Surface (Kmq): 23872
Density (Inhabitants/Kmq.): 377
Main city: Milano (MI)
Other towns: Bergamo (BG); Brescia (BS); Como (CO); Cremona (CR); Lecco (LC); Lodi (LO); Mantova (MN); Pavia (PV).
Often referred to as 'Lombardy and the Lakes' due to Lakes Maggiore, Como, Orta and Garda (amongst others), this is the most populous, most developed and most wealthy of the Italian regions. It has the de facto capital of northern Italy, Milan, and many northern Italians will claim that this centre of fashion, commerce, finance and industry is a worthier capital than Rome. Lombardy has superb medieval cities in the shape of Mantua, Pavia, Brescia, Bergamo and Cremona. Pavia was once the Lombards' capital and Cremona is a medieval gem famed as the working place of Stradivarius. North of Milan, the Italian Lakes are truly beautiful and they have inspired artists for centuries - Bellini, Rossini and Verdi were three composers who took lakeside homes. To the east of Milan is the medieval city of Brescia, nestling between twin lakes and surrounded by hillsides covered in vines.
Milano (Milan) left
The home of Leonardo da Vinci's famous painting "The Last Supper", which decorates the Refectory wall at the church Santa Maria delle Grazie. Milan's Duomo is the world's largest Gothic cathedral and it boasts super views of Milan and of the mountains beyond. The shopping, of course, is famously very good, if rather expensive.
Mantova (Mantua) right
The most romantic skyline in the world, according to writer Aldous Huxley, with its minaret-like towers floating above the three lakes that encircle Mantova. There are also two marvellous palaces: the Palazzo Ducale and the Palazzo Te.
The Italian Lakes offer a haven for lovers of sailing and other watersports. Garda, Como, Maggiore, Orta and the rest have inspired artists as diverse as Henry James, Verdi and Rossini.
Arrive in Bergamo Basso and head straight for Bergamo Alta, the old town reached by funicular railway. It's a spectacular way to arrive and things get better. Bergamo provides a delightful backdrop of Palladian style houses, wrought-iron balconied terraces and excellent cafes and restaurants.