Interesting facts about Lombardy

Lombardy is one of the twenty administrative regions of Italy.

It is situated in the northwest of the country – and is bordered on the north by Switzerland and by the Italian regioni of Emilia-Romagna (south), Trentino–Alto Adige and Veneto (east), and Piedmont (west).

Lombardy has an area of about 23,900 square kilometres (9,200 square miles) and about 10.2 million inhabitants – it has the largest population of any Italian region, and is the fourth-largest region of Italy.

The region is divided physically into three parts from north to south — a mountainous Alpine and pre-Alpine zone – a zone of gently undulating foothills – and a zone of alluvial plains sloping gently to the Po River in the south.

The Alpine division reaches a height of 4,049 metres (13,284 feet) in the Bernina. The foothill zone is partly composed of morainic material and contains a number of scenic lakes. The regione is drained southward by many rivers, all of them tributaries of the Po, including the Ticino, the Adda, and the Oglio, with its affluents the Mella and Chiese, and the Mincio.The regione abounds in lakes and contains all or part of Lakes Garda (Italy’s largest lake).

Milan is the capital of Lombardy, and the second-most populous city in Italy after Rome. The city has been recognized as one of the world’s four fashion capitals thanks to several international events and fairs, including Milan Fashion Week and the Milan Furniture Fair, which are currently among the world’s biggest in terms of revenue, visitors and growth.

The word “Lombardy” comes from Lombard, which in turn is derived from Late Latin Longobardus, Langobardus (“a Lombard”), derived from the Proto-Germanic elements *langaz + *bardaz – equivalent to long beard.

It is thought from the archaeological findings of ceramics, arrows, axes, and carved stones that the area of current Lombardy has been settled at least since the 2nd millennium BC.

In the 5th Century BC, Lombardy was inhabited by the Celtic peoples but was soon conquered by the Romans two centuries later, where it also became part of the Cisalpine Gaul (A Roman Province).

This new province became an important location for the Romans, who founded the cities of Milano, Cremona, Como, Brescia, Lodi, Pavia, in their conquest for Europe.

With Lombardy’s position at the base of the Italian Alps, it gave an important strategic location. Just like how Milan is Lombardy’s capital today, it was also once the capital of the entire Western Roman Empire.

The region suffered heavily in the barbarian invasions that ended the western Roman Empire, and from 568 to 774 AD it was the centre of the kingdom of the Lombards, a Germanic people who gave their name
to the region. If you take a look at Northern Italy today, there are actually many small remnants of German culture. For instance, many cuisines from Northern Italy feature pork, butter, and incredibly similar types of stuffed pasta, same as many Länder in Germany (and Austria as well).

For the next few years, the area would grow and split up into small, but wealthy cities. These city-states would then join together as a ‘league’ to put an end to the actions of the Holy Roman Empire.

Lombardy lost territory to the Swiss, Venetians, and other neighbours in the early 16th century, and in the chaotic wake of the French invasions of Italy.

In 1815, Lombardy was restored to Austria as part of a newly created Lombardo-Venetian kingdom.

In 1859, the country finally merged together as one Italy under the rule of King Victor Emmanuel II. The unification, also known as ‘Risorgimento’, was a political and social movement that consolidated the different states of the Italian peninsula into one single Kingdom of Italy in the 19th century. As there were many different foreign powers taking hold of the region, it motivated Italians to strive for unification.

In Lombardy, there are almost 500 museums and more than one million cultural heritages: among them, the famous Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, the medieval Torrazzo in Cremona, that with its 11 meters is the tallest historic bell tower in Italy, and La Scala Theatre [photo below], in Milan, opened in 1778 and among the world’s most famous for opera.

In addition, Lombardy is the Italian region with most UNESCO World Heritage Sites—Italy (tied with China) having the highest number of World Heritage Sites in the world. There are nine UNESCO World Heritage sites wholly or partially located in Lombardy. Some of these comprise several individual objects in different locations. One of the entries has been listed as natural heritage and the others are cultural heritage sites.

The region is also famous for its historical figures such as Virgil, Pliny the Elder, Ambrose, Caravaggio, Claudio Monteverdi, Antonio Stradivari, Cesare Beccaria, Alessandro Volta, Alessandro Manzoni, and popes John XXIII and Paul VI.

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is Italy’s oldest active shopping mall and a major landmark of Milan. Housed within a four-story double arcade in the center of town, the Galleria is named after Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of the Kingdom of Italy. It was designed in 1861 and built by architect Giuseppe Mengoni between 1865 and 1877.

The regional cuisine of Lombardy is heavily based upon ingredients like rice, beef, pork, butter, and lard. Despite being a form of Italian cuisine, Lombard food, even more than other cuisine of Northern Italy, tends to have little in common with Central or Southern Italian styles, in many cases lacking the presence of tomato and olive oil, being more meat-based and buttery. In many aspects, Lombard cuisine has much in common with that of Austria and central Europe in general with dishes such as Milanese scallop, Spätzle and Spezzatino also known as Goulash.