A Guide to the Best Places to Visit in Northern Italy

Northern Italy has stolen my heart, and I bet it’ll steal yours too. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve returned, lured back by the promise of romantic gondola rides, those stunning mountains you see on postcards, and food that’ll have you planning your next trip before you’ve even finished your plate. 

Whether you’re a seasoned backpacker or someone who’s just starting to get the travel bug, stick with me as I spill the beans on the best places to visit in Northern Italy! Northern Italy’s got something for everyone, and it’s just waiting to be explored.

Places to Visit in Northern Italy for History and Culture

From Roman ruins to Renaissance masterpieces, Northern Italy is a treasure trove for anyone who loves to delve into the past! Here’s a peek into some of the places to visit in Northern Italy that’ll transport you back in time:

The best places to visit in Italy: Verona

Verona: More Than Just Romance

Sure, Verona’s famous for Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet”, but it’s got so much more to offer. Wander through Roman ruins, explore mediaeval castles, and marvel at the Renaissance architecture. Don’t miss the Arena di Verona, an ancient Roman amphitheatre that still hosts operas today.

Bologna: A Foodie’s Mediaeval Dream

If you’re a foodie, Bologna is calling your name. Taste authentic tagliatelle al ragù (forget that “spaghetti bolognese” nonsense!) and sample the city’s famous mortadella. Beyond the food, Bologna’s mediaeval charm is undeniable, with its miles of porticoes and the iconic Two Towers that offer breathtaking views.

The best places to visit in Northern Italy: Milan

Milan: Fashion, Fizz, and a Dash of History

Milan may be known for its fashion scene and bustling energy, but it’s steeped in history too. The Duomo, Milan’s grand Gothic cathedral, is a must-see. 

March is a great time to visit Milan for fashion week and other cultural events. The weather is usually pleasant, with sunny days and cool evenings. And art lovers shouldn’t miss Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” (just book your tickets early!).

Florence: A Living Museum

Florence is basically an open-air museum. Spend hours getting lost in the Uffizi Gallery, home to masterpieces by Botticelli, Michelangelo, and da Vinci. As you explore the city, you’ll encounter stunning sculptures, churches, and piazzas that’ll transport you straight back to the Renaissance. 

Northern Italy: Where Nature Takes Centre Stage

Think Northern Italy’s just about cities and history? Think again! This region’s got some serious natural beauty that’ll take your breath away. Here are a few places to visit in Northern Italy that should be on every nature lover’s bucket list:

The best places to visit in Northern Italy: The Dolomites

The Dolomites: A Hiker’s Paradise

If you’re into hiking, the Dolomites are an absolute must. These jagged peaks aren’t just a pretty sight, they’re a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and for good reason. Winter also transforms the Dolomites into a winter wonderland, perfect for skiing, snowboarding, and other winter sports.

With trails for all levels, from gentle strolls to challenging climbs, you’ll find everything you need for an outdoor adventure. And the views? Let’s just say they’re worth every step.

Lake Garda: More Than Just a Pretty Face

Lake Garda is Italy’s largest lake, and it’s not hard to see why it’s so popular.  The crystal-clear water is perfect for swimming, sailing, or windsurfing. And the surrounding towns, each with its own unique charm, are a joy to explore. 

Whether you fancy a leisurely boat trip or a hike with a view, Lake Garda has something to offer everyone.

Cinque Terre: A Coastal Gem

Cinque Terre is a string of five colourful villages clinging to the Ligurian coastline. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is a hiker’s dream, with trails connecting the villages and offering stunning views of the sea. It’s perfect to hike between the colourful villages and enjoy the coastal scenery in months like September, when it’s still warm and sunny.

Don’t miss the chance to sample the local seafood, too, it’s some of the freshest you’ll ever taste!

The best places to visit in Northern Italy: Lake Como

Italian Lakes: Relaxation at Its Finest

Northern Italy is home to a whole host of stunning lakes, each with its own unique character. Lake Maggiore is known for its elegant villas and botanical gardens, while Lake Como is a favourite among celebrities. 

Whether you want to soak up the sun on a lakeside beach or explore charming towns and villages, the Italian Lakes are the perfect place to unwind and recharge.

Beyond the Guidebook: Hidden Gems in Northern Italy

Now, if you’re like me, you love finding those off-the-beaten-path places to visit in northern Italy – the ones that most tourists miss. It’s where you get a real taste of local life, and where the memories are made. 

So, ditch the crowds and let’s dive into some hidden treasures:

The best places to visit in Northern Italy: Bergamo

Charming Mediaeval Towns

Forget the big cities for a moment and head to places like Orvieto, a hilltop town with a stunning Duomo and underground tunnels that’ll transport you back in time. Or wander through Bergamo’s old town, a maze of cobblestone streets and Venetian walls with jaw-dropping views. 

Don’t miss Sabbioneta, a UNESCO-listed town known for its Renaissance architecture and charming atmosphere. And for a true hidden gem, venture to Castell’Arquato, a perfectly preserved mediaeval village with a castle, a piazza, and narrow streets that are begging to be explored.

Wine Country Adventures

Northern Italy is a wine lover’s paradise. Take a scenic drive through the vineyard-covered hills of Prosecco, where you can sip on bubbly and learn about the winemaking process. Or head to Franciacorta for some of the region’s best sparkling wines. 

For a unique experience, visit the Langhe region, famous for its Barolo and Barbaresco wines. And if you’re a fan of sweet wines, don’t miss the Valpolicella region, home to the delicious Amarone. Don’t forget to pair your wine with some local cheese and cured meats – heaven!

The best places to visit in Northern Italy: Lakes

Northern Italy Lakeside Escapes

While Lake Garda and Lake Como get all the attention, there are plenty of smaller lakes that are just as beautiful. Lake Orta is a hidden gem, with a charming island and tranquil atmosphere. Lake Iseo is a great option for outdoor enthusiasts, with hiking trails and water sports galore. 

And if you’re looking for a more secluded escape, head to Lake Idro, surrounded by lush forests and mountains. For a truly unique experience, take a boat trip to the Borromean Islands on Lake Maggiore, home to stunning palaces and gardens.

Historical Mysteries

Northern Italy is full of fascinating historical sites that are often overlooked. Explore the Sirmione Grottoes, the ruins of a Roman villa on the shores of Lake Garda. Or venture to the Varone Cascade, a hidden waterfall near Riva del Garda that’s sure to leave you in awe. 

For a truly unique experience, visit the Sacro Monte di Varese, a complex of chapels and shrines dedicated to the mysteries of the rosary. And if you’re interested in ancient history, head to Val Camonica, home to one of the largest collections of prehistoric rock carvings in the world.

The best places to visit in Northern Italy: Mont Blanc

Mountaintop Retreats

Escape the hustle and bustle of city life and head to the mountains for some peace and quiet. The Alpe di Siusi in the Dolomites is a stunning alpine meadow with endless hiking trails and breathtaking views. Or visit the charming village of Courmayeur at the foot of Mont Blanc, known for its chic atmosphere and world-class skiing. 

To make the most out of your trip, stay in a rifugio (mountain hut) and immerse yourself in the alpine landscape.

Festivals and Events

Northern Italy is home to a variety of festivals and events throughout the year. From the colorful Carnevale celebrations in Venice to the Palio horse race in Siena, there’s always something happening. Try to attend a sagra, a local food festival celebrating a particular product or dish.

The best places to visit in Northern Italy: The Grand Canal

Art and Architecture

Beyond the famous museums and galleries, Northern Italy is full of hidden artistic treasures. Visit the Arena di Verona for a unique opera experience under the stars, or explore the stunning frescoes in the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio in Milan. 

And don’t forget to admire the intricate mosaics in the Basilica di San Vitale in Ravenna. For a lesser-known gem, head to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, housed in a beautiful palazzo overlooking the Grand Canal.

Scenic Train Journeys

Northern Italy is home to some of the most scenic train journeys in the world. You can take the Bernina Express from Tirano, which goes all the way to St. Moritz in Switzerland, where you can marvel at the breathtaking views of the Alps. 

Or hop on the Trenino Rosso del Bernina, a narrow-gauge railway that winds through the mountains and valleys of the Valtellina region. 

For a truly unforgettable experience, take the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express, a luxury train that travels between London and Venice.

Remember, the best adventures often happen when you wander off the well-trodden path. So, get out there and explore all that Northern Italy has to offer!

Final Thoughts on the Best Places to Visit in Northern Italy

There you have it, my picks for the best places to visit in northern Italy, from the iconic to the unexpected. Whether you’re drawn to the history, the scenery, or the incredible food (who isn’t?), this region has something special for everyone. 

Now, it’s your turn to discover your own Northern Italian magic. Grab your passport, pack your bags, and get ready for a journey you won’t soon forget!

Make Your Trip Easier

I’m all about planning trips on your own and figuring your way around the local scene. But still, I don’t want to leave you like a fish out of water!

Here are some resources I regularly use whenever I travel (on my own or with other people):

xo, Alice


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