MILAN - Milano
The City of Milan in the north in Tuscany has a population of about 1.3 million people. There is an International Main airport here in Milan – Malpensa International Airport that is connected to the City by Express Trains, and two other airports – the main one being Linate.
In many ways Milan is the centre of Italy's design and fashion industry and it is also where Alfa Romeo cars have been built with the great Alfa Romeo Museum located here too – See www.museoalfaromeo.com/en Viale Alfa Romeo 20020 Arese - Just off the A8 with nearest Metro/railway station being Rho-Fiero. If you love Italian cars this is the place to come to.
If you look at an Alfa Romeo badge – you will see the Red Cross on a white background – being the symbol of Milan and also the serpent with a crown swallowing a person (a Moor). This was the emblem of the Visconti family, the rulers over Milan in the 14th century. The badge was designed in 1910 by Romano Cattaneo with the badge still used today.
Design seems to be in the DNA of the Milanese and it is expressed through its coffee, food, wine, clothing, shoes, handbags, sunglasses, glasswork, fabrics, furniture, cars, trains, lighting, shop décor, hotels, bars, urban design, architecture and many other ways. Milan celebrates design as being integral in the fabric of life and in 2015 there was the Milano Expo where 145 countries all built buildings on the Milan Expo site as a celebration of their culture. Many of those buildings were dramatically different in their design, architecture and engineering. There are many exhibitions that are staged in Milan during the year, and certainly it is worth seeing if there are any happening when you are planning to be in Milan.
In Milan there is an extensive and well organised Metro system – colour coded and marked as M1 (Red), M2 (Green), M3 (Yellow), M5 (Blue) lines and M4 due to open. There are also trains (separate to the Metro) that head to many parts of Milan and to other parts of Italy and Europe leaving from either Garibaldi Station or from Milano Centrale and also a Tram system, trolley buses, buses and taxis.
If your hotel is located close to a Metro station, it will be easy to get around and you can buy a Pass (Abbonamento) ticket for different numbers of days.
The starting point of any stay in Milan is at the Duomo, the towering Cathedral with its 135 pinnacles of stone pointing to the heavens that lies in the centre of Milan. The remarkable and most beautiful building took some 600 years to build and there are supposed to be 3200 Statues of Saints here too. Construction began in 1387 and continued onwards from then.
The building is both stunning from the outside looking up from the Piazza in front of it and also inside. You need to buy tickets and pass through a security check to see inside and you can also buy tickets to climb stairs that lead to the rooftop – and see the incredible roof from on top, get closer to the gold statue of Madonnina (Little Madonna) on the very top of the highest pinnacle and then look over Milan itself too. It is worth the effort to go to the top if you can.
Take a close look at the doors on the outside to see the story of the life of Christ depicted; see inside the massive stained glass windows; and see the intricacy of workmanship in all that is created here. It is awe inspiring. There is a lot to see inside and it is also worth just taking a pew and sitting down to just have some quiet time. There are also guided tours that will explain more about what you are seeing here.
The Metro station, Duomo, is just below the Piazza Duomo too, with cafés close by beside the colonnaded walkway footpaths and just metres away is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – one of the most beautiful open air street arcades you will see anywhere in the world.
Lined with small restaurants with tables outside and a mixture of small boutiques and other shops, the Galleria has stunning mosaic floors and high above you there is the semi-circular iron and stained glass ceiling roofline. The Arcade streets lead to a central junction where the arcades meet under a massive dome roof in tinted glass and steel above you. No-one even coming here a 100 times would fail to look up and marvel at the beauty of the glass dome shape of the windows above them. If you have been to Galleries Lafayette in Paris, you will have seen a similar dome window, but here in the Galleria Vittorio di Emanuele II, you are in the open air.
This is a great area to just walk and wander the many streets, avenues and shops around the Duomo to see what you see and do what you do. If you are looking for shoes head to Via Torino and for interesting shops a little further on look for Corso di Porta Ticinese.
If you have a favourite designer – google their name and see if they have an outlet in Milan - Most likely they will do.
Just off the Piazza Duomo on Via Marconi there is the Museo del Novecento in the Palazzo del'Arengario (see www.museodelnovecentt.org ) a modern art gallery with changing exhibitions, bookshop. This is just one of a number of Museums in Milan.
A little further, but walking distance from the Museo del Novecento is the Piazza della Scala – a beautiful square where the Teatro alla Scala Opera House is located and also the Galleria d'Italie Art museum. (See www.teatroallascala.org and www.gallerieditalia.com ). The Teatro alla Scala Opera House (built in 1778) can seat up to 2800 people in its private box seats in 6 tiers, and even if you don't see an Opera, it is worth coming here just to see inside. There is also the Museo Teatrale alla Scala on Largo Ghiringhelli which has costumes from many of the grand productions produced here over the years.
If you are looking for another Art Gallery, not far from the Duomo, but closer to Metro Station, Cordusio, there is the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana Gallery on Piazza Pio XI 2, which has paintings from the 15th to 17th century, including work by Leonardo de Vinci. (See www.ambrosiana.it )
Milan's most famous painting is 'The Last Supper' mural painted by Leonardo di Vinci. This can be seen at the Santo Maria delle Grazie Church on the Piazza of the same name, nearest Metro, Conciliazione (M1).
There is no doubt that the most beautiful building in Milan has to be the Duomo, but there is also one other building that you should put high on your list to see and that is the Castello Sforzesco ( Sforza Castle) located on Piazza Cadoma, nearest Metro, Cairoli (M1) or Lanza (M2). This castle and fort's construction began in the mid 1300's and many changes and additions were made over coming centuries, as it came under attack or control of different owners or rulers. It was even bombed in 1943 during World War II.
Today Sforza Castle and its towers, armoury, tapestry room, Library, courtyard and other rooms are open for people to see and also to visit the Museums and Art Galleries that are located here. You can see the works of luminary Italian painters, such as Titian and Tintoretto and the 'Rondananini Pietà' sculpture by Michelangelo, as well as the Egyptian Museum, Archaeological Museum of Milan, Antique Furniture and Wooden Sculpture Museum and the Museum of Musical Instruments.
When it comes to shopping there are department stores and also many mid-market stores too, but when it comes to high end fashion and style, the place to head to is Via Montenapoleone and the Quadrilatero della Mode – Metro station San Babila (M1) and Montenapoleone (M3), Here you will find the big name fashion labels as well as boutique brands too. Just window shopping is worth it just to see some of the window displays.
Not far away from here too at Via Alessandro Manzoni 12 is an amazing House Museum, the Museo Poldi Pezzoli named after its founder, Poldi Pezzoni whose vast collection started this museum with his collection and other works are spread out through the room apartments.
When they built the Duomo, they needed to bring marble to the city for the artisans and stone masons to work with and Leonardo da Vinci was commissioned to design a canal system for the barges to bring the stone for the building. That canal system still exists, with 5 canals, the main one being the Naviglio Canal, which has small bridges that cross over it and walkways along both sides.
The closest Metro station is Porta Genova (M2) and along the canal sides you will find an eclectic range of small shops, apartment buildings, galleries and people on a weekend just taking in the day and enjoying life in Milan. Walking along here you might be able to see some of the small courtyards inside the buildings, overhanging with plants from the balconies and there are also some boats and even boat races happening on the canal too. On Weekends you will probably find market stalls set up along the walkways. Canal Boat tours start from Alzaia Naviglio Grande 4.
Another area of the City to explore is the Brera District – Via Brera – Nearest Metro, Lanza (M2) and Montenapoleone (M3). This area is north of the Duomo and its mix of small laneways, small galleries, bars, restaurants, shops and street vendors makes this an interesting and fun part of the city to come to. Also here in Brera is the Pinacoteca di Brera (Via Brera 28) with works by Goya, Rembrandt, Titian and others.
While on the Museum trail, take a look at the Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia – see www.museoscienza.org located at Via San Vittore 21, nearest Metro Sant'Ambrogio where you can see some everything from Leonardo da Vinci sketches and models of his work to galleons and even Italy's first submarine. The museum is also in an old Monastery built in the 16th century.
If you follow Football (Soccer), you will no doubt know of AC Milano, the Italian football club whose home city is of course, Milan. Home games are mostly played in the San Siro Stadium (Stadio Giuseppe Meazza) located on Via dei Piccolomini 5, closest Metro Lotto (M1 ) with shuttle buses to the Stadium. AC Milano also have a Museum here (Gate 14) and the other team in Milan, FC Internazionale Milano (Inter) also have a Museum and tours of the Stadium at Gate 21.
Certainly Milan is a city worth seeing and being so close to Lake Como and Switzerland it is also a good base to stay in while visiting other places close by.
TURIN – Torino
Turin (Torino) is "The Cradle of Italian Liberty", a city about 140 kilometres (90 miles) from Milan on the River Po in the Region of Italy known as Piedmont. This is where the unification of Italy began in 1861, and for a short while until 1865 Turin was the Capital of Italy, before the Capital moved to Florence and then on to Rome in 1870.
This historic City dates back to pre-Roman Empire days and today has a population of just under a million people, with a million more people living in the surrounding area.
Located on the Po River Valley in view of the Alps, the city was conquered and occupied by different invading forces over the centuries, coming under the control of Hannibal in 218BC, by Romans around 28BC and later by other groups including the Ostrogoths, Byzantines, Lombards, Franks of Charlemagne before in the mid 1500's becoming the Capital of the Duchy of Savoy. For a few years between 1802 and 1814 it also became part of the French Empire under the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte.
The Royal 'House of Savoy' is a family dynasty that can trace its Royal line of succession and family history back to 1003 AD, making it one of the oldest and most long standing Royal Families in Europe and the world. While the Turin region had been under the control of the House of Savoy from 1051AD, it was not until 1557 that Turin became the Capital of the House of Savoy, after moving from Chambéry in the French Alps, about 214 kilometres (132 miles) from Turin. In Chambéry, the Chateau Castle of the Dukes can still be seen.
In Turin over coming centuries, five Palaces (Palazzo) would be built for the Royal Family – the Palazza Reale, Palazza Madama, Palazzo Carignano, Palazzo del Valentino and the Palazzo della Regina. There are also other Palaces that were built by the House of Savoy in a number of locations outside of Turin too.
- The Palazza Reale di Torino construction first began in 1645 and this is where the Palazza Chiablese is located and also the Chapel of the Holy Shroud, built 1668-1694 next to the Duomo di San Giovanni Turin Cathedral built between 1491 and 1498. The Shroud is one of the most significant and intriguing objects to see in Turin – said to be the cloth that was used to wrap the body of Jesus Christ after his Crucifixion. The Palatine Towers are here too next to the Cathedral, towers that go back to the time of the Roman Empire. A big market also happens here in the Piazza della Repubblica.
The Royal House of Savoy maintained ownership over the Palace until 1946 at which time the Italian Government took control and made it into the Museum of the Life and works of the House of Savoy. The Government also took ownership over the Holy Shroud too. The Museum, Palace and Royal garden (Giardino Reale, dating back to 1697) are located off Piazza Castello, with the entrance to the Palace guarded by the Roman twin Gods, Castor and Pollux and the Gates by Medusa.
- Palazzo Madama e Casaforte degli Acaja Palace – also on Piazza Castello, was built between 1637 and 1721 incorporating part of the Roman walls and towers of the City dating back to the 1st Century. The Palazzo now houses a Museum – the Museo Civico d'Arte Antica.
- Palazzo Carignano – located on Piazza Carlo Alberta is today the Museum of the Risorgimento. It was first constructed in 1679 for the House of Savoy and one of its last residents was the first Italian King of the Kingdom of Italy before the Republic was declared in 1861, King Victor Emmanuel II who was born here in 1820.
- Castello del Valentino – is located in the large Parco del Valentino, in the grounds of the University of Turin. It is a massive building built in a U shape around the central courtyard, with four towers and at its main entrance there is a massive Savoy Coat of Arms above the doorway.
- Villa della Regina Palace (Villa of the Queen) – was first constructed in 1615 and it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site as have the other Palaces. The magnificent grounds, rooms in the Palace, décor and furnishing make any and all of these Palaces worth seeing. All have stories from the Savoy dukes, princes, princesses, kings and queens who lived here during the reign of the House of Savoy.
The Royal House of Savoy family still exist and when the Italian States became the Kingdom of Italy in 1861, King Victor Emmanuel II became the first King of Italy, followed by Umberto I, Victor Emmanuel III and Umberto II, who ruled for a few short weeks before the Italian Republic was declared in 1946 at the end of World War II.
While seeing the Palaces in Turin is fantastic, the most impressive of all is the Reggia di Veneria Reale in the village of Venaria, now in the outer suburbs of Turin. Construction of this massive Palace and its gardens began in 1675 and you could easily spend a day seeing it. There are the grand rooms, amazing décor, mosaics, frescos, galleries, horse stables, and structured gardens, fountains and all that is grand. It is located on Piazza della Repubblica 4 in Valeria.
The most prominent sight in Turin is the strange tower building they call the 'Mole Antonelliana' that stands 167.5 Metres (550 feet) high. Construction began in 1862 to build it as a Synagogue, but then the Municipality of Turin bought it and construction was only completed in 1889. Today the great Museo Nazionale del Cinema is here, and for anyone interested in Theatre and Cinema this is a great place to see. At night the tower is lit up with coloured lighting. There is also a lift to take you up the tower to a small Temple near the top where you can get a bird's eye look over the City. The 'Mole' is located on Via Montebello 20.
The other quite amazing tower to see is the tower beside the Chiesa di Nostra Signora del Suffragio e Santa Zita church. The bell tower stands 83 metres (272 feet) high.
In Turin one of the most interesting museums is the Egyptian Museum (Museo Egizio) located at Via Accademia delle Antichità Scienze 6. See www.museoegizio.org This has a massive collection of around 30,000 artefacts collected from Egypt, said to be the second most significant collection after the one in the Cairo Museum.
In the city there is also a recreation of a 15th Century Medieval Village and Castle (the Borgo Medievale) built in 1884 for the Turin Expo that year. It is open year round and you will find it in the Parco del Valentino beside the Po River at Viale Virgilio 107.
While Turin has a lot of history, it is also very much alive too – with the 'slow food' movement happening here, modern art galleries, markets, great coffee, chocolate, restaurants, a number of events and exhibitions happening during the year in the Torino Esposizioni Complex and 'Hop on-Hop off" buses able to take you to see the main sights. Hard chocolate was also first made here in Torino and food is definitely a passion, as are cars and football.
The Torino FC and Juventus Football clubs are both here in Turin, and Turin is also where Fiat Cars are manufactured. They were first built here in 1899 and were followed by Lancia in 1906. If you love football try and see a game being played here in front of enthusiastic passionate football fans, and if cars are your passion, visit the Museo Nazionale dell'Automobile at Corso Unità D'Italie 40, where there are around 200 classic cars to see.
Turin is depending on traffic about 2 hour's distance from what are called the 'Milky Way' ski fields and resorts – Sestriere, Sauze d'Ouix, Cesana, Claviere, Sansicario in the Italian Alps and Montgenevre in France.
For British skiers and snowboarders, looking for lots of night life and even a British style pub or two – the resort to head to is Sauze d'Ouix.
Families and beginner/intermediate skiers and snowboarders – probably the best resorts are in Montgenevre.
Advanced skiers should head to Sestriere, which was where a number of the 2006 Winter Olympics events were held.
Claviere is Italy's oldest ski resort has some 35 ski runs and caters for all levels of skiers, with a nice village atmosphere too.
In summer the Alps are all still here and while you might not be able to ski, you can still have a great time walking and just taking in the scenery. Turin is surrounded by smaller towns, villages, lakes, forests, vineyards like the pretty valley of Langhe and also the Gran Paradiso Park is here too.
In Turin itself there is also the shopping and food. If you are looking for designer brands, head to Via Roma and the Piazza San Carlo area. There are also a number of Markets, one of the biggest being the Porta Palazza Market on Piazza della Repubblica and there is also an antique market held every second Sunday called the Gran Balon. You will find no shortage of food to eat in Turin, and just one of the places you might want to check out is Eataly – where there are lots of foods to see, eat and learn more about food. Eataly is located in an interesting shopping centre, called 8 Gallery located in the old Lingotto Fiat Factory building at Via Nizza 230. In its heyday, the Lingotto building is where they not only built Fiat cars, but the roof had (and still has) a road testing track as the roof of the building. Pretty incredible – and a must see if you love cars.
The whole Piedmont area has this overlap of Italian and French cultures, yet is unique in its own right. Summer and winter, all year round, the region is beautiful and if you are able to drive out of Turin to the wine region, villages, Alpine towns or to the Lake areas, you will have a great time. It is a beautiful area to visit and of course you are close to the famous Lakes, Lago Maggiore and Lago di Como.
THE ITALIAN LAKES -
Not far from Milan are the four big lakes – Lake Como, Lake Lugano, Lake Maggiore, Lake Orta while further east nearer Verona are Lake Iseo and Lake Garda all located below the Swiss and Italian Alps, the lakes formed as landlocked valleys formed by glaciers in the past and now filled with water. There are also some smaller lakes too.
The snow capped mountains above the lakes and in many places surounding them almost tumble into the lakes below them with steep, sometimes almost vertical mountain sides connecting directly into the lakes themselves. It is on these slopes that narrow winding roads edge along the mountain sides with tunnels built where a roadway was not possible. These are roads where you need to take a lot of care when driving.
From a high point on a lake side you will see house villas, hotels, restaurants and small villages dotted along the sides of the lakes below you with small boats on the lake adding to the picture. It is this combination of the lakes, mountains, boats, car-ferries, villas, stone wall gardens and vineyards, window boxes of flowers and hillside greenery that create the scenery, but it is also the clean air, the clouds and sky and even more so the colours of the water, sky colours and mountains that create the magical feeling of being in this very special part of the world. As the light changes so too do the colours.
In the days of the British Empire, when the fashionable "Grand Tour of Europe" was in vogue – undertaken by British Aristocrats, artists and writers in the late 1800's and early 1900's in the pre World War I era , the Lakes became a favoured destination to take in the air and enjoy the scenic beauty "on the continent". Luminaries who visted the lakes included such people as Lord Byron, Robert Browning, Honoré de Balzac, DH Lawrence and others.
While the British Aristocrats from the 'Grand Age' may no longer be here, their legacy in Villas, gardens, great hotels remain and the rich and famous have also arrived with actors like George Cluny and others buying villas here. The lakes still retain that sense of style and sophistication but without the arrogance that sometimes comes with wealth.
The Lakes are very popular in summer, with British, German, French and Italian tourists so it is best to book well ahead to secure a place to stay. Just try and get a place with a view over the water and you will feel like you're in heaven.
From Milan it is easy to take a day tour to Lake Como, Lugano or Lake Maggiore to see the Lakes and find a small beer garden, restaurant or just drive and stop where you can, but ideally you should try and stay here in one of the many Villas for rent or at one of the Hotels.
Bring your passport too, as you may well drive partly through Switzerland as the lakes straddle the border between Italy and Switzerland near Lake Como and Lake Maggiore and some roads go into and out of Switzerland, with Como just 40 kilometres from Lugano in Switzerland. Some roads also have Tolls too.
The smallest and perhaps least known of the lakes is Lake Orta, and there are less people here but it is also quite beautiful, one of the most memorable sights being the Isola San Gulio Island in the lake, with its Benedictine Monastery covering almost the whole island. Some parts of the Monastery date back to the 12th Century, and it is possible to visit the island and see the two laneways – one the 'Way of Silence' the other 'The way of Meditation'. The small village of Orta San Giulio on the side of the lake is very quaint and picturesque, and looks out to the Island in the lake.
Lake Maggiore is a much bigger lake and has two islands in the lake too – Isola Bella and Isola Madre with buildings dating back to the 17th century, laneways, fountains, gardens, lemon groves and orchards. The lake itself is64 kilometres long (34 miles) and between 3 and 5 kilometres wide (2 to 3 miles) across, with part of the lake in Italy and the rest in Switzerland. Dotted around the edges of the lake are Villas and small villages – just one of these being Stresa, where there is the 'Grand Hotel' – a classic old Art Nouveau Hotel built in 1861-1863 overlooking the lake. The writer Ernest Hemingway came here to recover after being injured in World War I, and his 'Farewell to Arms' is partly set here.
Lake Como is better known than Lake Maggiore, with the small city of Como located here, renowned for its silk. It is a beautiful small city with a resident population of about 100,000 people, on the Italian side of the Swiss-Italy border with a rail link to Milan and trains taking about 35-40 minutes journey time to get to the centre of Milan.
Como is right on the lake and backs onto the hills behind it, with the city skyline dominated by the Cathedral (Duomo) built and added to between 1396 and 1740, with its domed roof cupola standing above the rooftops. High on the hills above the city you will also see a small squarish tower – Castello Baradello that is said to date back to the 6th or 7th century. There's a Funicular cable car built in 1894 that will take you to Brunate, a point overlooking the city and the lake. There is a great view from here. The other alternative is to take off on a seaplane from the lake – see www.aeroclubcomo.com
The centre of old Como is around the Centro Storico and Piazza Cavour with small laneways, old buildings, small shops, souvenirs, restaurants and coffee places. Just walking along the waterfront promenade (or hiring a bike) and seeing the small boats and ferries that will take you to other villages along the lake is a pleasure. Here on the waterfront you will also come across Villa Olmo and its classic English gardens. The Villa itself dates back to 1728.
In Como there are also a couple of Museums to see too – the Tempio Voltiano Museum – dedicated to Professor Alexandro Volta (1745-1827) – the famous inventor of the electric battery with the English words, 'Volts' and 'Voltage' named after him. He was born, lived and died in Como and is also credited as discovering Methane Gas, and such was his status that in 1810, Napoleon Bonaparte, awarded him the title of Count.
There is also the Museo Didattico Della Seta Museum that has displays and information about the Silk trade that made Como famous.
There are many small places to stay around the lakeside, one of the most famous being the village of Bellagio located on the end of the peninsula that runs into Lake Como where the lake splits into two arms. This is a truly beautiful village and attracts many people by its beauty too. They call Bellagio, the "Pearl of the Lake" and if you think of the colours of pearl shell and pearls – they come close to being the almost pearlescent colours that you see in Bellagio and Lake Como, with the gardens adding their touches of reds, yellows, pinks and other colours of flowers.
Here in Bellagio, it may be a Tourist town, but it still retains its style and Italian feel – with the Piazza della Chiesa in its centre and Piazza Mazzini where the Tourist Office is located, small laneways, cobblestone stairways and old Villas, churches and buildings with their shutters and window gardens. Right on the Lake are also the classic shaped old wooden tourist ferry boats and pleasure craft, and certainly one of the good things to do here is simply go for a walk or ferry trip, sail to other parts of the Lake, or to go trekking on the hillsides. Check with the Tourist office for pathways and directions.
There are a number of Villas in and around Bellagio, but one to see if you can is the Promobellagio that is occasionally opened, but you can take a tour of their garden and walk or see some of the trees, lawns and 18 kilometres of paths and avenues in their gardens. Tours leave from St Giacomo Square and again the Tourist Office on Piazza Mazzini will have details of times and costs.
Another garden and Villa in the small town of Lenno on Lake Como, is Villa Balbianello and another is in the village of Tremezzo, the Villa Carlotta. Again it is best to ask at the Tourist Office to check to see if it is possible to see them.
On the shores of Lake Como there are smaller villages with rental accommodation and Villas and Hotels to stay in, as well as grocery shops and if you check on the Hotels section of this website check to see what accommodation options come up under Lake Como, Bellagio, Lenno, Tremezzo, Moltrasio, Laglio and Cernobbio. None of these villages are far from each other.
Swimming in summer, sailing, cruising, walking, cycling, eating and just enjoying the atmosphere is the main activity but if you need to find bigger shops, it is only a relatively short drive to Milan or to Lugano in Switzerland.
Lake Lugano is named after Lugano the city in Switzerland that is just 40 kilometres from Como. Like the other lakes it too has small villages and Villas scattered along the lakeside. Lugano also has many places to stay too, with activities including sailing, golf, cruises on the Lake, mountain biking and there are also the 'Lido' – public bathing areas along the lakeside too.
Also in Lugano there is the Bellinzona Castles and Sforza walls about 30 kilometres north of Lugano – which are classified as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There is a Saturday market held here and tours of the old castles. The 3 castles- built in the 13th Century – Castelgrande, Castello di Montebello and Castello Sasso Corbaco are located on the top of the mountain just above the village of Bellinzona. This is a really great village just to see, as it seems buildings and laneways in the centre of the village are almost carved from stone. At one time Bellinzona was the capital of the Ticino Canton in Switzerland, being almost a gateway to the mountain passes that lead further north into Switzerland.
Being a bigger town, Lugano also has a lot more shops and fashion Outlet Stores too. You can still pay in Euros or exchange for Swiss Francs.
Lake Iseo and Lake Garda are located to the east of Milan, Lake Iseo about 86 kilometres to the north east from Milan and Lake Garda about 120 kilometres further east from Lake Iseo.
Both Lake areas are spectacularly beautiful, with Lake Iseo the 4th biggest lake in Italy, about 25 kilometres long and Lake Garda the biggest lake being 52 kilometres long.
The two main small towns at Lake Iseo are the towns of Iseo and Sarnico, and if you are looking for a quiet lake to relax and just enjoy the area, Lake Iseo is the quieter alternative to Lake Garda. There are ferries on the lake and also an island called Monte Isola that you can visit, and just outside Iseo, there is the Oldofredi Castle that dates back to the 11th century. The closest big city to Lake Iseo is Bergamo, which is about 40 kilometres from Milan with a population of about 120,000 people. This city is in two halves – the old city that sits on a ridge overlooking the new city below it. The Old City of Bergamo has lots of history and charm and it is worth stopping here to see if you get a chance.
Close to Iseo you will also find the wine region called Franciacorta – renowned for its 'champagne style' sparkling wines.
Lake Garda is probably equal to Lake Como in terms of popularity and is closer to Verona and Venice – with the Lake straddling both the Lombardy region and Veneto.
The main town/villages here are Sirmione on a tiny peninsula of land that juts northwards into the lake on the southern end, Malacesine about midway along the eastern edge of the lake, Rovereto at the northern end and Riva Del Garda on the north west end of the lake. There are smaller villages, Villas and resorts also beside the lake and classic Ferry boats and other craft on the lake, even a classic old Paddlewheeler, named the G. Zanardelli. The more north you go the more alpine and mountainous it becomes and in winter the alps will be covered in snow. You will also find olive groves near the lake and there are many places where you can swim in the summer months.
In Sirmione the narrow peninsula on which it is located is a great place to just walk, wander or just sit for a while and soak up the atmosphere, or you could also take a Thermal bath in the Aquaria Spa. Overlooking the village there is also the ruins of 1st century Roman Villa – the Grotte di Catullo and also the Rocca Scaligera Castle with its turrets and towers set right beside the lake.
Malcesine is next to the lake on the eastern side with Monte Baldo (2218 metres high) behind it, has a cablecar to take you up the mountain for great views over the mountains, hillsides and lake area. The town has the cobbled streets and small restaurants while the lake is popular with wind surfers, and the mountains by hikers, climbers, bikers and para gliders.
Rovereto – at the northern end of the lake was once a Fortress town and you can still see the old Castle here that was built in the 13th or 14th Century. Here in town you can see the Museo Storico Italiano della Guerra (War Museum) with artefacts, information and displays about the First World War. There is also a really interesting Modern Art Gallery – the Museo Di Arte Moderne here too. Being close to the Alps and the Dolomite mountains means you have both the lake and mountains next to the town with both water and mountain activities to enjoy.
Riva del Garda – is mostly referred to as simply 'Riva'. This town of about 16,000 people sits below 1575 metre high Monte Rocchetta creating a dramatic setting for the town. There is also a castle here too beside the lake – the Rocca Scaligera with a long walkway promenade that runs around the lakeside in front of the town.
Lake Gardo and the towns and villages around it is a beautiful part of Italy, and no matter where you stay you will no doubt travel to other parts of the lake either by road or on the water. Both ways are worthwhile.
All cities, towns and villages in Italy have their own special identity, history and charm and hopefully good food and enough activities to ensure that you enjoy your stay.
Verona is a city that dates back to the days of the Romans and you can see the 2000 year old Ancient Arena here still with its arched walls around it and seating for up to 30,000 people. If you are lucky you might see an Opera or other big event staged here during the summer months.
What makes Verona more famous however is the fact that Shakespeare wrote a play about a couple of lovers, 'Romeo and Juliet' with the setting being Verona. Were they real people, or was it just a story? Either way, the house and famous balcony where Juliet stood attract many people to come and see Verona and imagine the two lovers and relive their story. The 'Casa di Giulietta' is located at Via Cappello 9. Verona also has a great Cathedral – the Basilica di San Zeno Maggiore on Piazza San Zeno and also a Castle Fortress – that houses a museum – the Museo di Castelvecchio that dates back to the 1300's. It is located on the Corso Castelvecchio.
Verona is only about 120 kilometres (70 miles or so) from Venice and you can either drive there of go by train. Either way it is not far, and certainly Venice is a destination not to be missed – See section on Venice on this website).
Certainly Milan, Turin and all of the Italian Lakes are places that you should try and visit. Hopefully what is written here on these pages will help you find your way and discover more of what makes Italy such a great country to visit.