Lombardy is one of Italy’s largest regions, and lies in the north, stretching from the Alps to the Po river. It has 10 million people and produces about 1/5 of Italy’s GDP, making the richest province. The north is composed of the Alps of the Swiss border area, with their lakes, followed by a belt of moraine and pebbly soil. South of this is the plain around the Po is known as Lomellina, the land of rice harvesters. Here, not much of the original vegetation survives, for it has been intensively cultivated for centuries. There is a national park along the Ticino river, which drains the Alpine area. The capital is at Milan, the second-largest city in Italy and the route runs close to the south and west of Milan, so is easily accessible; there are convenient rail lines to most towns on the route.

History of Lombardy

Originally inhabited by Gallic and Celtic tribes, the Romans soon occupied the area north of the Po and adopted it as Gallia Cisalpina. Milan took its place as the capital under Constantine – it was here that the first edict tolerating Christianity was promulgated. The Lombards invaded from the north in 570, making their capital at Pavia; they were succeeded by the Franks, who annexed most of Northern Italy. For centuries after, rival small city-states competed; gradually these were dominated by the cultured Renaissance cities of Milan and Mantua.  The Habsburgs captured Milan and the area lost importance until eventually Napoleon arrived in the late 18th C. Lombardy became a lead player in the unification of Italy and by the 19th C was a leading industrial area.

Interesting places in Lombardy

S Pietro church

S Pietro church in Robbio is a rose-brick structure with 16th C frescoes and a bell-tower. It’s used as a pilgrim shelter.

San Maria del Campo

San Maria del Campo in Mortara is a plain hall-church with a famous battle fresco and ancient frescoes of angels, on the roadside 2km out of the town.

Mortara Sant’Albino Abbey

Mortara Sant’Albino Abbey was a burial place for Charlemagne’s soldiers lost in battle against the Lombards and stopping place on the pilgrimage. It has several frescoes of around 1400.


Garlasco is a small town once held by the Castigliponi family. The castle was erected in the 15th C but only a tower remains; there are 15th C frescoes in the church.

Ticino Park

Ticino Park runs north-south along the river; you can canoe, picnic or ride horses or bicycles. Local food market. Zerbolo.

Villanova d’Ardenghi

A town at  the junction of the Ticino and the Po, once a possession of Ste Maria Teodote of Pavia.

Ponte Coperte

Ponte Coperte in Pavia is a covered bridge over the Ticino river; bombed during the 2nd World War, it has been beautifully restored.

San Pietro in Ciel d’oro

San Pietro in Ciel d’oro was commissioned by a Lombardy king and contains his tomb, the tomb of St Augustine and that of the philosopher Boethius; the mosaics in the apse had gold behind the glass.

S Michele Maggiore

S Michele Maggiore in Pavia is a 12th C Romanesque church where Frederick Barbarossa was crowned. The city is known for 100 towers.

The Cathedral of Pavia

The Cathedral of Pavia has the third largest dome in Italy; the neighbouring civic tower collapsed in 1989 but other medieval towers remain.

Miradolo Terme

Miradolo Terme thermal baths and spa has indoor pools, an open-air pool in a park, and various treatments with sulphur mud and inhalations Termedimiradolo.it

Chignolo Po

Chignolo Po tower was built by the Lombards to control the Po river. The 18th C castle, known as the Versailles of Lombardy, was built around it by the Cardinal Agostino Visconti.

Orio Litta

Orio Litta is a small town close to Sigeric’s original crossing place of the Po river – it has a new hostel in a restored building.


The Discover Italy site gives details of the seven stages, totaling 150km, of the Via Francigena route through the province.  It also lists the rail routes. The route is marked in red-white grande randonnee markings and with brown Via Francigena signs.

Two lists of accommodation are available here.


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