The Lombardian Alps and Prealps extend from the northern border of Lombardy, and indeed of Italy, with Switzerland, down to the valley of the river Po, gradually descending from Alpine mountain ranges through hills down to a pretty flat landscape with an Alpine backdrop closer to the river. Administratively, this region encompasses three Lombardian provinces - Bergamo, Brescia and Sondrio.
- 1 Bergamo - the extremely picturesque historic city built on a scenic hill and around it
- 2 Bormio - a medieval town surrounded by the amazing landscape of Stelvio National Park
- 3 Brescia - an industrial powerhouse with rich heritage starting in ancient Roman Empire
- 4 Desenzano del Garda
- 5 Iseo - the main town on the eponymous lake in the middle of the Prealps
- 6 Livigno - a tax-free, mainly ski-oriented comune.
- 7 Pian Camuno
- 8 Rota d'Imagna - the gateway to Imagna Valley, known for unspoilt natural landscape and spectacular mountain views
- 9 Sarnico - a scenic town on the southern shore of Lake Iseo
- 10 Sondrio - the capital of the eponymous Alpine province
Lombardian Alps are not as well advertised as the Sud-Tirol/Bolzano area, yet it is just as scenic and tourist ready. The Sondrio province is a mountainous region with lush green valleys in summer and isolated white gorges in winter.
- Italian - In remoter areas, some of the residents may not speak anything else (perhaps except Lombard).
- German - towards the border with Switzerland
- Romansch - much of Sondrio borders with the Romansch speaking area of Grisons
The main airport in the region is the Orio al Serio Il Caravaggio airport in Bergamo, served mostly by low-fare carriers and holiday flights. Milan's Linate and Malpensa airport and Verona Villafranca airport are also within a reasonable distance.
The southern part of the region is quite densely populated, with larger cities and smaller towns dotting the map and good road and railway connections between them.
The Milan-Venice high-speed railway line has only one major station in the region, in Brescia, all the region's major cities and towns are connected by local railway lines and frequent train connections operated by Trenord, the regional train company of Lombardy. Unfortunately, the services operate in a fragmented fashion between the major cities, requiring changes if your origin and destination are farther apart.
The main regional railway connections in the region are:
- the Bergamo-Brescia railway line
- the line from Bergamo to Lecco on Lake Como
- the line from Tirano through Sondrio to Lecco (getting between Sondrio and the provinces of Bergamo and Brescia requires changing in Lecco)
- the line from Brescia to Lake Iseo and further north towards Breno and Edolo
- the line from Brescia towards Verona, with stops at Desenzano on Lake Garda
Brescia and Bergamo also have regional railway connections with Milan, which stop at localities along the way.
The Autostrada A4 runs from Milan through Bergamo and Brescia, but getting to the actual Lombardian Alps requires diverting to local roads. Driving to the province of Sondrio might actually be a reasonable option despite the winding mountainous roads, as it may prove quicker than changing trains once or twice. As there is no railway connection to the western shore of Lake Garda, driving or taking a ferry is required.
- Monte San Giorgio — a mountain at the border to Switzerland and that has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
With both Alps and picturesque lakes at hand, all kinds of mountain and water sports are the obvious pastime to enjoy. The views encourage a relaxed approach, so a ride on one of the ferries crossing the lakes or hiking up the hills and mountains to enjoy striking vistas could be the best option. The relatively small ski resort cluster around Sondrio still has a low profile, so you may opt to go there in the winter to avoid crowds.
Regional specialities include casoncelli, a kind of pasta with stuffing (in a way resembling ravioli) and various polentas. Valtellina in the province of Sondrio is known for breasola (air-dried, salted and aged beef) and pizzoccheri, a type of tagliatelle made of buckwheat.
Sfursat, a DOCG-status wine, is made in the valley of Valtellina.
Milan and the rest of Lombardy are obviously close by. Venice is not far away either. Switzerland is just over the border and there are many scenic mountain passes to help you get there. You can actually travel to Switzerland along a world heritage listed railway — the Bernina railway branch the Rhaetian Railway departing from Tirano a few kilometers from the Swiss border and going up to St. Moritz.