What to See and Where to Go in Northern Italy
- 1 What to See and Where to Go in Northern Italy
- 1.1 Urtisei /Ortisei
- 1.2 Tre Cime di Lavaredo
- 1.3 Lago Maggiore
- 1.4 Cinque Terre
- 1.5 Genoa
- 1.6 Lago di Braies
- 1.7 Lake Carezzo
- 1.8 Lerici and Tellaro
- 1.9 Lago di Sorapis
- 1.10 Bergamo
- 1.11 Santa Margherita
- 1.12 Verona
- 1.13 Sirmione
- 1.14 Limone sul Garda
- 1.15 Mount Baldo
- 1.16 Trento
- 1.17 Venice
- 1.18 Milan
- 1.19 Como (Brunate)
- 1.20 Bellagio
Northern Italy knows how to impress us. With the Italian Alps (and the Dolomite mountain ranges, in particular), stunning lakes and mountain resorts, beautiful cities, and cute towns, it has something for everyone.
However, the question remains: What are the best places to visit in Northern Italy? This post will help you figure out about the most beautiful places to visit and the best towns and cities to visit (and lakes, and ….).
I admit – I am smitten. This part of the world is one of the most beautiful, and though I know there are still a few places that are on my personal Northern Italy bucket list, I have visited quite a bit already. And so I have compiled a list of the most beautiful locations in this part of the world – the best places to see and the best places to visit in Northern Italy.
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Here are the places I have lost my heart to and that should be included in your Northern Italy trip:
The Best Places to Visit in Northern Italy
This little village, located in the community of Val Gardena, is probably a place you have never heard of. But. It might just be one of the most beautiful mountain resorts in the Dolomites and one of the best holiday destinations in Northern Italy.
It is truly an absolutely stunning place, and whenever I look at the pictures on my phone, my heart leaps. The town is so lovely, colorful, and adorable that I was sad I had to leave (three nights in that small place did not seem like enough).
It is a popular winter destination, but I recommend visiting during any season.
If you are in Ortisei, you basically always have the Dolomites in view. This alone makes it pretty perfect, but there is more to see.
Urtisei is close to other top locations in the Dolomites, but you can stay in the town and stroll the town center, hike to St. Jacob´s Church, and enjoy the incredible views.
Tre Cime di Lavaredo
Northern Italy is not only about the Dolomites – but they play an important role as they are indeed unique.
The Tre Cime di Lavaredo (also known as Drei Zinnen) are three mountains in the Sexten Dolomites of northeastern Italy (all three are almost 300 meters high). They have UNESCO World Heritage status now, and it is very popular to hike in the area (downside: you have to pay 30€ for a regular car to drive into the natural park).
However, hiking in this area is probably one of the best things to do in Northern Italy – and the three mountains are one of the best attractions in Northern Italy.
Tip: If I could turn back time, I would have stayed in Toblach/Dobbiaco and visit several places, incl. the Tre Cime di Laveredo, from here. Click here for the best hotels rates in Dobbiaco.
The lakes in Northern Italy are stunning. There are several beautiful lakes, whether you are looking for a tiny, medium, or a big one: Northern Italy has them all.
Lake Maggiore is one of the biggest lakes, though it is split between Switzerland and Italy. Given its size and the numerous towns along its shores, the activities are endless. Whether you hike, bike, or stroll along the lake – or even hop into the water or love water sports – you will not get bored at Lago Maggiore.
Cinque Terre, of course, shouldn’t be missed on the list of the best places to go in Northern Italy.
This string of five towns on the Italian Riviera, in Liguria, is famous for its colorful seaside houses and a great combination of relaxed Italian village life and some outdoor activities, like swimming and hiking.
Each of the five villages is perched along the Ligurian Coast, in the northwestern part of Italy – Monterosso (the most northern town), Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. And while everyone has different tastes and has a different favorite town, it is without question that visiting Cinque Terre at least once in life is a bucket list experience.
My favorite city in all of Italy is probably Genoa (or Genova, as the Italians say), which is the capital of the northwestern state of Liguria. The port city is fun and one of the most underrated places in the whole country.
Visit the Romanesque Cathedral of San Lorenzo, stroll the fun harbor, wander the narrow and colorful streets, and enjoy amazing views of the city, which are accessible by the funicular or short hikes. And have you heard of the waterfall in Villetta di Negro? Well, hardly anyone has, which is a pity!
Head to Via Garibaldi, a breathtaking historic street populated by palatial residences and rest at the Piazza De Ferrari, surrounded by a water fountain and beautiful buildings.
Lago di Braies
Lago di Braies is often considered the most beautiful lake in South Tyrol, and it is definitely the most famous.
Its notoriety came about when a popular Italian TV show, “Un Passo Dal Cielo,” featured the lake, although they used another name – “Lago di San Candido.” Even so, there are now plenty of photographers, bloggers, and tourists visiting Lago di Braies from all over the world.
The best way to experience the lake in all its glory is by walking its shores. Going around the lake will take about 1-2 hours (its shoreline is 3 kilometers long), but it is well worth it. From each different angle, another gorgeous lake color will present itself.
If you’ll be visiting in the summer, rent a boat so you can enjoy more stunning scenery, right on the water. Click here to find out more about Lago di Braies.
Lake Carezzo is, in my opinion, the most beautiful lake in South Tyrol. Its waters reflect the gorgeous backdrop of the Dolomite Mountains and lush fir trees, making the scene truly picturesque.
Nature is at its best here. This unique lake is on the smaller side, and will only take about 10-15 minutes to circle, but it is still one of the top places to visit in Northern Italy.
Traveling to a lake in the mountains can take a little bit of time, but there are multiple transportation options – no hiking required. You can take a scenic drive through the mountains, either by bus or car, and once you’ve parked, you’ll be within steps of the beautiful Lake Carezzo. Find out more about this stunning lake
Lerici and Tellaro
Two of the prettiest places in Northern Italy (or all of Italy), conveniently located next to each other, are Lerici and Tellaro.
These two little gems on the Ligurian Coast offer colorful houses with great views, but are still not on the radars of many. And while they are small, these places are perfect for getting lost, relaxing, and enjoying the beauty of the region without the crowds.
Another lesser-known place is the fishing village of Porto Venere, with the Regional Nature Park, a colorful seaside promenade, Castello Doria (with amazing views), and St. Peter Church (that sits on a rock). Stroll the little streets of the old town before sitting down and just soaking in the beauty of the town. Personally, I thought it was one of the most beautiful places in Europe, and though it did not take more than a day to explore, it was one of the highlights of my recent travels.
Lago di Sorapis
While less famous than the previously listed lakes, Lago di Sorapis is by far the most special. If you are wondering what to do in Northern Italy, this should definitely make the list.
Located a few miles from the others, though technically in the region of Veneto, this lake doesn’t receive as much tourist traffic, which adds to its glamour.
I will be the first to admit that the hike isn’t the easiest (which probably accounts for its lack of popularity), but it is worth it. I accidentally chose the difficult hike, but there are easier ones – though the easiest still takes 2-3 hours (one way). Read about my travel tips for hiking Lago di Sorapis.
My best advice for visiting this gorgeous lake is to head out early in the morning. to avoids the crowds (yes, it can be crowded on sunny days).
Once you get to the lake, you’ll be glad you made the effort. Lago di Sorapis is definitely one of the most beautiful places in Northern Italy. Find out how to get to the lake – and how to avoid the mistake I made here.
All the above-mentioned lakes are close to each other, Lago di Sorapis, Lago di Braies and Lake Carreza as is Tre Cime di Lavaredo, so it does make sense to stay in one hotel at least for two or three nights and see all four places at once.
I have a detailed post on how to spend 5-7 days in the Dolomites – click here to find out more.
Bergamo is one of the best cities in Northern Italy to visit. Located only an hour from Milan, it is less expensive and crowded, but more beautiful – well worth seeing.
Make sure to plan in enough time for Citta Alta, the old town. It is full of lovely architecture, an adorable market square, and chic Italian people – perfect for wandering, picture taking, and people watching.
My advice is to enjoy the views from the Venetian Walls – walking along them is free of charge – and drop by the Cappella Colleoni, a church and mausoleum built in the 15th century that features a gorgeous interior.
Santa Margherita is picture perfect and different from the rest of Italy. It felt very neat and upscale, and it is perfect for just wandering the streets.
There’s a really nice harbor, a 17th-century palazzo – Villa Durazzo – where you can enjoy the gardens and a view of the town, and churches like Chiesa di Santa Margherita d’Antiochia. It is bigger than places like Lerici and great as a base to visit some of the other places nearby – but make sure to plan in at least one day for this little city itself!
Verona has one of the best tourist attractions in Northern Italy. As the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, the chance to visit Juliet’s house and balcony really brings in the crowds. But that’s not the only thing to do in Verona and so it does not surprise it is one of the best cities to visit in Northern Italy.
Spend some time strolling the colorful and lively Piazza Bra and Piazza delle Erbe.
Explore the Aldige River. It is bisected by pretty bridges along the way, including the Ponte Pietra, a famous Roman arch bridge.
Visit the Verona Arena, located next to the Piazza Bra. Built in the 1st century, even before the famous Colosseum in Rome, it now hosts operas and concerts. Find out more about this gorgeous city Verona here.
My tip: Stay overnight in Verona – I did not and it was one of my biggest regrets that I just came for one day to this gorgeous city. Find the best hotel rates for your stay in Bergamo here
Located on a peninsula of the southern shore of Lake Garda, Sirmione is one of the best places to travel in Northern Italy. Lively and busy, especially during the high season, there is plenty to do here.
Set between ancient Roman ruins and Rocca Scaligera, a medieval castle, Sirmione offers walkways and streets that are lined with ristorantes, pizzerias, and gelaterias. The town is also famous for its thermal water, which is renowned for its healing properties.
This is a great base for visiting other points of interest in Northern Italy as well. With boat and ferry services, as well as car parks, you can get around Lake Garda easily.
Limone sul Garda
Planning what to do in Northern Italy? Don’t forget to plan a visit to Limone!
This is one of the cutest villages I have ever come across in Europe. It’s incredibly charming and the perfect place for pictures.
This town may be famous for lemons, but the flowers that can be found all around were what made Limone so special. There are tons of lovely houses, a harbor you can visit, and plenty of picturesque scenery to enjoy, too.
Right off of Lake Garda, you can take a boat to the neighboring town of Malcesine and enjoy an afternoon on the water. It’s just one more way to take in some of the best attractions in Northern Italy.
Read more about Limone and my I think, it is the most beautiful town at Lake Garda.
Another one of Northern Italy’s most beautiful places is Mount Baldo. Located in Trento and Verona, and part of the Italian Alps, this mountain range is magnificent.
It runs parallel to Lake Garda on one side and creates some beautiful scenery that you will not want to miss. Make sure you have your camera ready, as the vibrant colors of the trees, soaring mountaintops (the maximum elevation reaches 2,218 meters), and shining lake surface offer great images for you to take home.
Sentiero della Pace, or the “Peace Trail,“ leads over the range, but the easiest way to reach Mount Baldo is by cable car. You can access it from the town of Malcesine. Ticket rates vary, but were around 12-15 euros (more during the holidays).
Malcesine is the perfect base for your trip to Mount Baldo – click here to find the perfect accommodation in Malcesine here
Unique and real, Trento is the capital of Trentino and the perfect stop if you’re looking to experience Italian city life.
I recommend visiting the Piazza del Duomo and the old town, which might be one of the most authentic Italian towns in the country.
In the city center sits Buonconsiglio Castle. You can see lots of interesting artwork inside and also enjoy nice views.
Sardagna Mountain is another great place to visit. You can take the funicular, or if you prefer, hike up. This is the perfect place to end your day, as you watch the sunset and take in the views of the city of Trento below. Here are my travel tips for this gorgeous place.
Venice is one of the best places to see in Northern Italy. With so many attractions, you’ll probably need1.5 to 2 days.
The city of bridges and iconic canals is gorgeous and will keep you busy your entire stay.
Plan in at least 4-6 hours for a trip to Burano: Take a 40-minute boat tour to one the most interesting places in Northern Italy – Burano. This island is eye-poppingly colorful, so try to make time for a visit.
In Venice itself, see and stroll one of the best tourist places in Northern Italy, Piazza San Marco. This is Venice’s main square and the heart of the city. It is not to be missed. It is home to several tourist attractions.
The majestic St. Mark’s Basilica is worth seeing, despite the lines. If you love architecture, this church is a renowned example of the Italo-Byzantine style. If you prefer getting your views from above, I suggest San Marco Campanile. You can take a lift to the top of the tower to enjoy amazing views of the city.
Stroll along the Grand Canal. If you don’t feel like walking, take a gondola ride for a leisurely view from the water. Here are my travel tips for charming Venice.
Let´s start with a city in the north of Italy that I have a difficult relationship with: Milan. If you are not a fashion addict, Milan might not be your favorite place in Italy. After two visits, I am still torn. It lacks some charm. Unlike many other places in Italy, I did not fall in love with Milan, but it is still a beautiful city to visit.
In its defense, I visited Milan both times in the summer (and July and August are definitely not the best times to visit because the heat is insane).
But here is why it is still a bucket list destination: The Milan Cathedral is impressive. Whether you visit early in the morning, noontime, or in the evening, the cathedral is always a beauty. You can also climb up to enjoy the views over Piazza del Duomo.
Another attraction is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping mall – an open shopping area with interesting architecture, in which several luxury stores are located.
Tip: The Dorchester hotel was absolutely amazing – if you enjoy luxury hotels this is my tip. Here are more hotels in Milan for each budget
One of the most beautiful towns to visit in Northern Italy is Brunate at Lake Como.
Located close to the borders of Switzerland, Austria, and Germany, it brings in tourists from all over.
Como is one of the provinces that makes up the Lake Como area. And within Como, is Brunate. Brunate is a small town that sits about 500 meters above Como, affording you gorgeous views of the lake below.
Como has more than its fair share of attractions for the region. The old town is so cute, and is perfect for wandering and just taking in the sights.
The promenade and market square are also a point of interest, though not the prettiest I have seen, but still worth a look. Grab lunch at one of the restaurants and enjoy views overlooking the lake.
There are great boat tours available that will take you out and show you the villas of famous residents (such as George Clooney). Even more fun is the speedboat tour on Lake Como. On a hot day, this is a great way to enjoy your sightseeing with the wind in your hair.
Want to check out hotels in Lake Garda straight away? Then click here to find the best hotels in Lake Garda
Another tip for the best place to visit in Northern Italy is…Bellagio. Full of romantic little shops, the pretty and famous staircase, and the gorgeous promenade, Bellagio is one of the best places to go in Northern Italy. I consider it even more picturesque than Como.
There are many cafes and places to eat, but I highly recommend Trattoria Baita Belvedere. It has delicious regional food, nice atmosphere, and amazing panoramic views over Lake Como.
If you are interested in cycling, you can visit the Madonna del Ghisallo museum. The views are nice here, as well.
While Como didn’t blow my mind, Bellagio did. This is definitely one of the best places in Northern Italy to spend some time and get the best perspective on Lake Como.
As you can see, there are so many amazing Northern Italy places to visit that it’s hard to narrow it down. But I hope that this list has helped you.
If you’ve been wondering what to do and where to go in Northern Italy, these places will not disappoint. There are a few places that I haven’t been to yet – but are great places to see in Northern Italy and these (my Northern Italy bucket list):
More Places to Visit in Northern Italy
Here are a few places that I would love to visit but haven’t visited yet – so I did not want to leave them out.