Where do you go to admire the best views that Italy has to offer?
Why, you go up, of course!
Italy is a country where construction on high rising places and high rising constructions are equally popular. Hence, you will find a great number of:
- turrets, towers and rooftop terraces taking you from the ground to dozens of meters up in the sky as fast as your legs can scale their steep historical steps; and
- castles, villas, palaces and humble yet picturesque abodes perched on top of dramatically steep hills and mountains.
They all have one thing in common – the stunning views they afford you.
Up there (and almost touching the clouds) your eyes will drink unforgettable vistas. Your soul will feel elated and your camera will thank you for the amazing shots it will be feverishly taking. Later on, I am sure, you will file the moments you spent seeing Italy from above as some of the very best in your whole life.
During your Italian adventure, make sure that you conquer as many as you can of these high-rising places and tall constructions. Some of them will be free to access. Others will be paid for. Don’t be a skinflint. The fee is more than worth the sensation of gaining a bird’s-eye perspective of all that Italy has to offer in terms of nature and architecture.
So, today, I want to give you a comprehensive list of the high-rising spots and the tall buildings from which you can get a breathtaking view of some of Northern Italy’s greatest cities.
Stand up Turin, Milan, Brescia, Verona, Vicenza, Padua and Venice. Your beauty is about to be revealed in full.
Before we start, here is a curious tidbit of information: All of the above cities are on the same high-speed train line. In fact, you can reach Venice from Turin in just over three and a half hours! If you are a true aficionado of soul-inspiring views, you can spend a few days easily travelling from one to the next in order to see
Northern Italy from Above
(or in other words)
The Places to Get a Bird’s-Eye View of Turin, Milan, Brescia, Verona, Vicenza, Padua and Venice
Turin is a gem of a city and a great destination for a long weekend city break. There is so much to do and see there, you will be spoilеd for choice. To get an idea of how truly big and gorgeous the city is, head to one of these three spots:
- Basilica di Superga – an early 18th century church built on top of the Superga Hill at a height of 672 m. It offers unparalleled views over Turin and the Alps which serve as the city’s dramatic backdrop. To make the experience even more special, make sure that you catch the historical Sassi-Superga tramway (or tranvia a cremagliera as it is called in Italian). It runs for just over 3 km, starting from the suburb of Sassi and taking you almost all the way up to the basilica. The ride lasts about 20 mins.
- Mole Antonelliana – a monumental building, originally conceived as a synagogue and nowadays housing Italy’s National Museum of Cinema. It is officially the tallest museum in the world. A glass lift (added in 1961) will whiz you up to the panoramic terrace at a height of 85 m. Or, if you prefer, you can take the stairs all the way up to the impressive dome and the terrace on its top. Bear in mind, that queues for the lift can be long.
- Palazzo Madama – a lavish palace in Turin’s heart where you can explore the Municipal Museum of Ancient Art. Most importantly, from the palace’s top floor and panoramic towers you can enjoy a beautiful view over Turin’s rooftops.
Milan is a city which can look and feel a bit grey at a first glance. Once you have seen it from above though, you start to appreciate its powerful build and its verve. For the best views, head over to:
- Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – the world’s oldest shopping mall is stunning in so many different ways. In any case, what will really take your breath away are the views from its rooftop. A metal walkway dotted with panoramic terraces follows the length of the Galleria’s roof. Braving it makes you feel like walking on air. An experience not to be missed. Plus, very few people seem to know about this place. So, there are no queues and I walked long stretches of the walkway all by myself without seeing any other people.
- Milan Cathedral (Duomo di Milano) – if you want to see up close the lacy spires of Milan’s most iconic building, make sure that you go up to its rooftop terrace. You can either take the lift or pay the cheaper price and take the stairs.
Brescia is Lombardy’s hidden gem and a city I am currently obsessed with. It has so much to offer, yet it seems to stay away from the main tourist stream which bypasses it in favour of Milan. Don’t make the same mistake. Don’t miss Brescia. As among the many things you can experience there (for specific examples, see point 2 in this list), the city offers some astonishing views from the ramparts of its medieval castle. Head over to:
- Brescia Castle – perched on top of the 245 m high Cidneo Hill. Known as the Falcon of Italy for its position on the steep summit, the castle is one of the largest fortified complexes in the country. You can easily spend several hours there exploring the castle’s different corners (and the Arms Museum which is housed in the keep). The best thing though are the views which open over the whole of Brescia. From up there, you can easily appreciate the architecture of the city and how varied in styles and influences it really is: from the elegant Palazzo della Loggia and the proud New Duomo to the futuristic skyscrapers which grace Brescia’s skyline.
- Torre dei Lamberti – you will find Verona’s highest tower right in the city’s heart. With its height of 83 m it towers (excuse the pun, just couldn’t stop myself!) over the historical Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza dei Signori. Once the tower’s lift has transported you as high as it would go, make sure that you take the stairs to the very top for even more breathtaking views. A curious fact – the Torre dei Lamberti was commissioned at the end of the 12th century.
- Arena di Verona – scale this huge Roman amphitheatre to the very top of its steep steps. You will enjoy the view over Piazza Bra – one of the biggest in Europe – and the adjacent colourful houses and their rooftops.
- Giardino dei Giusti – explore this lavish garden which was fist planted in the 15th century. Its lower half leans against a steep hill. Follow the paths which will lead you up the hill’s face. From your high vantage point you will see a fabulous view of Verona. Don’t stop halfway though. Reach the whimsical turret and climb the spiral steps in its tall and narrow body. Once you reach the top of the turret you will, actually, find yourself on top of the hill. The garden’s huge cypresses and Verona’s stunning skyline will be right at your feet. Read more about Giardino dei Giusti here.
- Panoramic Terrace of Castel San Pietro – Verona’s newly opened funicular will take you all the way up to this well-known terrace from where the city looks absolutely picture perfect. The funicular is a new addition to Verona’s attractions and to reach it, it takes about half an hour leisurely walk starting from Arena di Verona and then crossing the city’s lovely historical centre. The ride takes about a minute and a half, the track is 159 metres long and the funicular takes you up 55 metres vertically. The adult return ticket costs 2 euros. On my blog’s Facebook page I posted a little video showing you the views as you come down with the funicular. Click here to have a look.
Vicenza is known both as the Pearl of the Renaissance and the City of Palladio, so there is lots to see in this gorgeous Italian city which keeps itself away from the stifling tourist track. The two best places from which to admire it all are:
- Panoramic Terrace of the Basilica Palladiana – open between April and October each year, the terrace is a favourite spot for the citizens and the visitors of the city alike. You will find the Basilica on Piazza dei Signori – Vicenza’s historic heart. The Basilica’s rooftop terrace is a great place to go for a leisurely walk while playing a game of ‘spot all Vicenza’s highlights’ from above. You will be able to see Monte Berico’s Sanctuary, the colourful Piazza delle Erbe, Vicenza’s Duomo, a maze of atmospheric streets, the splendid Piazza dei Signori (which also houses one of Palladio’s later works – the Loggia del Capitaniato), as well as dozens and dozens of rooftops all the way to the horizon. You can finish your walk with a proper Italian coffee or a nice aperitif at the terrace’s bar in the shadow of Vicenza’s tallest clock tower and in the company of the stone statues – secured with metal clamps – which grace the railings at equal intervals from start to finish.
- Monte Berico – or Mount Berico in English, it stands like a proud guard watching over Vicenza. Walk up there (or drive) for some of the most splendid views of Italy you will have the good fortune to enjoy. There is a large panoramic terrace from which you can see not just the city at your feet, but also the Pre-Alps surrounding it on the horizon. Round up your experience with a visit to one of Italy’s most revered religious sanctuaries – the Church of St. Mary of Mount Berico – built right on top of the hill.
Padua is a charming city with much to offer as long as you are willing to dedicate some time to the exploration of its many sights. If you want to see it from above, don’t miss:
- Palazzo della Ragione – from the terrace of this over eight centuries old building you can enjoy a lovely view over Padua’s historical market and the adjacent houses and squares.
- Astronomical Clock of Palazzo del Capitanio at Piazza dei Signori – join the organised visits on Wednesday, Fridays and Saturdays. Click here to learn more about the history of this splendid clock.
- Astronomical Observatory – housed in a 9th century defense tower which has also been used as a prison and torture chamber. The tower was turned into an observatory in 1761. Its significant height allows you to enjoy beautiful views over Padua.
Venice is a quase-mythical city for its beauty is unparalleled. Enjoy it from several high vantage points in order to truly see and understand this unique place on Earth:
- St. Mark’s Campanile (Campanile di San Marco) – brave the crowds and the queues (or go there first thing in the morning) in order to see Venice from a height of around 99 m. It is a one-in-a-lifetime experience. Plus, it makes you understand how incredibly daring and a bit crazy the annual Flight of the Angel (see point 3 in this list) truly is.
- Terrace of St. Mark’s Basilica – it affords a sublimely unforgettable view over St. Mark’s Square, the Campanile, the Doge’s Palace, the many gondolas and other watercraft in the St. Mark’s Basin, and the two pillars crowned by the statues of the winged lion of Venice and of St. Theodore with his dragon-cum-crocodile.
- St. Mark’s Astronomical Clock on St. Mark’s Square – you will need to join a small guided tour and be perfectly OK with tiny claustrophobic spaces and big heights, but it is more than worth it for the views alone.
- Bell Tower of the Palladian Church on San Giorgio Maggiore – this is the tiny island which you can see just opposite the Doge’s Palace in Venice. A vaporetto will take you there in a few minutes. Usually, there are no huge crowds, so you can go up to the top of the bell tower as fast as the lift will take you and then enjoy the gorgeous views across the St. Mark’s Basin. You will see the Doge’s Palace, St. Mark’s Square, the two pillars and many more iconic Venetian sights and your heart and your camera will sing with joy. In winter, up there on top of the tower can be quite cold, so dress warm if you intend to stay for a little bit in order to take photos. Speaking from a very cold, glove-less experience.
- Rooftop Terrace of Fondaco dei Turchi – the latest stunning place from where to admire the beauty of Venice. The best thing is that it is completely free of charge and you can also book the time slot for your 15 minutes visit in advance here.
- Aula Mario Barrato of the University of Venice Ca Foscari – again, you will need to join a guided tour in order to be allowed into Venice’s University. It is a great way to learn more about it, so don’t miss it. The best bit is that you will be shown the University’s Aula Magna which nowadays is known as Aula Mario Barrato. From its lace-like Venetian windows you can admire a stunning view over the Grand Canal. This is the only spot in Venice from which you can glimpse both the Rialto Bridge to the left and the Accademia Bridge to the right. Not to be missed!
Do you like bird’s-eye views? Let me know which of the above suggestions and Northern Italian cities appeal the most to you.
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