Northern Italy is filled with many different landscapes, history, and the best food you could imagine! There are so many ways to explore this part of the country, depending on your interests and the experiences you’re looking for. In this blog post, we’ll introduce you to 8 Northern Italy itinerary ideas, each catering to a different type of traveler. Whether you’re a first-time visitor, a foodie, a solo traveler, and so on, we’ve got you covered with the perfect itinerary suggestions. Let’s dive in and find the Northern Italy adventure that’s just right for you.
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Quick Facts Before Visiting Italy:
💱Currency: Euro €
💶 Budget for a trip to Italy: The average daily cost for a trip to Italy is €130 a night for both food and accommodation.
💜 Is tipping required in Italy? Tipping in Italy is not required. Sometimes you will find it included in your bill as coperto which is a flat, fixed cover charge. It usually covers the price of bread that is brought out to the table ahead of the meal.
☀️Best time to Visit: April or May if you want to avoid peak tourist time and very hot summers or September to October when the weather is mild.
🏥 Travel Insurance in Italy: I recommend SafetyWing which will cover you in case of trip cancellations or any accidents during your travels.
8 Northern Italy Itinerary Ideas
1. Classic Italy for First Time Visitors
This Northern Italy itinerary is perfect for first-time visitors. You’ll get to see the most iconic cities in Northern Italy.
Day 1-2: Milan
Start your flight in Milan, the fashion and financial capital of Italy. You can spend 2 days there and see the highlights like the Duomo, Galleria Vittorio, and do some amazing shopping in Corso di Porta Ticinese.
Top hotel picks in Milan:
$$ Starhotels E.c.ho. | $$ Vik Gallery Milan | $$$ Duomo Cathedral View Luxury Apartment
Day 3-4: Venice
Take a 2-hour train and head to Venice, a city of canals, bridges, and timeless charm. Don’t miss St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace, and the Grand Canal. You can even take a day trip to the colorful island of Burano.
Day 4-6 Florence
Traveling to Florence, you’ll be in the heart of the Renaissance. On your first day in Florence, explore the magnificent Florence Cathedral (Il Duomo), visit the Uffizi Gallery to view works by artists like Botticelli and Michelangelo, and stroll across the iconic Ponte Vecchio.
Over the next two days, explore deeper into the city. Some ideas include admiring Michelangelo’s David at the Accademia Gallery, visiting the Pitti Palace and its beautiful Boboli Gardens, and taking a day trip to the charming Tuscan towns of Siena or San Gimignano.
Day 7-8: Pisa
Pisa will be the final part of your classic Italy itinerary. The first stop will definitely be the world-famous Leaning Tower. Here you’ll have to capture the classic tourist photo of you “holding up” the Leaning Tower. You’ll also find many other popular sites in the Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles), which not only houses the Leaning Tower but also the Cathedral, and the Baptistery.
On the second day in Pisa, consider wandering through the city’s historic center, visiting local museums, and having some delicious Italian gelato before departing.
This classic Northern Italy tour is the perfect itinerary to get a glimpse of the art, history, architecture, and food in this incredible country.
2. The Foodie
A foodie-themed Northern Italy itinerary will take you through some of the most amazing food regions in the country.
Day 1-2: Milan
Your foodie trip starts in Milan, where you can explore the city’s food scene. On the first day, try classic Milanese dishes like Risotto alla Milanese and Ossobuco in one of the city’s many restaurants.
On the second day, visit local food markets like Mercato di Via Fauche and Mercato di San Donato. Taste a variety of Italian cheeses, prosciutto, and other regional specialties. Don’t forget to indulge in some Milanese gelato or enjoy an aperitivo with some traditional Italian cocktails.
Bologna is the foodie capital of Italy! Food connoisseurs will love this place, trust me. Some places you have to try include lunch at 051 Zerocinquantuno. Here, you can try the Tigella sandwiches made with small, round bread and filled with a variety of meats and cheeses. It is a very traditional thing to try. You can also wander through the Quadrilatero, a lively food market district, and indulge in the foodie scene.
Top hotel picks in Bologna: (which can be your base for Parma & Modena too):
$$ Hotel Cavour | Art Hotel Commercianti
Day 5-6: Parma and Modena
Parma and Modena are not far from Bologna and are easily accessible by train. They also offer some amazing food! Parma is where parmesan cheese and Parma ham originated from as you might guess by the name of the city. Modena is famous for balsamic vinegar which you can try all over the city and take some home with you to enjoy as well.
Day 7-8: Florence
Florence is the last stop of your foodie trip. Here, you can try the famous Florentine steak. The best place for that is Regina Bistecca or Antico Ristoro di’ Cambi. Some other traditional foods in Florence include ribollita soup and pappa al pomodoro. Stroll through the bustling Mercato Centrale to sample local cheeses, cured meats, and fresh pasta. For those with a sweet tooth, head to one of the city’s gelato parlors, and don’t forget to pair your meals with excellent Tuscan wines.
3. The Quick Getaway
If you only have a weekend to spare in Northern Italy, then head to Milan. You can take so many easy day trips from here including Cinque Terre or Lake Como too.
Day 1-3 Milan
Spend 2 of the days exploring Milan. You can do some shopping as it’s the fashion capital of Italy and you can also see highlights like the stunning Duomo.
Spend one of the days to take a day trip to Cinque Terre or Lake Como.
- Lake Como and Bellagio Day Trip from Milan
- Italy and Switzerland Day Trip: Lake Como, Bellagio & Lugano from Milan
- Cinque Terre Day Trip from Milan
- Venice – Day Trip from Milan
Check out my blog post on how to take a Milan to Lake Como Day Trip.
4. The Slow Traveler
The slow traveler is one who enjoys a more leisurely approach to traveling so you can really get to know the culture and place you’re visiting. Although these places are technically in Central Italy, they are easy to get to and explore from the North.
Day 1-4: Florence
Spend 4 days in Florence at your own pace. Start by wandering through the historic city center. Stroll along the Arno River, cross the iconic Ponte Vecchio, and take in the stunning views from the Piazzale Michelangelo. You can visit many museums to learn about the arts and culture scene in Florence. Those may include the Uffizi Gallery, The Bargello, and Palazzo Pitti. Be sure to also attend an opera or classical music performance at one of Florence’s historic theaters. Spend time getting to know the city and discover its many hidden gems.
Day 5-8: Tuscany (Val d’Orcia, Siena, San Gimignano)
Nearby Florence, discover the Tuscany countryside. Here is really where slow living takes place. See Val d’Orcia, Siena, and San Gimignano. All offer stunning landscapes and have a lot of history behind them.
Day 9-12 Umbria (Corciano, Orvieto, Todi)
Umbria is similar to Tuscany but even more authentic and cheaper! There are many beautiful towns in Umbria to explore. As a slow traveler, just pick a few and relax to enjoy them. You will find some of the most stunning and unique hotels (see my best 10 picks here) in this region too. Some towns that are great include Corciano, Orvieto, and Todi. Perfect for relaxing! Imagine waking up in a castle hotel like this one with stunning views of the countryside behind.
5. Off the Beaten Path
There are never-ending hidden gems in Italy which is what I truly love about the country. So many unique villages and towns are waiting to be discovered. The benefit of this is you won’t find many tourists around. You’ll get to discover something new and exciting and if you love picturesque towns as much as I do, then this Northern Italy itinerary is just for you.
Day 1-2: Bergamo
Begin your journey in Bergamo, a picturesque city often overlooked by tourists. Explore Città Alta, the historic upper town. It features charming cobblestone streets, medieval architecture, and stunning vistas. Don’t miss the stunning Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore.
Day 3: Brescia
Travel to Brescia, a city full of Roman history. You will really get to know the local culture in this authentic Italian city. Visit the Capitolium, one of Italy’s most significant Roman archaeological sites, and explore the charming Old Town with its unique cuisine. Try Casoncelli, a regional stuffed pasta. I had mine at La Vineria and it was amazing.
Day 4-5: Mantua
Mantua is another hidden gem in Northern Italy not far from Brescia. It is a city of Renaissance beauty. Stroll around Piazza delle Erbe, visit the stunning Palazzo Te, and take a boat ride on the tranquil lakes surrounding the city.
Day 6: Ferrara
Head to Ferrara, in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. This town is a well-preserved medieval village that’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Explore the beautiful Este Castle, walk or bike along the well-preserved city walls, and admire the beautiful palaces and cathedrals.
Day 7: Ravenna
Ravenna, is another off-the-beaten-path town in the Emilia-Romagna region. The city is known for its stunning mosaics which you’ll find in the many churches. To see these stunning artworks, don’t miss the Basilica di San Vitale, the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, and the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe. They are full of the most magnificent Byzantine art.
6. Nature Lover
Day 1-2: Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is the perfect place for nature lovers. The town translates to “The 5 Lands.” It’s composed of five colorful fishing villages nestled on the Italian Riviera. You can hike between each village for scenic coastal trails. Plus, there is amazing fresh seafood and so many charming streets in these picturesque towns. It is even possible to visit all 5 in 2 days! My favorites were Riomaggiore, Manarola, and Vernazza,
Day 3-4: Portofino
Portofino is a 4 hour train with a stopover in Milan. Here you can discover the Italian Riviera’s rugged cliffs and beautiful waters. Hike through the Portofino Regional Natural Park and relax in the charming harbor.
Day 5-7: Lake Como
Head to the serene Lake Como, surrounded by lush mountains and beautiful villas. Take boat trips across the lake, visit the historic towns of Bellagio and Varenna, and hike the trails of the nearby hills. Lake Como is a nature lover’s dream.
Day 8-10: Dolomites
Conclude your journey in the breathtaking Dolomites, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Spend your days hiking through the pristine alpine landscapes, exploring quaint mountain villages, and capturing the stunning views. The Dolomites are full of nature and there are so many outdoor activities you can participate in. It’s also a great place to go skiing.
7. The Romantic Getaway
Day 1-2: Venice
Start your romantic journey in Venice, by strolling through the many canal-lined pathways. The picturesque streets give so many romantic vibes. Take a gondola ride through the canals and visit iconic sites like St. Mark’s Basilica, the Doge’s Palace, and the Grand Canal. Soak in the views from Palazzo Contarini del Bovolo, a hidden gem in the city.
Top hotel picks in Venice:
$ Combo Venezia | $$ Palazzetto Pisani Grand Canal | $$ Splendid Venice | $$$ Hotel Danieli
Read my full guide on Venice here.
Day 3-4 Verona
Next continue to Verona, the city of love. It’s a short 30 minute train journey from Venice. Visit Juliet’s House, the Arena di Verona, and stroll through the charming historic center. Enjoy a romantic dinner at a local restaurant like Monte Baldo where you can try an authentic dish like wine risotto.
Day 5-7: Lake Garda
Head to Lake Garda, one of Italy’s most romantic lakes. Stay in the town of Sirmione and explore its historic center and Scaliger Castle. Take a boat ride on the lake and visit other charming towns.
Day 8-10: Lake Como (Varenna, Bellagio, and Como)
Continue your journey to Lake Como, staying in Bellagio or Varenna. Explore the beautiful gardens of Villa Melzi and Villa Balbianello, take scenic ferry rides, and dine at lakeside restaurants.
Be sure to check out all my Lake Como Guides here.
8. The Solo Traveler
Day 1-2: Milan
Milan is an easy place for solo travel. It’s the biggest city on the list so language won’t be a problem. You can do many things to keep you entertained like shopping in the fashion-forward city and exploring beautiful sites like the Duomo.
Day 2-3: Verona
Verona is one of my favorite cities in Northern Italy and I’ve traveled here solo many times. Explore the arena, Romeo and Juliet’s house, and visit Piazza Bra. The square is also surrounded by cafes and restaurants where you can enjoy an espresso or aperitivo. Walk along the riverbank and cross the Ponte Pietra Bridge. At the end of the bridge, climb the stairs for stunning views of the city. You can admire the views at sunset with an apertivo at Re Teodorico.
Day 4-6: Lake Garda
Head to Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake. Explore charming lakeside towns like Sirmione and Malcesine. You can take a boat ride or even try windsurfing. The lake offers a plethora of water sports and outdoor activities.
Day 7-9: Dolomites
Conclude your solo trip to the picturesque Dolomites. The Dolomites are about an hour and a half drive from Lake Garda. Spend your days hiking through the alpine landscapes and exploring the towns like Cortina d’Ampezzo and Canazei. It’s the perfect place for solo travelers.
Hopefully, these 8 Northern Italy itineraries give you a lot of ideas on where to go. Feel free to use them as they are or mix and match between them. You can also adjust the days as you feel fit to build the perfect itinerary. If you need me to build you a custom itinerary, be sure to book a trip planning consultation with me. I will provide you a detailed itinerary custom to your needs and. we can discuss it over a 30 minute discovery call too.