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Out now and for the first time, Blue Guides' new spring title: Blue Guide Lombardy, Milan & The Italian Lakes. This part of Italy has historically been covered in Blue Guide Northern Italy, a title that is now discontinued due to the sheer volume of information to be squeezed between two covers. Fitting Bologna, Ferrara, Ravenna, Venice, Verona, Milan, the Lakes, the Alps and the Riviera into a single book--with our Blue Guides level of detail and accuracy--is an impossible task. So we are updating it region by region.

Starting with Lombardy, a region of Italy that we felt deserved much more detailed coverage: Milan, its capital, is an obvious draw. And today the city is enjoying a period of revival. Towering skyscrapers by internationally renowned architects now punctuate its perimeter and recently Italy’s first ever Starbucks took up residence in the grand old Central Post Office building. But Milan is not becoming a standard-template global metropolis. In its central winding streets, and with its famous trams, it retains its unique atmosphere of Italy-meets-Austria-Hungary. Food is excellent. The after-work aperitif culture is thriving. The Brera gallery has recently been superbly re-hung. The 1,600-year-old basilica of St Ambrose sails on peacefully through the ages. What Milan also has are excellent transport links. And Italian trains are extraordinarily good value. From here you can visit the beautiful old university city of Pavia (burial place of St Augustine) with its famous charterhouse; lovely Lodi, set among rice fields; Como with its monuments of Rationalist architecture (and of course its famous lake); alpine Sondrio; Varese with its pilgrimage chapels; Vigevano with its stunning main square and Visconti-Sforza castle; and the busy, bustling city of Brescia. Brescia is little visited by tourists but it has much to offer: the remains of an ancient Roman temple; two extraordinarily good museums; an ancient and atmospheric cathedral; small churches with beautiful original works of art by two important 16th-century painters, Moretto and Romanino; a fascinating remnant of Fascist town planning in its Piazza Vittoria (complete with a rostrum, decorated with muscular military scenes, from which Mussolini spoke); excellent restaurants and an aperitif all its own, the Pirlo, similar to an Aperol Spritz but without the Aperol (you use Campari instead).

Also included in the guide is the violin-makers’ town of Cremona, once home to Stradivari and Guarneri; beautiful Bergamo with its upper and lower towns linked by funicular and some stunning paintings by the native portraitist Moroni as well as the delightful and eccentric artist Lorenzo Lotto, in situ in many churches and in the excellent art gallery; historic Mantua with its great palace of the Gonzaga; the Renaissance city of Sabbioneta, an early example of urban planning; and of course the lakes themselves. Of the three main ones, Como, Maggiore and Garda, it is difficult to pick a favourite. They are all similar yet completely different. Lake Maggiore shares a border with the region of Piedmont; Lake Garda with the Veneto; Lake Como is entirely in Lombardy. For those who love gardens, Lake Maggiore is a must. A visit to the Villa Taranto with its magnificent gardens laid out by a wealthy Scotsman, followed by a drink at one of the cafés in west-facing Pallanza, is highly to be recommended. Around one of the smaller lakes, Lago d’Iseo, you can seek out the numerous examples of prehistoric rock carvings. There are rock carvings around Lake Garda too. But are they genuinely prehistoric, or are they a hoax?

Buy now direct from the publisher for £15.25 (cover price £16.95) or from Amazon.


The Blue Guides website has an extensive archive of reviews, written by our authors and members of our editorial board. These cover exhibitions on or held in cities covered by a Blue Guide, and reviews of new publications relevant to the world of history, art and travel. Recent articles on Lombardy include:

A tale of two Camparis

The Blue Guides team sets old Milan and new Milan head to head with a taste-off of Campari sodas at the Camparino in Galleria bar (established in 1915) and the Starbucks roastery (established in 2018). Guess who wins... Read more »

Best restaurants in Brescia

After visiting the stunning Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo and touring the labyrinthine Museo di Santa Giulia, you will need some refreshment. But where to go? The Blue Guides team investigates. Read more »

Lorenzo Lotto: Portraits

“Lorenzo Lotto. Portraits”, an exhibition at the National Gallery in London of works by the eccentric and melancholy Lorenzo Lotto (b. 1480), who spent an important part of his career in Bergamo. Read more »


And now for something completely different… in similar format to our successful pocket guide the Blue Guide Italy Food Companion, we are working on one for Hungarian food. The Blue Guide Hungary Food Companion - A Glossary and Miscellany of Hungarian Cuisine will be available from summer 2019. Jó étvágyat!


As ever, thank you to all those readers who have sent us comments and feedback on our titles, as well as helpful updates. You can see all of these on our comments page. Please do keep sending us your thoughts. As always, we reward all constructive contributions with the offer of a free Blue Guide.


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"designed for the traveller
who desires to understand more fully what he or she sees"

Stuart Rossiter, Blue Guides editor-in-chief 1963-1973

The BLUE GUIDES have been published continuously since 1918. They maintain their comprehensive focus on history, art, architecture and, where relevant, archaeology, with illustrations to inform rather than to decorate: award-winning maps, diagrams, floor plans, architecture details and photographs. They contain selective listings of restaurants and accommodation informed by the belief that good practical recommendations will contribute to the visitor's enjoyment.

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