Our Northern Italy itineraries have got you covered whether you’re planning to spend a weekend, week, two weeks or a month in Northern Italy – from a weekend in the Italian Lakes area and one week in Northern Italy on a one-week gourmet road trip or art and architecture adventure to a month in Northern Italy taking in the best of the region.
Stylish, sophisticated and seductive, and oozing history and culture from every cobblestone, cultured and affluent Northern Italy might be home to the country’s most industrialised regions but it also boasts many of Italy’s most compelling sights which can easily be visited on our Northern Italy itineraries.
There are enough engaging cities, enchanting lakes, mountain resorts, and charming villages to occupy you a lifetime. But if you only have a weekend or a week in Northern Italy, we’ve got you sorted – whether it’s 48 hours on the Italian Lakes, a weekend in Milan or Turin, or a month-long grand tour of Northern Italy, you’ll never be bored and you won’t go hungry.
Northern Italy Itineraries – How to Spend a Weekend, Week and Month in Northern Italy
Weekend in Northern Italy
One of our favourite Northern Italy itineraries calls for a leisurely weekend in Northern Italy focused around the Italian Lakes, a popular stop on the European grand tour. Fly into Milan or Bergamo airport, pick up a hire car and begin your exploration with Lake Como, the most breathtakingly beautiful expanse of water of all.
Check into one or two of the sumptuous old grand hotels that dot the lakeside and spend a day or two driving a circuit of Lake Como, calling in to Como, Bellagio, Menággio and Varenna, exploring the gorgeous lakeside gardens and villas, grazing your way through local markets and dining at waterfront restaurants.
If you have the luxury of a long weekend, drive west and spend another couple of days exploring Lake Orta and Lake Maggiore, making sure not to miss the sweet village of Orta San Giulio, grand Verbania, and one of the most alluring lakeside villages of all, Cannóbio.
One Week in Northern Italy – A Food and Wine Road Trip
If you have one week in Northern Italy then we recommend a one-week gourmet road trip focused on the finest food and wines of Northern Italy. One of the most delicious Northern Italy itineraries you can do, which will give you a great taste of the many gastronomic delights of Italy’s north, is focused on the regions of Emilia-Romagna and Lombardia.
Emilia-Romagna is home to Parmigiano Reggiano (also known as Parmesan cheese), cured meats, pastas such as fettucini, tortellini and tortelli, and balsamic vinegar. It boasts a number of mouthwatering food museums that offer food tours and tastings.
In Emilia-Romagna, spend a night each in Parma, Modena and Bologna, home to some of Italy’s best trattorias serving up hearty pastas and local specialties, such as horse meat.
Parma is the place to head to a salumeria to buy proscuitto crudo (raw cured ham) and aged Parmigiano Reggiano, or go direct to the source at Reggio Emilia, the birthplace of the crumbly aged cheese.
In Modena, visit the world’s oldest delicatessen, Salumeria Giusti, dating to 1605. Modena is where to buy the world’s best aged balsamic vinegar, Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale di Modena.
In Bologna, amble the narrow market lanes off the main square and let your nose lead you to the mouthwatering aromas wafting from the stores selling delicious cheeses, meats and the local specialty, mortadella. Bologna is also home to ragu all Bolognese, the slow-cooked, minced meat pasta sauce known simply as Bolognese in many parts of the world.
In Lombardia, enjoy inventive contemporary cuisine with a long leisurely degustation menu at one of the many Michelin-starred restaurants on one of the Italian lakes or in Milan.
Wine buffs can match their local specialties with regional wines. Try sparkling Lambrusco in Modena and a serious Colli di Parma in Parma, and don’t miss a robust Sangiovese or light Trebbiano di Romagna. In Milan, you must call into Peck, a temple to all things delectable, to buy some Northern Italian treats to take home.
One Week in Northern Italy – An Art and Architecture Journey
You could also spend a week in Northern Italy focused on appreciating the wonderful array of great art and architecture of the region. If you want to cram in as much as possible do a road trip or travel by train through the region, spending three days in Venice, two days in Milan, and a day each in Genoa and Turin, all of which boast outstanding art museums, iconic works of art, and architectural gems.
Another one of our favourite Northern Italy itineraries, this art and architecture focused journey begins in Venice, home to the Gallerie dell’Accademia and Peggy Guggenheim Collection, both world-class art museums. Venice’s Piazza San Marco, which Napoleon called ‘the world’s most beautiful drawing room’, is the address of two of Italy’s finest buildings, Basilica di San Marco and Palazzo Ducale.
Then there are the architectural treasures that line the Grand Canal, from Gothic Ca’ Foscari and Ca’ d’Oro and the Renaissance Palazzo Vendramin-Calergi and San Giorgio Maggiore to the Baroque Ca’ Rezzonico, Santa Maria di Nazareth and San Stae.
In Milan you have the wonderful Pinacoteca di Brera, Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, Museo Poldi-Pezzoli, and Leonardo da Vinci’s Il Cenacola (The Last Supper) at Santa Maria delle Grazie church.
In Turin, you have to visit the Galleria Sabauda (home to the vast Savoy art collections) and Museo d’Arte Antica (with over 30,000 art pieces from the Middle Ages), and in Genoa, Palazzo Reale and Galleria Nazionale. Milan, Turin and Genoa also boast splendid cathedrals, churches, palaces, and castles.
Two Weeks in Northern Italy – the Region’s Best Cities and Towns
With two weeks in Northern Italy, you can sample the best of the Northern Italian regions by train or car, beginning and ending in Milan and Venice. This is one of the best of the Northern Italy itineraries for first-timers to the region.
You can spend a couple of days each in the cities of Milan, Turin, Genoa and Venice, easily Italy’s most engaging cities, with additional overnight stops in between in some of Northern Italy’s most compelling towns, such as Bergamo, Parma, Modena, Bologna, and Verona. Alternatively, if you prefer slow travel, you could break up your city stays with some down time in the countryside.
If you’re not road-tripping through Northern Italy and you’re taking the train, you could hire a car for a few days for a drive through the pristine Dolomites (easily accessible from Verona), the tranquil Italian Lakes (from Milan for Lakes Como, Maggiore and Orta, and from Verona for Garda and Iseo), and the ruggedly beautiful Cinque Terre and highlights along the way such as Portofino (picture above) and Camoglio (all a short train ride from Genoa), and enchanting Valle d’Aosta (close to Turin).
One Month in Northern Italy – A Northern Italy Grand Tour
In one month in Northern Italy you can do a Northern Italian grand tour and cover the whole region, and this is easily my favourite of the Northern Italy itineraries allowing a couple of days in the region’s major cities and single nights in towns and villages. From Milan, head for Como and spend some time exploring the Italian Lakes.
Drive down to Turin and then continue on to Genoa via Asti. Next stop should be Portofino and Camiglio, then the Cinque Terre. Embark on a road trip through the Emilo-Romagna towns of Parma, Modena and Bologna. From there, Ravenna and Ferrara are easy drives away.
Tackle Venice next. Parking is expensive and a nightmare, so make advance arrangements with your hotel. From Venice, you could travel on to Trieste and Udine, then to Cortina d’Ampezzo, Bolzano, Trento, Verona, and Bergamo, before returning to Milan. Phew.
If that pace is too fast for you, cross some cities out and instead spend more time relaxing at the Lakes, five days hiking between the Cinque Terre villages, and a few days walking or skiing the Dolomite mountains.