2019 flew by so fast but I had time for one last trip to the beautiful region of Lombardy in Italy. We landed in Milan, the capital of the region. But although this city is really beautiful we decided to skip it this time. After all, Lombardy has so much more to offer, it would be a shame not to go outside of the city. In fact, there is a lot to experience in Lombardy, from visiting a violin maker’s workshop to doing a snowshoe hike in the mountains near Gerola Alta. I’m going to tell you all on how to spend a week in Lombardy.
Discover the history of violin making in Cremona, Lombardy
In Lombardia you can find a couple of great cities like Milan, Brescia or Bergamo, which can be ideal for a city trip, but we decided to skip the most populated ones and alternatively find more intimate cities to discover. From Milan, we first headed to Cremona, a town with around 72.000 inhabitants. From Milan, Cremona can be a great day trip as it can be easily reached by train.
Cremona is a small city but has a remarkable history. It has a violin making tradition that goes back centuries. The violin craftsmanship was declared an intangible cultural heritage by Unesco.
In total you can find over 150 violin makers in this small town. Pretty impressive, isn’t it? We visited an artisan workshop to see how exactly this process is done. It takes well over a month and a tremendous amount of patience to make a high-quality violin and even longer to create a viola or cello. If you can’t get enough about the history of violins, you can visit the modern and interactive Museo del Violino. In the ‘treasure box’ of the Violin Museum, you will find a few extraordinary instruments made by Stradivari and Amati, two of the most famous violin makers in the world!
Experience the Capital of Culture MANTOVA
Another small town that is worth visiting when you are in Lombardy is Mantova. The 2016 Capital of Culture hosts around 40.000 inhabitants is famous for its Renaissance Architecture. Two attractions that are definitely not to miss are the Ducale Palace and the Bibiena Theatre.
The city of Venice has a place called Palazzo Ducale but Mantova has one as well! It is actually a building complex that was built from the 14th to the 17th century. During this time period, the famous Gonzaga family lived here. Both inside and outside the Palazzo Ducale is impressive to see.
The interior of the Bibiena Theatre has a peculiar bell-shape and although it looks like it is entirely made of stone, a lot of elements consist of cleverly painted wood, to improve the acoustics of the theatre. For sure it’s one of the most impressive theaters I’ve seen!
Go behind the scenes at the legendary Formula One race circuit in Monza
Whether you’re a guy or a girl, you’ll probably have heard of the Autodromo di Monza, which is most famous for hosting the Italian Formula One Grand Prix. I recommend booking an incredibly interesting behind-the-scenes tour, which shows you the pits, paddock, press conference room, the race control and much more. To top it all, they take you around the track to experience Autodromo di Monza’s famous corners yourself.
Apart from this legendary race track, the city of Monza itself is beautiful to walk around in. When looking at the cathedral, you’ll notice that it is actually built in a very similar style as the famous Duomo di Milano. On the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the death of Leonardo da Vinci, Musei Civici currently hosts an interesting exhibition called ‘In Linea con Leonardo’, which translates to ‘in line with Leonardo’. This is a very interesting exhibition about how Leonardo Da Vinci has been an inspiration for many artists over the past centuries.
Learn all about silk in Como
After having already spent time in three wonderful cities, Cremona, Mantova and Monza, it was time to head north towards Lake Como. I had already been there one time in summer so I was excited to see what this region had to offer during winter. First stop: Como.
Did you know that Como is the city of silk? In Museo della Seta I discovered the production process of silk. In fact, the Como Silk Museum is the only museum in the world able to show the visitor the entire production process, from silkworm to colorful yarns, from hand printing to fashion collections. For me, this museum was particularly interesting because my father was a loom maker so it was great to see all of the antique loom machines and textile instruments at the Museo della Seta. And while nowadays the silkworms come from China again, the manufacturing continues until today in Como!
At this time in December, there was a Christmas market going on in Como called Citta dei Balocchi. The organization has really put a lot of effort in it to make it a great spectacle for the visitors. On all the major monuments and squares there were projections going on during the evening. When we were there it had just began snowing so we stayed warm by sipping on a cup of mulled wine at this cosy Christmas Market.
Go visit the Osservatorio Alpinistico Lecchese in Lecco
In Lecco, the other large city at the banks of Lake Como also has a history involving the silk manufacturing process. In case you want a different kind of museum I can recommend the Osservatorio Alpinistico Lecchese where you can discover the local mountaineering tradition.
Lecco has a long climbing tradition, and the climbing clubs have been all over the world to explore alpine regions abroad. It’s incredible to believe that back in the day they climbed up a mountain in normal shoes and with just a rope around their waist!
Spend some time in one of the many cosy towns around Lake Como
Around Lake Como you have so many options. Villa Bernasconi in Cernobbio is another museum about silk, but it’s even worth a visit only for the villa itself: Villa Bernasconi is the perfect expression of Art Nouveau in Italy!
Varenna is another iconic town around the Lake. In winter the town turned sleepy but on a good day it’s beautiful to see, especially if you haven’t been here before. I had already visited this town and tried to recreate one of the images I took! How do you like it?
In Bellano you can find the Orrido di Bellano, a stunning gorge that was formed by centuries of flowing water carving out the rocks. In winter, it’s only open on weekends and public holidays, but the tourism representative made an exception just for us. Who would’ve thought you could find such an impressive gorge so close to the Lake?
Go for a snowshoe hike in Valgerola
After our amazing time at Lake Como it was time to head into the mountains. That’s right, in Lombardy you can also find mountains! This region truly has it all. Weather conditions couldn’t have been better, as the snowfall made the surroundings even more magical. On the first day of my stay in Valtellina I was able to take some incredible shots with my camera of the beautiful town of Traona. On my second day we went for a snowshoe hike in Valgerola. It was an amazing sight after an exhausting hike in the snow to finally gaze upon the quaint little town of Gerola Alta down in the valley.
During this part of our trip, we stayed in Le Case dei Baff. Set in a characteristic stone building this is not only a hotel but also a restaurant. Moreover, the owners make their own wine and cheese which they preserve in their basement. At the very popular restaurant, they focus on serving their own ingredients. And when you stay at Le Case dei Baff you can drink raw milk that comes straight from the cow at breakfast!
It doesn’t get more authentic than this! But in case you just can’t get enough of the rural atmosphere you can visit La Fiorida. At this educational farm you can discover all sorts of agricultural activities, see the cows, goats and pigs, and make your own butter and cheese!
It’s amazing how much Lombardia has to offer and how many amazing experiences you can have in the area! In one week I did a city trip, a getaway to Lake Como and went snowshoe hiking in the mountains, all in Lombardia! Before the trip, I was a bit hesitant whether this was the right destination for a winter getaway but the marvelous time I had there proved me wrong!