid out in 1866, following the plans of Carlo Maciachini, for the Milanese bourgeoisie. The wealthy were to be put on display long after their own deaths - and naturally one’s own tomb had to be more monumental than the neighbouring one.
The lavishly decorated church of Certosa di Pavia, as well as the monastery, which is still run by Carthusian monks, is a main attraction of Lombardy. In addition to the charterhouse, the two cloisters and monks’ cells are also worth visiting. The magnificent marble façade of the charterhouse in the style of Bramante is very impressive. Statues of Ludovico il Moro and the charming Beatrice d’Este are displayed in the charterhouse on the left-hand side.
Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned by the Sforzas to make a bronze sculpture: the large horse. Its size was to be unprecedented, and since Leonardo had a flair for the overdimensional, he took on the commission. He wanted to pour the sculpture using four furnaces, but he never got the chance because the bronze was used to make artillery. In 1977 the American pilot and art patron Charles Dent began a collection to finance the casting of the statue following Leonardo’s drafts to then be presented to the city of Milan. When Dent died in 1994, he had gathered around 6 million dollars and his heirs commissioned the sculptor Nina Akumu to produce a clay model based on Leonardo’s drawings. In July 1999, 450 year s
after the destruction of Leonardo’s unfinished equestrian statue, the horse, weighing 15 tons, arrived in Milan in seven separate pieces. After it was put together, it reached a height of 720 cm. The American gift triggered a lengthy discussion as to a suitable location for the statue. Today it is housed in the San Siro Hippodrome.
The Scala was built on the location of the Santa Maria alla Scala Church in 1778 and derives its name from this building. The architect was Giuseppe Piermarini. The sumptuously decorated balcony seats were owned by the important Milanese families. One went here to be seen, the theatre performance often just served as a backdrop. The theatre underwent a complete renovation from 2002 to 2004. The rear build ing for stage technology and the orchestra halls were torn out and new buildings by the Swiss architect Mario Botta were erected. The new technical building encompasses
11 storeys above ground and 8 storeys below.
A visit to the Milanese Scala is the dream of many opera lovers. Unfortunately, it is very difficult to obtain tickets for an opera performance. Michelangelo can nevertheless gladly help with the organisation of an opera trip and easily obtain admission tickets.
The famous general Bartolomeo Colleoni was born in 1395 in the village of Solza, where the family’s modest castle still stands today. Colleoni was appointed captain general of the Venetian Republic and established his quarters in the castle of Malpaga, which he transformed into a magnificent residence.
Today look forward to Lake Iseo, one of Italy’s most beautiful lakes at the foot of the Alps. You will have the opportunity to stroll through the labyrinth-like streets of the medieval district of Iseo, the main town on the lake, which will lead you up up the slope to the Castello Oldofredi. In the
afternoon you will take a boat trip to the idyllic Monte Isola, the largest island in any European lake. Those who so wish can take a small hike to
the pilgrimage church of Madonna della Ceriola. Return to Iseo by boat, then the tour contin ues through the untouched hilly landscape of the Franciacorta wine region to a typical winery, where you will taste the excellent wines.
Today’s excursion is to Milan. The capital of Lombardy has a lot to offer including the cathedral, an imposing edifice, as well as the Scala, the world-famous opera. The elegant and sophisticated city is perfect for a shopping spree. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II arcade, with its elegant shops and cafés, is the most visited meeting point of the Milanese. There you can visit one of the lovely cafés.
Today’s tour includes a visit to the historic district of Pavia with its mighty castle, the cathedral and the Piazza della Vittoria. In the afternoon, visit and tour through the unique and world-famous Certosa di Pavia, the most famous relic of the Carthusian Order with its Renaissance facade and late Gothic interior.The tour through the Carthusian monastery makes one realise how strict the rules are for the isolated lifestyle of this order.
Bergamo’s attraction lies mainly in its upper city, which is surrounded by medieval walls. You will reach it by funicular and walk to the Piazza Vecchia, where the cathedral, the baptistery, the church of Santa Maria Maggiore with the Colleoni Chapel and the Palazzo della Ragione create a unique ensemble. Let yourself be pulled through the picturesque little streets and discover many interesting things in the small shops in the historic district.
When music lovers hear the name Cremona, they first think of violin making, since the Amati, Guarneri and Stradivari violin making families come from Cremona. The culture of this string instrument is still cultivated here today. There is a famous violin making school in the city and numerous workshops. Even if the city is mostly known for its music, it has architec tural features to offer that also merit a visit. The tower ing Torrazzo and the cathedral are among the most beautiful structures in the Romanesque-Langobard style.
Mantua is the former princely residence of the Gonzaga family and is surrounded by romantic lake scenery. Some poets and writers have classified the city as one of the most romantic in Italy, perhaps because from far away it looks like an island surrounded by water. The thousand-year-old
city of the Gonzaga places visitors under its spell through the magic of its art and beauty. During a tour you will see the medieval squares, Roman-
esque churches and palaces. Among the sights worth seeing are the Castello S. Giorgio and the Palazzo Ducale, the Piazza Sordello with the house of Rigoletto, the cathedral, the Piazza Broletto with the old city hall, the Piazza Erbe with the justice building, the clock tower, the Rotunde S. Lorenzo and the Basilica of S. Andrea.
The carnival of Franciacorta takes place in February with musical events, parades and the election of the ‘Re de Gnoc’.
´Oh bej, oh bej´ may not be called out anymore, but every Milanese knows what is meant: The cry can be translated as ‘how beautiful’, and connotes the festival of the city’s patron saint Ambrose. Every year on 7 December a market takes place in his honour around the Sant’Ambrogio church. In addition to sweets and handcrafts, mass is held in the church, and St. Ambrose also ushers in another important social event: the start of the opera season is festively celebrated on 7 December.
A special highpoint in the yearly calendar of Cremona is the annual festival of torrone, a food made out of nuts or almonds, honey and sugar. The festival always takes place on the first weekend in November.