A Tale of Four Regions: Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto, and Emilia-Romagna

Instagram highlights of northern Italian treasures

“Open my heart and you will see
Graved inside of it, ‘Italy’ .” — Robert Browning

It shouldn’t be surprising that art, literature, and music are essential aspects of northern Italy. Surrounded by stunning natural beauty, dramatic history, and deep cultural traditions, it’s easy to understand why writers (such as Browning), artists, and musicians have been enamored of and inspired by various locations in the four regions of Italy we visited on our latest trip — Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto, and Emilia-Romagna. We were captivated each day by the lakes, gardens, cities, countryside, and historic sites. Of course, this is Italy, so culinary delights are also an important part of any visit and we savored a delicious diversity of regional food and wine. In particular, Mr. TWS seemed to be tasting heaven in every bite.

We covered a lot of territory traveling by car from Lake Maggiore (Piedmont) to Mantua (Lombardy) to Asolo (Veneto) and finally to Tredozio (my third visit to Emilia-Romagna and second to Tredozio) with interesting side trips each day and varied accommodations — lakeside cottage, 12th-century palace, romantic apartment, and countryside villa. (We also spent a few days in Venice, but that’s for another story.) So there will be much to show and tell beyond this preview, and we will in future posts. These photos from our Instagram gallery are an introduction to our trip to whet your appetite.

Casa del Lago in Lesa (Lake Maggiore) — our base in Piedmont

Pictured below was the gorgeous, peaceful sunrise that we captured from the waterfront at Casa del Lago, the lovely villa we called home for four nights on Lake Maggiore. What a beautiful place on earth! We could have happily spent the entire four days here, but it was ideally located providing easy access to many sights and activities we experienced.

Sunrise on Lake Maggiore taken from our rental villa, Casa del Lago,

What a glorious first day we had on Lake Maggiore as we traveled by boat from the town of Stresa to the Borromeo Islands of the lake. The view below was from the palace and gardens on Isola Bella (meaning beautiful island — and indeed, it is). There was still a bit of snow showing on the Alpine peaks in the distance.

In the palace gardens on Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore in the Piemonte region of Italy

Tulips of all colors and types were on display in the expansive and gorgeous botanical gardens of Villa Taranto in Pallanza, a must-see when visiting Lake Maggiore. I loved this combination of purple and orange/pink tulips.

Tulips in bloom in the amazing gardens of Villa Taranto in Pallanza, Italy along Lake Maggiore

Don’t tell anyone! Let’s keep this old village in the Piedmont region a secret. Well, it’s probably too late for that, but Orta San Giulio is a quiet and romantic treasure in the Italian lakes area. The town is situated on a hillside on the shores of Lake Orta, lesser-known than other lakes of northern Italy. Pictured below are colorful buildings with shops and restaurants on Piazza Motta.

Orta San Giulio is a scenic side trip from Lesa, Italy to Orta San Giulio on Lake Orta

Palazzo Castiglioni in Mantua — our base in Lombardy

Mr. TWS and I have fond memories of the view pictured below from our private Tower Suite rooftop at the grand Palazzo Castiglioni in Mantua. A UNESCO World Heritage Site and 2016 Italian Capital of Culture, Mantua is well-known for its annual literary festival and is rich in history, the arts, and culture.

View of Mantua from our Tower Suite at Palazzo Castiglioni -- Lombardy region of northern Italy

Inside our suite at Palazzo Castiglioni, we had more beauty to admire. This is a small section of an 8-meter high frescoed wall representing the “tree of life” on the wall behind the bed. It dates back to 1300 and is one of the oldest non-religious frescoes in Europe.

Gorgeous frescoes on the walls of the Tower Suite at Palazzo Castiglioni in Mantua, Italy

We were fortunate to catch a rehearsal of a fantastic chorale group during a tour of beautiful Teatro Bibiena. The theater is one of the main venues of the Mantova Chamber Music Festival organized by the Mantua Chamber Orchestra. Of great historical note, Mozart performed his first solo concert on stage here at age 13. About the theater, his father wrote that he had never seen anything more beautiful of its kind.

Chorale group rehearsal at Bibiena Theater in Mantua, Italy

Go ahead … have a taste. These were a few of the totally delicious specialties of Mantua that we had for lunch at Locanda delle Grazie in Curtatone — fruit (apples and pears) mustards, pumpkin ravioli, and Sbrisolona (a crunchy almond dessert). Lambrusco Mantovano, a local Lombardy DOC, paired perfectly.

Food and wine specialties of Mantua at Locanda delle Grazie in Curtatone, Italy

Elena 3 in Asolo — our base in Veneto

Beautiful Asolo! Pictured below is the panoramic vista of residential buildings against the backdrop of the Alpine foothills seen from Queen Cornaro’s Castle.

View from Castello di Asolo, the castle of Queen Caterina Cornaro in Asolo in the Veneto region of Italy

Having cappuccino and pastries at historic Caffè Centrale (pictured below) was a delightful ritual while in Asolo. Literary greats (and other notables) like Ernest Hemingway, Henry James, and Robert Browning hung out in this very place in times past. Our lovely in-town apartment was on the 2nd floor (3rd in U.S. terms) above Caffè Centrale which faces the quaint Piazza Garibaldi with a lovely fountain, the cathedral, and a few small shops and restaurants.

Our delightful morning ritual -- cappuccino and brioches at Caffe Centrale in Asolo, Italy

A beautiful side trip from Asolo took us to Prosecco wine country and a drive along the Prosecco Road. Inside the extensive underground tunnels beneath the Villa Sandi wine estate are a million bottles of aging wine (pictured below). There’s also interesting history here — the tunnels were used by the Italian military during World War I to get troops to and from the front line. Villa Sandi offers a great tour through the tunnels as well as the villa with a taste of their Prosecco Superiore.

Walking through the tunnels beneath the Villa Sandi estate now used as wine cellars in Veneto region of Italy

When visiting the lively town of Treviso, always be on the lookout for beautiful frescoes on the facades of buildings in the historic center. How beautiful is this? The historic city has many similarities to nearby (and much more famous Venice), which had considerable influence on Treviso style and architecture. It is very accessible as a day trip from nearby Asolo.

A walk through Treviso provides many sightings of beautiful facades and frescoes

Torre Fantini in Tredozio — our base in Emilia-Romagna

Irises were in bloom at Torre Fantini, once a lookout tower, now a beautifully-restored cozy hillside villa, where we stayed in Tredozio. It’s a gorgeous setting with a spectacular view (one of our favorites anywhere) of hills covered with vineyards, fields, and woods. It is a very peaceful place for a relaxing stay. This was our second stay at Torre Fantini and we’d would love to return.

Irises in bloom at Torre Fantini in Tredozio, in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy

One of the many convenient and scenic side trips from Tredozio is the medieval town of Brisighella. In the photo below, the clock tower is seen from La Rocca. the ancient fortress on a nearby hilltop. I love the patches of clouds in the blue sky of this spring day, which enhanced the spectacular views in many directions from many observation points.

View of the imposing clock tower of Brisighella from La Rocca in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy

The bright sunshine highlights the pretty buildings of the historic center of Brisighella where the colorful facades follow the curvature of the ancient city walls.

The colorful facades of Brisighella along the ancient city walls

I’ll close this series of photos with a little romance. I really like this photo of Mr. TWS (his first appearance on Instagram) and me (2nd time) in the ballroom of Villa La Collina, an elegant luxury holiday rental on a hilltop high above Tredozio. It was a memorable experience visiting the villa and meeting its lovely owner Contessa Maria Teresa Vespignani Boselli (who is also seen in the photo). The contessa graciously provided a tour of the villa and gardens, and also a delicious lunch of local dishes.

In the ballroom of Villa La Collina in Tredozio, Italy --- a lovely ending to our visit to these regions of Italy -- Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto, and Emilia-Romagna

Disclosure: During our trip, our accommodations and activities were sponsored by EsteVillas and local hosts.

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through these links, I will earn a commission at no extra cost to you. Thanks!

4 thoughts on “A Tale of Four Regions: Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto, and Emilia-Romagna

  1. Patti

    I just went through your photos on Instagram and got to review them here in your post. You know I have such a thing for Italy and every time you go I feel a bit more inspired. I am aching to to go, but I’m waiting for the right opportunity as I want to be able to “live” it once we get there. In the meantime, I’ll just keep visiting Italy vicariously through you. 🙂

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