A Perfect Northern Italy Itinerary – 7-10 Days in Northern Italy
Italy is surely one of the prettiest countries in the world. With many stunning destinations in Northern Italy alone, it is hard to create a perfect Northern Italy itinerary.
After spending about one month in that region (over several trips), I felt like I needed another month to see more of the best places to visit in Northern Italy.
However, most of us are not fortunate enough to spend months exploring each part of this beautiful place, so here are my tips for places to see in Northern Italy, if you only have one week to 10 days.
TRAVEL TIPS FOR NORTHERN ITALY
Okay, let´s start with some important Northern Italy travel tips.
Best Time to Visit
I suggest visiting Northern Italy from September to October, and in the spring. Summer tends to be extremely hot and even more crowded (Italy is one of the most popular places to visit in the world) than it is at other times.
I figured out that the times I enjoyed Northern Italy the most were in September and June.
How to Get Around
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.
While traveling, you can either get around via car or by public transportation.
By Car / Motorcycle
Streets in Northern Italy are actually good and driving is not as stressful as it probably is in central or even south of Italy. However, gas prices here are some of the most expensive in Europe.
And tolls are also very expensive in Italy (and while you can avoid them, this means longer travel times and narrower streets more often). Using the freeways costs around 0.80 or a bit more per 10km.
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.
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. And Italians tend to drive different… then, let’s say, Germans.
Train rides in Italy are actually pretty good and comparably affordable.
Accommodation in Northern Italy
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.
Also, the standard in Italy 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.
Every region in Italy has a different tax that will be charged on top of the room rate (which is about 1-3€ a night per person).
Airbnb might be a good alternative if you like to save or stay with locals.
Italian is the official language, though German and Landin are also official languages in some parts of South Tyrol. Basic English is widely spoken in the tourism sector.
Italy has an amazing cuisine. As a vegetarian, 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. However, in popular tourist spots, there are some tourists traps and prices can be totally over the top. I suggest looking for cafes and restaurants on the side streets.
Also, keep in mind that in Italy, there is a “Coperto,“ which is a kind of service charge. 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.
What to Pack for Italy
I have a detailed post on what to pack for your Europe trip – check it out here.
Particularly in touristy places, pickpockets are common and you should really watch your belongings.
Never leave your valuables unattended, and exercise common sense.
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.
Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links which mean 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.
Best Places to Visit in Northern Italy in 10 Day (or One Week)
Let´s get started with the top attractions in Northern Italy to see in a one week or 10 days.
Depending on the time of your arrival, I suggest spending one full day in Bergamo.
Bergamo is a beautiful city located just one hour from Milan, and it is a real gem. It is less crowded and less expensive than Milan, but prettier. Yes, it is a must-see place in Northern Italy.
Places to Visit in Bergamo
- Explore the old town (Citta Alta) and fall in love with the pretty buildings, its cute market square, and the lovely 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 doesn’t start with visiting Milan. While I understand the urge to visit the fashion capital, I can say that I was underwhelmed when I was there. Despite the fact that 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 it that much. The cathedral and the shopping center, Emmanuel, is beautiful, but it doesn’t have many points of interests like other places in Italy (no offense, dear people from Milano, just my impressions after two visits). Find out more in this detailed post with things to do in Bergamo.
Depending on the time of your arrival, I suggest staying at least 2.5 days at Lake Garda.
The reason why I prefer Lake Garda over Lake Como (which I visited twice) is that 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 liked Lake Como enough to visit twice and really liked Bellagio; however, if I had to choose (which I have in this case), then I really recommend Lake Garda – even though it is more crowded than its snobbier counterpart, Lake Como.
Places to Visit 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 Sirmione. This is probably almost a full day activity. With its pretty old town and the harbor, it is perfect for nice strolls.
- Got curious and want to find out more about the best places at Lake Garda? Then click here.
Click here to find the best hotels and best rates at Lake Garda or just head to my Lake Garda accommodation guide.
Verona is an absolutely amazing city that should be on any 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 Colesseum in Rome and located right next to the Piazza Bra, it is a must-see place.
- Visit Juliet´s house and balcony and experience some real tourist crowds.
- Stroll the Aldige River for a nice and less crowded place that is still along the pretty Aldige River. 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):
Click here to read my detailed post on Verona – with the best things to do and important travel information.
Find the best hotels and the best rates for your stay in Verona by clicking here
With these places you have seen some amazing places in Northern Italy already, but here are a few more places to come (though Turin is not mentioned here, you could add it to your itinerary as well Click here, to read more).
South Tyrol / Trentino
I have recently discovered a part of Italy that is absolutely amazing – Trentino and South Tyrol.
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 so much more than just stunning mountains.
The most beautiful lakes in Italy are here, cute mountain villages, and of course, it 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 in some time for visiting each area.
If you enjoy more city life, then Trento can be your first stop. This 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 Sargadna 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
Click here to find the best rates and hotels for your stay in Trentino
Things to Do in the Dolomites
As mentioned above, the distances in the mountainous regions might not seem like much, but it takes time, so I suggest staying in Trento for only one day and booking an 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); however, 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 a lot of 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 needed to arrive at this mountain lake).
- Hike to Lago di Sorapis. I chose this difficult hike, but even the easier hike isn’t easy. But if you are a bit experienced, you will be rewarded with the most unique mountain in Italy. Plan in at least half a day for this beauty.
- Hike around the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. Hiking around what is probably the most famous mountains in the region is perhaps the best hike you can take in Northern Italy.
Click here to find the best rates and best accommodations in the Dolomites region.
Venice is probably the best place to end your 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, then 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 the northeast of Italy, is a main tourist hotspot for a reason – it is absolutely fantastic.
From Venice, it takes about 1.5 hours, but it is absolutely worth it. The city of bridges is as iconic as it gets. While you could spend more than 1.5 days in the city, this is the absolute minimum.
You will probably need one day in Venice and half a day for visiting Burano, a small island that you can reach after a 40-minute boat tour from Venice.
Things to Do in Venice
- Stroll Piazza San Marco. Though this is not a hidden gem, 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 view 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 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.
- 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 just an extremely colorful place. And when I say colorful, I really mean colorful!
- Here is more on Burano and I have also written a detailed post on Venice – just click here to read more.
- Tip: Venice is very crowded most time of the year – when visiting Venice make sure to book activities (like St. Mark´s Basilica) in advance if you don’t like to stay in line for hours. Find the best rates for tours and activities in Italy and Verona here.
Staying in Northern Italy for two weeks? First of all, this is a great decision and you surely will not regret it – there are many more places for your Northern Italy itinerary and here is how I would spend the extra four days (so what I can tell you is that I would spend all 4 days in the beautiful region of Liguria – a region located northwest of Italy and one of the most colorful and prettiest in all of Italy.
It is home to the famous Cinque Terre villages, as well as more hidden gems on the coast and one of my most favorite cities in Europe – Genoa!
So, if you want to add Liguria to your itinerary, then 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.
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 (I know, this place is hyped and it is beautiful. but there are even prettier places around and in one day you can see the top places), here are my travel tips for Cinque Terre in one day.
Santa Margherita – Portofino – 1 Day: Portofino, a small fishing village at the Ligurian Coast, is very popular amongst visitors from all around the world. It is quite small, so strolling the pretty village takes a few hours maximum, and 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 consider 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. The blog post will be up in a few days, s, for now,w you can just trust my words and plan a visit to Porto Venere and find out more in a few days here.
Where to Stay in Liguria: As mentioned, I would not stay in Cinque Terre – it 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, then La Spezia would be the best choice.
From there, you can easily get around by car or train (however, 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).
I hope this post helps you find the most beautiful places in Northern Italy. Of course, there are places like Turin or Florence that aren’t on the list, but this would have involved too much time in the train/car. I suggest coming to Italy and doing a more central tour another time.