View over the Saint Mary Major (Santa Maria Maggiore) Basilica and Colleoni Chapel in Upper Town (Città Alta), in Bergamo.

© Marco Bottigelli / Getty Images

Central Lombardy

Medieval towns, gentle lakes hemmed in by steep hillsides, vast plains, prehistoric rock art and mighty mountains make this part of the Lombard region one of northern Italy's most underrated corners. You'd need a couple of weeks to cover the area well, so you need to make choices. Bergamo, with its medieval Città Alta (Upper Town), is a must, and it's an inspired choice if this is your point of arrival in Italy. Townies and church lovers might concentrate on the main centres (Brescia, Cremona, Crema and Lodi), which all have fascinating medieval cores. An alternative tour of plains settlements will turn up palaces, castles and forts. Wine buffs may prefer touring the Franciacorta, south of Lake Iseo. North of Bergamo, several valleys lead deep into the picturesque Orobie Alps.

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