Franciacorta – Here are eight day trips within easy reach of Milan. Grape-lovers will enjoy bike tours around the Franciacorta wine-making region, as well as the local refreshments.
Brut – The Franciacorta region is famous for its sparkling "brut" wines, the Italian version of champagne.
Sacro Monte di Varese – This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a hill dotted with a network of 15 chapels, featuring life-size statues dramatically illustrating episodes from Christ's life.
Santa Caterina del Sasso – A short distance from Sacro Monte, the convent of Santa Caterina del Sasso is also worth a stop. It's cut into a cliffside with stunning views over Lake Maggiore.
Pizzighettone – The walled town of Pizzighettone is a former Roman military camp. France's King Francis I was held hostage in the prison tower here in the 16th century.
Holy tripe – Pizzighettone has plenty of local lore and tradition, much to do with food. Saint Bassiano's tripe is named after a holy patron who is said to have saved the village from the raids of Frederick Barbarossa in the 12th century.
Gorgonzola – Gorgonzola is the birthplace of the famous blue cheese, which is honored by a food festival each September. Huge pots of boiling soft cheese mixed with red beet and blue Curacao liquor are prepared.
Naviglio Martesano – You can reach nearby towns by strolling along the Naviglio Martesano canal or by hiring a canoe or kayak.
UNESCO site – It's now Lombardy's largest archaeological site protected by UNESCO. A Roman amphitheater -- a sort of miniature Coliseum -- stands alongside a temple, ancient columns and arches and thermal baths.
Pavia – The buzzing town of Pavia, founded by the Germanic Lombard people who gave their name to the region, is a maze of cobbled streets, winding alleys and lively piazzas. Pavia Castle is pictured.
Certosa of Pavia – The lavish Certosa of Pavia, today a monastery, was the mighty Visconti family's mausoleum.
Cremona – Here's one for the sweet-toothed. Cremona is famous for its turron, nougat created with almond and honey.
Torrazzo – There are 83 towers in Cremona but the tallest is the 111-meter Torrazzo.
Cornello dei Tasso – Only 30 residents live in this fairy-tale medieval village, considered to be one of Italy's most beautiful hilltop towns.
Polenta – Polenta is a local specialty in Cornello dei Tasso. The cornmeal mulch was once a peasant's dish, believed to have aphrodisiac powers.