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By David Szmidt |
You’ll probably begin in Milan, so that’s where we’ll start as well. Kiwi.com has deals from all over Europe to Milan Malpensa Airport, plus low prices to Milan Bergamo and Milan Linate, so it’s the obvious place to focus on first.
You might think of this region as a summer destination, but that couldn’t be further from the truth; winter just adds another layer of magic to many of its charms. The wonderful Duomo, fabulous museums, and world-famous masterpieces like da Vinci’s Last Supper are all here and waiting for you.
It’s not beyond the realms of possibility that you’ll get a dusting of snow while you’re in the city, so use that time to get out of the cold and into the stores. Milan is, of course, one of the fashion capitals of Europe, and you can’t miss the palatial Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of Europe’s oldest shopping centers dating from 1877. It’s four stories of designer beauty and opulence which, even if it’s beyond your budget, is worth wandering around for the sheer glamor of the place.
Due to the chilly weather, the lights, the tempting warmth of the trattorias and coffee houses (of which more later), and being wrapped up warm, Milan in winter manages the rare combination of feeling both lively and cozy. It’s a great place to begin your trip.
Milan comes alive with locals during the winter season. The Christmas markets that run through December to early January fill your senses with the sights, sounds and smells of the season.
In the huge Piazza Duomo, there are over 60 wooden chalets selling traditional handicrafts, mulled wine, sweet treats and more, backed by a huge Christmas tree. Another popular market is at Sforza Castle: known as the Oh bej! Oh bej! Fair, it’s popular with the local Milanese. For a more Alpine feel, try the market at Piazza Portello, and if you’d like to include a spot of ice skating with your browsing, there are outdoor rinks at (among other places) the Giardini Pubblici di Indro Montanelli and the Piazza Tre Torri.
Something a little less traditional but still as interesting is the Wunder Mrkt, a series of pop-up markets and events that showcase local artists and craftspeople who either create art out of recycled material, or simply upcycle and sell second-hand clothing and art. Handmade cosmetics and jewelry, renovated antiques, even plants, they’re all here! They try to hold their Christmas edition somewhere a bit unusual, and this year is no different: an abandoned factory in the northern Bovisasca district will be their home from early October.
The 2026 Winter Olympics are being held partly in Lombardy, and the region is already preparing. There are over 12,300km of ski slopes in the region, so it’s no surprise the eyes of the world will be on it in a few years’ time.
The two towns of Stelvio and Bormio will play host to alpine skiing, ski mountaineering, snowboarding and freestyle skiing, so where better to test yourself on some of the finest ski runs in the world?
The Livigno ski area consists of a mighty 78 runs over a total length of 115km, plus 30km of cross-country routes. The entire area is reachable via a huge network of lifts, gondolas and a shuttle bus, meaning you can explore ‘Little Tibet’ easily. Bormio runs the gamut of skill levels as well, with everything from 3,000 meter-high pistes to freeride slopes, but also includes snow playgrounds for children and the option of skiing at night, or the spectacular sight of being on the mountains as dawn breaks.
You’ll have earned a rest after all that, and Bormio in particular is the place to be, with its wonderful spas and wellness centers. The QC Terme Bagni Vecchi has been known about since Roman times, and its natural spa waters are a wonderful way to treat those aching limbs. The Bormio Terme spa offers even more, with both heated indoor and outdoor pools, Turkish baths, saunas and everything else you need to relax and unwind.
As you can see, for a truly world-class ski holiday, Lombardy is one of the best places in Europe to visit. And, even if you’re not necessarily a skier, there are a number of other options as we’re about to discover…
For more outdoor adventures, there are loads of things to do in Lombardy for everyone from beginners to experts, old and young.
How about a snowshoeing expedition, especially at night? Wrap up warm, strap on your snow shoes, and head out into the crisp, cold air. The mountains under a clear, bright sky covered with stars are simply stunning, and you can often combine these walks with rest stops in local villages, or even tasting local specialties along the way. There are a number of different routes and levels of energy needed, so even children can take part in this wandering wonderland.
If you don’t feel you’ve got the energy for that, why not try dog sledding? The popular polar processions are led by teams of two to four Siberian Husky dogs, with an instructor teaching you how to be a ‘musher’. Head through the forests and valleys, sliding effortlessly across the snow to a final rest stop for a hearty meal you’ll all have earned.
For a bit more of an adrenaline rush, our final suggestion is snow tubing. Both Bormio and Livigno have places to try this activity (in the Adamello ski area and in the Valtelline Valley), but what is it? Well, it’s simply an inflatable rubber ring that you either sit in or lie on, before plunging down a specially-constructed course of banked curves and jumps. There is a range of lengths and speeds of course, and a kids’ version for children as young as three. Just position yourself and 3, 2, 1… away you go!
One of the top reasons people visit Lombardy is to cruise the famous lakes, relax on the waterfront, or try and spot one of the many celebrities who have been taken in by their beauty and charm over the years. That’s all very well in the summer (when, again, they get busy), but what about when the cold weather arrives?
Well, even in winter, the lure of the lakes never wanes. Like Milan above, it’s the time of year that the locals love, with fewer tourists meaning the lakeside restaurants, coffee shops and bars are better value, with clear, blue-sky views across the water.
It’s also a romantic time to visit; with some of the larger hotels closed for the season, you can take your pick from smaller, quainter, more personal places to stay. What could be nicer than being wrapped up with your loved one in front of a roaring log fire when the weather draws in?
Grab your fashionable coats, hats and scarves and hop onto one of the many ferries taking people between the lakeside resorts. It’s an unhurried way to see this part of the region, and the fall colors in the trees mean walking in the surrounding hills is just as pretty as in summertime. Then all that’s left is to repair to a local trattoria for a glass of local wine, some rustic food, and to relax late into the evening. Speaking of which…
It’s Italy, so of course, the food will be excellent, and there are many regional delicacies that are especially good in the winter months. Let’s try a few, shall we?
There’s nothing better at the end of a long day than a delicious bowl of something hearty and warming, and Lombardy has exactly that: cassoeula is a rich, flavorsome dish of pork, verzini sausage, vegetables and braised cabbage. Traditionally, the weather has to be cold enough for cabbages to freeze; only then is it wintry enough to start eating cassoeula. Try it with a glass of local red wine and you’ve got the classic Lombardy winter dish.
Alternatively, go for busecca, a tripe and bean stew with tomatoes, vegetables and juniper berries that’s rich, filling, and which became so popular with the Milanese that they earned the occasional nickname “busecconi”.
For dessert, there’s nothing more typical of the region than panettone, the delicious sweetbread that’s now popular all around the world. The original panettone, however, is from Milan, and its fluffy, fruity sweetness can be enjoyed in coffee shops across the region. Sit in the warm and try it with a cup of coffee or hot chocolate for that truly heartwarming winter feeling.
So as you can see, Lombardy doesn’t just shine when the sun’s out and baking; it’s the perfect destination this winter too. Search for trips on Kiwi.com today, and we hope to see you there!
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David is a lead writer for Kiwi.com, as well as a football-watcher, music-listener and beer-appreciater. @UtterBlether
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