North Italy knows how to impress. The Italian Alps (and the Dolomite mountain ranges, in particular), stunning lakes and mountain resorts, beautiful cities & cute towns have something for everyone.
However, the question remains: What are the best places to visit in North Italy? This post will help you find out the most beautiful places to visit in Northern Italy – here are the best towns, cities, lakes, and more.
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 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. Let´s talk about all the beautiful places in this area.
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MOST BEAUTIFUL PLACES IN NORTH ITALY
Northern Italy is known for its breathtaking natural scenery, including the stunning lakes of Como and Garda, as well as the snow-capped peaks of the Dolomites.
The region is also famous for its high-end fashion and design, with cities like Milan serving as global centers for fashion and industrial design – so let´s get started and talk about the very 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 it is actually a lovely place to visit year-round.
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 – stroll the town center, hike to St. Jacob´s Church, and enjoy incredible views.
Tre Cime di Lavaredo
Northern Italy is not only about the Dolomites – but the Dolomites are indeed unique and so, I will add them here a couple of times. The Tre Cime di Lavaredo (also known as Drei Zinnen) are three mountains in northeastern Italy’s Sexten Dolomites (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 the region – and the three mountains are one of the best attractions.
Tip: If I could turn back time, I would have stayed in Toblach/Dobbiaco and visited several places, incl. The Tre Cime di Laveredo, from here.
The lakes in Northern Italy are stunning. There are several beautiful lakes, whether you are looking for a tiny, medium, or 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 this list. 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 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 a different favorite town, it is without question that visiting Cinque Terre at least once in life is a bucket list experience. Check out my Cinque Terre itinerary for more travel tips.
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 Italy.
Visit the Romanesque Cathedral of San Lorenzo, stroll the fun harbor, wander the narrow and colorful streets, and enjoy the city’s amazing views, which are accessible by 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 gorgeous 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 Carezza is, in my opinion, the most beautiful lake in the region (yes, more beautiful than Lag di Braies). 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 the 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 Carezza. 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 region’s beauty 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. Find out more about the gorgeous town here.
Lago di Sorapis
While less famous than the previously listed lakes, Lago di Sorapis (1,925 meters above sea level) is by far the most special. It is a lake in the mountain range Sorapiss in the Dolomites about 12 km away from Cortina d’Ampezzo. The turquoise color is dust from the glacier.
You can only get there by hiking or by helicopter. I will be the first to admit that the hike isn’t the easiest – 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).
Once you get to the lake, you’ll be glad you made an 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 mistakes 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. It is 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 elegant 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 busiest tourist attractions in Northern Italy. As Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet setting, the chance to see Juliet’s house and balcony really brings in the crowds – yet it is a gorgeous city to visit in Northern Italy.
Spend some time strolling the colorful and lively Piazza Bra and Piazza Delle Erbe. Walk along the Aldige River – pretty bridges bisect it 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 of Verona here.
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.
Sirmione at Lake Garda
Located on a peninsula of Lake Garda‘s southern shore, Sirmione is one of the best towns to visit in North Italy. Lively and busy, especially during the high season (summer), there is plenty to do here.
Set between ancient Roman ruins and Rocca Scaligera, a medieval castle, Sirmione offers walkways and streets 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. Often referred to as “the pearl of the islands and peninsulas,” Sirmione will not disappoint – and is one of my favorite places in Lake Garda.
Limone Sul Garda at Lake Garda
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 worldwide 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.
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 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, which you can access it from the town of Malcesine. Malcesine is also the perfect base for your trip to Mount Baldo!
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.
Beautiful and colorful Vurnao! You are in for a treat when you visit this island.
Burano is a small, picturesque island located in the Venetian Lagoon, just a short boat ride from Venice. The island is known for its colorful buildings, which are painted in vibrant shades of pink, yellow, green, and blue.
Wander the narrow, winding streets, explore the local shops and cafes, and take in views of the surrounding lagoon. The island is also famous for its intricate lace-making tradition, and you can purchase handmade lace products as souvenirs.
Burano’s unique beauty, charm, and cultural heritage make it one of the best places to visit in Northern Italy.
Plan in at least 3-6 hours for a trip to Burano: Take a 40-minute boat tour to one of the most interesting places – Burano. This island is eye-popping and colorful, so try to make time for a visit.
Venice is one of the best places to visit in Northern Italy because of its unique and magical atmosphere. The city’s intricate network of canals, stunning architecture, and rich cultural heritage make it a one-of-a-kind destination.
Explore famous landmarks such as St. Mark’s Square and the Rialto Bridge, wander through the charming streets and alleys, and experience the city’s world-renowned cuisine. Venice truly offers an unforgettable travel experience that’s hard to find anywhere else in the world.
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 – this amazing and most unique “street” in the world is a must-see. 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, at 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.
Located close to Switzerland, Austria, and Germany‘s borders, Brunate 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 famous residents’ villas (such as George Clooney). Even more fun is the speedboat tour on Lake Como. This is a great way to enjoy your sightseeing with the wind in your hair on a hot day.
Bellagio is full of romantic little shops, a pretty and famous staircase, and a gorgeous promenade. 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, a 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 – here is my post about the best things to do in Bellagio. This is definitely one of the best places in Northern Italy to spend some time and get the best perspective on Lake Como. Find a great Lake Como itinerary here.
Turin is a great place to visit for anyone interested in history, art, and cuisine. The city offers a range of cultural attractions, such as the Royal Palace of Turin, the Mole Antonelliana, and the Egyptian Museum, which boasts one of the largest collections of Egyptian artifacts in the world.
Another must-see attraction is the Superga Basilica, which offers stunning panoramic views of the city.
Explore the city’s charming cafes and restaurants, where they can indulge in Italian food. In addition, Turin is a great base for exploring the nearby wine regions of Piedmont, where visitors can enjoy wine tastings and tours of the picturesque vineyards.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON BEST PLACES TO VISIT IN NORTH ITALY
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. 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):