Unfortunately, the majority of us can only spend a week or two on holiday each year. And when we are talking about a country like Italy, that becomes a problem.
There's SO much in this incredible country that it's impossible to see everything you could want to in a week, or even a fortnight.
So, you have to pick a region and stick to that. Northern Italy sound good, right? Problem solved. Well, no. Again, it's hard to fit everything in that you'd want to see – luckily, that's where this article comes in. We're going to help you with the best trip across Northern Italy to take in the country's history, art, culture and beautiful landscapes. Oh, and of course we'll fit in some delicious food too.
If you like this trip idea, check our vacation packages in North Italy or fill out the form with your trip requirements to have a custom itinerary.
We start in Milan – both an air and rail transport hub, with excellent transport links without the city. Although it’s best-known for fashion and being Italy’s finance capital, there’s so much to see here that you will spend the whole day enjoying the delights the city has to offer.
Hopefully you’re not afraid of pigeons, because you’ll regret not fighting your way through them to enter the incredible Gothic cathedral. After that, head to the Sforza castle to take in the medieval renaissance castle which is home to art by the great masters Da Vinci and Michelangelo. However, for the most famous Da Vinci of all, head to Santa Maria delle Grazie, where you’ll find the Last Supper. Please note that it is almost impossible to access without pre-booked tickets. We suggest to book our guided tour of the Last Supper with skip the line tickets included!
After the last supper, it’s time for your first. Milano is an international city, so you will find food from all over the world, byt you definitely need to taste the typical ones, such as the risotto alla Milanese. Check our article about the best food specialties in Milan.
After a day in the city, make an early start to the train station for a 40-minute journey to Como. One of the most famous lakes in Italy, discover why so many superstars have fallen in love with the place. Wander along the shoreline, or take a cruise on the lake, admiring the palatial homes and islands topped with ornate villas.
If you’re a little more adventurous, why not try water-skiing or windsurfing? Or if you’re a little more chilled, just a swim in the refreshing waters.
Spend the night in one of 7 beautiful towns on the lake, taking a stroll round the cobbled streets. If you prefer you can go back to Milan in the evening. (Check our day trip to Lake Como and Bellagio from Milan).
Day 3 will see you almost at the Swiss border, taking in beautiful Lake Maggiore. Although there are a few train stations on the lake, this one is best done in a private car. Since it will drop you off where you choose, why not Stresa? The “Queen” of Lake Maggiore is in a perfect location to get panoramas of the lake, as well as visiting some of the lakeside villas, gardens, and parks.
After a day of relaxation on Lake Maggiore’s shores, it’s time to head back to the city. But not Milan this time, Turin, where you should try a delicious dish of vitello tonnato before settling into your accommodation.
Waking up in Turin will make you feel very elegant and North European. The baroque buildings, porticoes, and old-world cafés have a Germanic feel, lining huge wide-open squares. After a traditional bicerin coffee drink in the morning (it’s got chocolate in it), it’s time to see the main attractions. You’ve already spotted the huge building towering over the city, right? That’s the Mole Antonelliana, home to one of the best cinema museums in the world.
After a couple of hours there, take the lift to the top to get a panorama of the city. In that panorama, you’ll see the 16th century Royal Palace of Turin, home of the Savoy family. Also down there is the Egyptian Museum, which holds more than 30,000 Egyptian antiquities, one of the largest collections in the world. You might want to join a small group guided tour of the Museum to learn more about the history of these masterpieces.
Round the day off at the Madama Palace – now an art museum set across four floors.
After spending a great day in the city, you’re sure to be happy but tired out. So, head into the Piedmontese countryside and recharge. The Langhe area is a real treat for foodies, as the green rolling hills are home to a number of mouth-watering wines and cheeses. However, what they’re best known for are the white truffles of Alba.
For this day, it’s maybe best to get back to Turin in the evening to catch a high-speed train to your next stop – Bologna.
The capital of the Emilia Romagna region is one of Italy’s biggest cities and has a huge student population thanks to its prestigious university. Start your day with a coffee in one of the many cafes that line the Piazza Maggiore, the city’s central square. Admire the Renaissance buildings while taking in the tunes and voices of the street musicians.
Emilia Romagna is also well know for its delicious cuisine, so we highly recommend to try at least tortellini for lunch, with a good glass of wine. (Check our small group food &wine tour in Bologna).
Medieval towers dot the city’s skyline, so try to pick out the two most famous, Garisenda and Asinelli (which slightly leans). Make sure you visit the Fountain of Neptune and the Basilica di San Petronio before catching an evening train to your next destination… and yes, you’re right to be excited, that is on Lake Garda!
A trip to Northern Italy wouldn’t be complete without spending some time at the country’s biggest and arguably most famous lake, Lake Garda. Now, you can spend a whole week here so it’s best that you just stick to the southern shores of the lake.
Sirmione is one of the most beautiful towns not only on Lake Garda, but in the whole country. You’ll enter through the castle of the Rocca Scaligera, standing guard over the cobblestone streets, bobbing boats in the turquoise water, and quaint restaurants and gelaterias. After a delicious dinner, head back to the train station to catch a train to your final stop – Verona.
End you trip in the home of one of the most romantic love stories of all time. No, not that silly film Letters to Juliet, the real thing: Romeo and Juliet. Head to Juliet’s house, and stand on the balcony where Romeo serenaded Juliet, looking down into the square where her statue stands. Don’t leave without touching her breast, as it gives you luck in love. (Ps, we do know that they didn’t exist and Shakespeare never actually went to Verona, but it’s a nice place to visit all the same).
Of course, there’s more to the city than just the love story – take in an opera at one of the world’s best-preserved amphitheatres, the Arena di Verona, or stroll round the artisanal market in the Piazza delle Erbe. If you’re feeling brave, end your holiday with a dish you’ll only find in Verona – pastisada de caval, aka horse meat stew.
And that’s it! This itinerary will help you see the best Northern Italy has to offer. Verona Porta Nuova railway Station has excellent connections to, so if your flight home is from Milan, it’s just a high-speed train back there before you fly. If not, Verona has an international airport too, although it’s has more limited flights than the airports in Milan.