Day Trips in Italy Lists Veneto

18 of the Best Cities to Visit in Northern Italy (With Travel Tips and Nearest Airports)

18 of the Best Cities to Visit in Northern Italy (With Nearest Airports and Travel Tips) - www.rossiwrites.com

Home to close to 30 million people and probably about the same number of natural beauty spots and cultural and historical artifacts, Northern Italy is well worth at least one visit in your lifetime.

Stretching from the Alps in the north to the Apennines in the south, and (again!) the Alps in the west to the Adriatic Sea in the east, Northern Italy is:

  • crisscrossed by mighty rivers (among them the river Po – Italy’s largest at 652 km length);
  • dotted with sparkling lakes (among them Italy’s largest – Lago di Garda); and
  • studded with some of the most exciting cities you can ever dream to explore.

There are eight Italian regions that together comprise the body of Northern Italy. They are Aosta Valley, Piedmont, Liguria, Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Veneto, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, and Trentino-Alto Adige (South Tyrol).

Rialto Bridge glimpsed from the Aula Barrato of Ca Foscari - Venice, Veneto, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Today, I want to take you on a short walk through six of them and show you 18 of the best cities to visit in Northern Italy. All of the suggestions given below have been personally tried and tested by me over the last four years – time that I have spent living in this beautiful part of Europe.

We will begin with Turin in Piedmont and end with Ravenna in Emilia-Romagna. Expect a whirlwind of curious facts, a bunch of must-see sights, and lots of practical information and direct links to relevant videos and blog posts to make your travel planning a breeze.

Now, let’s start!

 

18 of the Best Cities to Visit in Northern Italy

 

 

1. Turin – Piedmont, Northern Italy

Palazzo Madama - Turin - Piedmont, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Come here for the Royal history. Stay for the vibrant cultural life, the splendid sightseeing, and the delicious chocolate!

Turin’s incredible skyline is offset by the snow-capped peaks of the nearby Alps. The city that became Italy’s first capital after the Unification in 1861 stuns with its royal palaces, incredible art and history museums, and long-standing chocolate-making traditions. With its monumental architecture, wide roads (with a bit of a crazy traffic flow, it has to be said!), and rich cultural programme, discovering Turin one sight at the time, will delight lovers of city life looking to find an impressive urban destination in Italy that is not Florence, Venice or Rome. Don’t miss:

  • Turin Shroud – the original was last exhibited to the public in 2015. The next public exhibition is scheduled for 2025. In the meantime, you can see its replica in the Museum of the Holy Shroud (Museo della Sindone) in Turin. The history of this most venerated Christian relic is truly captivating. Don’t miss your chance to learn more about it.
  • Mole Antonelliana – a stunning building housing a spellbinding Cinema Museum. It’s 167.5 m high and its peak is one of the very first things you notice when you approach Turin. You can take a glass elevator to its top balcony and admire the city from above. Be aware that waiting times for the glass elevator can be long.
  • Egyptian Museum – a must-see destination in Turin. This is the second-largest Egyptian Museum in the world. Champollion, the decipherer of the hieroglyphs, spent long periods of time there working on its collection, identifying and classifying Egyptian manuscripts, creating taxonomy systems which are still in use.
  • Royal Palace of Turin – nowadays turned into a museum with an armoury.
  • Palazzo Madama – my personal favourite. This is another royal palace which nowadays houses the Museum of Antique and Applied Arts.
  • Parco del Valentino – a gorgeous green park where you will also find a Medieval Village (great for kids).
  • Over forty museums – just take your pick from the linked articles below.

When you are exhausted from all the sightseeing and marvellous views, make sure that you replenish your energy levels with a glass of bicerin. This is a traditional for Turin hot drink of espresso, hot chocolate, and whole milk. Then have some cremino and gianduja (also called gianduia), too.

Ganduja is a chocolate spread with about 30% hazelnut paste. In other words, gianduja is the traditional precursor of the commercial brand Nutella (which is also Turin-born).

Above all, Turin is the place where the Slow Food movement originated. Slow Food is the antithesis to the fast food establishments where food has been turned into a soulless product rather than the nourishment for our bodies and souls that it should be.

Turin Is Perfect for: Foodies, chocoholics, art aficionados, history buffs, photography fans, museum devotees, city break lovers, single travellers, couples, families with kids. Everyone, really.

Nearest Airports: Turin Airport (Torino Airport), Milan Malpensa Airport, and Bergamo Airport (Orio al Serio)

Turin Is a Great Day Trip from: Milan and Genoa

Further Information about Turin in Piedmont, Northern Italy:

 

 

2. Milan – Lombardy, Northern Italy

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II - Milan, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Come here for the Duomo. Stay for the music, the fashion, and the art.

Second in Italy in terms of its population, Milan is the country’s economic, financial, and fashion capital. The city is a hustling and bustling metropolis where you can certainly feel the modern heart of Italy beating a frenetic drum. In comparison with other smaller Italian cities and towns, Milan may seem a bit grey, rough around the edges and even a bit uninspiring at a first glance. You just need to look deeper beneath the surface to easily discover impressive sights. Some of these are:

  • Milan Cathedral (Duomo) – the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. With its lacy facade it is a sight to behold.
  • Sforza Castle – a medieval fortress which was enlarged by the ruling Sforza family in the 15th century.
  • Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper – this most famous work of art doesn’t need an introduction. To make sure that you will be able to see it, it is advisable to book your ticket in advance.
  • La Scalla Theatre – if you can’t catch a performance, make sure that you visit the theatre’s museum telling the story of this temple of music, opera, and ballet;
  • Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – the world’s oldest still active shopping mall. The daring architecture and the stunning frescoes and mosaics take centre stage. Don’t miss your chance to walk alongside the glass roof of the Galleria and see Milan from above. Click on the first link below for further details.
  • A skyscraper-dotted skyline.

A weekend trip is hardly enough to experience all that Milan and its surrounding area have to offer. Yet, provided you plan well and are clear as to which sights you want to squeeze in your available time, you will be able to gain a good idea of the character of this dynamic albeit a bit dusty Italian city.

Milan Is Perfect for: Fashion victims, art aficionados, history buffs, museum devotees, music admirers, photography fans, city break lovers, single travellers, and couples.

Nearest Airports: Milan Malpensa Airport, Milan Linate Airport, and Milan Bergamo Airport (Orio al Serio).

Milan Is a Great Day Trip from: Turin, Brescia, Verona, Padua, Florence, Cremona, Mantua, and Bologna.

Further Information about Milan in Lombardy, Northern Italy:

 

 

3. Bergamo – Lombardy, Northern Italy

The Colleoni Chapel - Bergamo Upper City, Lombardy, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Come here to be surprised. Stay to fall in love with this historical city split into two parts. Oh, and the Venetian walls are quite the sight, too!

Bergamo is a jewel of a city that beckons to be discovered and explored. Don’t dismiss it in favour of nearby Milan. Instead, make Bergamo a feature of your exploration of Northern Italy.

Due to its location and history, Bergamo is divided into two parts:

  • Citta’ Bassa (Lower City) – Bergamo’s modern face with large imposing buildings, wide boulevards, and bustling shopping streets. This is the so-called Centro Piacentiniano – as it was designed almost a century ago by the Roman architect Marcello Piacentini. The Lower City spreads out on the flatlands beyond Bergamo’s 16th-century Venetian defensive walls. It has a raw angular elegance to it, lots of light, and it gives you the feeling that you can see ahead for miles, so straight are its main streets.
  • Citta’ Alta (Upper City) – Bergamo’s medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque face. Perched on top of a hill and surrounded by the mighty Venetian walls, this is the beating historical heart of the city. It is also the part of Bergamo that you see just as your plane touches down and takes off from the Orio al Serio Airport. The views are gorgeous.

Take the funicular, the bus or walk from the Lower City to the Upper one and then back. Don’t miss:

  • Piazza Vecchia – which Le Corbusier himself described as the most beautiful square in the world.
  • Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore – a church with amazing frescoes, stuccoes, and tapestries.
  • Capella Colleoni – this church-cum-mausoleum has one of the most stunning marble exteriors you will see in Northern Italy. Inside, the chapel is covered in frescoes and houses the tombs of the Medieval hero Bartolomeo Colleoni and his daughter Medea.
  • Palazzo della Ragione – a 12th-century building that has changed its purpose several times – from town hall to theatre – through the centuries.
  • Campanone Bell Tower – affording you stunning views over Bergamo and the nearby plains and mountains. The ring of the bells can be deafening.
  • Accademia Carrara di Belle Arti di Bergamo – fall in love all over again with the best Italian masters of the 15th to the 19th centuries.
  • Palazzo del Podesta – housing the Historical Museum of the Venetian Age which interactively explores Bergamo under the rule of Venice.
  • Many museums, historical streets, art galleries.

Bergamo is a  really lovely place – atmospheric, historical, beautifully photogenic. Try to spend at least a day there in order to see as much as possible. Round up your exploration of Bergamo with a slice of the local Polenta E Osei cake (also known as Polentina cake). It’s over a century old and it is made with sponge, chocolate, butter, liquor, hazelnut butter, and marzipan. Quite the treat!

Bergamo Is Perfect for: City break lovers, art aficionados, history buffs, museum devotees, photography fans, single travellers, couples, and families with kids. Everyone, really.

Nearest Airports: Milan Bergamo Airport (Orio al Serio), Milan Linate Airport.

Bergamo Is a Great Day Trip from: Milan, Verona, and Brescia

Further Information about Bergamo in Lombardy, Northern Italy:

 

 

4. Brescia – Lombardy, Northern Italy

A view of Piazza della Vittoria - Brescia, Lombardy, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Come here for the ancient history. Stay for the medieval castle, the beautiful piazzas, and the art deco buildings.

Brescia is a hidden gem in the Italian province of Lombardy. While most tourists head over to the Lombardian capital Milan, make sure that you get off the train at Brescia to experience its unexpected beauty. The city’s history spans 3200 years and offers a rich tapestry of sights and museums for you to explore. Among these are:

  • Monumental area of the Roman Forum – which contains the best preserved Roman public buildings in Northern Italy.
  • Huge medieval castle with battlements, a tower, drawbridge, rampart and an Arms Museum in the keep. Its position on the steep Cidneo hill also offers unparalleled views over Brescia.
  • Many spacious squares lined up with stunning buildings. Don’t miss the Art Deco Piazza della Vittoria (with its Torrione – the first skyscraper built in Italy) and the Renaissance Piazza della Loggia (with the inspiring Palazzo della Loggia and the beautiful astronomical clock).
  • Duomo Vecchio and Duomo Nuovo (The Old and the New Cathedrals).
  • Monastic Complex of San Salvatore/Santa Giulia (Santa Giulia City Museum) – with 11 000 works of art and archaeological finds.
  • Teatro Grande – a lavish opera house.

There are so many things to see and experience in Brescia, you can have a very full and exciting stay there. Make sure that you plan well so as to cover as much ground as you can.

Try the local cheese Bagoss. It is produced in small quantities in the nearby village of Bagolino and it has a lovely dense and salty flavour with hints of walnuts and chestnuts. For a day trip to remember, venture to Bagolino itself, especially during the unique local Carnival.

Brescia Is Perfect for: City break lovers, art aficionados, history buffs, museum devotees, photography fans, single travellers, couples, and families with kids. Everyone, really.

Nearest Airports: Verona Valerio Catullo Airport, Milan Malpensa Airport, Milan Linate Airport, and Milan Bergamo Airport (Orio al Serio)

Brescia Is a Great Day Trip from: Verona, Venice, Padua, Florence, Lake Garda, and Milan

Further Information about Brescia in Lombardy, Northern Italy:

 

 

5. Cremona – Lombardy, Northern Italy

Duomo and Torrazzo - Cremona - Lombardy, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Come here to see where the world’s best violins are made. Stay for the local nougat, the laid-back atmosphere, and the world’s largest astronomical clock.

Cremona’s name is forever linked with the names of Amati and Stradivarius – the most famous violin-making families in the world. Once in town, you can visit the workshops of historical luthiers and learn about this delicate art. Don’t miss:

  • Violin Museum – tracing Cremona’s five centuries-old violin-making traditions.
  • Cremona Cathedral – truly stunning cathedral with an adjacent baptistery.
  • Torrazzo of Cremona – a sturdy 111 m tall bell tower dating back to 1525. It is attached to the Cathedral and carries, embedded in its fourth storey, the world’s largest astronomical clock. The Torrazzo of Cremona is also the world’s oldest still standing brick structure taller than 100 m. Currently, it is also the world’s third tallest brickwork tower.
  • Museo Civico Ala Ponzone – with a collection of artworks from the 15th to the 19th centuries.
  • Palazzo Comunale – with its dreamy arcades and courtyards where people get together to enjoy a bridge tournament.
  • Several musical festivals – held throughout the year.

Come to Cremona in November to enjoy its annual Festa del Torrone. Torrone is a type of nougat which is very popular as a Christmas delicacy in Italy. The torrone of Cremona is made with egg whites, honey, sugar and toasted almonds. It can be scented with vanilla, cedar or cinnamon. Its name, allegedly, comes from the Latin verb ‘torreo’ which means ‘to toast’.

The torrone of Cremona can be either soft (made with ground almonds) or hard (made with whole almonds). Its recipe is centuries-old.

Cremona Is Perfect for: Music admirers, foodies, history buffs, photography fans, museum devotees, single travellers, couples, and families with kids.

Nearest Airports: Milan Parma Airport, Milan Linate Airport, and Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport

Cremona Is a Great Day Trip from: Brescia, Mantua, Parma, Milan, Verona, and Bologna

Further Information about Cremona in Lombardy, Northern Italy:

 

 

6. Mantua – Lombardy, Northern Italy

A view of Mantua - Lombardy, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Come here for the splendid palaces. Stay for the cobbled historical centre and the tasty local food.

Mantua or Mantova (as they call it in Italian) is a dreamy city where exquisite palaces with fully frescoed rooms will compete with the delicious local cuisine for your attention and love. The city’s historical centre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Three artificial lakes (created in the 12th century) surround Mantua on three sides thus ensuring its defense in medieval times. Here are some of the main sights:

  • Ducal Palace – the abode of Mantua’s once ruling family – the Gonzagas. Seeing all of its splendid rooms will take a significant chunk of your time, so plan accordingly. Particular attention deserves the Camera degli Sposi (Bridal Chamber) frescoed by one of my favourite Italian Renaissance painters – Andrea Mantegna. Look up to the ceiling adorned with charming peeking cherubs.
  • Palazzo Te – a 16th century Renaissance palace of leisure with breathtaking frescoes;
  • Rotonda of San Lorenzo – the most ancient church in the city built on the spot once occupied by a Roman temple dedicated to Venus;
  • Basilica of Sant’Andrea – a 15th century Renaissance work of architecture;
  • Bibiena Theatre – a beautiful 18th-century building where Mozart played at 13 years of age.

Mantua is where one of Verdi’s most famous operas – Rigoletto – takes place. When in town, don’t miss Rigoletto’s House where you can learn more about the story of the tragic jester of the Duke of Mantua.

In terms of food, make sure that you spend some time indulging in such local delicacies as pumpkin tortelli, cotechino sausage, and Sbrisolona cake. The latter is sold in shops all over the city and makes for a wonderful yet inexpensive present.

As a day trip from Mantua, visit nearby Sabionetta – built to represent the ideal Renaissance city.

Mantua Is Perfect for: Music admirers, foodies, history buffs, photography fans, museum devotees, city break lovers, single travellers, couples, and families with kids.

Nearest Airports: Verona Valerio Catullo Airport, Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport, and Milan Bergamo Airport (Orio al Serio)

Mantua Is a Great Day Trip from: Verona, Vicenza, Brescia,  Milan, and Bologna

Further Information about Mantua in Lombardy, Northern Italy:

 

 

7. Trento – Trentino/Alto Adige, Northern Italy

Piazza Duomo with Neptune's Fountain - Trento - Trentino, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Come here to see where the Council of Trent was held. Stay for the frescoed buildings and the Science Museum.

Trento is the capital of the Northern Italian autonomous province of Trentino (part of the autonomous region of Trentino/Alto Adige). It is also the place where the Council of Trent took place in the 16th century. The historical centre of the city is very beautiful while a modern Science Museum is a magnet for kids and adults alike. Here are some of the things you can enjoy seeing in Trento:

  • Cathedral of Saint Vigilius (Duomo) – built over a 6th-century church, you will find this imposing cathedral in the historic heart of Trento.
  • Piazza Duomo – a breathtaking square lined up with frescoed buildings. Here you can also see the majestic Neptune’s fountain.
  • Buonconsiglio Castle – dating back to the 13th century this was the residence of the prince-bishops of Trento up until the 18th century. The Buonconsiglio Castle is the most important monumental complex in the region of Trentino/Alto Adige.
  • Many churches and palaces telling the story of Trento.
  • MUSE Science Museum of Trento – you can easily spend a whole day here. We particularly loved the glacier exhibit with a real-life model of a glacier.

A visit to this lovely city is enriching on so many different levels. Put it high on your wish list if you love history, science or if your soul sings at the sight of frescoed buildings.

If, by any chance, you have a car at your disposal and are looking for a one-of-kind experience, consider driving from Trento to a nearby farm. Called Maso Eden, it specialises in lama- and alpaca-rearing. It also organises forest hikes in the gentle company of lamas and alpacas. Click on the link below for further information.

Trento Is Perfect for: History buffs, photography fans, museum devotees, science enthusiasts, single travellers, couples, and families with kids.

Nearest Airports: Verona Valerio Catullo Airport, Venice Marco Polo Airport, and Milan Bergamo Airport (Orio al Serio)

Trento Is a Great Day Trip from: Verona, Vicenza, Rovereto,  and Bolzano

Further Information about Trento in Trentino/Alto Adige, Northern Italy:

 

 

8. Rovereto – Trentino/Alto Adige, Northern Italy

The Neptune fountain and the cafe Buontadi - Rovereto, Trentino, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Come here for the modern art. Stay to learn about the history of war and to see where Mozart gave his first concert in Italy at 13 years of age. 

Are you looking for that undiscovered Italian gem? Go to Rovereto! Huddled on the edge of the Italian Alps, the city is a paradise for hikers, history buffs and lovers of modern art. Here are some of the main sights:

  • Italian War History Museum – housed in Rovereto Castle, the museum keeps the memory of the Great War and modern conflicts.
  • Depero’s House of Futurist Art – founded in 1919 by the Italian futurist painter, writer, sculptor, and graphic designer Fortunato Depero. A must-see!
  • MART – one of Europe’s most important museums of contemporary and modern art.
  • St. Marks’ Church – where Mozart held his first concert in Italy on 26th December 1769.
  • Bontadi – a historic cafe with an adjacent museum dedicated to the history of coffee.
  • Annual Mozart Festival.
  • Stunning frescoed buildings and picturesque squares.

Rovereto and its adjacent area offer so much more to the inquisitive explorer. You can spend a long weekend there and never be bored.

For a day trip, consider venturing to the nearby town of Ala to see its Baroque palaces (especially splendid at Christmas time). See point 1 in this list to learn more about Ala.

Rovereto Is Perfect for: History buffs, photography fans, coffee purists, museum devotees, music admirers, art aficionados, passionate hikers, single travellers, couples, and families with kids.

Nearest Airport: Verona Valerio Catullo Airport and Venice Marco Polo Airport.

Rovereto Is a Great Day Trip from: Verona, Vicenza, Trento, and Bolzano

Further Information about Rovereto in Trentino/Alto Adige, Northern Italy:

 

 

9. Bolzano – Trentino/Alto Adige, Northern Italy

Hiking outside Bolzano - Alto Adige, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Come here for Ötzi. Stay for the castles, the hiking, and – in winter – the magical Christmas atmosphere.

Bolzano is an Alpine town and the capital of the Italian autonomous province of Alto Adige (South Tyrol). Visiting it gives you a chance to experience the beauty of the Northern Italian mountains. Every year the city hosts a large Christmas market which attracts people from all over Europe and beyond. Due to the history of the region, German is widely spoken there and the whole area has a pronounced German/Austrian feel to it. It is a very different Italy to the popular cliches applied to the country.

When in Bolzano don’t miss these wonderful sights:

  • South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology with its exposition dedicated to Ötzi the Iceman.
  • Assumption of Our Lady Cathedral with its beautiful colourful roof and Romanesque/Gothic architecture plus the adjacent Cathedral Treasury Museum.
  • Dominican Church with its 14th-century frescoes, as well as several other centuries-old churches large and small.
  • Walther Square which is surrounded by colourful buildings and serves as the stage of the annual Christmas market and Flower market.
  • at least one of the four splendid castles within easy reach from Bolzano: Runkelstein Castle, Mareccio Castle, Sigmundskron Castle and Flavon Castle Haselburg.
  • Laubengasse or Via dei Portici – a long street with medieval arcades.
  • Museion – Bolzano’s Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art which holds over 4500 works of art.

Bolzano, huddled in a valley surrounded by lush vineyards, is a very picturesque city. Put it on top of your wish list if you want to experience a completely different side of Italy.

Bolzano is Perfect for: Passionate hikers, castle chasers, Christmas lovers, history buffs, photography fans, museum devotees, science enthusiasts, single travellers, couples, and families with kids.

Nearest Airports: Verona Valerio Catullo Airport and Innsbruck Airport (Austria)

Bolzano is a Great Day Trip from: Verona, Vicenza, Trento, and Rovereto

Further Information about Bolzano in Trentino/Alto Adige, Northern Italy:

 

 

10. Triest – Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Northern Italy

Miramare Castle - Triest - Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Come here for the Miramare Castle. Stay for the architectural mix, the coffee houses, and to learn more about the events that shaped Triest after World War I.

Recognised as the coffee capital of Italy, Triest is a city with ancient roots. It lies on the spot where the Balkan Peninsula and Central Europe meet. Triest was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire up until 1918 and one of its four most important cities after Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

Triest’s history between the two world wars and in the aftermath of World War II is complex and quite heartbreaking. The city and its surrounding area – a pot where different nationalities (Austrians, Slovenes, and Italians to mention but a few) had lived for centuries, experienced its fair share of interethnic tensions and oppression and even a forceful process of Italianisation of Slovene, Croatian, and German surnames.

As such Triest represents a unique combination of varied historical heritage and cross-cultural foundations that need to be carefully peeled away in order to be understood.

On the surface of it all, coffee houses and buildings in a mixture of architectural styles may, at a first glance, confuse you into thinking that you are in Vienna. Yet the immediate proximity of the sea and the steeply rising Karst Plateau on the amphitheatrical hillside of which the city lies, soon make it clear that you are not in (contemporarily) landlocked Austria.

The list of what to do and what to see in Triest is long. So, do spend some time in advance researching this intriguing destination so that you can utilise your time there as best as possible. To start you off, here are some of the main sights to enjoy in Triest while you take in the verve of this quite unique city:

  • Miramare Castle – a wonderful waterfront castle with lavish interiors, which is surrounded by a beautiful park. The views over Trieste and the sea are dreamy.
  • Several archaeological remains and Roman ruins, including a Roman theatre.
  • Old City – closed off for traffic, enjoy a walk through its curving medieval streets.
  • Austrian Quarter – admire buildings in Art Nouveau, Eclectic, Liberty, and Baroque styles. Feel like you are walking down an elegant street in Vienna all the while you hear Italian all around yourself.
  • Piazza Unita’ d’Italia – the largest sea-facing square in Europe.
  • Many museums, galleries, national monuments, and two botanical gardens.

There are many caves in the area around Triest. Plan a visit to the Grotta Gigante (Giant Cave) – the largest tourist cave in the world. It’s just over 10 km away from Triest.

Triest is Perfect for: Coffee purists, art aficionados, intrepid cavemen, history buffs, photography fans, museum devotees, city break lovers, single travellers, couples, families with kids. Everyone, really.

Nearest Airports: Triest Airport, Venice Marco Polo Airport, and Treviso Antonio Canova Airport

Triest is a Great Day Trip from: Venice

 

 

11. Treviso – Veneto, Northern Italy

Street art in Treviso - Veneto, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Come here for the airport serving low-cost air companies. Stay for the beautiful historic centre and great art exhibitions.

People usually fly into Treviso and then head straight to either Venice or Verona, completely bypassing this rather very pretty Northern Italian city. Don’t make the same mistake. Treviso with its breathtaking frescoed buildings and narrow curving streets guarantees a weekend of exciting exploration and lovely relaxation.

Most importantly, Treviso is the birthplace of a dessert, a vegetable, and a drink. All three make our lives so much tastier and sparkling. The first one is tiramisu – that glorious dessert made with coffee- and marsala-dipped ladyfingers which are then layered with mascarpone beaten with raw eggs. The second one is the radicchio rosso – also called Italian chicory in English. Its bitter taste is a great complement to any fresh salad, plus it is very tasty grilled and added to pasta dishes, too.  The third one is prosecco which nowadays is incredibly popular in the UK.

Some of the main sights in Treviso are:

  • San Francesco Church – a prime example of the late Romanesque/early Gothic style, this church was used as a stable by Napoleon’s troops. Here are the tombs of Petrarch’s daughter Francesca and Dante’s son Pietro.
  • Piazza dei Signori – the main square where you can also admire the 15th century Palazzo di Podesta.
  • Church of San Nicolo – for its many frescoes and also the earliest depiction on glass in Europe.
  • Loggia dei Cavalieri – a very beautiful structure in the heart of the old town. It was built in the 13th century to serve the local nobility as a place for meetings, conversations, and games.
  • The seven-domed cathedral where you can admire a Titian among other things.

Follow Treviso’s cobbled streets to the Museum of Santa Caterina where some of the best art exhibitions in the Veneto are held. I still remember a fabulous Escher showcase back in 2016.

Combine your visit to Treviso with a day trip to a nearby medieval walled town. Serravalle (Vittorio Veneto), Conegliano, Castelfranco Veneto, and Cittadella are very easy to reach from Treviso Centrale train station. You can comfortably do the last two in one day.

Treviso is Perfect for: History buffs, art aficionados, photography fans, museum devotees, foodies, single travellers, couples, and families with kids.

Nearest Airports: Treviso Antonio Canova Airport and Verona Valerio Catullo Airport

Treviso is a Great Day Trip from: Venice, Vicenza, and Padua

Further Information about Treviso in Veneto, Northern Italy:

 

 

12. Verona – Veneto, Northern Italy

Verona from Above - The City of Romeo and Juliet Seen from Piazzale Castel San Pietro - Verona, Veneto, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Come here for the tragic love story of Romeo and Juliet. Stay for the Roman ruins and the legacy of the medieval ruling dynasty – the Scaliger. The lively nightlife, too!

Fair Verona doesn’t really need an introduction. This is, after all, the Italian city which is forever linked in our hearts with the story of Romeo and Juliet. Verona is worth a  trip to not just because of its Shakespearean links though. The city has a rich Roman and medieval past, a worldwide known opera festival and enough sights and places of interest to keep you occupied and excited for several days.

Take your pick:

  • Piazza Bra – one of the largest squares in Italy. This is where you will find Arena di Verona – once used to host gladiator fights and nowadays one of the finest concert venues in the world. This is where the famous Verona Opera Festival is held every summer. It is important to note that the Arena pre-dates Rome’s Coliseum by around a century.
  • Piazza delle Erbe – lined up with beautifully frescoed buildings and the gorgeous Palazzo Maffei. Don’t miss the adjacent Piazza dei Signori with the statue of Dante at its heart.
  • Torre dei Lamberti – Verona’s tallest tower. It was built in 1172. It offers you inspiring views over the red rooftops of the city.
  • Roman Amphitheatre – it was built in the first century AD and it is still used for stage performances today. Read more about it here.
  • Juliet’s House outfitted with the famous balcony (which, in fact, is a sawed in half sarcophagus) – if you go there though, make sure that you actually visit the house (and not just the courtyard), as it gives you a fascinating look into life in the 13th century.
  • Castelvecchio – explore this medieval castle which nowadays houses a splendid art collection.
  • Giardino dei Giusti – a Renaissance garden first planted in the 15th century. From its top level, you can enjoy stunning views of the city.
  • Scaliger Tombs – a group of Gothic funerary monuments in honour of Verona’s medieval rulers – the fearsome Scaliger Family.
  • Juliet’s Club – where the Secretaries of Juliet reply to letters sent from all over the world asking the Shakespearean heroine for advice in the matters of the heart.

There are so many museums, churches and places of interest in Verona, that you will be spoiled for choice. The good thing is that the city centre is easily navigable by foot, so you can walk everywhere and see as much as possible within a couple of days. Just wear some very comfortable shoes.

Here is a little tip: Try the locally made sweets Baci di Romeo and Baci di Giulietta (literally ‘Romeo’s Kisses’ and ‘Juliet’s Kisses). They taste divine. Romeo’s version is made of almond paste and buttercream and Juliet’s is made of hazelnut paste and chocolate cream. They sell them in a few places around town. My favourite place to buy them from is a historical pasticceria called De Rossi. Here I hasten to add that I am in no way related to them and also, this is not an ad, just a personal recommendation as I love these sweets so much.

Verona is Perfect for: History buffs, romantics at heart, art aficionados, photography fans, museum devotees, foodies, single travellers, couples, and families with kids.

Nearest Airports: Verona Valerio Catullo Airport, Venice Marco Polo Airport and Bergamo Airport (Orio al Serio)

Verona is a Great Day Trip from: Venice, Vicenza, Brescia, Milan, Lake Garda, and Padua

Further Information about Verona in Veneto, Northern Italy:

 

 

13. Vicenza – Veneto, Northern Italy

Cafe Culture - A cafe on Piazza dei Signori surrounded by historical buildings - Vicenza, Veneto, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Come here for the Palladian architecture. Stay for the peace and quiet, the gold jewellery, the Roman past, and the dolce vita.

Known as the Pearl of Renaissance, the Heart of Veneto, the City of Palladio and the Gold Town, Vicenza lies half-way between Venice and Verona in the Northern Italian region of the Veneto.

The city is a creative hub of art, jewellery traditions, and one-of-a-kind events. Plus, it is a veritable open-air museum of architecture. Its streets are lined with sumptuous palaces and buildings which have inspired architectural cannons all over Europe and North America for the past 500 years.

This is also the city I have been calling home for the past four years. So, obviously, I have a lot of recommendations as to what to see and do here. Don’t miss the main sights:

  • Basilica Palladiana – a stunning work of architectural art and the jewel in the crown of Andrea Palladio – the most influential architect of the Western world for the past 500 years who used Vicenza as his own personal architectural playground.
  • Piazza dei Signori – Vicenza’s central square lined up with Palladio’s buildings and seeped in history.
  • Church of  St. Mary of Mount Berico – overlooking the city and one of Italy’s most important and visited Marian sanctuaries.
  • Teatro Olimpico – the theatre designed by Palladio where you can see the world’s oldest surviving stage set still in use today.
  • Many lavish jewellery shops as Vicenza is one of Italy’s most important centres of jewellery design and production.
  • Jewellery Museum – the first in Italy.
  • Church of Santa Corona – see precious artworks by Bellini and Montagna. Worship the thorn from Christ’s Crown which has been sheltered here for centuries (for security reasons, nowadays the thorn is shown to the public only on big Christian holidays, the rest of the time it is kept in the nearby Diocesan Museum).
  • Villa Capra ‘La Rotonda’ and Villa Valmarana ai Nani – within a short walk from Vicenza’s train station, you can see two of the most famous and most beautiful Venetian villas. La Rotonda is one of the most copied buildings in the world and it has inspired the design of the White House.
  • Gallerie d’Italia at Palazzo Leoni Montanari – a stunning art museum with a vast collection of Russian icons among many other precious artifacts and paintings kept there.

For all that it has to offer, Vicenza keeps itself away from the trodden tourist track. This makes it all the lovelier to explore and peaceful to enjoy. If you are an architecture aficionado or are looking for that rare gem of a city which has it all but it lacks crowds and cheapened attractions, come to Vicenza for a trip to remember for years to come.

Vicenza is Perfect for: History buffs, romantics at heart, art and architecture aficionados, photography fans, museum devotees, single travellers, couples, and families with kids.

Nearest Airports: Verona Valerio Catullo Airport, Venice Marco Polo Airport, Treviso Antonio Canova Airport, and Bergamo Airport (Orio al Serio)

Vicenza is a Great Day Trip from: Venice, Brescia, Milan, Lake Garda, Bologna, Ferrara, and Padua

Further Information about Vicenza in Veneto, Northern Italy:

 

 

14. Padua – Veneto, Italy

Astronomical clock - Piazza dei Signori - Padua, Veneto, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Come here for the Scrovegni Chapel. Stay for the fabulously frescoed buildings, Italy’s second oldest University, and the lively bar and cafe culture.

Tucked between Venice and Verona, Padua is often overlooked for one of these two much more famous cities. Still, if you give it a chance, you will soon discover that the art, the museums, the history and the shopping make Padua a real gem to have in your travel schedule.

The city is mainly known as the setting of Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, yet there is much more to Padua than just this. When you are there, don’t miss the following sights:

  • Scrovegni Chapel with its stunning frescoes by Giotto. Tickets are in demand and tied to a time slot, so head there as soon as you arrive or book in advance.
  • Palazzo della Ragione – a fully frescoed medieval town hall the ground floor of which houses some of the oldest food shops in Padua.
  • Padua’s 800 years old daily market (Sundays excluded) which is still going strong.
  • Palazzo del Bo – the seat of Padua’s University. Founded in 1222, it is one of the oldest Universities in Europe and the second oldest University in Italy. This is where Galileo Galilei used to teach. You can visit the historical part of the University as part of a guided tour taking place several times a day.
  • Prato della Valle – a huge elliptical square with a surface of 90 000 sq m which is the biggest in Italy and one of the biggest in Europe.
  • Orto Botanico – the oldest botanical garden in the world.
  • Basilica of St Anthony of Padua – where the body and the relics of the saint are venerated.
  • Caffe Pedrocchi – two hundred years old and one of Italy’s historic coffee houses. It used to be open 24/7. You will find its beautiful building just opposite Palazzo del Bo.

There are so many unique and wonderful things to be seen and experienced in Padua, it is impossible to mention them all here. Apart from the main sights, you should definitely set some time aside to explore Padua’s hidden gems.

Visit the Church of the Eremitani to see the Mantegna frescoes. Click on the respective link below to read the amazing story of how they were destroyed during the bombings of the Second World War and then decades later restored using advanced mathematical calculations.

Don’t miss the Baptistery right next to Padua’s Duomo. It is covered in splendid frescoes and photos there are not allowed, so you can immerse yourself in a beautiful moment of art appreciation.

Another little gem is St. Anthony’s School (just off the Basilica of St. Anthony) which is covered in frescoes by and influenced by Titian. Finally, when in Padua, don’t miss the fabulous cakes and sweets typical for this beautiful Italian city.

Padua is Perfect for: History buffs, art aficionados, photography fans, museum devotees, foodies, science enthusiasts, single travellers, couples, and families with kids.

Nearest Airports: Venice Marco Polo Airport, Treviso Antonio Canova Airport, Verona Valerio Catullo Airport, and Bergamo Airport (Orio al Serio)

Padua is a Great Day Trip from: Venice, Vicenza, Verona, Brescia, Milan, Lake Garda, Bologna, and Ferrara

Further Information about Padua in Veneto, Northern Italy:

 

 

15. Venice – Veneto, Northern Italy

Grand Canal seen from Rialto Bridge - Venice, Veneto, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Come here chasing a romantic dream. Stay for the stunning setting, unique architecture, and authentic way of life. As well as to learn about the artistic, political and engineering achievements of one of the most impressive societies in the history of the world.

Venice is a dream for many! So, if you have the chance, don’t hesitate to dedicate several days to this beautiful and unique city in Northern Italy where there is so much to see and do.

Venice is a very popular destination and for the most of the year, it is rather overcrowded with eager tourists. Make sure that you have a good idea as to what you want to see during your time there. Also, consider that you will be spending long stretches of time walking around, so pack your most comfortable shoes.

Here are some suggestions for places to explore and things to do for a pleasant stay in Venice avoiding the crowds as much as possible.

  • Take the vaporetto line 1 down the Grand Canal all the way to St. Mark’s Square. Yes, it is pricey, but it is a fabulous introduction to the beauty of Venice. Along the way you will see such stunning buildings and structures as Ca’ Pesaro, Ca’ d’Oro, Rialto BridgeCa’ Rezzonico, Accademia Bridge, Gallerie dell’Accademia, the church Santa Maria della Salute and the St. Mark’s Basin with St. Mark’s Square and the Doge’s Palace on one side and the islet of San Giorgio Maggiore on the other.
  • Visit the Doge’s Palace – it will give you a really good idea of Venice as a political and commercial titan during its heyday. You will also gain an understanding of the Republic of Venice unique governmental structure and will see some stunning art.
  • If you can (queues allowing) visit St. Mark’s Basilica and go up its bell tower.
  • Tuck into a generous selection of cicchetti – Venice’s own traditional snacks washed down with a glass of wine called ombra.
  • Explore Rialto fruit and veg market and Rialto fish market.
  • Take a traghetto across the Grand Canal.
  • Explore a less crowded museum or sight like Fondazione Querini Stampalia, the Ships PavillionLa Fenice Opera Theatre or Ca’ Pesaro.
  • Book a private tour of Venice tailor-made to your exact specifications and expectations. I recommend Luisella Romeo from See Venice and Erika Cornali from When in Venice.
  • If you are lucky to be there at the right time, enjoy a historical event, like CarnevaleVenice Historical Regatta, Regatta of the Ancient Maritime Republics or even the annual Befana race.
  • Walk everywhere and visit every church you will come across.

Venice is such a delight. Approached with a little bit of planning, a trip to the city on water can be a travel highlight to remember and cherish for years to come.

As a little tip, please, remember that, if you arrive in Venice by train, the train station you need to get off at is Venezia Santa Lucia. It is the last stop on the train track. Don’t get off at Venezia Mestre as this is the train station of mainland Venice.

Venice is Perfect for: Romantics at heart, luxury chasers, history buffs, art aficionados, photography fans, museum devotees, single travellers, couples, and families with kids.

Nearest Airports: Venice Marco Polo Airport, Treviso Antonio Canova Airport, and Verona Valerio Catullo Airport

Venice is a Great Day Trip from: Vicenza, Padua, Verona, Brescia, Triest, Lake Garda, Bologna, and Ferrara

Further Information about Venice in Veneto, Northern Italy:

 

 

16. Ferrara – Emilia-Romagna, Northern Italy

Cathedral of San Giorgio - Ferrara, Emilia-Romagna, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Come here for the Este Castle (Castello Estense). Stay for the beautiful architecture, the defensive walls embracing the city, and Italy’s largest hot-air balloons’ event.

Ferrara is beautiful and has so much to offer to the discerning traveller eager to learn more about Italy’s medieval history and art. Ruled by the House of Este in the 14th and 15th centuries, the city boasts several splendid palaces, a Romanesque cathedral with a fabulous facade, and 9 km of ancient defensive walls which are (alongside those of Lucca in Tuscany) the best preserved Renaissance walls in Italy. Ferrara’s historical centre is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Some of the main sights here are:

  • Castello Estense – an iconic medieval brick building surrounded by a moat in Ferrara’s heart.
  • Cathedral of San Giorgio with a gorgeous lace-like facade. Its construction started at the beginning of the 12th century.
  • Palazzo dei Diamanti – the seat of the National Gallery.
  • University of Ferrara with its Botanical Garden – Copernicus being one of its most notable students.
  • Natural History Museum with a dreamy building.
  • Teatro Comunale – its internal courtyard (called Rotonda Foschini in honour of the engineer Antonio Foschini) will make you marvel at its perfectly elliptical shape.

Ferrara is also an incredibly easy city to explore with children in tow. Head over there to give your little ones a chance to run and have fun in the many playgrounds installed all over town.

As a little tip, I would suggest that you plan to visit Ferrara in September. This is when Italy’s most important ballooning event takes place. Over nine days colourful hot-air balloons fly over the historical centre of Ferrara twice a day.

The Ferrara Balloons Festival is held in the Bassani Urban Park just outside of the city’s Renaissance defensive walls. It is a big event with thousands of people flocking to see it, with pop-up restaurants and lots of entertainment options for little ones and grown-ups.

Ferrara is Perfect for: History buffs, art aficionados, photography fans, museum devotees, single travellers, couples, and families with kids.

Nearest Airports: Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport, Venice Marco Polo Airport, Florence Airport, Treviso Antonio Canova Airport, and Verona Valerio Catullo Airport

Ferrara is a Great Day Trip from: Vicenza, Padua, Venice, Verona, Bologna, Ravenna and Florence

Further Information about Ferrara in Emilia-Romagna, Northern Italy:

 

 

17. Bologna – Emilia-Romagna, Northern Italy

The Tower of Asinelli - Bologna, Emilia-Romagna, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Come here for the food! Stay for the city’s academic history and its red buildings.

Bologna is the capital of the Northern Italian region of Emilia-Romagna and the seventh most populous city in Italy.

Bologna is famous the world over for its food traditions. Millions of people flock to the city each year to experience its fabulous fresh pasta, more-ish mortadella, genuine gelato in dozens of flavours and universally famous meat sauce which Italians, actually, call ragu (and everybody else calls bolognese). In a fast-paced city break, apart from eating lots of great food, you can also tick off several of Bologna’s main sights.

Here are the most spectacular ones:

  • Archiginnasio – the first permanent seat of the University of Bologna which is the oldest University in the world still in continuous operation today.
  • Asinelli and Garisenda towers – witnesses of Bologna medieval past when close to 200 towers graced the city’s skyline.
  • Basilica of Santo Stefano (also known as Sette Chiese) – built over what was originally a temple of the goddess Isis and then grew into a complex of seven interconnected chapels and churches.
  • Neptune’s Fountain.
  • Quadrilatero – the city’s medieval market which is still going strong today.
  • Basilica di San Petronio – Bologna’s main church.
  • Piazza Maggiore – lined up by splendid palaces like Palazzo d’Accursio and the largest brick cathedral in the world – the Basilica di San Petronio.
  • Carpigiani Gelato Museum.
  • Endless porticoes keeping you from rain and shine alike.
  • FICO Eataly World – the largest agri-food park in the world.

Bologna will give you a chance to delve deeper into Italy’s history, academia, and art. Plus, there is simply no chance to have bad food in the city which is known as La Gorda (the Fat One) all over Italy.

Bologna is Perfect for: Fodies, history buffs, art aficionados, photography fans, museum devotees, single travellers, couples, and families with kids.

Nearest Airports: Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport, Venice Marco Polo Airport, and Florence Airport

Bologna is a Great Day Trip from: Vicenza, Padua, Venice, Verona, Milan, Ravenna and Florence

Further Information about Bologna in Emilia-Romagna, Northern Italy:

 

 

18. Ravenna – Emilia-Romagna, Northern Italy

The entrance - Mausoleum of Galla Placidia - Ravenna, Emilia Romagna, Italy - www.rossiwrites.com

Come here for the splendid Byzantine mosaics. Stay for the peaceful atmosphere, the proximity of the sea, and the chance to learn as much as possible about the art of mosaics.

Many centuries ago, Ravenna used to be the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. Hence this quiet, almost sleepy nowadays city keeps a priceless treasure dating back to its days of glory. For all over the historical centre of Ravenna are dotted churches and chapels the walls of which are covered with incredibly intricate and life-like mosaics.

Depicting rulers, Biblical scenes, animals, geometric and floral motifs, the mosaics of Ravenna are wonderful to see. You can buy a combined ticket giving you access to several of the main sights. Once you have ticked them all off, pay a visit to Dante’s final resting place. Yes, Italy’s great poet is buried in Ravenna to the eternal chagrin of Florence.

Here are some of the main sights to enjoy in Ravenna:

8 Early Christian Monuments Inscribed on the UNESCO World’s Heritage List:

Seven of these are covered with splendid mosaics.

  • Baptistery of Neon (also known as Orthodox Baptistery)
  • Mausoleum of Galla Placidia
  • Arian Baptistry
  • Archiepiscopal Chapel
  • Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo
  • Basilica of San Vitale
  • Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe
  • Mausoleum of Theodoric – the only one with bare interiors

Other places of interest:

  • Ravenna’s National Museum
  • Dante’s Mausoleum
  • Ravenna’s Defensive walls and gates
  • Santa Maria Maggiore church with the fresco of Our Lady of the Tumours
  • many churches and chapels all over the city.

Each year, Ravenna also hosts one of the leading music festivals in Italy. Some of the concerts are held in the Basilica of San Vitale and the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe giving you a chance to enjoy beautiful music surrounded by stunning mosaics.

Nowadays, Ravenna continues to be a world-class centre of the art of mosaics. Make sure that you pop in the shops of the different mosaic schools and companies in town in order to take home with you a piece of the city’s mosaic traditions.

Ravenna is Perfect for: History buffs, art aficionados, mosaic mavericks, photography fans, museum devotees, single travellers, couples, and families with kids.

Nearest Airports: Bologna Guglielmo Marconi Airport and Rimini Federico Fellini Airport

Ravenna is a Great Day Trip from: Padua, Bologna and Florence

Further Information about Ravenna in Emilia-Romagna, Northern Italy:

 

 

OK, these are, in my humble opinion and first-hand experience, 18 of the best cities to visit in Northern Italy!

I hope that I have inspired you to buy a plane ticket, to get in the car or to purchase a train ticket and explore the beautiful regions which make the North of Italy.

Have fun and let me know which of the above travel destinations you loved the most. Turin or Ravenna, Venice or Milan?! The choice and the experiences are strictly yours.

For ideas about over 30 unique things to do, see and eat in Italy for the ultimate Italian experience, please, click here.

 

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About the author

Rossi

Rossi

Hello! I am Rossi - a Bulgarian currently living in Italy after a 14-year stint in England. This is my blog about my life in these three countries, travels around Europe and opinions about the world we live in. For regular updates, please, subscribe to my newsletter and follow me on social media online. You can also get in touch via the Contacts form or by commenting on the articles in my blog.

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