Lombardy is one of Italy's most dynamic regions—offering everything from world-class ski slopes to luxurious summer lake resorts. Milan is the pulse of the nation—commercial, fashionable, and forward-looking. The great Renaissance cities of the Po Plain—Pavia, Cremona, and Mantua—offer the romantic Italian characteristics visitors dream about, embracing their past by preserving national treasures while ever keeping an eye on the present. Topping any list of the region's attractions are the glacial lakes. Above them stand the Alps, which have been praised as the closest thing to paradise by writers throughout the ages, from Virgil to Hemingway.
Millions of travelers have concurred: for sheer beauty, the lakes of northern Italy—Como, Maggiore, Garda, and Orta—have few equals. Along their shores are 18th- and 19th-century villas, exotic formal gardens, sleepy villages, and dozens of Belle Époque–era resorts that were once Europe's most fashionable, and that still retain a powerful allure.
Milan can be disappointingly modern and congested—a little too much like the place you've come to Italy to escape—but its historic buildings and art collections in many ways rival those of Florence and Rome. And if you love to shop, Milan is one of the world’s great fashion centers, and offers experiences and goods for every taste, from Corso Buenos Aires, which has a higher ratio of stores per square foot than anywhere else in Europe, to the edgy street style of Corso di Porta Ticinese and upscale Via Montenapoleone, where there’s no limit on what you can spend. Milan is home to global fashion giants such as Armani, Prada, Versace, Salvatore Ferragamo, and Ermenegildo Zegna; behind them stands a host of less famous designers who help fill all those fabulous shops.