I’ve recently come back from a week exploring Lombardy in Italy. Before going, my expectations were the usual for any Italian destination – a lot of good food, wine and coffee. And there was plenty of this, but also much more! I realised that there is a huge amount of things to do in Lombardy and you need plenty of time to do them all. Many people only visit Milan and maybe one of the lakes, but exploring the region in depth is the best way to enjoy it. Here is what I got up to in Lombardy in one week.
Table of Contents
- 1 Things to do in Lombardy in one week
- 1.1 Marvel at timeless designs at Galleria Campari
- 1.2 Experience a wine tasting session at an agriturismo
- 1.3 Discover the Vescovado rolling hills on horseback
- 1.4 Try award winning Moscato di Scanzo
- 1.5 Visit the largest lake island in Europe
- 1.6 Visit the grandest Italian villa by Lake Garda
- 1.7 Try your hand at making paper the traditional way
- 1.8 Try limoncello at an ecomuseum
- 1.9 Take a tour around an ancient fortress
- 1.10 Visit a hermitage at the edge of Lake Maggiore
- 1.11 Ride a funicular that will take your breath away
- 1.12 Enjoy lunch with (possibly) the best view in Italy
- 1.13 Visit a medieval castle with a doll museum
- 1.14 Reach the top of a UNESCO sacred mountain
- 1.15 Take in the eclectic displays at Casa Museo Pogliaghi
- 2 Planning your trip to Lombardy
- 3 Visiting Italy? Check out my other Italy articles
- 4 Like this post? Pin and save for later
Things to do in Lombardy in one week
Marvel at timeless designs at Galleria Campari
I’m sure you will spend a couple of days in Milan before exploring the rest of Lombardy. But before you leave the city completely, make sure you don’t miss a visit to Galleria Campari.
Galleria Campari is a visually striking exhibition that tells you the story of this iconic Italian brand. It takes you through a journey that starts in the 1920s all the way to the 1990s, showing the evolution of the brand, with the input of different important artists, and the impact it had in Italian society of each era.
It’s free to visit, but you need to book it in advance.
Address: Viale A. Gramsci 161, Sesto San Giovanni, Milano
Experience a wine tasting session at an agriturismo
An agriturismo in Italy is a small, normally family-run, farm that is designed to receive guests – either for food, accommodation or both. Montelio is an agriturismo located in the village of Codevilla in the province of Pavia, with a history that goes back as far back as the 13th century.
The building used to be a Benedictine convent, ant it became a private winery in 1848. Now it’s run by the 7th and 8th generation of the same family and you can visit for a wine tasting experience of their own wines, combined with local cheese, cured meats and frittata.
Address: Via Domenico Mazza,1 – 27050 Codevilla, Pavia
Discover the Vescovado rolling hills on horseback
The Vescovado is an area that includes 15 villages that are famous for its vineyards and wine. And a great way to explore this beautiful landscape of rolling hills is on horseback.
Azienda Agricola Villa Carla is located in the small village of Scanzorosciate, near Bergamo. Their horses are very docile and you don’t need to have any horse riding experience. A lead rider will be with you all the time so you can saddle up, relax and enjoy the beautiful views all around you.
Address: Via Collina Alta, 79, Scanzorosciate, Bergamo
Try award winning Moscato di Scanzo
If you enjoy sweet wines like moscato or moscatel, then you must try the award winning Moscato di Scanzo from Il Cipresso. Il Cipresso is a farmhouse and winery that has been producing wine for over 30 years. This particular wine, Moscato di Scanzo, is specific to Scanzorosciate and can only be produced in this village.
You can book a wine and food tasting tour of Il Cipresso where you can taste the wines produced by this family run winery, including Moscato di Scanzo. The food tasting includes cured meats, cheese, different kinds of bread, and other traditional Italian snacks such as bruschetta and caponata. Don’t miss trying their biscuits and chocolates too. Absolutely delicious and all made in-house!
Address: Via Cerri, 2 – 24020 Scanzorosciate, Bergamo
Visit the largest lake island in Europe
Within Lake Iseo, you will find Monte Isola, the largest lake island in Europe. Famous for its sundried fish and wine-flavoured salami, this island will make you feel like you’ve gone back in time. There are no cars in Monte Isola, so it’s a haven for those looking for a bit of peace and quiet.
You can get to Monte Isola by ferry from Sulzano to Peschiera Maraglio, the main village in the island. A lovely village to walk around, the presence of fishing and craftsmanship tradition is everywhere. It is also a said to be one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, so there are plenty of photo opportunities around.
There are two other islands in Lake Iseo that are worth seeing. Loreto Island, which has a beautiful castle that used to be a convent, and San Paolo Island, now owned by the Beretta family, guns and rifle manufacturers. They’re both privately owned so they can’t be visited, but you can admire their beauty from the boat.
Visit the grandest Italian villa by Lake Garda
Il Vittoriale degli Italiani is a grand Italian villa and gardens. It is the former home of famous and eccentric writer and poet Gabriele d’Annunzio. Located in the village of Gardone Riviera, on the banks of Lake Garda, this eclectic house gives you a glimpse of the isolated and somewhat obsessive life that d’Annunzio led. It displays a countless number of items of memorabilia collected by the author.
But the beauty of this estate is not just on the inside of the building. The grounds are pretty spectacular too, with views over Lake Garda. Don’t miss visiting the Mausoleum on the highest point of the estate, the Amphitheatre and the Puglia ship in the gardens.
Visiting Il Vittoriale is one of the top things to do in Lombardy, and you can find more information here.
Address: Via del Vittoriale 12, Gardone Riviera
Try your hand at making paper the traditional way
In the small village of Toscolano Maderno, there is a little business that has been running since 1381. This ancient business, called Toscolano 1381, used to make paper for the Venetian Republic, and they still make it the traditional way.
You can visit and learn how paper is made and you can buy sheets of paper that have been made by hand by one of the artisans working there. And you can even try your hand at making your own! It was a really proud moment when I held a piece of paper made with my own hands.
Address: Via Roma, 3, 25088 Toscolano Maderno, Brescia
Try limoncello at an ecomuseum
On the shores of Lake Garda, near the village of Tignale, you will find an unexpected sight – lemon houses growing lemon trees. Lemons have been grown here since the 13th century, but due to the difficulty of the terrain and the changes in weather through the years, structures to protect the lemon trees were built from the late 1500s.
Overlooking the lake, it is effectively an ancient greenhouse that is open to the elements in the spring and summer, and closed in the winter. It was abandoned after the union of Italy, as lemons could be exported cheaply from the south, and in 1985 it was finally restored to become Limonaia Pra de la Fam, an ecomuseum that celebrates the cultivation of lemons and other citruses in this very spot.
Try the limoncello, lemon syrup, lemon mustard (really!) and the lemon marmalade if you can. They are delicious and you’ll want to buy them all to take home with you.
Address: Strada Statale Gardesana, Località Porto di Tignale – 25080 Tignale, Brescia
Take a tour around an ancient fortress
Rocca d’Anfo, located on the western shore of Lake Idro, is Italy’s largest Napoleonic fort and one of the country’s major military monuments. It is on a highly strategic location, and there’s been a fortress here since at least the 15th century, built by the Venetian Republic in order to protect trading routes.
The fortress was used during World War I and II and the military barracks we in use until the 70s, when they were abandoned and fell into disrepair. It has recently undergone restoration and you can now visit the grounds, the barracks and travel through a network of tunnels to reach the observatory at the top. There are no views at the top, but the building is quite something and worth the 600+ steps up. But you will be able to enjoy the views over Lake Idro as you climb up.
You can only visit with a guide, and tours are available from the end of April to the end of October. You can find more information here.
Address: Strada Statale 237, 25070 Anfo, Brescia
Visit a hermitage at the edge of Lake Maggiore
Perched on a rocky ridge of the eastern shore of Lake Maggiore, is one of the most charming sights in the area, the Hermitage of Santa Catarina del Sasso. It was founded at the end of the 12th century by a wealthy merchant who survived a storm while crossing the lake, and built on the very spot where he found shelter.
The Hermitage and its setting will transport you to a magical place. But step inside in order to marvel at and appreciate the wonderful frescoes and decorations inside the church.
You can find more information about visiting here.
Address: Via Santa Caterina, 13, 21038 Leggiuno, Varese
Ride a funicular that will take your breath away
If you have a head for heights then you must not skip this experience. It is, in my opinion, one of the most fun things to do in Lombardy.
Take the Funivia del Lago Maggiore from the village of Laveno Mombello, a beautiful small village, to the top of Mount Sasso del Ferro, at 1,062 metres high. It’s approximately a 20-minute ride, and on a sunny and clear day, make sure you take the open top cable car to make the most of the breathtaking views of the Alps and the Pre-Alps Mountains.
Referring to it as a cable car may be a bit of an overstatement. It is more like a metal basket with enough room for two people standing. But it’s all part of what makes this ride so much fun!
TOP TIP: Take the Funivia just before lunch, so you can make the most of your visit at the top. See the next thing to do in Lombardy for more details.
Address: Via Tinelli, 15, Laveno Mombello 21014, Varese
Enjoy lunch with (possibly) the best view in Italy
Combining this experience with the previous one is a must, as they come hand in hand.
When you reach the top of Mount Sasso del Ferro, you will find a restaurant with possibly the best view in Italy. Once you are up there you might as well take a seat, order lunch and enjoy some delicious food while you take in the views over Lago Maggiore, the Alps and the Pre-Alps.
And best of all, the views do not eclipse the food. It was mouthwateringly good!
Visit a medieval castle with a doll museum
Located in the small village of Angera, on the shores of Lake Maggiore, Rocca di Angera is a medieval castle built in the 13th century by the Visconti family. The Visconti were the first Dukes of Milan that ruled the city for almost 200 years. The castle was acquired by the Borromeo family in the 15th century.
Within its walls you can visit the Justice Room (Sala della Giustizia), covered in beautiful frescoes that link events in human life with astrological influences, and where you can find the symbols of both families. The Room of Ceremonies (Sala delle Cerimonie) displays frescoes that come from the Borromeo Palace in Milan. They were moved here after the palace was destroyed during World War II.
But the most surprising thing within this castle is the largest collection of dolls and toys in Europe. The Museum of Dolls and Toys housed within its walls displays more than one thousand dolls that take you through their history and evolution. From the materials used to the fashion of each time, it’s like travelling back in time through the eyes of a child.
Address: Via Rocca Castello, 2, 21021 Angera, Varese
Reach the top of a UNESCO sacred mountain
If you are interested in UNESCO World Heritage Sites, then one of the top things to do in Lombardy is to visit the Sacro Monte di Varese. It is one of the nine sacri monti located in Lombardy and Piedmont that form part of the UNESCO site.
The Sacro Monte di Varese is a Holy Road that takes you to the top of a mountain with a Sanctuary on top. Traditionally, people would take pilgrimages to the Sanctuary. And today, many believers still do. You can also arrive by funicular, which is what I did, and walk down instead.
At the top there is a little village called Santa Maria del Monte, where only 80 people live, most of which are linked to the convent. The current church holds a secret in the crypt underneath – a 9th century church with vivid frescoes and 16th century graffiti done by pilgrims of the time.
The Holy Road is 2 kms long and there are fourteen chapels along the way that represent each of the Mysteries of Jesus’ life.
Address: Viale del Santuario, 21100 Varese
Take in the eclectic displays at Casa Museo Pogliaghi
Lodovico Pogliaghi was an Italian painter and sculptor famous for designing the bronze door of the Duomo of Milan.
During his restoration work at the Sacro Monte di Varese he bought a villa along the Holy Road where he started building an eclectic collection of over 1,500 works of art. These pieces are displayed in his villa, now the Casa Museo Pogliaghi, and it includes the original plaster of the door of the Duomo of Milan.
Stop here on your way up (or down) to admire this mini museum of decorative arts.
There are, of course, many more things to do in Lombardy, but these are my recommendations.
Planning your trip to Lombardy
Do you have any questions about things to do in Lombardy?
Let me know in the comments!
Visiting Italy? Check out my other Italy articles
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- Summer in Trentino – Adventure Activities you Must Not Miss
- Accommodation Guide to Trentino – Hotel, Albergo or Agriturismo?
- The Perfect Itinerary for Rome in 2 Days, Including the Vatican City
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Disclosure: This post has been created as a partnership with inLombardia, who hosted me on this trip. As always, all views are my own.
Teresa is an award-winning travel blogger based in London. She’s on a mission to explore the world through responsible cultural and adventure travel, and through deeper, more meaningful local experiences. She’s a lover of adventure, the outdoors and everything food related, and she’s always looking for ways to make a positive impact through sustainable travel.