In the heart of the Po River Valley, the Province of Lodi is agricultural land dotted with a fascinating array of castles and religious sanctuaries. The gently-sweepingLodi plain is interrupted here and there with bodies of water and, after all, was in part formed by the floodwaters of the River Adda. It is fertile with a sub-stratum of clay, used in local ceramics production. The terrain boasts various protected areas and natural parks, notably the Regional Park of the Southern Adda that straddles Lodi and Cremona.
The characteristic vegetation is the poplar tree, while the distinguishing features of the landscape are wetlands and swamps inhabited by many animal species. The Natural Reserve of Monticchie is marshy but sprinkled with old mills and farmhouses; other verdant areas are the Boscone Farmstead and the Paradiso Fish Park.
Castles and churches are a distinctive trait of this area, dating from the era when the River Adda was an important defensive line for the Empire. Those who wish to tread the old Via Francigena that once connected ancient Rome to Gaul should walk from Orio Litta to Corte Sant’Andrea, where an ancient ford was once used by pilgrims. Several museums, in Cavacurta, Cavenago d’Adda, Livraga, Mairago, Montanaso Lombardo and Sant’Angelo Lodigiano, recount ancient farming traditions. Meanwhile, a tour of historic centers and villas should take in the villages of Borghetto Lodigiano, Sant’Angelo Lodigiano with its Visconti Castle (one of the best-preserved in Lombardy), Camairago, Castiglione d’Adda, and Codogno for its 16th-Century paintings in both the Collegiate Church of San Biagio and the Sanctuary of the Madonna di Caravaggio.
In Lodi Vecchio, the Romanesque Basilica of San Bassiano dates from the 4th Century A.D.;with its remarkable frescoes from the first half of the 14th Century and inspiring surroundings, is a must.
Lodi retains its mostly Medieval layout, starting from the remains of the Visconti Castle, built alongside the city walls in 1370; moving on through Piazza della Vittoria - ringed as it is with characteristic colonnades and overlooked by the Cathedral and the Palazzo Comunale - the visitor arrives at the Churches of San Francesco and Sant’Agnese in their austere, Medieval appearance, and after, at the 13th-Century Church of San Lorenzo.
Lodi is also the guardian of one of the most important relics of the Lombard Renaissance, the Sanctuary dell’ Incoronata, centrally-planned in the Bramante style and embellished with stucco and frescos of rare beauty and created by the most important artists of Lodi and Lombardy. Finally, check out the Cistercian Abbey of Saints Peter and Paolo and the 12th-Century Cerreto Abbey, Villa Biancardi in Casalpusterlengo (Zorelsco district), the Litta Carini Villa in Orio Litta, and the former Convents of San Cristoforo and San Domenico in Lodi, now the governing seat of the Province of Lodi.
The peaceful countryside, the scenic stretches of water and the excellent cuisine are an invitation to relax, but for those enthused for outdoor activities, bike routes run alongside stretches of water, and lead to the discovery of artistic beauty of the towns. Canoeing and other sports are also options on the River Adda (east of Lodi).
An additional, interesting way to explore the terrain is by visiting the Province of Lodi's farmsteads, for instance that of Grazzanello, which has been converted into a fascinating agricultural museum. Not only, but Lodi possesses a fine ceramics tradition, dating back to the 16th Century and regarded as the jewel in Lodi’s cultural and economic crown. The craft even obtained the D.O.C. classification under the brand “Vecchia Lodi,” the only such label for handmade products in Lombardy. And the city is listed by the Italian Association of Ceramics Cities, as the town center contains many old workshops where age-old techniques are still employed.
In addition, a number of interesting museums invite travelers to visit: the birthplace of Santa Francesca Cabrini (the Patron Saint of Emigrants) at Sant'Angelo Lodigiano, the Museo Cabriniano and the Lamberti Art Collection in Codogno, the Paolo Gorini Anatomical Collection in Lodi itself, and the Prints and Art Prints Museum, and the private collection "The World of the Nativity Scene" in Salerano sul Lambro.
Many gastronomy festivals that take place during the year are devoted to local produce, drawing a great many tourists. A land so involved in agriculture cannot fail to delight the palate.
The pride of local produce include cheeses, the most famous being mascarpone, along with Pannerone, Lodi Granone - all cheeses with flavors that these days are becoming hard to find - and the Raspadura, a grana-like fresh cheese traditionally served in thin slices and cut with a special knife that makes the cheese curl in on itself.
The national favorites, i.e. Gongorzola and Stracchino, are also produced here.
Typical dishes are: rice with sausage, fried polenta, hare stew and wild pigeon. Among the delicious recipes are the Uselin De Scapada, mouthfuls of bacon, liver and loin, and frogs either fried or in a stew.
Among the starters are omelettes cooked in numerous ways, including Cun le urtis (tips of very thin asparagus that grow wild) and Rugnusa (with sausage).
The aforementioned Pannerone (the name comes from the Lombard dialect for cream, panera) is a soft, fatty cheese and, contrary to almost all cheese, is not salted, thus lending it a very characteristic taste).
For Lodi's celebrations of its patron saint, San Bassiano, it is tradition to eat Buseca, boiled tripe with beans and filson (strings of boiled chestnuts), every January 19th.
Polenta is served with many dishes. One noteworthy dish is the Pulenta pastissada, made with sauce, ground beef, butter and flakes of grana cheese layered over the polenta. Vegetarians will appreciate the ratatouille, an herb quiche served with polenta.
Finally, the desserts include the most typical cake of Lodi, the Tortionata, an almond cake with ancient origins. And not to be left out is the Easter lamb (a pastry filled with cream), Lodi cannoli, cookies of Codogno, Casale cake and amaretti.