2 THE TICINO
1 HOUR BY CAR
Without a river of its own, or many open spaces, some travellers dismiss Milan as concrete and soulless. Instead of complaining, locals drive an hour to the Ticino, meeting the river as it tumbles into the Po Valley. A visit offers unruffled beauty: prehistoric woodlands snooze by the water, 320 species of bird flit by. Go early for animal life: foxes, deer, badgers and nutrias (similar to beavers).
The best way to experience it is by bike. Park at one of five visitor centres along the river – the one at Sforzesca, outside the town of Vigevano, is convenient – then hire a bicycle and head into the woods. There are nearly 800km of trails: one of the prettiest routes follows the “Path of Butterflies” just south of town. It’s a bit rough later on, so wear a helmet. Later, drive the few kilometres into Vigevano. Relying heavily on ossobuco and veal cotoletta, Lombard cuisine can be heavy, so instead try first-rate vegetarian food at Osteria Vegetariana. After lunch, admire the Piazza Ducale, and grab an espresso from a nearby café.
Vigevano is the shoemaking capital of Italy, and its International Footwear Museum is impressive. The elegant displays showcase everything from Arabian slippers to the shoes worn by Pope John Paul II. If you still have energy, take a moment to climb the Torre del Bramante, the highest point in town.