Best places to visit in northern Italy

written by
Kiki Deere

updated 29.12.2021

Italy ranks 2nd on our list of the most beautiful countries in the world, and indeed, Italy has it all: one of the most diverse and beautiful landscapes and impressive architecture. In our guide, we have focused on the best places to visit in northern Italy, from the stunning lakes to the Dolomites.

The information in this article is inspired by The Rough Guide to Italy, your essential guide for visiting Italy.

1. Turin

If you want to explore Piedmont, begin in Turin, the region's most famous city. Turin's renovated, gracious Baroque avenues and squares, opulent palaces and splendid collections of paintings, as well as appealing pedestrian-only areas, make it a pleasant surprise to those who might have been expecting satanic factories and little else.

Catch River Po for riverside walks, beautiful bridges and grand squares like Piazza Vittorio del Veneto and don't miss the grand Reggia di Venaria Royal Palace set in 60 hectares of grounds just northwest of Turin.

With this tailor-made Piedmont Discovery, you will explore Piedmont, a culinary heaven, with world-class wines and truffles and its capital city Turin, a cultural centre with a picture-perfect skyline. Afterwards, continue to the countryside around Alba, with wine tastings, cooking classes and enjoying the mountains and nature.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Turin.


Turin is one of the best places to visit in northern Italy

2. Lake Garda

Lake Garda (Lago di Garda) is the largest lake in Italy: it’s so big that it alters the local climate, which is milder and sunnier than might be expected. It’s also one of the best places to visit in northern Italy, attracting around seven percent of all tourists to Italy and acting as a bridge between the Alps and the rest of the country.

The narrow north of the lake is tightly enclosed by mountains that drop sheer into the water with villages wedged into gaps in the cliffs. Further south, the lake spreads out comfortably, flanked by gentle hills and lined by placid holiday resorts.

Limone sul Garda is said to be the prettiest town on Lake Garda where the competition for charming lakeside communities is fierce. Limone is undeniably pretty, a stone-built village jammed onto a slender slope between the mountains and the lake. The town’s main attraction is the Limonaia del Castèl, a lemon house and museum that sheds light on the history of lemons in the area.

Find more accommodation options to stay near Lake Garda.

Clear waters on Lake Garda, Italy

Lake Garda - the largest lake in Italy

3. Lake Braies

Lake Braies (Pragser Wildsee), a spectacular deep-green lake surrounded by pines, 8km off the main road through the Val Pusteria – according to legend, the lake is a gateway to an underground kingdom.

The lake is considered to be one of Italy's loveliest lakes. Famous for its bright blue-green waters, it sits right at the heart of the Dolomites. If you want to visit, think about doing the Dolomites on a day tour from Bolzano.

Lake Braies, Italy

Lake Braies - one of the loveliest lakes in Italy

4. Lake Como

Of all the Italian Lakes, it’s the forked Lake Como (Lago di Como) that comes most heavily praised: Wordsworth thought it “a treasure which the earth keeps to itself”. Today, despite huge visitor numbers, the lake is still one of the best places to visit in northern Italy, surrounded by abundant vegetation: zigzagging slowly between shores by boat can seem impossibly romantic.

As well as visiting the lakeside villas, there are excellent hikes through the mountainous terrain. Also of interest is the glamorous Villa del Balbianello, the filming location for the film Casino Royale.

Tucked between Bellagio and Como, Nesso might not be as famous as the neighbours but it's one of the most enchanting towns on Lake Como. Visit for a gentle atmosphere, medieval architecture, stepped streets and spectacular lake views.

Experience the picturesque lakes of Northern Italy, including Lake Garda, Como, Lugano and Maggiore; explore the charming Borromean Islands and stroll the romantic streets of Verona and Milan. All of this, and much more, with this tailor-made trip to Enchanting Italian Lakes!

Find more accommodation options to stay near Lake Como.


Villa del Balbianello, Lake Como, northern Italy © Circumnavigation/Shutterstock

5. The Dolomites

High drama in northern Italy doesn't come more lofty than the mighty, jagged peaks of the world-famous Dolomites. These magnificent mountains are one of the best places to visit in northern Italy and Italy in general.

To view the Dolomites, climb up 2,950m to the legendary Pordoi Pass. It sounds daunting, but spectacular panoramas are available in minutes thanks to excellent, year-round cable cars.

Explore the Dolomiti di Brenta in spring or summer. With their saw-toothed peaks and glaciers, the Dolomiti di Brenta, northwest of Trento, have a rougher character than the better-known Dolomitic peaks to the east – and their trails are far less well-trodden.

Explore the variety of accommodation options to stay in the Dolomites.


Cadini di Misurina at sunset, Dolomites, northern Italy © Inu/Shutterstock

6. Bolzano

The gently historic capital of Alto Adige, Bolzano (largely known by its German name, Bozen) straddles the junction of the jade-hued Alpine waters of the Talvera (Talfer) and Isarco (Eisack) rivers. Winter and summer see the town’s 100,000 population swell with tourists, as it makes a good jumping-off point for exploring the surrounding mountainscape.

Bolzano’s centre maintains a relaxed pace of life, its highlight for most visitors being “Ötzi” the prehistoric Ice Man.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Bolzano.

Dolomites, Bolzano

Bolzano is surrounded by the mountains

7. Trieste

The city of Trieste sits between the Adriatic coast and the border of Slovenia on the Gulf of Trieste. Framed by green hills and white limestone cliffs, Trieste looks out over the blue Adriatic, offering an idyllic panorama from its hilltop citadel, at least when the galeforce bora winds aren’t blasting you off the seafront.

But in any weather, there’s a distinct atmosphere of grandeur with a cosmopolitan twist. The city’s main squares are adorned with spectacular Neoclassical buildings, and the much-photographed canal, clustered with open-air cafés, is a reminder that, just like Venice and its lagoon, this city has enjoyed a glorious seafaring past, too.

Experience Trieste, not just visit it! With our tailor-made trip to Trieste, you have a chance to discover its reality from another angle, the local one, made up of small daily rituals and places hidden from tourists.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Trieste.


Adriatic views in Trieste, northeastern Italy © Chechotkin/Shutterstock

8. The Castello di Duino

Visit both the old and new Castello di Duino on the Gulf of Trieste. The castles are near neighbours, surrounded by beautiful gardens and set on a clifftop which commands incredible, wide-open sea views.

Castle, Trieste, Italy

The Castello di Duino offers magnificent views from the clifftop

9. Trentino

Draped across the high Alps, where Italy, Austria and Switzerland collide and their cultures blur, Italy’s northernmost region Trentino is one of the best places to visit in northern Italy for holidaymakers. They mostly come for winter skiing, summer hiking and tranquil year-round vistas.

Visit Trentino and discover Castel Tirolo in Merano. This impressive 12th-century castle gave South Tyrol its name and is now home to the South Tyrolean Museum of Cultural and Provincial History. Below it is Brunnenburg, a neo-Gothic pile of fishtail battlements and conical towers, where American poet Ezra Pound spent the last years of his life.

Browse the variety of accommodation options to stay in the Trentino region.

Merano, Italy

Castel Tirolo, Merano

10. Lake Toblino

Known for its mild climate and lush vegetation, Lake Toblino is one of the best places to visit in northern Italy. But it's 12th-century Castel Toblino that's the real attraction here. Once the summer residence of Prince-Bishop Madruzzo, the fairy-tale castle is now a restaurant, so think about booking dinner on the lake.

Castle on Lake Toblino

The Castle of Toblino is one of the most mesmerising places in northern Italy

11. Cinque Terre

The breathtaking folded coastline of the Cinque Terre (Five Lands) stretches between the beach resort of Levanto and the port of La Spezia. It’s named for five tiny villages – Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore – wedged into a series of coves between sheer cliffs.

It is their rugged beauty as well as their comparative remoteness that makes them one of the best places to visit in northern Italy. While the scenery is certainly lovely, it’s also the convenience that makes the Cinque Terre so popular.

The trails aren’t particularly arduous – it’s pretty flat most of the way, the villages are not too far apart and all have plenty of amenities and places to stay. And if you get fed up with walking you can always jump on a train (or a boat) to the next village.

Explore the variety of accommodation options to stay in Cinque Terre.

Cinque Terre National Park UNESCO World Heritage Site, Liguria, Italy

Manarola in Cinque Terre © Shutterstock

12. Genoa

Genoa (Genova in Italian) is “the most winding, incoherent of cities, the most entangled topographical ravel in the world”. So said Henry James, and the city – Italy’s sixth largest, and one of the busiest in Europe – is still marvellously eclectic, vibrant and full of rough-edged style. Indeed “La Superba”, as it was known at the height of its powers boasts more zest and intrigue than all the surrounding coastal resorts put together.

Stretching behind the recently revitalized old port, the old town is a dense and fascinating warren of medieval alleyways increasingly brightened with new shops, restaurants, and bars, as well as a series of large palazzi.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Genoa.


Bank of Saint George in Genoa © Shutterstock

13. Aosta Valley - one of the best places to visit in northern Italy for skiing

Heading north from Piemonte into Aosta Valley (Valle d’Aosta), the A5 and SS26 road snake their way through the Bassa Valle (Lower Valley), peppered with fascinating ancient forts and castles.

Aosta Valley is dominated by the highest mountains in Europe, namely Mont Blanc, Gran Paradiso, Monte Rosa and the Matterhorn, and in winter the region sees plenty of skiers from Turin and Milan thanks to its excellent resorts. In summer it’s a popular destination too, with plenty of outdoor sports including mountain climbing and trekking.

View of alpine village Monte Rosa Gressoney, Aosta Valley Italy © Shutterstock

View of alpine village Monte Rosa Gressoney, Aosta Valley Italy © Shutterstock

14. Bassano del Grappa

Situated on the River Brenta, Bassano has expanded rapidly over the last few decades, though its historic centre – the area between the Brenta and the train station – remains largely unspoiled. For centuries a major producer of ceramics and wrought iron, Bassano is also renowned for its grappa distilleries and its culinary delicacies such as porcini mushrooms, white asparagus and honey.

Although it has few outstanding monuments or fine architecture, Bassano’s airy situation on the edge of the mountains and the quiet charm of the old streets make it one of the best places to visit in northern Italy.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Bassano del Grappa.

The old wooden bridge spans the river brenta at the romantic village Basano del Grappa © Shutterstock

The old wooden bridge spans the river Brenta at the romantic village Bassano del Grappa © Shutterstock

15. Verona

With its Roman sites and streets of pink-hued medieval buildings, the irresistible city of Verona has more in the way of historic attractions than any other place in the Veneto except Venice itself. Unlike Venice, though, it’s not a city overwhelmed by the tourist industry, important though that is to the local economy.

Set within the low amphitheatre that the wide River Adige has carved out of the hills, Verona conveys a sense of ease that you don’t find in the region’s other cities. As you walk past the great Roman arena, along the embankments or over the bridges that span the broad curves of the Adige, you’ll be struck by the spaciousness of the city.

Find more accommodation options to stay in Verona.

Verona image during summer sunset © Rudy Balasko/Shutterstock

Verona image during summer sunset © Rudy Balasko/Shutterstock

16. Venice

The first-time visitor to Venice arrives full of expectations, most of which turn out to be well-founded. All the photographs you’ve seen of the Palazzo Ducale, of the Basilica di San Marco, of the palaces along the Canal Grande – they’ve simply been recording the extraordinary truth.

As soon as you begin to explore Venice, every day will bring surprises, for this is an urban landscape so rich that you can’t walk for a minute without coming across something worth a stop. And although the city can indeed be unbearably crowded, things aren’t so bad beyond the magnetic field of San Marco, and in the off-season, it’s possible to have parts of the centre virtually to yourself.

Enjoy this tailor-made Romantic Venice getaway in the most romantic of cities. This compact trip features a pleasant walking tour, which provides a unique insight into the history, art and architecture of Venice, and a gondola ride.

Read our guide to the best places to stay in Venice and find your perfect accommodation option.

Grand Canal, Venice, Italy © Apple Kullathida/Shutterstock

Grand Canal, Venice, Italy © Apple Kullathida/Shutterstock

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Kiki Deere

written by
Kiki Deere

updated 29.12.2021

Raised bilingually in London and Turin, Kiki Deere is a travel writer specialising in Italy. She has seen her work published in a number of magazines and UK broadsheets, including The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian and Lonely Planet online. She has completed numerous guidebook writing assignments for Rough Guides that have taken her to far-flung corners of the globe, from the Brazilian Amazon to the remotest province of the Philippines. Follow her @kikideere on Instagram and Twitter.

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