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Hourly trains run from Milan's Central Station to Lecco, Varenna, Bellano and Colico on the East shore of Lake Como. Frequent services from Milan's Garibaldi and Cadorna stations to Como are also available (www.trenord.it for complete information and timetables).
There is a ferry network that can transfer you to different towns on the lake, including Bellagio (www.navlaghi.it). Several movies have been filmed in this area, including (in part) Star Wars II.
Bergamo is a nice town about 40 mins by train from Milan. It is divided between Città Alta (High town), the oldest part, and Città Bassa (Low town), the newer part. Città alta is a typical medieval town, with nice middle age churches, a fantastic square and little shops which sell typical stuff. In summer evenings it will be full of people going there to have an ice cream and a nice walk. From some nice little corners you will be able to see the countryside below. Città bassa is more modern and has no particular appeal for the tourist, although it has a nice main boulevard made in Parisian style, heritage of the Napoleonic ruling.
Cremona is a medieval town which is nestled close to the Po river. It is famous because it's the hometown of Stradivari, and since then it's the place where the best violins are made. It is also a town with a wonderful cathedral and a nice historic centre, next to the Cathedral there is the famous Torrazzo, a bell tower famous throughout Italy. Finally it's a town where you can eat very well, a cross between the Lombard and the Emilian cuisine, with the famous tortelli di zucca which are well renowned throughout the region. The Torrone is a typical sweet from this town. You can reach it via train from Milan (approx. 1hr).
It's a small village on a tiny peninsula on the Garda lake. It's the hometown of the ancient Latin poet Catullo, and it's also a renowned spa centre. It van be reached by train from Milan, you should arrive at Desenzano (about 1hr trip) and then take a bus. The sight of the wonderful garda lake, the nice little shops, the castle and Catullo's villa are all worth seeing. Can be crowded from June to September.
Mantova is a city whose historic power and influence under the Gonzaga family in the renaissance period made it one of the main artistic, cultural and musical hubs of Northern Italy. Mantova is noted for its significant role in the history of opera, and is also known for its several architectural treasures and artefacts, elegant palaces or palazzi, and its medieval and Renaissance cityscape. Mantova is also famous for being the hometown of the latin poet Virgil.
Mantova is surrounded on three sides by artificial lakes created during the 12th century. These receive the waters from the river Mincio, which descends from Lake Garda. The sight of the lakes surrounding the city is something to be seen. Another good reason for going there is the food -- Mantova is the home of the famous "tortelli di zucca", a special type of pasta, well known all over Italy.
The Oltrepo Pavese is the largest wine producing area of Lombardy, about 65 km south of Milan, but is also virtually unknown abroad. This is a pity as the landscape is beautiful, people are kind, the food is authentic and there are lots of possibilities for walking, hiking, cycling and sight-seeing. The smooth hills are covered with vineyards, castles and medieval villages and this landscape reminds one of Tuscany. Pace of life is slow, food is traditional and wine can be tasted anywhere, in one of the over 100 independent cantines.
Oltrepo literally means “on the other side of the Po”. The Po river runs through the large plain in the North of Italy, the pianura padana, where rice is produced. In the south of Pavia province the terrain quickly gains height. The Oltrepo is situated at the foothills of the Ligurian Alpes and Apennines.
The Oltrepo Pavese offers peace and quiet, tranquility and silence (while strolling in the vineyards for example) is often overwhelming. Life still has a slow pace here, as locals live in more or less the same way as their ancestors did: growing wine is a labor that follows the seasons, year after year, generation after generation. Most of the wine farmer families have been living here since the Middle Ages.
Hardly any tourist business has developed here, which means, fortunately, that as the one of the few visitors from abroad, you are encountered with amazement and hospitality everywhere. People are enthusiastic to serve you their local traditional food and wine at all of the little family restaurants that populate the area. The food that is served is the food that Italians want to eat out, it has to have “mama” quality! Prices are ridiculously low.
Particular of the area are the local sparkling wines, the “vivace”, “frizzante” and also “spumante” wines. Reds and whites sparkle without being just sweet. The most famous local wine, the Bonarda is fruity but not sweet, in contrast to the Lambrusco e.g. A local, more classical wine is the Buttafuoco, the production of which is restricted to a small area in the North of the Oltrepo. A typical sweet red wine of the area is the Sangue di Giuda. The regional champagne-like spumantes have made it to the Italian DOCG category.
Regional dishes are simple but very effective. Using the seasonal ingredients like mushrooms and tartufi and the local meats of rabbit, wild boar and the likes, delicious dishes are prepared. One thing not to be missed is the typical Sunday “pranzo”or lunch in which all of the servings of the Italian menu (antipasti, primi, secondi, contorni, dolci) pass by, sometimes even twice. The Varzi salame is a protected product, like the Parmesan cheese.