Also known as Settentrione or II Nord, the Northern part of Italy has eight separate regions. These eight regions include Aosta Valley, Peidmont, Veneto, Liguria, Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Trentino-Alto and Lombardy. Northern Italy is known for picturesque locations and rich history. It has coastal regions and an impressive mountainous region. It is known for the dramatic and impressive landscapes of the Adriatic Sea and the Alps. There are many cities which are the best places to visit in Northern Italy.
For the tourist, best of Northern Italy is all about historical sites that are yet to be explored. Right from the Alps in the North to the enchanting island city of Venice, there are endless places to see in Northern Italy and things to do.
In the central part of Northern Italy like Turin and Milan, you will see various interesting attractions and sites that are a must see. Due to the varied landscape of the area, its history and fine cities, there is something for every traveler in Italy.
List of the top places to visit in Northern Italy
Let’s get into our ranked list of places to see in Northern Italy.
18. Friuli Venezia Giulia
Bordering Germany, Adriatic Sea and Slovenia, Friuli-Venezia Giulia has a unique position. Its geographical position makes it a popular wine region. There are several hills nestled between the two rivers and the Slovenian border.
You will notice many family run vineyards across the valley in different directions. As the seasons change, the landscape changes and the color will also change. A must when visiting Northern Italy.
Located in Lombardy, Bergamo is known as The City of the Thousand. It is a renowned UNESCO World Heritage site. The upper town of the city is a maze of medieval streets enclosed in a Venetian wall.
You will see medieval buildings and Majestic Baroque looking out on the southern plains. Include it in your itinerary when you visit Northern Italy.
Udine is a must visit for its castle. The 16th century castle is a major landmark and attracts tourists. Udine is close to the border of Slovenia and is influenced by other cultures that cross the border of Italy.
Other important structures include the Cathedral of Udine, Loggia del Lionello and Chiesa di San Giacomo. There are many parks, museums and Piazzas to explore here.
Ferrara is located right between Bologna and Venice. It is an ideal base for those who want to explore the eastern part of Northern Italy. Ferrara has many sites that are worth visiting and it is known for beautiful structures. It is famous amongst tourists for Estense Castle which sits on a lake and is an important symbol of Ferrara.
You will also find the Palazzo dei Diamanti, an Archaeological museum in the city centre. The Cathedral of Saint George is also a must visit. A medieval city in the past, Ferrara had a very defensive network and is a Northern Italy must see.
Located in the metropolitan part of Milan, Monza is a great tourist destination. You can take a day trip to Monza from Milan. It is an ideal location and one of the best places to visit in Northern Italy. Monza is popular for the Formula One Racing Track in addition to the Parco di Monza.
This park covers a huge area and has some stunning wooded areas, villas and gardens. You can spend hours at the park walking through its trails.
Autodromo, inside the park is a great place to visit and if you are fortunate enough, you can get to watch the Formula One race here. Besides the park, there is Ponte dei Leoni and the gorgeous Duomo di Monza.
Located in the Piedmont area of North Italy, Alessandria is a place you must visit. It is small in size and is less touristy. It has efficient transport links to Genoa, Milan and Turin.
You will find the Cittadella di Alessandria here. It is a very popular site and it is located on the banks of Tanaro River. You can reach here by crossing the footbridge. Head to the Museo Delle Divise Militari if you are a lover of military history and displays.
Located on the eastern part of Northern Italy on the coast of the Gulf of Trieste, the city of Trieste lies close to Slovenia and its border can be reached in less than 20 minutes. It has close proximity to Slovenia ad has a very different feel and culture to the rest of Italy.
Trieste has been influenced by Slovenia due to the close proximity. Its harbor is an excellent place to explore and it connects Canale Grande and is known for beautiful architecture. Trieste is one of the must see places in Northern Italy.
Trieste also has several castles, religious structures and Roman ruins.
Take a stroll down the Molo Audace which is a 300m long promenade that goes out into the sea.
Located near Verona and Lake Garda, Brescia is in the heart of Lombardy and is a beautiful city. It is an important industrial region. One of the best places to visit in Northern Italy, Brescia has various historical sites and some gorgeous places of natural beauty.
When it comes to architecture, Brescia has the Roman Tempio Capitolino, the historic Broletto and Duomo Nuovo.
Often overshadowed due to major Italian cities, Verona sees less tourists as compared to other cities. It is one of the best historical centers in the country and has some stunning sites.
An important site of Verona is the Arena, which is a huge structure that rivals the Colosseum of Rome and is equally spectacular. There is Castle Vecchio and Ponte Vecchio that are exceptional structures to visit. They give a peak in the history of Verona.
The city also has some impressive structures like the Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore, Verona Cathedral and several Piazzas like the Piazza Bra and Piazza Delle Erbe. The city is located close to Lake Garda which is a great place to explore.
Parma is located between Milan and Bologna. It is known for the beautiful Prosciutto Ham and various cheese varieties. Because of the long history of the city and its involvement in various factions and wars over the years, it has a range of structures and Piazzas.
One of the finest Romanesque structures in Italy is Parma Cathedral. The adjoining Baptistery is also very opulent. Parma is one of the best places to visit in Northern Italy. It has many fantastic theaters like Teatro Regio and Teatro Farnese which offer an ideal venue to see the show.
When in Parma, do visit the national gallery to take a look at the collections from Van Dyck and Da Vinci.
See Related: 15 Best Things to do in Bolzano, Italy
One of the main industrial cities in Italy, Turin is an economic powerhouse. It retains the charm and history and has several attractions and sites. Turin is located in the western part of Northern Italy and was once the capital of the country. The cityscape is set against the breathtaking outline of the Alps.
You will see cafes and baroque buildings line the boulevards and squares of the city. The dreamy villas and elegant town houses are decorated with geometric stained glass windows and plasterwork with floral motifs.
You will see some exceptional sites like Palazzo Reale, the gigantic Mole Antonelliana, Palazzo Madama, and the Cathedral of San Giovanni Battista. Do not forget to visit the Turin Egyptian Museum.
One of the largest and the best places to visit in Northern Italy, Bologna is the capital of the Emilia Romagna region. It is popular for a strong economic presence in the financial industries. Bologna is known as the city of towers and it has several historical high rise structures.
Visit the Torre Prendiparte and the leaning towers of Bologna for beautiful structures that are a prominent part of the skyline of the city. Beside the towers, there are several amazing Piazzas and buildings like Piazza Maggiore that are a must visit.
If you want to enjoy arts and culture, head to the galleries and fine museums like the Archaeological Museum and the National Gallery.
The place is famous for architecture and culinary prowess.
When in Bologna, hike to the San Luca monastery at the sunset for the most amazing view of the city. The red brick architecture will glow in the warm light and will give you an experience of a lifetime. From this height, the city appears in all its glory.
Portofino is a picturesque harbor town that is a must visit for all. It has a bright harbor front and is a great place for designer shopping. You will see beautifully colored houses, several seafood restaurants and high end boutiques. There are several things to see and do here.
A path will lead you from the Piazzetta to the Castello Brown, which is a fortress and a museum. Most importantly, you will be able to enjoy panoramic views of the Ligurian Sea and the town. Apart from the fortress, you can visit the Parco naturale regionale di Portofino, La Cervara and Christ of the Abyss which is an underwater statue and a huge attraction.
Portofino attracts tourists from across the world and is a popular destination for celebrity spotting. It is famous for a pleasant weather and the beautiful location.
5. Lake Garda
One of the best places to visit in Northern Italy, Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy and it is a popular destination for tourists and locals. The scenery and landscape around Lake Garda is simply jaw dropping. You will see the perfect combination of forest covered mountains and small terra cotta roofed villages here.
There are towns like Bardolino and Sirmione that provide ideal venues to explore the lake from. Take a boat trip to the lake and travel between the beautiful lakeside villages while soaking in the beautiful scenery.
The largest lake in Italy, Lake Garda is in Lombardy. On the northern side of the lake, there are Gruppo del Baldos mountains that create an exceptional backdrop and in the middle you will see small islands home to villas. Garda is famous for several lakeside villages and the towns drip with mediterranean plant life and fishing boats.
You do not need to worry about where to stay in Northern Italy when in Lake Garda, there are several options for you to choose from.
Como is a must visit place in Northern Italy. It is know for the natural beauty and jaw dropping mountainous landscapes. It is popular for the Renaissance architecture and the upside down Y shaped lake. Every town and village give a spectacular view of the Alps and the lake.
The architecture in Como is popular amongst tourists. Take the Brunate funicular to look down on the majestic lake and enjoy mind blowing views of the mountain landscapes.
You can also visit the lakeside towns like Lierna, Dervio and Bellagio if you have time. These towns offer excellent views across the lake.
A magnificent city located on the southern coast of North Italy, Genoa lies on the Ligurian Sea. It is the sixth largest city in the country and is a major port. Genoa has a strong significance for the economy of the country and has played a strong role in the history of Italy.
The walls of Genoa city were expansive at one point of time and the Porta Soprana is one of the remaining gates of this fortress. When in the city centre, you will see some fine architecture in public spaces like Piazza Matteotti and Piazza Ferrari.
Head to the Maritime Museum and the Aquarium to learn more about the history of Genoas port and marine life. Walk around the huge port and see the commercial shipping activity. Genoa is perfect for those who want to relax and spend time exploring the beauty of Italy.
One of the largest cities in Italy, Milan is one of the best places to visit in Northern Italy. It is popular for the culture, history, economy and a range of shopping outlets.
Milan is famous for architecture and various historical buildings that shaped Italy. Some important sites includes the Duomo, the Sforzesco castle, and the Da Vinci Museum of Science and Technology. Milan is a city for everyone. It offers the best things to do in Northern Italy for everyone- from museums to shopping.
No trip to Italy is complete without visiting Venice. Dubbed as the most romantic city in the world, Venice does justice to its name. You can spend days walking through the canals and cobbled streets.
An island city, Venice is loathed in the famous Venetian Lagoon. Since it is an island city, it is formed through a network of various islands joined together through bridges and canals. Venice has something for everyone. You can relax and soak up the sun at the Golden beach or you can make the most of the stunning architecture and history of Venice.
Visit the Bridge of Sighs, Doges Palace and Rialto Bridge. One of the must visit site is the Grand Canal. Head to St. Mark’s Square to see the huge bell tower and get mesmerized with the opulent cathedral.
Include these best places in your itinerary whenever you head to Northern Italy. There is so much more to Italy than the touristy destinations and there is something for every type of traveler. Every town and city will give you a peak into the rich architecture and unique culture of the beautiful destination.