Ly­ing North of Mi­lan, each year the lakes of Lom­bardy at­tract mil­lions of vis­i­tors thanks to their mild cli­mate, breath­tak­ing scenery, nat­u­ral beau­ties and his­toric and artis­tic trea­sures.

Where Milan - - CONTENTS -

Dis­cover the lakes of Lom­bardy: breath­tak­ing scenery, nat­u­ral beau­ties and his­tor­i­cal trea­sures

The shores of Lago Mag­giore wash up on the banks of Pied­mont and Lom­bardy in Italy, while its more aus­tere north­ern basin lies in the moun­tain­ous re­gion of Switzer­land. The most fa­mous is­land, ly­ing just off Stresa – a small, el­e­gant town, rich in neo­clas­sic and lib­erty build­ings and a shop­ping mecca boast­ing a myr­iad of boutiques – is Isola Bella, an­chored like a fan­tas­tic ship-gar­den and dom­i­nated by the ma­jes­tic Palazzo Bor­romeo, built in the 17th cen­tury and rich in art trea­sures, in­clud­ing the pri­vate col­lec­tion of Mi­lan’s most fa­mous aris­to­cratic fam­ily. The Bor­romeo clan also owned Rocca di Angera, an im­pos­ing fortress (12th-17th cen­tury) boast­ing op­u­lent am­bi­ences, of which the most fa­mous is the Sala di Gius­tizia. The “Rocca” also has a me­dieval gar­den (Vis­its daily from 9am-5.30pm. www.isole­bor­romee. it). The new “Lago Mag­giore Ex­press” now also of­fers daily ex­cur­sions by train and boat from Mi­lan (www.trenord.it/it/free-time). Lake Como is the ro­man­tic and worldly older sis­ter of Mag­giore and Garda and takes its name from the city of Como. “Must-visit” sights in­clude the Gothic Duomo, the Ro­manic basil­i­cas of San Fedele and Sant’Ab­bon­dio and the neo­clas­sic Villa Olmo. Nestling on the banks of Lake Como in Lenno and cur­rently owned by FAI – a pri­vate non-profit trust – Villa del Bal­bianello is a mag­nif­i­cent ex­am­ple of a per­fectly pre­served 18th cen­tury dwelling. Sur­rounded by a stun­ning, ter­raced panoramic gar­den, with a breath­tak­ing view of the lake, the Villa is one of the area’s most ro­man­tic re­treats. Stand­ing on the tip of a promon­tory over­look­ing the waters of the lake, the Villa was cho­sen by di­rec­tor Ge­orge Lu­cas as one of the evoca­tive set­tings for the fa­mous Star War se­ries. Ly­ing just a stone’s throw north­west of Como is Cer­nob­bio, a small fashionable re­sort fre­quented by the wealthy of Europe be­cause of its deluxe ho­tel Villa d’Este and Villa Erba where di­rec­tor Luchino Vis­conti spent his child­hood (www. vil­laerba.it). Con­tin­u­ing North, we find Isola Co­macina a jewel of art and na­ture, rich in Mediter­ranean veg­e­ta­tion and one of the most im­por­tant ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites of the dark ages in North­ern Italy (www.iso­la­co­macina.it). In nearby Tre­mezzo, don’t miss a visit to the Baroque-style Villa Car­lotta, fea­tur­ing an Ital­ian gar­den and sculp­tures by Canova. At the junc­tion of the south­ern arm of the lake lies Bel­la­gio, also re­ferred to as the pearl of Como, set in a strate­gic po­si­tion to soak up the panorama. Don’t miss a visit to the other lakes that are also eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble from Mi­lan. These in­clude Lake Orta, with the old Is­land of San Gi­ulio, dom­i­nated by the Ro­manesque basil­ica, the Palazzo Vescov­ile and the monastery (by car from Mi­lan: take the A26 au­tostrada and exit at ei­ther Bor­go­manero or Arona). Si­t­u­ated just mo­ments from the lake, we find the UNESCO world her­itage site of Sacro Monte di Var­allo (16th cen­tury) with its mag­nif­i­cent basil­ica and re­con­struc­tion of the life of Christ in 45 chapels.

Lake Como, Villa del Bal­bianello

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