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.
First inhabited by Gallic tribes, what is today Lombardy was conquered by the Romans in the 3rd century B.C. and became part of Cisalpine Gaul, which in Latin means "Gaul on this side of the Alps". As with much of Italy, the region was subject to many invasions and occupations by Nordic and Eastern tribes generically referred to as barbarians. In A.D. 569 the area became the centre of the kingdom of the Lombards, an ancient German group that gave the region its current name.
After becoming part of the Charlemagne Empire in 774 and undergoing a period of conflict and upheaval, wars and foreign invasions, the power base gradually switched from feudal lords to independent towns and communities. A widespread economic revival took place, largely thanks to the commercial river trade routes between Europe and the Mediterranean port towns. After many more centuries of unrest and changing leadership, Lombardy fell under the rule of Austria as a part of the Lombardo-Venetian kingdom from 1815 until 1859, when the region rejoined Italy as a part of the united Italian Kingdom under the rule of the House of Savoy. At the end of WWII, the Savoy family was expelled from Italy and the Italian Republic was born. In 2003 the provision exiling the former royals was revised to allow the members of the Savoy family free entry onto Italian soil as private citizens.
Today, Lombardy is considered the industrial and commercial capital of Italy and the gateway to Europe.