Within the tri-city area of Como, Lecco and Milan, the Province of Monza and Brianza lies mostly on flatlands, with a few hilly areas to the north and east; it is criss-crossed by the Rivers Lambro and Seroso, as well as by many canals.
Brianza lies at the center of Lombardy's Lakes district, the most important of which is the heart-shaped Lake Annone, with the Isella Peninsula dividing it in two.
Brianza is a territory that hosts both agriculture and industry; and it was once home to Parini and Stendhal, who were inspired to write of its beautiful landscapes.
The Province is made up of four distinct zones: the first of them is Monza, third-largest city in the Region for number of inhabitants.
Then, Lower Western Brianza corresponds in part to the valley of the River Seveso, while Central Lower Brianza meets with the valley of the River Lambro.
Lower Eastern Brianza partly coincides with the valley through which the Molgora Stream runs.
Lying at the border between Como and Milan, Brianza has historically been a vacation destination, thanks to its verdant countryside and, as a consequence, its religious sanctuaries and noble residences. The most important destination is Monza, a historic city and important industrial hub, whose historic center preserves several monuments.
The Cathedral, built in the 13th Century, contains the famous Corona Ferrea or Iron Crown, bearing precious stones and that, according to tradition, was wrought with a nail from Jesus's Cross.
The fascinating Serpero Museum hosts the treasures of the Cathedral.
The Villa Reale, built in the neoclassical style by Piermarini at the end of the 18th Century, possesses a sumptuous interior with a court theatre, a hemispheric room, a chapel and the Hall of Honor. The Civic Painting Gallery is located in its northern wing.
A little beyond the Villa Reale is the entrance to a splendid park, one of the largest in Europe, traversed by the River Lambro and by numerous lanes dotted with stables, windmills, farmhouses, tempietti, golf and polo courses and the circuit famously used for the Formula 1 Grand Prix.
The Autodromo di Monza (Monza Racetrack) is the largest car-racing circuit in Italy, and is regarded as a significant technical achievement. It has been continuously updated and equipped with state-of-the-art infrastructure.
Ten minutes from Monza are Oreno and Vimercate. Oreno is famous for its courtyards and farmhouses that alternate with luxurious villas - for instance Villa Gallarati Scotti, in the historic center, and Villa Borromeo, housing a series of frescoes from the second half of the 15th Century. Vimercate boasts the neoclassical Villa Sottocasa, the historical residence of Barbarossa and Bernabò Visconti.
Parks make for a significant endowment in Monza-Brianza Province, and are ideal as oases for relaxing, walking through nature and discovering the natural treasures of this land. Parks include the Villa Reale Park in Monza, Groane Park, and the Lambro Valley Park, to name just a few. Diverse itineraries connect these parks to neighboring towns. Prefer not to to walks? A jaunt on a bicyle is just as well.
Those wanting to see the beauty of Brianza close up are advised to follow the Cammino di Sant’Agostino (the Way of St. Augustine) that leads from Monza's Cathedral to 25 Marian shrines, and stops at the most important artistic and historic locations of the Province, from churches to monuments and parks.
Although of religious significance, this route can be appreciated by religious and non-religious alike!
The cuisine of Brianza is influenced by countryside traditions and is indubitably natural and organic.
Tradition has it that the inhabitants of these lands were always in a hurry to get to work, so they created quick dishes that have become unique features of the local gastronomy. Dishes like Cazzuola with Polenta and Minestrone alla Brianzola require long cooking times and are left over a low fire. One of the tastiest dishes is the Luganiga, a type of salame prepared with pork; it is excellent paired with risotto or tucked into a panino. Those with a sweettooth should try the firun, a typical Monza sweet made of chestnuts, baked in the oven and then strung together.
The busecca matta (a sort of tripe soup), polenta pasticciata (layered as if it were lasagne), verzata (a recipe containing Savoy cabbage and pork), stewed quail, braised beef with fresh figs are just some of the traditional meals a peasant from the Brianza area would have eaten in the last century.
Currently, some of Brianza cuisine's best-known dishes are: luganega or sausage risotto, and Pult (a variant of the traditional polenta).
Second courses boast the arrosto (roasted meat) alla brianzola, Brianzola rabbit, pork ribs with luganega, and Como trout among their numbers.
Here, the desserts are exquisite: try the Masigott, the fried cutiscia (or cutizza), tortelli di San Giuseppe, the Rusumada (or Rüsümada, an egg drink), sweet polenta and the Brianzola bread pudding.