Things to Do in Lombardy - page 3
A walk through Milan’s Fashion Quarter is a great way to see the city’s highest high fashion. Along with Via Montenapoleone and Via della Spiga, Via Manzoni (officially Via Alessandro Manzoni) is one of the best drags for window-shopping the latest and greatest haute couture. Though unlike the other two streets, Via Manzoni permits vehicles and leads to the famous Teatro alla Scala.
Vicolo dei Lavandai, a narrow lane that was the public wash house from the Middle Ages until the 1950s, is a most charming corner in Milan’s trendy Navigli District. Where previously washerwomen scrubbed laundry from the stone stalls and brellins (wooden stools) along the central canal, hip restaurants and cafes beckon.
Get a taste of Milan’s high fashion on a budget at the Fidenza Village outlet shopping center. Popular with Italians, this complex has over 100 shops featuring brands such as Versace, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Diesel, and Furla. Several restaurants and a children’s play area make the outlet center an easy half-day trip from Milan for the whole family.
One of nine hills that form the UNESCO World Heritage Site of sacred pilgrim routes in Piedmont and Lombardy, the Sacro Monte of Varese (Sacro Monte di Varese) is in the Campo dei Fiori Regional Park north of the city of Varese.
Dating from 1604, the Sacro Monte owes its origins to a Capuchin monk and wends its way 1.25 miles (2 km) uphill past a group of 14 chapels interspersed with three archways and three fountains. Marking a medieval pilgrim route dedicated to the Mysteries of the Rosary, they are scenically located among a rustic backdrop of hills, forests and distant mountains and each showcases an event in the life of Jesus. The chapels were the work of major Lombardian architects and every one has a portico of a different design. Likewise each is adorned with statuary and frescoes; the most recent addition is theFlight from Egypt in the Nativity Chapel, which was painted by Renato Guttuso in 1983.
After a walk of about 1.5 hours, the pilgrim route lead up to the hilltop village of Santa Maria del Monte, which has a 15th-century Sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin Mary. With views extending to the Alps, the village also has two small museums and a permanent nativity scene as well as several restaurants and hotels.
Monza is a wealthy suburb of Milan, principally known as the location of the Autodromo Nazionale Monza, a world-famous car racing track. The Autodromo Nazionale Monza was built in 1922 and actually has three tracks on the grounds. The main one is the Grand Prix track, a 3.6-mile track that has hosted every Formula One Italian Grand Prix since the series began in 1922, except for the 1980 race. The Italian Motorcycle Grand Prix is also held at Monza.
The race tracks are contained within a park that once surrounded a royal palace (the palace still exists). You can attend races at Monza, held regularly, and even sign up for driving courses.
Housed in the 17th-century palace that was once the Pezzoli family residence, this house-museum contains one of Milan's most prestigious collections. It’s a treasure trove of paintings by Botticelli, Bellini, and Mantegna, as well as decorative art, armor, and ancient artifacts accrued by Gian Giacomo Poldi Pezzoli in the 19th century.
A short walk from the Duomo, Piazza Fontana is one of the prettiest squares in Milan’s center, a quiet respite from the hubbub of nearby Piazza della Scala and Piazza del Duomo. The piazza is named for its 18th-century neoclassical central fountain, designed by Giuseppe Piermarini and is encircled by trees and benches.
The Porta Nuova neighborhood in Milan was named after an historic monument in the area, the "new gate" built between 1810 and 1813. When compared to the ancient Roman gates that were once the entry points to the city of Milan, the Porta Nuova is considered quite new.
Located to the north of the city center, the Porta Nuova district underwent a revitalization after 2009 and today is used mainly for business. The skyline features several modern buildings and a large public park.
The town of Vicolungo is in the Piedmont region near Novara, not far from the border with Lombardy. It's home to one of the many outlet shopping centers near Milan – Vicolungo The Style Outlets.
The Style Outlets is a chain of outlet shopping centers in Europe (there are two in Italy). The Vicolungo location has 150 boutique stores, each offering discounts of 30-70% off regular retail prices. Some of the brands represented in the shopping center are Armani, Missoni, Trussardi, Swarovski, Sisley, and Kappa.
In addition to the shopping, The Style Outlets at Vicolungo also have an exhibition space that regularly features art shows and events.
While many travelers visit the adjacent Santa Maria delle Grazie church—home of da Vinci’s fresco The Last Supper—the Bramante Sacristy (Sacrestia del Bramante) is an often-overlooked gem. Designed by architect Donato Bramante, the sacristy features a vaulted ceiling painted by da Vinci and exhibits on the inventor’s Codex Atlanticus.
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The largest surviving collection of notes by Leonardo da Vinci, the Codex Atlanticus is a priceless set of documents and the crown jewel of Milan’s historic Biblioteca Ambrosiana library. The more than 1,120 pages of the Codex Atlanticus contain handwritten text and drawings dating from 1478 to 1519 and a glimpse into da Vinci’s genius.
The Quadrilatero d’Oro, or the Golden Rectangle, is the center of high fashion in Milan—a district filled with luxe boutiques, swanky bars, smart cafés, and cool restaurants. The windows boast the latest haute couture from high-end labels such as Chanel, Gucci, Armani, Versace, Valentino, Prada, and Dolce & Gabbana.
The Bagatti Valsecchi Museum (Museo Bagatti Valsecchi) in Milan is a showcase of what Italian mansions (palazzi) were like back in the day. Once home to two brothers—Fausto and Giuseppe—the stunning palazzo displays their vast collection of antique paintings, ceramics, tapestries, ivory, and furniture that they acquired during the last part of the 19th century.
Perched on the western shore of placid Lake Maggiore, the tiny resort town of Stresa is backed by the Alpine foothills of Monte Mottarone and boasts elegant hotels on a tree-lined promenade. Stroll through picturesque Piazza Cadorna in the town center, relax on the waterfront lidos, or take a ferry to the charming islands nearby.
The ultimate destination for footie fans, Casa Milan is the striking new headquarters of the city’s leading football (aka soccer) club, A.C. Milan, and is located just 10 minutes from San Siro Stadium where games are held. Known for its futuristic façade embossed with the team’s colors, the building houses an A.C. Milan museum and shop.
The amusement park nearest to the city of Milan, Minitalia Leolandia, began as a leisure park of tiny Italian monuments and has grown to include a huge variety of different theme park areas with rides and other attractions.
The original park, Minitalia, features 160 well-known monuments from around Italy in miniature, which can be especially interesting for younger visitors but is enjoyable for travelers of all ages. Leolandia appeals to animal lovers with an aquarium, a reptile exhibit, and a parrot house (there are live shows featuring the birds). There's also an area devoted to Leonardo da Vinci and his many inventions, with a ride based on da Vinci's designs for something akin to a helicopter.
Other themed areas include one dedicated to the Wild West, another dedicated to pirates, one that's all about Peppa Pig, and lots of good old-fashioned amusement park rides – some of which are also on water. One ride allows groups on different boats to fire at one another with water cannons. There are also entertaining live shows staged regularly.
With its drawbridge entrance over a medieval moat, the 13th-century Scaliger Castle, set on the southern shore of Lake Garda, looks like something out of a fairytale. Climb the ramparts and main tower for sweeping views, and visit the collection of artifacts at the nearby Roman Grottoes of Catullus.
Built in 1030, San Sepolcro Church (Chiesa di San Sepolcro) was originally designed in the Romanesque style, though Baroque additions were made in the 17th century. Most visitors come to visit the church’s crypt, known as the Crypt of Leonardo after da Vinci, who appreciated the crypt so much that he placed it at the center of a map of Milan.
The Torba Monastery (Monastero di Torba) is nestled in the woods near the Castelseprio Archaeological Park, and is part history and part legend.
Some of the structures date from the 5th century, when this was part of a Roman military post. A group of Benedictine nuns added the monastery to the existing buildings in the 8th century, and a small church was added in the 11th century. The site has been open to the public since 1986.
There are some wonderful frescoes visitors to see in the monastery buildings, some of which date from the 9th century. In one area, three “faceless nuns” can be seen - their figures remarkably well-preserved, but their faces completely devoid of paint. There are legends and stories about these figures, including that their gestures are sending a secret message or that the spirits of those three nuns still haunt the area.
Guided tours of the Torba Monastery are available with advance booking, or you can simply buy an entrance ticket and explore the site on your own.
The Villa Menafoglio Litta Panza in Varese takes its three names from the three families that owned it. Today, the 18th-century villa and gardens are better known as a contemporary art museum, the Collezione Panza.
Giuseppe Panza’s personal art collection has become the museum’s collection. He amassed one of the finest contemporary art collections in the world, much of which remained at his home, the Villa e Collezione Panza. Some of the rooms of the villa were given over to artists Panza admired, and a few are still as they were during Panza’s lifetime.
Visitors can see works by artists such as Dan Flavin, Phil Sims, Ruth Ann Fredenthal, David Simpson, Max Cole, and more. Some of the rooms also have antique furniture and African artwork.
The Villa della Porta Bozzolo near Varese is a 16th-century villa originally built as the country retreat for the noble Della Porta family. It was later owned by the Bozzolo family, hence the combined name. The entire estate became part of Italy’s national trust in the late 19th century.
The villa is a showcase of 18th century Rococo from when it was renovated, and remains decorated with furnishings from that era. There are trompe l’oeil elements and spectacular frescoes to see.
An Italian garden, complete with fountains and architectural elements, was added to the villa grounds in the 18th century. There is a grand staircase and an avenue lined with cypress trees. Other buildings on the grounds include stables, barns, and cellars.
Visitors can explore the gorgeous grounds and villa at their leisure, or - for a more complete understanding of the place - take a guided tour. These tours are available with advance booking.
This 12th-century Cistercian abbey, located just outside the center of Milan, is a welcome respite from the urban bustle of Italy’s fashion capital. Visit the historic complex that blends Gothic, Renaissance, and baroque elements in its church, cloister, and granges, and savor the reflective silence in the monastic interiors.
The area surrounding the alpine town of Bormio has long been known for its hot springs, and ancient Romans once soaked in these natural thermal baths. Do as the Romans did, and spend a day relaxing in the hot-spring pools and grottoes at the Bagni Vecchi Spa, which also offers saunas and a panoramic outdoor pool.
One of the most popular repositories of masterpieces in Italy, the Accademia Carrara is home to medieval and Renaissance canvases by Raphael, Botticelli, Titian, Canaletto, and Mantegna. A highlight of Bergamo, the gallery is a must for art aficionados visiting this northern Italian city.
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