The pursuit of a good view can make men conquer mountains and their own fears.
It can also make them travel deep into an unknown land, set home far from the material trappings of civilised life, and reconnect with something deep inside each one of us which brings us closer to nature and to a clean, innocent state of mind.
In our modern times, on the other hand, the promise of a good view can definitely make us dig deeper in our pockets to pay for a hotel room or, ideally, a home for ourselves that promise the soul-inspiring feeling to wake up every morning to a beautiful panorama.
‘What is this eternal human craving for a good view?!’, I asked a friend a few days ago. We were eating breakfast perched high above Lake Como. The table was placed in the garden outside. Around us there was a spring-fresh collection of green grass, yellow daffodils and large, just about to burst into colourful blooms bushes which were planted on a long and narrow terrace carved into the hills surrounding this rather famous Italian lake.
Dozens of terraces descended from our high vantage point all the way down to the lake water which was rippled by the morning wind. Tall houses in orange and yellow shades stood tightly pressed against the hill. On the opposite side of the lake, a small town was just waking up under the warm rays of the late February sun. Above our heads, an aquaplane or two crisscrossed the sky and the steep hills that hold Lake Como in their tight embrace looked wild and unconquered in their bid for freedom to stretch all the way to the sky.
We were high above it all. On the penultimate terrace, almost at the hilltop. For a lack of a better expression, the view really was to die for. I could only envy the birds which get to enjoy such views with every flight they take.
What do you think? Do birds give the view beneath their wings any thought at all?! Or are they only concerned with the power of winds and the urgent need to keep their muscles moving non-stop lest they fall?!
‘So, ahem, yes’, I continued, ‘you’ve been telling me that the lands around Lake Como have been inhabited since Roman times?! So, basically, the Romans arrived, saw how impenetrably steep the hills around the lake were and said: Well, I’ll have this piece of land here on this rather difficult to get to hill as I quite like the view…’
I stretched my arm towards the lake, turned my eyes to look at the small town across the water and then, I lost my thread of thought and just chewed on my brioche in silence while feeling like all my troubles and worries melted away under the uplifting power of the view in front of me.
It’s an eternal human craving to enjoy a good view. To wake up every morning to something that is beautiful, harmonious and makes you feel both inspired and free as a bird. It’s a type of pleasure that we absorb through our eyes and can make us feel even better than a really good meal (enjoyed through the mouth) or a really nice compliment (received through the ears).
When the view is good, it speaks to us. We melt into it and our whole body becomes a recipient of feelings ranging from pure awe to divine admiration. With every little pore, we take in the beauty in front of us, we drink it in, we feel a sudden urge to make time stop for a while.
Whereas before painters would search for a good view to recreate it on their canvas, nowadays we all chase unforgettable panoramas with our cameras in hand.
The power of a good view keeps making us taking dozens and hundreds of photos. ‘Just one more!’, I tell my husband who is patiently waiting for me yet again.
So desperate we are to capture the panorama in front of us, to have tangible proof of the sweet memory that at a particular point in our lifetime we were so lucky to enjoy such a stunning view. It’s like nature has painted her very best landscape and we are so overcome by it that we want to make it forever ours.
Or it can be the work of people that we admire from a high vantage point. The red rooftops of houses that have spent centuries sitting at the same spot. Again, we want to make the view our own, to snap it with our camera and eyes, to take it forever away with us and show it to other people in our daily lives and tell them: ‘See, see the beauty that exists in the world and I was privileged enough to experience it for myself!’
Sitting at that table on the terrace high above Lake Como I suddenly understood the pull that a good view has over us. No words were needed for once. Just a moment of sitting still and drinking it all in.
In memory of that special moment, once back to Vicenza, I sat down to organise the ten best panoramas I had had the pleasure to enjoy in Italy in order to share them with you. The best bit about each one of the ten places that made the final cut was getting there and seeing them for myself for the very first time.
Sometimes, reaching them required a real effort, a long and arduous scaling of steps or walking for miles. Other times, they simply revealed themselves to me as I was passing by on foot or in a car. Some of these places I pursued, having read somewhere that a particular spot offered views to die for. And others I have discovered unexpectedly and all for myself.
The most precious thing about all these views is that they spoke directly to me. They awoke an emotion inside my soul, left an imprint in my memory. They may not be universally famous or besieged by thousands of travellers but they were important to me.
In any case, I would love to share them with you now. My wish for you is to find your own ten special places in Italy or anywhere in the world the views of which speak deeply to you.
Now, let’s start! Look with your eyes and see with your soul…
10 of the Best Views in Italy (Totally According to Me)
1. Borghetto sul Mincio Seen from the Medieval Visconti Bridge
This is Borghetto sul Mincio in the Northern Italian region of the Veneto. A small hamlet of old houses and watermills that nowadays function as restaurants serving tortellini – a local delicacy of pasta knots stuffed with seasonal fillings.
The hamlet stretches over the waters of the river Mincio and you can enjoy a beautiful view over Borghetto from the nearby medieval Visconti Bridge. Surprisingly well preserved considering that it was built at the end of the 14th century, the bridge is also where you can park your car and walk the short distance down to Borghetto for a plateful of tortellini and some more soul-inspiring views.
The hamlet is especially beautiful when the wisterias are in full bloom in April each year.
The first time that I saw Borghetto sul Mincio, it was from the Visconti Bridge. To this day, the small hamlet remains one of my very favourite destinations in Northern Italy. Standing on the mighty bridge which is older than some countries and looking down to the cluster of watermills is a visual pleasure. Especially knowing that a portion of tortellini is waiting for you in one of the restaurants to make things even more sublime.
Click here for more information:
- Borghetto sul Mincio – The Most Beautiful Corner of Italy
- A View of Veneto – Borghetto in the Fog
- The Tortellini of Valeggio sul Mincio
- Castagnata – Italy’s Roasted Chestnuts Festivals
- Point 4 – Day Trips from Verona – 16 Destinations in Italy to Fall in Love With (With Travel Times and Train Tips)
2. St. Mark’s Basilica Seen from the Top of St. Mark’s Clocktower, Venice
Venice is a beauty that has been photographed from so many different angles that often people feel like they know it intimately even if they have never been there before.
Over the years that I have spent here in Italy, I have tried hundreds of times to come up with a new and bold view of Venice. I have walked its labyrinthine streets, crossed its many bridges, visited every church I came across. I both explored in detail and stayed away from its overcrowded tourist hotspots. In all this time, I feel, I always ended with the same old views of Venice that have been photographed by thousands of other – amateur and professional – photographers before me.
Finally, though, I managed to take one of my most favourite photos of Venice. It happened exactly in the heart of the city’s major tourist hotspot – St. Mark’s Square – but I was looking at it from a completely new for me point of view.
It happened on a guided visit to St. Mark’s Clocktower. This splendid structure is often overlooked by travellers in favour of the nearby St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge’s Palace. To get a bird’s-eye view of Venice, on the other hand, people head up the St. Mark’s Campanile which offers dizzying panoramas of Venice and its lagoon.
If you want to get a fantastic yet an intimate panorama of Venice from above though, hear me out and head to St. Mark’s Clocktower. From its top, on one side you will see the red rooftops and the rooftop terraces (called altana) of Venice and on the other – the whole of St. Mark’s Square in all its historical glamour. You will feel like you are hovering right above the city and yet, you will be able to see it all, up close and personal like you are peeking through a window that has been left open especially for you. You will feel like you are part of Venice instead of simply observing this gorgeous and exciting city from afar.
As the St. Mark’s Clocktower can only be visited as part of a guided tour organised at particular time slots by the nearby Museo Correr, not a lot of people get to experience the beautiful views from the clocktower’s top. Don’t miss it though, if you have a chance!
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3. Table with a View in Nesso, Lake Como
A table laden with good food, a small picturesque town and one of the greatest Italian lakes right at your feet!
What more can you ask for?!
I felt that right at that moment in time, my life was complete. We were guests at the house of two of my husband’s oldest friends. It was right at the end of February but the weather was sunny and pleasantly warm. The clear air making me feel like I could open my wings and fly. Instead, I stayed firmly rooted at the table where over a leisurely lunch we all caught up and shared stories about what’s going on in our lives.
This is the setting – almost cinematic in how perfect it was. All thanks to two people who know how to create a home – a warm and comfortable environment that you want to keep returning to.
4. Verona Seen from Piazzale Castel San Pietro
The first time that I visited Verona I couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. I remember seeing Arena di Verona (which was cool), Juliet’s House (but only the courtyard), Piazza dei Signori (the main buildings around it were covered with scaffolding so it didn’t impress me much), the Scaliger Tombs (but not really grasping who the Scaligers were) and then having ice-cream at a small gelateria at Piazza delle Erbe. So, it was good but nothing to write home about.
A typical touristy visit that you do to tick a city off your wish list without delving into the stories and the emotions behind it at all.
Thank God (or Fate or whoever one needs to thank in such cases), I had a chance to return to Verona again and again, and again.
I had a chance to discover its beauty, to walk its cobbled streets, to see deeper through its layers, to visit some of its many churches, to fall in love with the art you see everywhere in Verona – from the frescoed facades to the window displays of the antique shops.
Verona is beautiful and charming, and will get under your skin if only you would let her!
It is a bit of a cliche, but the best view of Verona (that I have managed to find so far) is certainly from Piazzale Castel San Pietro. You see the city stretched in front of your eyes. The river Adige curves and turns down there at your feet. The sky is blue, the air pulsates with birdsong.
And, I love it that this cypress tree gets right in the middle of my frame. It’s like it is reminding me that Verona can’t all be seen in a day. That you need to peel off one by one the layers of the city, its history and its art. And that behind every facade, every stone fence and every cypress tree in Verona there are yet more discoveries to be made.
5. The Ducal Palace Seen from the Park of the Resistance, Urbino
Urbino is one of the most important birthplaces of the Italian Renaissance. This is also where the renowned painter and architect Raphael was born. Nowadays, Urbino is a gorgeous University city and a worthy travel destination in the heart of the Central Italian region of the Marche.
Built on top of a hill, Urbino’s central point is, without a doubt, the beautiful Ducal Palace which dates back to the end of the 15th century. Having spent two hours visiting the palace earlier in the day, we scaled Urbino’s steep streets to the nearby Park of the Resistance (Parco della Resistenza) to enjoy a panoramic view of the city.
It was a beautiful day and the park was dotted with couples eating ice-creams on the grass. Kids were running amok in the adjacent playground. The bench with the best view had been commandeered by two Spaniards who were drinking beers and gossiping about their fellow Spanish students.
Urbino’s massive Duomo and the Ducal Palace were easy to find with my lense. Further beyond the city, we could see the Marche’s green hills. They rolled one after another, all the way to the horizon in a perfect display of how beautiful this corner of Italy is.
6. Magnolias in Full Bloom as Seen in Vicenza
Everyone goes a bit gaga over Italy’s purple wisterias. Yet, there is another purple miracle that happens here right as spring has sprung. Beautiful magnolia trees bloom in all their glory and make me suddenly stop in my tracks as I come across yet another one of them. Which is often.
There is a house right off Vicenza’s central part with the biggest magnolia tree I have ever had the luck and joy to see. It’s enormous and impenetrably covered with purple blooms. I look at it and I can see myself sitting on a swing tied up around a branch of this mighty tree, having fun like a child while purple petals snow around me.
The spectacle of the blooming magnolia trees is a short one, helas. It lasts about two-three weeks at most and it leaves me with a yearning in my soul. If there is a paradise or whatever happy place we are supposed to find on the other side of life, I want my version of it to be full with purple magnolias that bloom each spring for at least a month or two.
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7. Schio’s Piazza Alessandro Rossi and the Pre-Alps Seen from the Terrace of the San Pietro Church
A country is made of its people. One of the most exciting things to get up to in Italy is to observe the locals at what they do best – celebrating a seemingly never-ending series of festivities, fairs and events.
Here we are at the small town of Schio in the Northern Italian region of the Veneto. Decidedly off the trodden tourist track, Schio, nevertheless, is a treasure trove for the person interested in industrial archaeology and the rapid advancement of technologies in the 19th century. For its important role in the production of textiles, Schio was known as the Manchester of Italy – a moniker the locals are very proud of to this day.
In October of every year, Schio organises a city-wide festival to celebrate its industrial past. In the autumn of 2018, I had the chance to write an article for BBC Travel about this unique festival. If you want to read about it, please, click here.
I took this photo during one of the highlights of the festival – a tightrope walking act. To have a good look, we scaled the steps leading to Schio’s main church – Duomo di San Pietro. It’s built on a small height above the town’s main square – Piazza Alessandro Rossi. There is a wide terrace in front of the church offering a lovely view of Schio, its main square and the surviving tower of its medieval castle on top of a small hill. The amphitheatre of the Venetian Pre-Alps serves as a beautiful backdrop to this scene.
I loved taking this photo and capturing the crowd watching with bated breath the tightrope artist.
8. Temple of Valadier also known as the Church in the Cave in the Marche
Oh! Wow! This stunning octagonal church, known as the Temple of Valadier, was built in 1828 on the orders of Pope Leo XII. You will find it in the Central Italian region of the Marche. It stands in the vicinity of the small town of Genga and very near the visitors’ entrance of the Frasassi Caves – another of Marche’s natural wonders.
To reach the neoclassical Temple of Valadier – named after the architect Giuseppe Valadier who designed it – you need to walk up a paved path which follows the incline of a steep hill. It is a bit of a strenuous exercise but the views of the surrounding cliffs and hills more than make up for it.
You don’t see the temple almost until the very last minute of the walk which makes the visual impact even bigger. The smooth walls and the perfect shape of the Temple of Valadier contrast beautifully with the rough rocky surface of the cave.
Just a few steps away from the temple is the small, 10-centuries old Sanctuary of St. Maria Infra Saxa.
As you can imagine, I absolutely loved visiting and photographing the Temple of Valadier. It is a very peaceful, very beautiful and very whimsical place. Highly recommended if you find yourself in that part of Italy!
9. Punta San Vigilio at Lake Garda
The small promontory of San Vigilio is one of the most alluring places on the shores of Italy’s largest lake – Lago di Garda. In summer it’s buzzing with people eager to sun themselves on the nearby sandy beach and picnic in the shadows of the centuries-old trees in the sprawling olive grove.
In winter, Punta San Vigilio is almost totally deserted. This gives you a chance to go for a peaceful walk and spend some time just taking all that beauty in without being rushed by crowds of eager tourists.
The lake waters are usually very calm and clear so that you can see the beautiful array of pebbles on the bottom of the shallows. A gulp of cormorants spends their time relaxing on a nearby tiny islet.
It’s a magical spot where you feel like you have arrived just after a fairytale has reached its happy end.
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10. The View from Monte Grappa
Monte Grappa has a special place in Italy’s heart. This is where some of the most ferocious battles of the First and the Second World Wars were fought.
Nowadays, a Military Memorial Monument crowns the top of Monte Grappa. It incorporates an ossuary where the bones of thousands of soldiers – most of them unknown – lie. It is a sombre place to visit. Standing on top of the hill on a sunny day and looking down to the plains of the Veneto, it is difficult to imagine the horrors of war and the scale of suffering of thousands of people there only a century ago.
Yet, it is an important place to visit if you want to get to know Italy beyond the cliches. People fought on Monte Grappa and from their high vantage point they could see the lands that they were suffering and dying for. Every nation in the world has its own places of utmost sacrifice and Monte Grappa is one such place for Italy.
These are only ten of the very best views in Italy – a country where stunning views await you at every turn.
These particular ten places have touched me deeply, have awakened something in me, have made me dream or think or simply have made me stop for a moment and take their beauty in.
In your travels around Italy, try to come up with your own list of the ten best Italian views. These can be views of lush fields and hills, of awe-inspiring architecture, of medieval walled towns, of hilltop villages, of ancient mills, of deep lakes and fast rivers. It’s important that each place that you pick for your own top 10 speaks to you and leaves you with a memory you want to carry with you forever.
Enjoy Italy and its unforgettable views!
More Helpful Links:
- 18 of the Best Cities to Visit in Northern Italy (With Travel Tips and Nearest Airports)
- Top 15 Places to Visit in the Veneto, Italy – The Ultimate Guide
- Day Trips from Padua, Italy – Over 35 Unmissable Destinations in the Veneto, Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna
- Day Trips from Verona – 16 Destinations to Fall in Love With (With Travel Times and Train Tips)
- Day Trips from Vicenza, Italy – Over 90 of the Best Destinations
- 11 of the Best Day Trips from Venice (With Lots of Photos, Travel Times and Italy Train Tips)
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