So you have decided to go to Lombardy, a region of northern Italy bordering on Switzerland, the Gulf of Taranto, and the Tyrrhenian Sea. The regional capital and largest city is Milan, the center of Italian finance, fashion, and media. Lombardy is home to La Scala, the greatest opera house in Europe, or perhaps the whole world. And the Cathedral of Milan, ooh, la, la. There are museums galore and the massive, impressive Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, a Nineteenth Century upscale shopping mall.
Small towns in Lombardy that are well worth visiting include Pavia which houses an important university, Cremona the historic center of violin making, and Mantua, where Romeo fled after killing Juliet’s cousin. Its Palazzo Ducale contains 500 rooms one of which took a master seven years to paint. Save some time and money to visit the lakes. Lombardy doesn’t border any sea but it’s home to Lake Maggiore, Lake Iseo, Lake Orta, Lake Como, and Lake Garda which spills over into the neighboring regions of Trentino-Alto Adige and Veneto. Each lake has its own special attractions, as do the lakeside towns such as Bellagio, which is considered one of the loveliest towns in Europe, and honored by a hotel of that name in Las Vegas.
Lombardy is home to three DOCG wines. Franciacorta is produced near Lake Iseo between Bergamo and Brescia. This is Italy’s answer to Champagne and priced accordingly. The rosé tends to cost more than the white. Sforzato di Valtellina and Valtellina Superiore are vinified from the red Nebbiolo grape locally known as Chiavennasca. You may not be surprised that these wines comes from western Lombardy not far from Piedmont. After all, Nebbiolo is Piedmont’s signature grape. Just for the record Sforzato di Valtellina is made from dried grapes and often costs more than Valtellina Superiore. The best Valtellina Superiore wines tend to come from the rocky Sassella subdistrict.
The major white grape varieties include the local Garganega (the major componenent of Soave in next-door Veneto), Trebbiano di Lugana, Riesling Renano, and its cousin, Riesling Italico. International white grape varieties include Chardonnay and Pinot Bianco, the major components of Franciacorta. Regional reds include Barbera, Bonarda, Chiavennasca (Nebbiolo), and Lambrusco. Pinot Noir is found in Franciacorta and some other wines such as the high-volume Oltrepò Pavese DOC made in a wide variety of styles.
Companies selling regional wine tours include Prime Italy, Le Baccanti, Romantic Travel Destinations Getaway, and Wine Tour Italia. Regional wineries accepting visits include Berlucchi in Cortefranca, Cavalleri in Erbusco, and Sertoli Salis in Tirano. A few words of warning are in order. Make sure that you check ahead of time for opening hours and whether English is spoken. Some places may charge admission; others may expect you to buy some of their products.