Lombardy, the corner of a lake or a river or a canal are always present in every Lombardís eyes.
Water, source of life, washes the neoclassic quiet villas, the ancient villages of fishers, the centenarian abbeys, the serious northern Italy towns and those opulent and pleasure-loving in the Po Valley.
A LITTLE OF HISTORY
The first Lombardy inhabitants dated back to prehistory. Since the end of the III century B.C. it was gradually occupied by the Romans and the cities of Mediolanum, Cremonia, Brixia and Comum rose during the imperial age.
Then it was conquered by the Carolingians and suffered from the barbarian invasions. Because of the Frenkish Empire crisis it had a period of great anarchy, which it recovered from in the X century, first with the ecclesiastic bodies and bishops and then with the towns. In the XIII century the municipal states went through a crisis so they were replaced by aristocratic organizations among which, at the end of the XIV century, Visconti Milanese seignory stood out extending over beyond the borders of the present region: west Piedmont, Ticinese Switzerland, Emilia, Liguria and Veneto, except for Mantua area which constituted a self-governing seignory since 1328 under the Gonzaga. In the XV and XVI centuries, with the borders reduction and the following spanish occupation in 1535, the Lombard State maintained its prosperous conditions and Mantua was at the height of economic wealth.
Crisis outbroke in Lombardy in the XVII century with pestilence, economic and demographic standstill and it was over only in the middle of the XVIII century, thanks to the steps taken by the Austrian government that had settled in Milan in 1706 and in Mantua in 1707: the realization of a new land register and the land-tax system, as well as the reorganization of the local government. With the Cisalpine Republic (1797) that became Italian Republic in 1802 and then Kingdom of Italy, Milan got to be the capital of a vast region, and that was confirmed later by the constitution of the Lombard-Veneto Kingdom (1815), lasting until the outbreak of the wars for the unity of Italy in the middle of the nineteenth century. The Lombard-Veneto Kingdom was administered strictly by the Austrians, who achieved quite good economic and cultural benefits, that represented to Milan an active mark still valid nowadays.
ART AND GASTRONOMIC DELICIOUSNESS
The larger tourism flow in Lombardy is due to business.
Meetings in the Fair, luncheons meetings and afterwards a society night to the Scala. If there is a little time left, visit to Milan Cathedral, to the Castle, a short trip to Brera for Mantegnaís ìChristî and Raffaelloís ìVirginís Weddingî. All that has to be done in a great hurry, helped by manuals, especially packaged for managers. Apart from these and others classical itineraries, mountains, lakes, art towns which any tourist worthy of respect knows, Lombardy is famous just for being a big production ìmineî.
On the contrary, this Region has an artistic wealth equal to that of the whole France, created along its millenary history. Under New York pavements there are not other pavements, while under our towns ones there are so many of them, which men from all age walked on.
Every street, square, quarter or village has something to show or to tell. It is sufficient to leave the usual itineraries to discover suggestive places, churches, villas, palaces, castles, abbeys, works of art satisfying the sense of beauty, or even just ruins, traces reminding aspects of the Lombard history mostly forgotten.Our intention is to pay attention to this part of art and tourism for an interesting tour.
You can have a suggestive walk on the tow-path dividing the Martesana from the river Adda in the deep wooded gorge hollowed out by the river between Trezzo and Vaprio: running waters on both sides, risky bridges crossing the valley, from an unforgettable picture that has inspired several painters.
It is a wonderful journey for walkers and cyclists. It is practicable also by car but it is a bit frightening. Few kilometres upriver there is Imbersago, one of the most ìmanzonianî corners of Lombardy, where it is possible to cross the Adda by the ferry used by Renzo to hideout in Bergamo area. On the outskirts of Milan, along the craft river-banks, with Leonardoís hydraulic inventions, and up Brianza hills - as well as in the French Loire - from ë500 to ë800 Milanese patriciate and bourgeoisie built beautiful residences which still today evoke images of ìHigh societyî rich life, tempered by a refined taste and great elegance. A few centuries before, in 1100, in the Milanese lowland, monks contributed to reclaim the marshy plains, transforming them into Roman fertile fields which were neglected during the barbaric dominations.
Their monastic buildings, representing oases even during the adverse centuries, their abbeys and cloisters rise strewn over the green country and with the passing of time got richer and richer of artistic and architectonic heritage. In this way, at St. Benedetto Po, in the XVI century, Goilio Romano, architect of Gonzaga royal palaces, with his powerful ingeniousness, convinced the monks to rebuild the church founded in 1100. He decorated it with a worldly and even a bit pagane vision. In this ìnorthern Montecassinoî there is Matilde Canossaís sepulchre, but her body was sold by the Benedectine monks to Pope Urbano III in 1635, who wanted it to be buried in St. Peter Church - the abbot who allowed the said transfer was driven out by the people. Those were years of ëfoolishnessí.
Wonderful foolishness by Vespasiano Gonzaga, a ë500 contradictory character from Sebbione: an incredible small town built in the middle of Mantuan country. Firm star-shaped walls enclose a manís dream which, besides that, constitutes one of the most interesting examples of Renaissance town-planning.
The same is for one of the finest italian squares: piazza Ducale in Vigevano. It was built by order of Ludovico il Moro, supposedly on Leonardoís design. It had to be a place where to meet people, to trade, to debate and live - a space that is harder and harder to find nowadays.
Then, letís go outdoors, in the natural spaces. Despite the congestion peculiar of Lombardy, in its reserves and parks created by the Region there are wonderful edges of the original landscape of the Po Valley and mountains, original marshes and thickets. Lombardy is to be visited entirely.
Lombard gastronomy is full of surprises: fish consumption is very high, although the Region is without access to the sea - Milan markets trades more than 150 thousand quintals of fish every year.
Obviously, the local dish is the famous risotto with saffron, yellow-orange coloured, underdone, with grains separated one another, but joined together by a unique taste. Other famous dishes are cutlets, marrow-bones, boiled meats, minestrone, soup with fried bread and eggs, Bergamo ëcasonseií, Brescian ëoseií, Como tortellinos and polentas. A special note regards the ëcassoeulaí, a coloured mixture of tastes made of savoy and pork-meat.
In the post-war period, spaghetti from the south of Italy appeared on Lombard tables. They were appreciated above all for being easy and fast to cook, thus joining the practical Lombard mentality. The Region is the melting-pot of different gastronomies even if the regional cooking is jealously preserved in the country.
Meats are very important: the quantity of butchered pork-meat is twice higher than the beef one. That explains the several recipes like tripe, marrow-bone in ëgremoladaí (a sauce made by mixing lemon-peel chopped, garlic, rosemary, sage and parsley). Exquisite potatoes (Como, Bormio, Aprica, Valtrompia), beans (GambolÚ), asparagi (Cilavegna), chicory (Soncino), peppers (Voghera). Fruit in Valtellina - in Brescia area -, cherries at St. Colombano, strawberries and raspberries at Aprica, water-melons in Mantua and Cremona areas.
Cheese is produced everywhere, the whole Po Valley is a precious and beneficial white milk river.
All that is Lombardy.
Regional Council Daily Information and Press Agency