PLAN A PERFECT NORTHERN ITALY ITINERARY (10 DAYS +)
With many stunning destinations in the region alone, it is hard to create a perfect Northern Italy itinerary. However, here are my suggestions for spending amazing 7-14 days in Northern Italy.
Italy is surely one of the most stunning countries in the world, and after spending more than one month in that region (over several trips), I still want to explore more. However, most of us are not fortunate enough to spend months exploring each part of this beautiful place. Here is how to see the best of Northern Italy in quite a short amount of time.
Okay, let´s start with how to get around Northern Italy, before discussing your actual itinerary. Then, at the end of the post, you will find many answers to FAQ.
How to Get Around North Italy in 10 Days
I visited Northern Italy several times by car but also got to travel by plane and public transportation. If you don’t come from Germany, France, or Switzerland, I suggest flying into Bergamo and leaving from Venice.
MOTORCYCLE / CAR
Streets in Northern Italy are actually good, and driving is not as stressful as it probably is in the central or even south of Italy. However, gas prices here are some of the most expensive in Europe.
Tolls are also costly in Italy (and while you can avoid them, this means longer travel times and narrower streets more often). Using freeways costs around 0.80 Euros or more per 10km. That is quite pricey.
Also, many city centers are car-free (or just residents can drive there), and you have to pay high fines if caught driving there (even if your GPS tells you to).
Parking can be tricky as well at popular hotspots, and of course, pricey. Northern Italy is a heaven for motorcyclists – those serpentines (windy mountain streets) attract people from all over the world, so don’t be surprised if you see many in the summertime. Here are my tips for organizing a perfect road trip.
However, if you plan a Northern Italy road trip nonetheless, make sure to find the best rental car.
I would suggest taking the train for this 10-day trip. You don’t have that much flexibility, but neither do you have so much responsibility (because Italians drive a bit crazy).
Train rides in Italy are actually pretty good and comparably affordable. Depending on the place you stay in the Dolomites, you also get a public transportation card and can use buses for free in a certain area.
However, buses don’t run that often – except for cities – but in general, it is still easy and manageable to get around by public transportation in Italy only.
10 DAYS IN NORTHERN ITALY – WHERE TO STAY
Many places in Italy are quite expensive, including the places I name here. Though I have added a few hidden gems (that are less expensive), you will pay high prices in Venice or even Lake Garda. However, if you book in advance (or super last-minute) and do some research, you can find some good deals.
Italy’s standard isn’t the highest, but that doesn’t mean a three-star hotel is bad. I just read reviews carefully and haven’t had a bad experience – whether I booked a 5-star or 3-star hotel.
In Italy, every region and even every city charges a different tax on top of the room rate (about 1-3€ a night per person).
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. This means I might earn a small commission when you buy a product (at no extra cost for you) after clicking on my link. More about it here.
ITINERARY FOR NORTH ITALY
Let´s get started with the top attractions to see in 7, 10, or 14 days in Northern Italy.
Bergamo – 1-1.5 Days
Depending on your arrival time, I suggest spending one full day in Bergamo. This beautiful city is located just one hour from Milan, and it is a real gem. It is less crowded and less expensive than Milan – but much prettier and worth a trip.
However, with only 7 days in North Italy, I would probably skip it because there are other great places. With 14 days in North Italy, add it to your itinerary.
THINGS TO DO IN BERGAMO
- Explore the old town (Città Alta) and fall in love with the pretty buildings, cute market square, and beautiful and stylish Italian people.
- Walk the Venetian Walls and enjoy the views from there – a fun and free activity to enjoy in Bergamo.
- Pay a visit to Cappella Colleoni. The beautiful interior makes this a travel highlight.
This itinerary does not include Milan. While I understand the urge to visit the fashion capital, I can say that I was underwhelmed when I was there. Although I was unimpressed on my first visit, I visited it a second time.
You know, give the place a second chance. I still did not like Milan that much. The cathedral and the shopping center, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, in Milan are beautiful. Really stunning actually. Still, it is not as interesting as many other places in Italy (no offense, dear people from Milano, just my impressions after two visits).
- Find out more in this detailed post about things to do in Bergamo.
WHERE TO STAY IN BERGAMO
Bergamo does not have the same price tag attached that Milano or Lake Como have, so if possible, book a hotel right in the uphill old town (Città Alta). It might be more expensive than Citta Bassa (Lower Bergamo), but you are right in the most charming district.
Also, keep in mind that there is an extra tax that often isn’t shown when booking a hotel.
- ➡️ Book your stay at luxury accommodation in Bergamo and get the best rates.
- ➡️ Click here to find the best mid-range hotels for your trip to Bergamo
- ➡️ Here are some great budget hotels and hostels in Bergamo.
Lake Garda – 2-2.5 days
When planning your itinerary, I highly suggest planning at least 2.5 days at Lake Garda. However, if you have only 7 days in Northern Italy, I would probably only stay 1-2 days.
I prefer Lake Garda over Lake Como (which I visited twice) because the towns of Lake Garda are prettier, and it is more affordable and fun (click here for my 1-7 day itinerary for Lake Garda).
I really liked Bellagio and some other places at Lake Como – however, if I had to choose (which I have in this case), I´d pick Lake Garda even though it is more crowded than its snobbier counterpart, Lake Como.
THINGS TO DO IN LAKE GARDA
- Explore Limone (one of the cutest villages I have visited in Europe so far) and bring your camera. The harbor, the pretty houses, and the flowers everywhere make this place picturesque and charming.
- Head from Limone to Malcesine via boat in the afternoon. The boat ride is fun, and you get to see another beautiful town of Lake Garda.
- Stroll around Sirmione. This is probably almost a full-day activity. With its pretty old town and the harbor, it is perfect for nice walks.
- Got curious and want to find out more about the best places at Lake Garda? Then click here.
WHERE TO STAY IN LAKE GARDA
I have written a more detailed post about the best places to stay in and around Lake Garda. In short, Sirmione in the south might be some of the best places to stay.
Check out the hotels in Sirmione here
For a luxurious experience, stay at the Grand Hotel Terme, which offers great amenities and a full English buffet.
If you are looking for a mid-range option, the Champagne Rooms would be a great choice, with helpful staff and a nice location. They also offer family suites, perfect if you’re traveling with your family.
Located right by Lake Garda’s shore, the lovely Hotel Porto Azzurro makes a good budget option.
Verona – 1 Day
Verona is an absolutely amazing city that should be on any Northern Italy itinerary. While it is mostly known as the setting for Shakespeare´s “Romeo and Juliette“ it has so much to offer to its visitors.
THINGS TO DO IN VERONA
- Stroll the Piazza Delle Erbe and Piazza Bra. Both piazzas are colorful, fun, and lively.
- Admire the Verona Arena. Older than the Colosseum in Rome and located right next to the Piazza Bra, it is a must-see place in Verona.
- Visit Juliet´s house and balcony and experience some real tourist crowds.
- Stroll the Adige River and enjoy a less crowded place along the water. And look out for some of the pretty bridges you will find along the way.
- Tip: To save money while enjoying the activities, get a Verona Card (I wish I had one).
- Click here to read my detailed post on Verona – with the best things to do and important travel information.
WHERE TO STAY IN VERONA
We, unfortunately, did only a day trip, but if I could turn back the hands of time, I would stay at least one night in Verona. It was much more beautiful than expected, and with 10 days in Northern Italy, you could stay at least the night so you can spend your evening there, too. If I had to choose accommodation in Verona, then I would pick this hotel.
Just a stone’s throw away from the iconic Verona Arena, you’ll find the charming Hotel Milano. Nestled in the heart of the historic center, this delightful spot boasts free WiFi, a rejuvenating spa and wellness center, and a mouthwatering breakfast buffet – complete with authentic Italian cappuccinos and scrumptious pastries.
Dolomites / Trentino – 2.5-3 Days
With these places, you have seen some amazing places in Northern Italy already, but here are a few more areas/cities to come (though Turin is not mentioned here, you could add it to your itinerary as well).
Trentino, with the city of Trento, and the South Tyrol region are breathtaking.
Even after staying there for more than a week, I couldn’t get enough. And while I admit that it is a bit far from Venice (about two hours to the capital city of Trentino, Trento), it is worth it, and you will see a completely different scenery. It looks nothing like the rest of Italy.
The Dolomites, a mountain range and UNESCO World Heritage Site, are located in the northeastern part of Italy and dominate the landscape, but it is more than just stunning mountains.
The most beautiful lakes in Italy are here, as are cute mountain villages, and of course, the area is great for hiking or any other outdoor activities. However, getting around here (either via car or public transportation) is often time-consuming as the region is mountainous, so you need to plan some time for visiting each area.
If you enjoy city life more, then Trento can be your first stop. This Italian hidden gem is authentic and real – you get a lot of Italy, which you don’t have to share with many others. Things to Do in Trento:
- Visit the Piazza del Duomo and the old town. The old town of Trento is probably one of the most authentic Italian towns you can experience.
- Explore the Buonconsiglio Castle. This lovely castle, in the city center, offers great views and interesting art.
- Enjoy views from Sardagna Mountain. Get the funicular and enjoy views of the city of Trento, or just hike up. It is also a great place to watch the sunset.
- Find a detailed post on the best things to do in Trento here
WHERE TO STAY IN TRENTINO
I guess that almost all hotels and official accommodations can provide the Trentino Guest Card for the guests. With this card, you can do many activities for free. While you could even stay at Riva del Garda, located right at the pretty Lake Garda, and would still receive a guest card, I suggest booking a hotel right in Trento for at least two nights.
Mid-Range – Hotel Buonconsiglio
4-Star hotel Hotel Buonconsiglio is a well-rated hotel right in the town center.
Mid-Range – Grand Hotel Trento
The Grand Hotel Trento is another very well-rated 4-star hotel in Trento that offers a guest card to its visitors and is one of the best hotels in town.
The Albermonaco is a 3-star hotel that is more budget-friendly (close to the city center and offers a Guest Card to its guests).
Eco- Farm Agriturismo Locanda de l’Arguta.
This is a lovely place I stayed at when I visited Trento – Agriturismo Locanda de l’Arguta. It was a good choice with a dog, and the location was charming. However, though it is close to the town center, you will still need a car to get there.
THINGS TO DO IN THE DOLOMITES
As mentioned above, the distances in the mountainous regions might not seem like much. Still, it takes time to get around, so you might want to consider booking your next accommodation close to Toblach, which is centrally located to the next few attractions you should add to your lake itinerary.
Visiting these four attractions in Northern Italy will take about two days. Of course, you could swap one place for a small mountain village (like Ortisei, which is absolutely lovely), but these three lakes are probably the prettiest in Italy.
Visit Lago di Braies (Lake Prags or Prager Wildsee), which has become extremely popular. Though you might have to share this place with many other tourists, it is worth it because the lake is located in an absolutely amazing piece of scenery (and no hike necessary).
Lago di Carezza is my favorite lake, though it might be disappointing when visited in winter or spring, as the water level isn’t high. But the backdrop is one of the best a mountain lake could have (no hike is needed to arrive at this mountain lake).
Hike to Lago di Sorapis. There are two trails, and none is very easy, but it is worth the hike. Plan in at least half a day for this beauty.
The Tre Cime di Lavaredo is perfect to enjoy some outdoor time. Hiking around the most famous mountains in the region is perhaps the best hike you can take in Northern Italy.
Read my post on the most beautiful lakes in the Dolomites with more detailed information – or check my Dolomites itinerary for more details.
WHERE TO STAY IN THE DOLOMITES
Picking the right accommodation in the Dolomites is extremely important. Due to its mountainous terrain and narrow roads, getting from one spot to the other can be really time-consuming.
Cristallo Hotel is one of the best luxury hotels in the region. It is part of the Luxury Collection Resort and is located close to the town center of Cortina.
Hotel Montana – I changed hotels spontaneously and booked a night in Cortina at this hotel. My arrival was a bit disappointing, but I really liked it once the receptionist and I solved the issues. The breakfast was quite good, and I liked the location (and it is great value for money).
Hotel Sorapiss is a well-rated medium-priced hotel near Lake Sorapis (and so a good base).
Hotel Lago di Braies – If you want to stay near Lago Braies (also a good choice), this hotel is perfect (with all the perks that come with it, like enjoying the lake early in the morning when no one else is around).
Venice – 1-2 Days
Venice is probably the best place to end/start your Northern Italy trip if you arrive and leave via plane, as it has an airport. If you don’t fly out but do a road trip or get around via train, you could do Venice first and then head to the Dolomites (especially if you come here from Germany or Switzerland, etc.).
Venice, located more towards Italy’s northeast, is a main tourist hotspot for a reason – it is absolutely fantastic. It is one of the most unique cities in the world. Then there is the colorful island of Burano.
From Venice to Burano, it takes about 1.5 hours, but it is absolutely worth visiting and you can easily combine it with a trip to Venice.
You will probably need one day in Venice and half a day to visit Burano, a small island that you can reach after a 40-minute boat tour from Venice.
THINGS TO DO IN VENICE
- Stroll around Piazza San Marco – it is one of the best things to do in Northern Italy.
- Visit St. Mark´s Basilica. Long lines are the norm, but if something is so pretty, everyone wants to see it, right?
- Enjoy the panorama from San Marco Campanile. Take a lift and enjoy the view from the tower. This is a fantastic way to see Venice from above.
- Walk along the Grand Canal. If you want to do a gondola ride or just stroll the beautiful canal, this is a place not to be missed.
- I have also written a detailed post on Venice – just click here to read more.
- Go on a half-day trip to Burano. It doesn’t get more colorful than Burano. I suggest adding it to your list even if you do not have much time because it is an extremely colorful place. And when I say colorful, I really mean colorful! Here is more on Burano.
- Tip: Venice is very crowded most of the year – when visiting Venice, make sure to book activities (like St. Mark´s Basilica) in advance if you want to avoid staying in line for hours. Find the best rates for tours and activities in Italy and Venice here.
WHERE TO STAY IN VENICE
Here are some recommendations for places to stay in Venice.
Venice has some great 5* hotels like the Gritti Palace. with a lovely view of the Grand Canal.
Mid-range – Antica Locanda Sturion Residenza d’Epoca
Travel back in time to the 18th century at Antica Locanda Sturion Residenza d’Epoca: antique furniture, silk wallpaper, and views of Rialto and Grand Canal.
The family-run Hotel Locanda Ca’ Foscari offers some hotel rooms with ensuite bathrooms, as well as cheaper rooms with shared bathrooms, at a good location close to a Vaporetto ferry stop.
Budget Near Venice – ao Hotel Venezia Mestre
If you plan to travel to Verona by train or need even cheaper accommodation, consider staying in Mestre, the first large city on the mainland. The ao Hotel Venezia Mestre is conveniently located near the train station. Recently built, it provides comfortable rooms as well as dorms, in a relaxed and friendly atmosphere.
Liguria – 4 Days
Staying for 14 days in Northern Italy? First of all, this is a great decision, and you surely will not regret it. I would spend the extra four days in the Liguria region. On the western coast, Liguria is home to the famous Cinque Terre villages and more hidden gems on the coast, and one of my most favorite cities in Europe – Genoa!
If you want to add Liguria to your itinerary, you can get there from Bergamo. Either head to Genoa directly (easy via train or car) or make La Spezia, near Cinque Terre, your base, and go on day trips.
THINGS TO DO IN LUGURIA
Genoa – 1 Day: One full day in Genoa is the minimum for this amazing city! The waterfall (which seems no one knows about) is just one place to see, and while I am working on my one-day Genoa itinerary, you have some tips on what to do and see in Genoa here.
Cinque Terre- 1 Day: Then spend one more day in Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre is hyped and it is beautiful. BUT there are even prettier places close to Cinque Terre which I will tell you about. So, one day in Cinque Terre is probably enough before you explore other areas close by. Here are my tips for Cinque Terre in one day or two.
Santa Margherita – Portofino – 1 Day: Portofino, a small fishing village on the Ligurian Coast, is very popular amongst visitors worldwide. It is quite small, so strolling the pretty village takes a few hours maximum, so I recommend combining it with a trip to Santa Margherita.
Since there is no train station in Portofino, my tip is to get by train (or car) to Santa Margherita (parking is expensive AF – 37,50€ for a full day and parking is limited), so I seriously recommend getting there by train.
From there, take a bus or boat to Portofino, and on your way back, discover the pretty town of Santa Margherita. Both places are beautiful – I like the latter even more, though it is not very famous amongst foreign tourists.
Porto Venere – 1/2 Day: This is probably one of my most favorite villages/places in all of Italy. You can get there easily from La Spezia by bus or boat, and it is quite small – so perfect for the last day before heading to one of the other destinations.
I think it is a must on any Northern Italy itinerary – and if you stay in the area for 7, 10, or 14 days try to fit Porto Venere in.
WHERE TO STAY IN LIGURIA
As mentioned, I would not stay in Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre is great if you do not want to get around much. However, if you want to see all the places in Liguria I mentioned above, La Spezia would be the best choice. La Spezia is a small town just in front of Cinque Terre.
From there, you can easily get around by car or train. I still recommend using public transportation in this area as it is pretty amazing, and there is plenty of free public parking in La Spezia – unlike many other places in Liguria.
- Click here to check out the best rates for your stay in La Spezia.
- ➡️ Book your stay at La Spezia here.
LAKE COMO – 1-3 DAYS
Lake Como is easily reachable and since it is surrounded by towering mountains and gorgeous shorelines that are dotted with picturesque villages, it‘s easy to understand why this beautiful lakeside oasis is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Europe!
However, it took me three trips to Lake Como to fall in love with the region myself. With 2 weeks in Northern Italy, you can add Lake Como to your itinerary – given its proximity to Bergamo, it would be the best to visit after/before Bergamo and Lake Garda.
THINGS TO DO IN LAKE COMO
- Visit Varenna with one of the most beautiful villas in Lake Como – Villa Monastero
- Bellagio is worth a trip – the beautiful town is a must-see
- For the best views head to Pigra and enjoy the panorama
- Villa del Balbianello is another place to add to your Lake Como itinerary
- Check out my post on the best places to visit around Lake Como for more tips.
WHERE TO STAY IN LAKE COMO
One of the most luxurious hotels in Como is this 4-star property – Villa Flori.
Mid-Range / Budget – B&B Hotel Como City Center
If you want something more budget-friendly and decide to stay in Como, check out this affordable but very well-rated hotel, B&B Hotel Como City Center where you get good value for money.
Luxury in Bellagio – Hotel Grand Villa Serbelloni
If you stay in Bellagio and want to splurge, then check out one of the most luxurious hotels in the area – Hotel Grand Villa Serbelloni.
Mid-Range in Bellagio – Domus Bellagio
For more budget-friendly accommodation in Bellagio, you might want to check out this 3-star hotel – Domus Bellagio – which is simple but comes with fantastic views.
NORTHERN ITALY: FAQ AND TRAVEL TIPS
Best Time to Visit Northern Italy
The best time to visit Northern Italy is from September to October, or in the spring from May to June – in my opinion. Summer tends to be extremely hot and even more crowded than it is at other times. As you know, Italy is one of the most popular places amongst visitors.
I enjoyed Northern Italy the most in September and June. It can be rainy, but overall, the weather was warm, and perfect for long strolls and beautiful hikes.
Languages in Northern Italy
Italian is the official language, though German and Ladin are also official languages in South Tyrol. Basic English is widely spoken in the tourism sector.
Food in Northern Italy
Italy has amazing cuisine. As I eat plant-based, I probably enjoy the southern Italian cuisine more than the food in Northern Italy, but there is no doubt that pasta and pizza are just delicious in Bella Italia. And so is ice cream/gelato. Obviously, there are some tourist traps in popular tourist spots and prices can be totally over the top. I suggest looking for cafes and restaurants on the side streets.
Also, keep in mind that there is a “coperto,“ which is a kind of service charge in Italy. Not all restaurants have it, and it can vary (mostly around 2-3€ a person). When a coperto is charged, leaving a tip isn’t really necessary, but appreciated.
What to Pack For Your Northern Italy Itinerary
I do not want to make this Northern Italy itinerary post even longer, so I have a detailed post on what to pack for your Europe trip – check it out here.
Safety Tips for 7-14 Days in Northern Italy
- Especially in touristy places, pickpockets are common, and you should really watch your belongings. Never leave your valuables unattended, and exercise common sense. Keep all your pockets closed with a zipper.
- If you travel by car, cover any items that might attract attention.
- Other than that, I felt quite safe in Italy, and if you keep that in mind, you will as well.
CONCLUSION: NORTHERN ITALY ITINERARY
I hope this post helps you plan your 10-day Northern Italy itinerary (or anything between 7-14 days).
Stunning places like Florence aren’t on the list, but this would have involved too much time on the train/car and I do not consider Florence to be in Northern Italy. I suggest coming to Italy and doing a more central tour and visiting Tuscany and Southern Italy.
Northern Italy is so rich in beautiful places, and you could spend months and years exploring it without getting bored. Since this often is not possible, these are the best places to visit in a short amount of time.