View of Lake Como, 50km from Milan

Cities and its flavors


*This story appears on May-June 2021 Terre & Culture magazine issue, in the section Ameritalia.



The Lombardy region is located in the north-western part of Italy. The territory is mostly flat (47%) and 43% mountainous. In the southern part flows the longest Italian river, the Po, which has the Ticino, the Adda, the Oglio and the Mincio as tributaries. In the pre-alpine belt there are 15 lakes, among which the largest are Lake Maggiore, Lake Como, Lake Iseo, Lake Idro and Lake Garda, while others are smaller and more hidden, but authentic. jewels to be discovered! The main peaks reach almost 4,000 meters, in the Bernina group the Pizzo Zupò reaches 3996 meters; the mountainous borders with Switzerland, Austria and Trentino Alto Adige are bordered by the Lepontine Alps and the Rhaetian Alps.

The regional capital is Milan, the main economic and financial center of Italy; provincial capitals are Brescia, Bergamo, Sondrio, Monza, Lodi, Como, Lecco and Varese, all overlooking the lakes, while other important cities, especially for their historical, cultural and artistic value are Mantua, Pavia and Cremona, also called "i jewels of the Po ”, without forgetting Lodi and Monza where you can visit many works of art, museums and particular sites.

In this regard, in May 1995 I held 4 seminars for the associates of the Smithsonian Institution of Washington DC (Institute founded on 10 August 1846, which manages 19 National and International Museums, with about 142 million art collections, considered today the largest complex in the world. world). At the end, I organized a dinner with a menu consisting of courses that each represented a typical dish of these historic cities, thus introducing the 187 associates present to the typical food and wine of the Po valley and these cities.

Lombardy is the richest Italian region from an economic point of view. The fertile soils of the Po Valley have favored the development of a very profitable agriculture that uses advanced cultivation systems. Main crops are cereals, fruit, wine grapes and fodder. The breeding is concentrated on cattle and pigs, with all derived products (milk, butter, cheese, meat). The industry has developed in particular in the engineering, steel, textile, chemical, petrochemical, food, publishing, footwear and furniture sectors. The tertiary sector developed in parallel with the industrial one.

History Lombardy, after the Etruscans, was occupied by the Umbrians, the Gauls and the Romans, until the Lombards took over, giving life to an independent kingdom whose capital was Pavia. With the advent of Napoleon it became part of the Cisalpine Republic and in 1802 it formed the Lombard-Veneto Kingdom with the Venetians. During the Risorgimento, Milan was an important center of national patriotic culture, while after the Second War of Independence much of Lombardy was annexed to the Kingdom of Italy, giving rise to a great economic and productive development in every field, which made it one of the most important economic centers of young Italy becoming one of the most active centers of the Resistance. The post-war reconstruction transformed the territory through the establishment of new industries and the modernization of agriculture, leading Lombardy to assume a leading role in the years of the economic boom. TourismIt is mainly based on lakes, which are very popular with international tourism.Lake Como, with its shape similar to an inverted Y, has three branches that converge at Bellagio, known for its cobbled streets, long stairways and terraced park overlooking the lake of Villa Serbelloni (18th century) , where the Rockefeller foundation is based, used for international conferences. Crossing it by boat, you can admire the spectacular landscape at the foot of the Prealps, the beautiful nineteenth-century villas with their magnificent gardens and characteristic villages such as Varenna, an ancient fishing village founded in 769, famous for its picturesque alleys, colorful houses and the romantic atmosphere of the lovers' walk.

Lake Garda, the largest Italian lake, bathes three regions: Lombardy, Veneto and Trentino. In Guardone Riviera, in the Lombard part, there is the Vittoriale, with the adjoining park that the poet Gabriele D'Annunzio had built, where you can admire cypresses, lemons, olive trees in a suggestive natural setting.Lake Maggiore bathes Lombardy, Piedmont and Switzerland; interesting the cities of Luino and Laveno, which overlook the relative gulfs.Lake Lugano, which mainly bathes the Swiss territory, but some well-known places, such as Campione d'Italia, famous for its casino, is on the Italian side.The small Lake Itro, in the province of Brescia, is a destination for those who practice windsurfing and sailing, because here the wind never fails !!Also characteristic is Lake Iseo, one of the smallest lakes in Lombardy, but which hosts some of the most famous lake islands in Italy, such as Monte Isola and the islands of Loreto and San Paolo.Among the other characteristic lakes we remember the lakes of Monate and Comabbio.

The mountains - Important ski areas are prepared for the winter holidays, long and diversified downhill slopes, many kilometers for cross-country lovers, as well as slopes for snowboard and snowkite lovers, in the localities from Madesimo to Foppolo, from Bormio to Livigno, from Santa Caterina Valfurva to Ponte di Legno, without forgetting the smaller ones such as the Piani di Bobbio and Valtorta.For the summer holidays, Lombardy offers about 13,000 mountain trails, of which almost 7,000 are marked, walking on which you will discover pieces of history such as the set of mule tracks and defensive posts created between the end of the 19th century and the early 20th century along the border. Swiss and Austrian. Interesting and to be discovered for their natural beauties are the beautiful valleys, among the best known Valtellina, Valbrembana, Valcamonica, enjoying typical dishes of the valley cuisine with the possibility of buying typical products of the area.

Passo dello Stelvio, alpine pass of the Rhaetian Alps, at almost 3000 m

The cities - Let's start with the beautiful Milan, the world capital of fashion and design. Headquarters of the Italian Stock Exchange, it is a financial center also famous for its exclusive restaurants and shops. The Gothic-style Cathedral and the convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, which houses the fresco of the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, testify to its artistic and cultural heritage. Pavia is known above all for the Certosa, a Renaissance monastic complex, with sculptures and frescoes, located north of the city. In the historic center, the centuries-old University of Pavia houses the Museum for the history of the University, which exhibits scientific and medical equipment dating back to the Middle Ages, as well as a botanical garden with roses and medicinal plants.Mantua is known for the Renaissance architecture of the buildings erected by the Gonzagas, such as the imposing Palazzo Ducale which houses the Camera degli Sposi, decorated with frescoes by Andrea Mantegna. The Gonzagas also erected Palazzo Te, known for the Sala dei Giganti, in which every surface is covered with paintings of mythological scenes. Bergamo, in its oldest part, called Città Alta, is characterized by paved streets and houses the Cathedral of Sant'Alessandro; it is surrounded by Venetian walls and is accessible by funicular. Here there are also the Romanesque basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore and the imposing Colleoni Chapel, with eighteenth-century frescoes by Tiepolo.In Cremona you can visit the Stradivari collection at the Violin Museum. In Piazza del Comune there are the Cathedral with its Renaissance arch, the 8-sided Baptistery, the Torrazzo bell tower, characterized by an astronomical clock, and the portico of the 13th century Loggia dei Militi building, with its sculptural composition depicting the two Hercules.Brescia was nicknamed the Lioness of Italy by Aleardo Aleardi, in his Canti Patrii.

Facade of the Certosa, Pavia

The fortune of the expression, however, is due to Giosuè Carducci, who wanted to pay homage to it for the valiant resistance against the Austrians during the insurrection of the Ten Days. It is a city that is often underestimated and little known from a historical and architectural point of view. Brescia tends to be considered exclusively as an industrial city, while in reality the city center has numerous squares and monuments of considerable historical and architectural interest.Also not to be underestimated is the city of Monza, located in the rich Brianza, the center of one of the most productive areas of Europe. It is known for the presence of the national racetrack, where the Formula 1 Italian Grand Prix is ​​held and for the splendid Villa Reale, also called the Reggia di Monza, a large neoclassical style building built by the Habsburgs as a private residence during the Austrian domination of XVIII century, later becoming the residence of the viceroy with the Napoleonic Kingdom of Italy of the Savoy during the Kingdom of Italy. And finally Lodi with its historic center. It was founded on 3 August 1158 by Frederick Barbarossa, following the destruction of the ancient village of Laus Pompeia, formerly a Roman municipium, bishopric and free municipality. During the Renaissance it experienced a period of great artistic and cultural splendor, after having hosted in 1454 the signing of the historic treaty between the Italian pre-unification states known as the Peace of Lodi.To visit is the characteristic village of Grosio, where even today women wear a costume that derives from that of the Circassian, Balkan or Ottoman slaves, bought and then married by Grosio's men who were widowed after the loss of their wives and children. decimated during the plague of 1629, while they were employed in the navigation that connected Venice to the Far East. The typical costume is brightly colored, with deep necklines, silk corsets and hats with ostrich feathers that many elderly grosines continue to wear today, one simpler for every working day, and one made of damask corsets, hats with feathers, colorful stockings and wonderful jewels, such as the large filigree and gold ring earrings. The same women brought the seeds of buckwheat still grown in Valtellina, to prepare the famous pizzoccheri !! In this regard, read the article I will write about the years I spent in NY, where I introduced the pizzoccheri to famous chefs, owners and buyers of gourmet shops and above all to a very famous NYT journalist !! Keep in mind that Japanese Soba noodles are also made with buckwheat; surely also for this affinity, the oriental women brought with them the seeds to be able to continue to cook their food. 

View of Bormio

Bormio, my city - Logically my favorite is Bormio, where I was born almost 87 years ago, a small town where I spent the years of my youth, skiing and skating, enjoying its wonderful natural beauties, but now it has become too big for me and crowded.Bormio is an ancient county also called Magnifica Terra which owes its fortune to its geographical position, representing both a strategic corridor for transalpine communications, and because it offers tourists many opportunities to spend a holiday surrounded by nature, sports, snow, well-being, culture and flavors!In the past, Bormio was an obligatory crossroads for those who wanted to reach Northern and Southern Europe. Many powers were interested in dominating the Magnificent Land and, consequently, its trade routes. Thanks to this strategic position, the Bormio area always managed to remain quite autonomous and rich. All this can be seen walking through the alleys and lanes of the historic center, a gem where medieval remains are mixed with those of the sixteenth century, the golden age of the countryside. Proof of this are the civil and religious buildings, the famous Kuerc and the ancient medieval tower with the large bell called Baiona, which warned the capital of the danger of invaders!Bormio has over 50 kilometers of snow-covered slopes in the winter season and the possibility of practicing summer skiing in the evocative setting of the Stelvio Pass (2758-3420 m asl).No less important are the thermal springs that date back to pre-Roman times, supported by a relief depicting the God of Waters holding a trident surmounted by a fish, found in 1944 during the demolition of the ancient church of San Vitale. . It was Pliny the Elder who cited the Roman basins, which Cassiodorus confirmed in a letter of his from 535-6 AD, now called Fonte Pliniana, visited by illustrious personalities such as Leonardo Da Vinci, who mentioned them in 1493 in his Codex Atlanticus. It was during the design of the Stelvio Pass, whose road passes over the Bagni Vecchi, that work began for the construction of the new hotel with an adjoining spa complex called Bagni Nuovi, which enhances the centuries-old salus per aqua ritual and which, thanks to modern and professional systems and structures, it offers moments of great relaxation, accompanied by the beauty of the Stelvio National Park, where an extraordinary natural heritage is enclosed. The proximity to the Alpine passes of the Stelvio, the Gavia and the Mortirolo makes this area a true paradise for bike and motorbike lovers.In Bormio the link with traditions is still strong thanks to the folkloristic events that the Bormio community proposes every year. Its secular history and of the neighboring countries is reflected and preserved in the numerous popular traditions of the past which, rich in superstition and legend, were and continue to be handed down from father to son and still cheer today, throughout the year, the territory and the peasant culture, preserving the folklore, which has always distinguished them, and becoming an occasion of celebration for both inhabitants and tourists. Very characteristic are the Pasquali, allegorical floats that every district of Bormio prepares to celebrate Easter: they are carried on the shoulders of young people with traditional costumes followed by women, old people and children with baskets of bread, colored eggs and small lambs, parading on Via Roma to then reach the church square for the blessingEaster. It is interesting, as well as suggestive, to know what lies behind the events that reflect the identity of a territory. In the case of the Pasquali di Bormio, everything stems from the ancient peasant culture of the seventeenth century, when there was an obligation to prepare and cook a lamb to be distributed in piazza del Kuerc, the central square of the town, on Easter day. At the end of the nineteenth century, the blessing of the live lamb was introduced and, from here, the competition between the "departments" was born to best adorn one's animal. Little by little, the lambs began to be placed on decorated moss sedan chairs and, from there, we arrived at the Paschals as they are celebrated today. Other festivities are the Carnival of Shrove Tuesday with the cuccagna tree, or those that mark the coldest period of the year, such as L'è fora Geneiron and L'è Fora l'Ors de la Tana or il Gabinat (word taken from the German language which means "gift" and which you must wish early in the morning on the day of the Epiphany, in order to win a prize if you are the first to wish it). All these events in the past also represented an outlet to the hard daily life of a population tied to the land, especially to pastoralism and agriculture, in an environment that was often inaccessible and in an unfavorable climate. All this fits into a particularly lively cultural environment and the atmosphere of what was, for seven hundred years, a democracy in the heart of the Alps, in which modernity has only come to an end, leaving glimpses and panoramas intact.Bormio was very well featured on a CNN program in March. 

Lombard cuisine - It has a very varied culinary tradition, ranging from rustic mountain recipes to lake fish dishes, from the succulent cuisine of the Po Valley to a historic cuisine created in the ancient kitchens of Renaissance palaces.The typical dishes of the city of Milan are:risotto alla milanese, with ossobuco or polenta; the cutlet which is also called oreggia d'elefant (elephant ear) due to the characteristic shape it assumes; tripe, also called buseca in Milanese dialect; the famous panettone born in the court of Ludovico il Moro, where the chef of the Sforza family, on Christmas Eve, burned the cake. To save the situation, the kitchen boy Toni decided to use a stick of yeast, adding flour, eggs, sugar, raisins and candied fruit, thus obtaining a particularly leavened and soft dough. The dessert was much appreciated and they called the sweet Pan de Toni, transforming the name, in the following years, into Panettone. Each ancient dish has its own history like that of the Pavese soup, which was born during the historic battle of Pavia, when Francis I of France, defeated by the Lanzichenecchi, took refuge from a peasant woman who prepared him a soup based on egg, broth of chicken, cheese and stale bread!In Bergamo, on the other hand, the tradition is represented by Polenta and oseli scapacc which consists of a plate of polenta taragna (a mixture of yellow corn and buckwheat flour) served with meat rolls stuffed with bacon and sage. to serve the dish, the succulent sauce over the polenta.In Cremona there are Marubin prepared with pasta stuffed with beef, salamella, or salami with garlic, grana padano, nutmeg, and cooked in a broth made with three types of meat; in Brescia, the Casonsei, large fresh pasta ravioli filled with aged cheese, spinach, eggs or, as an alternative to spinach, minced pork, and seasoned with plenty of melted butter and sage.In Lodi the typical dish is the Lodi-style risotto, prepared with Lodi PDO sausage, finely chopped pepper with rice, a pinch of saffron and grated granone from Lodi. Monza and Brianza are famous for Cassoeula and Rusticiada, dishes based on vegetables and various types of pork prepared with long cooking; in Mantua the tortelli di zuccat, the rice alla Pilota and the sbrisolona cake are famous.The cities on the shores of the various lakes, such as Como, Lecco and Varese, offer typical fish dishes in fresh water, such as mixed fry from the lake, soaked fish, and perch risotto.And finally let's talk about my capital, Sondrio, where the dishes of the poor Valtellinese cuisine are special such as the Taroz based on potatoes, green beans, butter and local cheese, or the shat, crispy round-shaped pancakes stuffed with melted casera cheese and served on a bed of chicory. Logically the king of Valtellina cuisine are Pizzoccheri. 

Local products First of all the dairy products starting from the grana padano, the gorgonzola, the taleggio, the bitto al furmai de Mut, the quartirolo al Pannerone, the Bagoss alla Rosa Camuna, the scimudin which is a fresh cheese, the dairy butter, the mascarpone. Most Lombard cheeses are made from cow's milk. Not least are the cured meats, in particular the Bresaola della Valtellina, the Varzi salami, cacciatorini, the goose salami, the Slinzega and the famous Violino, sheep or goat ham produced in the mountain areas.Lombardy is at the top of the Italian regions in the seed production of maize, rye, barley, wheat, corn and rice, as well as buckwheat and some fine legumes such as the Gambolo borlotto bean.Many first fruits are grown in the region such as the Cantello white asparagus; the Mantuan pumpkin; apples from Valtellina; do not forget the porcini mushroom, the berries, in particular the blueberry, the dog rose, the alimurgic plants of the Lombardy mountains and the medicinal and medicinal herbs of the high mountains. Particular is the pesteda, an aromatic condiment / flavoring made of chopped herbs, pepper and garlic, excellent on pizzoccheri, pasta, rice and also on meats. Unique is the buckwheat honey, fresh fruit jams and jellies, as well as the famous Cremona mustard.In the wine sector I remember the wines of Valtellina, where the terraced vineyards produce fine grapes, including the excellent redSforzato wine, or the Oltrepò wines such as Bonarda and Buttafuoco, one of my favorite wines. The Franciacorta area is important, where a classic method sparkling wine is produced, but the Moscato di Scanzo is also excellent. 

SBRISOLONA It is a typical dessert of Mantua. Despite his peasant origins, he was the protagonist of the Gonzaga court. The sbrisolona is also called "the sweet of friendship", because at the end of lunch or dinner it should be placed in the center of the table where the guests break it up, take a piece and sipping sweet wine.

Ingredients for 6/8 people: 200 g of corn flour, 200 g of sugar, 200 g of butter at room temperature, 2 egg yolks, 150 g of peeled almonds, 50 g of unpeeled almonds, 1 sachet of vanillin, grated lemon zest to taste.

Preparation: with the help of a mixer, chop 90 grams of almonds with the sugar until you get a flour. But be careful not to chop too much, otherwise the oil will come out of the almonds. Add the almond flour to the white and yellow flour, add vanilla, finely grated lemon, salt and mix together. Finally the yolk and the cold butter into small pieces and start crumbling with your hands to create a sandy mixture in large crumbs. Add the 10 grams of whole almonds. Bake in the middle part of the oven at 180 ° for about 20 minutes in a static oven, then lower to 160 ° and finish cooking for another 15 minutes until the surface is golden brown. In the last 5 minutes, place the cake on the bottom of the oven to have a crunchy base. If you prefer it a lot toasted, continue cooking on the bottom of the oven for about 5 - 6 minutes. If, on the other hand, you prefer to cut the slice, remove it first. Cover with aluminum foil if you see it browning. Remove from the oven and let it cool completely before enjoying.


Ingredients for fresh pasta: 200 g of buckwheat flour; 200 g of flour 00; About 250 ml of warm water; Salt pepper to tasteIngredients for the dressing: 100 g of butter; 200 g of Casera Dop; 160 g of Parmigiano Reggiano; 250 g of cabbage. It can be replaced with green beans, ribs or spinach depending on the season. 300 g of potatoes.Salt and Pepper To Taste.


Preparation: mix the two flours and mix them with warm water for about 5 minutes. Then leave to rest for a couple of hours. With a rolling pin, roll the dough out to a thickness of 2-3 mm, from which bands of 7-8 cm are obtained. Overlap the bands and cut them lengthwise, obtaining about 5 mm wide tagliatelle. Cook the vegetables in salted water, the cabbage into small pieces and the potatoes into chunks; add the pizzoccheri after 5 minutes. Cook everything for about 10 minutes, stirring gently so that the pizzoccheri do not stick together. After about ten minutes they should be drained with a slotted spoon and placed in the pan, where they will then be seasoned in layers with the cheeses. Separately, slowly melt the butter with the garlic in a hot pan, which must be cut in half and left "poached", alternating them in layers with the cheese previously cut into flakes. An essential ingredient is melted cheese, so the heat is fundamental for the success of the dish. In the last layer, in addition to the cheese, the pizzoccheri should be sprinkled with handfuls of grated parmesan, while in the meantime we raise the temperature of the butter that must fry and must become hazelnut, and then sprinkled on the pizzoccheri Remove the garlic and mix the pizzoccheri with a sprinkle of pepper.