Outdoor Activities in Lombardy
Information on the national parks, nature reserves and locations for hiking, walking, mountain biking and other outdoor activities around Milan and in the provinces of Lombardy...
Bordered by Switzerland and by the Italian regions of Emilia Romagna, Trentino Alto Adige, Veneto and Piedmont, Lombardy is divided into three parts from north to south: a mountainous Alpine zone, a zone of gentle foothills and an area of alluvial plains sloping to the Po River in the south.
The region has many rivers, including the Ticino, the Adda, the Oglio and the Mincia, all tributaries of the Po. There are also many lakes, including Lake Garda, Italy's largest lake.
The climate is continental with hot summers and cold winters. Rainfall varies from about 610mm (24 inches) annually in the area near the Po River to 2,032mm (80 inches) in the mountainous regions.
Lombardy's varied terrain and continental climate makes it the ideal location for a variety of outdoor sports, including walking, hiking, cycling, skiing, climbing and mountaineering, water sports and horse riding.
National Parks of Lombardy
Lombardy has many national, regional and local parks, nature reserves and protected areas.
- For a list and links to parks, reserves and protected areas in the Lombardy region, visit the Federazione Italiana Parchi e Riserve Naturali website: Click here
Stelvio National Park (Parco Nazionale dello Stelvio), in the Province of Brescia, is the largest and most well-known of all Italy's national parks. The park has good walking, impressive scenery and botanical gardens.
Adamello Park (Parco dell'Adamello) has several trails for hiking, horse riding and cycling.
North Adda Park (Parco dell'Adda Nord), in the province of Bergamo, has several tracks for walkers, hikers, cyclists and horse riders.
Mincio Park (Parco del Mincio) in Mantua province has views of the Mantua lakes, the wetlands of the Mincio Valleys and the Fontana Woods.
The Lakes of Lombardy
The lakes in Lombardy are a popular location for sailing, water sports and other outdoor activities.
- Lake Maggiore, which stretches into Switzerland, offers activities such as walking and hiking all year round
- Lake Como is popular for hiking, water sports and winter sports. The surrounding hotels organise walking excursions to the most popular attractions, such as Villa Serbelloni and Villa Carlotta
- At Lake Iseo visitors can enjoy water sports, visit the nature reserve, which includes the biggest lake-island in Europe, and see the unusual pyramids of earth
- Lake Garda, Italy's largest lake, has a very scenic northern shore and several trekking and mountain bike tracks
Walking and Hiking (Escursionismo)
The two valleys in the north of Lombardy have many hiking trails:
- Val Camonica, known for its prehistoric rock art, is located in the area north of Lake Iseo. It is characterised by small medieval villages and castles and can be reached by train from Brescia
- For more information, visit the Val Camonica website: Click here (in Italian)
- Valtellina stretches from Edolo to the western border of Lombardy through Sondrio. There are trails that lead to attractions such as the Zebru Valley, Bormio and the Venosta Castle. Walkers can also make excursions around the Profa Lakes, the Val Nera mountain pass, the Fraele and Rezzalo Valleys
- For more information see the Valtellina website: Click here
There are also many hiking paths near Lake Orta. These lead up to the summit of Mount Mazzocone and to the panoramic trails of Val Grande National Park (Parco Nazionale Val Grande), the largest wilderness area in Italy.
- Near the medieval town of Varenna, trails lead up to Mount San Primo, with views of the spires of the Grigne range
- For more information see the Varenna website: Click here
- The forest of Negri is a nature reserve, with 37 different species of birds and ancient trees, inside the Park of Ticino (34 acres). The Ticino area also has excursions to the Pagan Houses in the Blenio Valley, the rocks of Gandria, the Great Wall of Ticino and the architecture of the Muggio Valley
- To see a list and description of trails: Click here (in Italian)
There are several interesting hiking routes in the Pro Centovalli and Piedmont territory, between Lombardy and Switzerland
- For a complete list of paths: Click here
Climbing (Arampicata) and Mountaineering
There are many places to climb in Lombardy.
- The Antimedale limestone wall, in the Province of Lecco, has several activities for experienced climbers
- The Erna wall, also in the Province of Lecco, has about 60 climbs for experienced climbers
- In Val Camonica, the pink-marble wall of Rogno has many intermediate level climbs and some itineraries for the more experienced
- The Falesia di Valgua, in the Province of Bergamo, has climbs for all preferences and levels of experience
For more information on climbing in Lombardy contact the Milan section of the Italian Alpine Club.
- Club Alpino Italiano – Sezione di Milano (Italian)
At: Via Silvio Pellico 6, 20121 Milan (MI)
Tel: 02 365 157
Fax: 02 805 6971
Cycling and Mountain Biking (Ciclismo)
Lombardy has a lot to offer to cyclists, especially at high altitudes.
The town of Livigno in the Province of Sondrio is popular with off-road cyclists. It provides a variety of terrain, including flat routes through fields, as well as hill climbs, particularly around Italy's highest town, Tre Palle (2,000 metres). Livigno spans some 100 Km of trails including the Alpisella Pass and the Stelvio National Park.
Road cyclists can follow the climbs up to the Stelvio and Santa Maria mountain passes, at 2,758 metres and 2,502 metres respectively.
- For more information on Livigno: Click here
Cycling is popular around Lake Como. Como tourist offices provide visitors with comprehensive information about bicycle paths and trails.
- For more information, visit the Como Tourism website: Click here
There are several places to mountain bike around Lake Garda, where tracks lead to valleys and natural parks. Riva del Garda hosts a bicycle festival every year. The agritourisms around the lake have guided mountain bike excursions and information on tracks and services.
There are mountain bike and trekking tracks near the Po River, which runs through the territory of Mantua.
Every autumn, the region holds the Giro di Lombardia (Tour of Lombardy), a world-famous cycling competition for professional cyclists. The first Giro di Lombardia took place in 1905. This one-day classic covers the hills around Lake Como, making for an exciting race of break-aways and hairpin turns.
- For more information on the Giro di Lombardia, see Wikipedia
Cycling in Milan
The city of Milan has some bicycle paths, but they are not continuous and disappear where traffic is very dense. Two well-known routes for cyclists are in the Gallaratese quarter and in the city centre.
There are several amateur bicycling clubs in Milan. They often organise excursions and competitions in areas such as Pozzuolo Martesana, Inzago and Turbigo.
- The Via Mecenate group cycle on Tuesdays and Thursdays at 09:00 from Linate. On Saturdays and Sundays, leaving from Via Mecenate, Milan
- The Viale Monza group is for both amateur and expert cyclists. They meet every Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday at 08:00 in summer and 08:30 in winter to cycle from the Piazzale Martesana (in front of the Gaetano Pini)
- For further information on routes and clubs, visit the Bicimilano portal (in Italian)
For more information on cycling in Italy, contact the Italian Cycling Federation:
- FCI – Federazione Ciclistica Italiana (in Italian)
At: Via Piranesi 44B, 20137 Milan (MI)
Tel: 02 715 900
Fax: 02 738 6075
Horse Riding (Equitazione)
Many provinces in Lombardy have horse riding facilities, particularly around lakes and in natural parks.
- For a list of horse riding centres in the region: Click here (in Italian)
For more information, contact the Italian Horse Riding Federation:
- Federazione Italiana Sport Equestri, FISE (in Italian)
At: Via C. Hajech 2, 20129 Milan (MI)
Tel: 02 745 592
Fax: 02 749 1374
Many of Lombardy's lakes have facilities for watersports including rafting, canyoning, wakeboarding and kite surfing.
Lake Garda is suitable for rafting, windsurfing, kitesurfing and sailing. Lessons in these sports are provided on site. Visitors can also practice canoeing under an instructor's supervision.
Activities at Lake Como include swimming, water skiing, canoeing, sailing, diving, kayaking and motor boating.
Lake Maggiore has facilities for water skiing, canoeing and sailing.
Tourists can find information, brochures, guides and maps in several languages at tourist offices throughout Lombardy. The staff are able to make phone calls on behalf of visitors and answer their questions.