I have been living in Italy now for three years, and every year I spend here I discover new and exciting thing about this magical and enchanting country.
I started off my experience here much like everyone else and my travel list was to be expected – Rome, Venice, Florence, Vatican City. These places were undeniably amazing, but sharing the experience of seeing the Sistine Chapel shared with 50 other tourists or waiting over an hour in line to see Venice cathedral makes the experience a little less special. The longer I have lived in Italy the more I have discovered the real gems of this country are the places less known of, that you have to search to find, or that involve a degree of adventure. It’s in these moments that you see the real Italy. The Italy with a big heart and amazing food that welcomes you in like a long lost family member.
If you want to experience a little of that (and why wouldn’t you?!) then here are my favorite unique places to travel in Northern Italy. Maybe you can try and squeeze some in on your next visit to Milan, Venice or Florence…
The region of Parma is known for its incredible food – specifically it’s hams, cheeses and olive oil. The best time to visit is in November when the Fall food festivals are in full swing and you can combine a morning of city site seeing with a local foodie festival. We combined our visit with ‘November Pork’ a festival which celebrates food from local farms including cheeses, home-made pastas, wine and of course ham, salami and pork.
Located only an hour from Milan on the train, Lake Como is a perfect place to escape from the city and pass a day relaxing by the water. Take a boat ride on the lake to visit the old villa’s and mansion’s of old Italian aristocracy or get lost walking around one of the little villages dotted along the lake’s edge.
Arguably one of the more touristy locations, Verona is definitely still worth a visit. Take a local bike or walking tour around the city and take in the mix of ancient roman architecture and renaissance art dotted around the city center. Visit the Amphitheater and Juliette’s (of Romeo & Juliette) balcony and then finish your day at a open air restaurant in one of the cites beautiful plazas.
Located between Verona & Venice, Lake Garda is a beautiful, tranquil spot with little villages lining to shore of the lake. Two places worth visiting are Peschiera del Garda and Sirmione where you can spend a day walking around their quiet streets, taking boat rides on the lake and eating seafood in sunny plazas.
Another place to visit during the Fall, Alba comes alive through the month of November for the International Truffle Festival. Plan your visit so you can spend a day exploring the exhibition, tasting the truffles and visiting local deli’s and wine stores. Then finish up by visiting vineyards and farm based restaurants in the surrounding countryside to experience truffle eating at its best.
As mentioned in my previous blog post, Torino is an elegant and characteristic city 120km north of Milan. The city has a more local feel but still offers lots of museums, churches, restaurants and sunny plazas so you can get your culture fix. Strolling around the city and exploring its piazza’s and cobbled streets is a fun way to spend a day out of Milan.
Are you planning a trip to Northern Italy? Let me know where you are thinking about going in the comments below…