From the Alps to the lush plains of the Po river, Lombardia's often fractious political history is in part reflected in its geographical diversity. Beyond the financial metropolis of Milano, the region is peppered with affluent towns that conserve a distinct character inherited from the city-states period. Mantova, Cremona, Bergamo, Brescia and Pavia have wealth and style, but the northern clime and a degree of orderly self-satisfaction make them a little staid in comparison with cities farther south. Italy's richest and most developed region offers its populace numerous escape routes. The most popular is the strech of enchanting lake from Lago d'Orta to Lago di Garda.
Lombardia formed part of the Roman province of Gallia Cisalpina before it fell to barbarian tribes and later to the Germanic Lombards. Interference by the Franks under Barbarossa in the 12th century ended when the cities united under the Lega Lombarda. After the Lega collapsed, Lombardia was divided among very powerful families - the Viscontis, Sforzas, Gonzagas and Scaligers and later invaded by Venetians, Habsburg Austria and Napoleon. Lombard cuisine relies heavily on rice and polenta and features butter, cream and cheese from the Alpine pastures. Gorgonzola originated just outside Milano. Pasta is fresh and usually stuffed with squash, meat, cheese or spinach. Lombardia's sparkling wines are among Italy's best - the Franciacorta red is mellow, the white fruity and dry. The region around Lago di Garda also produces good wines. Public transport is excellent and almost every town can be reached easily by road or rail.
Obsessed with work and money, the Milanese run their busy metropolis with comparative efficiency and aplomb. Indeed, Milano is synonymous with style - the country's economic engine room, it is also the world's design capital and rivals Paris as a leading fashion centre. As Notre Dame cathedral is for Paris, so Milano's duomo is the city's most striking symbol.
City: Bergamo, Brescia, Como, Cremona, Lecco, Lodi, Mantova, Milano, Pavia, Sondrio, Varese.
Surface: - kmq 23856
National Parks:Parco Nazionale dello Stelvio (1935).