Quantcast

The Most Beautiful Places in Northern Italy (that are still a secret!)

 

 

Charming Towns in Northern Italy

 

In early June, we spent a couple of weeks exploring Northern Italy. The region was never really on my radar but my family wanted to see Cinque Terre so we chose a fun itinerary that both started and ended in Milan and leisurely wound itself around Northern Italy’s most charming towns and villages. By the end of the trip, I was sold!

Like most countries, Italy has its own North South divide with Northern Italians boasting that they form the country’s economic backbone and industrial powerhouse. From eye wear to fashion to food, Italy’s 8 most northern regions (Aosta Valley, Piedmont, Liguria, Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol) account for over 50% of the Italian economy… despite containing less than half of the country’s population!

 

Keep reading or pin the image below to read later ⇟ 



 

The Best Northern Italy Cities to Visit Now

 

For visitors, it’s a beautiful area to explore. Thanks to two mountain ranges, five freshwater lakes, rolling hills and bustling seaports, there’s lots of diversity to uncover even just a short drive away. You can start your week off skiing in the Dolomites, laze about in Lake Como and end the trip feasting on seafood in Cinque Terre!

Those who prefer fashion and food won’t be disappointed either. Red roofed cities like Bologna are affectionately considered Italy’s city of gastronomic indulgence while Parma’s outskirts are world-class producers of prosciutto and Parmesan. Then of course, there’s the two famous cities of Milan and Venice to discover in the North of Italy! Trust me when I say, every visitor will find something to love here.

If you’re planning a trip to Italy and want some inspiration, I’ve featured 15 of the best places to visit in today’s post!

 

 

1. Milan

Chances are, you’ll fly into Milano, Italy’s banking capital. From the intricate Duomo to the covered gallerias, Milan is a cosmopolitan city full of fashion, fame and fun. Don’t miss Da Vinci’s The Last Supper painting, Sforza Castle where the Dukes of Milan once held court and the famous La Scala opera house, dating back to the 18th century.

 

Additional Milan Travel Tips:

  • A Quick Guide to Milan
  • Unforgettable Day Trips from Milan

 


 

2. Lake Como

Mention Lake Como to any American and chances are, their eyes will light up and they’ll say “George Clooney!” Lake Como has so much more to offer than just celebrity sightings! From charming Varenna to glitzy Bellagio and decadent island villas, you’ll want to include Lake Como on any trip to North Italy.

 

Additional Lake Como Travel Tips:



 

3. Lake Garda

Lake Garda is the largest glacial lake of Italy’s five lakes, fed by the Alps in the north. If you want an active escape, head here for great sailing, windsurfing, swimming and kayaking. Or, relax in the hot springs at Sirmione, visit the Grotte di Catullo Roman Ruins and relax in the beautiful lakeside gardens.

 


 

4. Lake Maggiore

Lake Maggiore has a more laid back feel compared to Lake Como, sort of like an Italian Adirondacks. From grand old hotels to charming gardens, this area is a throwback to Italy’s golden age where the rich spent their summers on Lake Maggiore’s shores. Visit the beautiful island palace Isola Bella, grab a gelato on Lake Orta or pay respects to the church on Isola San Giulio.

 

Additional Lake Maggiore Travel Tips:



 

5. Turin

Turin is the capital of Piedmont and Italy’s economic powerhouse. Known for flashy sports cars and great chocolate, Turin is one of Italy’s lesser known cities but worth a visit! Here you can explore the Museo Egizio, which holds an impressive collection of Egyptian artifacts, decadent palaces Reale and Madam palazzo and stately boulevards and grand squares like Piazza Castello.

 


 

6. Trieste

Trieste is a beautiful harbor city on Italy’s northeastern front. It’s quite a unique city to explore in Italy, as it was a Hapsburg city under Austro Hungarian rule for most of its history. As a result, visiting Trieste feels more like visiting Austria than Italy! Explore the latticed alleyways, Medieval old town, Grand Canal and narrow bridges in this charming port city.

 



 

7. Venice

Venice is one of the most romantic cities in the world. Composed of tiny islands joined together by arched bridges and canals, the Venetian lagoon is famous for its opulent cathedral, St. Mark’s square, Doge palace and masquerade street performers.

 

Additional Venice Travel Tips:


 

8. Verona

Made famous as the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Verona is a picturesque ancient Italian city. Stroll along the Roman ruins, scope out the medieval architecture and explore its Renaissance palaces on an easy day trip from either Milan or Venice. Don’t forget to check out Juliet’s House too.

Fair warning: in the summer, Verona is swarmed with tourists. Stay the night to savor Verona’s charms without the crowds!

 



 

 

9. Bergamo

Bergamo is a modern-day Tale of Two Cities with its medieval upper city guarded by 16th century walls and its modern lower city. Ride the funicular up to explore its Renaissance architecture, pleasant piazzas and ornate churches. This is a great stop for art lovers as Bergamo is famous for its Accademia Carrara which houses works by Renaissance artists Raphael, Botticelli and Canaletto.

 

Additional Posts:


 

10. Ferrara

Ferrara was a medieval Italian city with an impressive defense system. Go for a walk on the city walls, explore the gorgeous Estense Castle or tour the spiky diamond-shaped Palazzo dei Diamanti.

 



 

11. Parma

Parma is Italy’s cured meat and Parmigiano capital. This Italian town was UNESCO’s first recognized Gastronomic City of Culture and perfectly blends a metropolitan feel with open air charm. Much of Parma’s streets are pedestrian only and a great way to spend the day is to hop from art nouveau cafe to cafe, washing down fresh prosciutto with full-bodied Sangiovese wine.

Take a tour of a family run dairy caseificio, learn about the production of prosciutto or listen to an opera composed by Verdi – just don’t skip Parma!

 

Additional Posts:

  • Parma
  • A Prosciutto & Parmesan Tour

 

12. Bologna

Bologna is the capital of Emilia Romagna, one of Italy’s most loved foodie regions. Explore its medieval towers and arched porticoes, famous University and bustling Piazza Maggiore. Don’t forget to try tagliatelle al ragu, the local name for Bolognese pasta and sample local wines like Sangiovese, Pignoletto and the sparkling red Lambrusco.

 

Additional Posts:



 

13. Genoa

Genoa is the capital of Liguria, on Italy’s northwest coast. It’s an ancient seaport town, famous for the birthplace of Christopher Columbus and its historic seaport where humble fishing boats and grand cruise liners crowd the docks.

Genoa is quite a gritty town and worth a stop if you want to experience a more “real” Italian city. Try some Ligurian pesto, marvel at its churches and architecture, and enjoy the waterfront bars by the marina.

 


 

14. Portofino

Years ago, I bookmarked a photo of Portofino without having any idea of where the place was. This picture perfect harbor town is one of the prettiest places to visit in Italy and an absolute must visit! Portofino has a colorful harbor front, incredible designer shopping and hills of waterfront homes. Climb up to the Church of San Giogio, hike the hills to Castello Brown and enjoy an epic meal by the photogenic harbor.

 

Additional Posts:



 

15. Cinque Terre

And last but not least, the five fishing villages that make up the Cinque Terre! This is one of the must see places in Northern Italy, famous for its steep hill towns built high into the cliffs above the Mediterranean.

Spend your days hiking from town to town, sunbathing in the harbors or sailing in the sea. Stay overnight for a couple of days to properly explore. We loved Vernazza but any of the five charming towns (Riomaggiore, Manarola, Monterosso and Corniglia) are heavenly. For a similar feel but without the tourists, head to Portovenere or Sestri Levante.

 

Additional Posts:


Where will you go in Italy?

 

Visiting Italy – Trip Planning Checklist

There’s so much to see and do in Italy that you can visit again and again and still discover new sights. I recommend concentrating on the big 4 cities (Rome, Venice, Milan & Florence) if it’s your first time and then coming back to explore either Northern Italy or Southern Italy in more depth.

Flight Deals | Flight prices from the US to Italy are highly seasonal. You can set a fare alert here to be notified of discounts. Every fall & winter, I’ve seen great deals to Milan (usually with Emirates).

Getting Around | A convenient way to explore Italy is via train. You can book tickets online before you go to save on fares. Make sure to validate your ticket on the platform.

It also helps to speak a little Italian. Brush up on your Italian language skills with Rosetta Stone. You can take 10% off with promo code CJBT10.

Accommodation | Book hotels in advance to save, or check here for last minute deals. Many hotels in Italy are older so don’t be surprised if even 5 star accommodation feels slightly dated. Opt for a room with a view instead of breakfast, as Italians don’t eat breakfast in the same way Americans do and you’ll probably be disappointed with their offering.

Alternatively, groups or budget travelers can check out AirBnB. Save $40 on your first stay here.

Insurance | Lastly, be sure to visit Italy with travel insurance. Whether you get injured and need to be hospitalized, or your phone gets stolen, travel insurance will help when you need it most. A rail strike occurred during our trip, shutting down transportation for an entire day unexpectedly. I use and recommend Allianz travel insurance.

 

 You Might Also Enjoy: 

 

Italy Vacation Planning Articles

The First Timer’s Guide to Italy: A Classic Itinerary

THIS is the Best Time to Visit Italy

What to Wear in Italy: A Packing Checklist

 

Northern Italy

The Most Beautiful Places in Northern Italy (that are still a secret!)

Headed to Northern Italy? Here’s the Perfect 7 Day Itinerary

Exploring Bologna: Travel Guide

Quick Guides to: Bologna Day Trips & The Best Bologna Restaurants

7 Reasons to Explore Medieval Bergamo

Visiting Ravenna’s Mosaics

 

Cinque Terre

Plan Your Trip: Travel Guide & Which Village to Stay

A Blissful 3 Day Itinerary

Quick Guides: The Best RestaurantsPopular Hiking Trails

Inspiration: Photo Diary of the 5 Villages

 

The Italian Lakes

Exploring Lake Como: Travel Guide & Where to Stay

Quick Guides to: Varenna, Bellagio & Villa del Babianello

Visiting Lake Maggiore

Quick Guides to: Isola Bella & Villa Taranto

Discovering Hidden Lake Orta

 

Follow Sher She Goes on

Bloglovin | FacebookTwitter | Pinterest | Instagram

ThomasMay 20, 2018 - 10:56 pm

Lake & mountain make this place fabulous. I’d love any places like this

What to Wear in ItalyMay 26, 2018 - 7:07 am

[…] travel guides, check out my posts for Northern Italy, Cinque Terre and the Italian Lakes region. Or, plan your trip with this first timer’s guide to […]

[…]  Read more:  The Most Beautiful Places in Northern Italy […]

[…] is a small town in Northern Italy, most famous for its dazzling collection of Byzantine mosiacs. Added to UNESCO’s World Heritage […]

[…] our trip to Northern Italy, we opted to stay 4 nights in Bologna, capital of Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region. I was really […]

[…] is THE place to learn about local cuisine on a guided tour. One of the highlights of our entire Northern Italy trip was seeing a prosciutto di parma factory up close (although I smelled it about a mile or two […]

[…] Venice, Milan & Florence) if it’s your first time and then coming back to explore either Northern Italy or Southern Italy in more […]

[…] Venice, Milan & Florence) if it’s your first time and then coming back to explore either Northern Italy or Southern Italy in more […]

[…] Venice, Milan & Florence) if it’s your first time and then coming back to explore either Northern Italy or Southern Italy in more […]

[…] Venice, Milan & Florence) if it’s your first time and then coming back to explore either Northern Italy or Southern Italy in more […]

[…] Venice, Milan & Florence) if it’s your first time and then coming back to explore either Northern Italy or Southern Italy in more […]

[…] Venice, Milan & Florence) if it’s your first time and then coming back to explore either Northern Italy or Southern Italy in more […]

[…] Italian lakes stretch from Piedmont to Lombardy, fed by glacial waters from the Alps in northern Italy. This region has been the summer escape for the rich and famous for centuries – from ancient […]

[…] Venice, Milan & Florence) if it’s your first time and then coming back to explore either Northern Italy or Southern Italy in more […]

[…] Venice, Milan & Florence) if it’s your first time and then coming back to explore either Northern Italy or Southern Italy in more […]

[…] Venice, Milan & Florence) if it’s your first time and then coming back to explore either Northern Italy or Southern Italy in more […]

[…] Venice, Milan & Florence) if it’s your first time and then coming back to explore either Northern Italy or Southern Italy in more […]

[…] Venice, Milan & Florence) if it’s your first time and then coming back to explore either Northern Italy or Southern Italy in more […]

[…] Venice, Milan & Florence) if it’s your first time and then coming back to explore either Northern Italy or Southern Italy in more […]

Your email is never published or shared. Required fields are marked *

*

*