Is there anybody on Earth who doesn’t dream of visiting Venice? this romantic, magical city is on everybody’s bucket list. I have been to Venice when I was younger with my family, but my husband has never been to. IN ORDER TO AVOID the summer crowd, we decided to visit Northern Italy in the late spring. The end of April was a great choice in terms of tourism for the Northern italy road trip. unfortunately the weather wasn’t so pleasant everywhere. More on that later 🙂
Northern Italy covers an area of 120,260 km2 and its population reaches around 28 million. In this post, I will share with you my one week Northern Italy Road trip Itinerary and some tips that I learned through the way. I hope it will be useful!
Before you go
Depending on how much time you have, I suggest you first pick a few places of interest. This area has dramatic mountains, beautiful lakes and romantic cities. To get a taste of different nature sceneries we decided on visiting the following places: Milan, Verona, Dolomites, Venice and Lake Como. After actually doing the Northern Italy Road trip, I believe one week is enough to see a lot!
Regarding to transportation, renting a car straight from the airport (which is likely to be Milan as it is the biggest in the region) is the easiest way to go. There are many car rental companies and you can chose any model, prices starting from about 30 euros per day. As you can see on the map, this involved quite some driving, but we felt it was not much at all, given the time we had.
Regarding accommodation, we spent on average 100 euro per night, which allowed us to stay in 3-4 hotels and there are plenty of options on booking.com
My tip: make sure to choose a hotel that has a great review score (8,5 at least) and you should be on the safe side.
The Itinerary in a nutshell
Day 1: Milan -> day 2: Verona and driving to Dolomites -> day 3-4: Dolomites (accommodation in Cortina d’Ampezzo) -> day 5-6: Venice -> day 7: Lake Como
Now, let’s get more into details, what were our favorite spots in these places 🙂
One day can be enough to visit the main tourist sights, but be sure to arrive early at the Duomo Square to start your day. If you would like to get an a beautiful shot by yourself, you definitely have to be here before 8 am. I am not a big fan of Cathedrals (I have been to too many) but Duomo’s terraces were absolutely stunning. You can purchase tickets in advance to gain access to the terrace.
It is really unique, you shouldn’t miss it, even if the line seems long, it moves pretty quickly. After visiting this magnificent terrace, the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is the perfect spot for (mostly luxury) shopping. You can find plenty of small restaurants and ice creams shops around the cathedral. After lunch, we went to visit the Sforzesco Castle and Sempione Park. We were here here on a Saturday, so the park was lively, local people enjoying a sunny day. In other days it might be more empty. The Castle wasn’t that great, but really liked the park. The last thing we visited before we head off to Verona is Navigli. This little neighborhood is made up of interconnected tunnels. It is quite romantic to stroll next to the water and there are so many tiny coffee places to choose from. In the evening, we started our northern Italy road trip and drove to Verona.
My tip: If you are not on a tight budget, have lunch at Duomo 21 Terrace. This restaurant had an amazing view and the food and drinks were great as well.
Did you know that Shakespeare is believed to be inspired by a balcony in Verona to write the world-famous Romeo and Juliet? Some say that the balcony that this is just a fairytale, but that doesn’t stop thousands of tourist to gather under the iconic balcony every day. The amount of tourists at Juliet’s balcony at 9 am was shocking. We didn’t like it, so we headed to Palazzo Giusti which is a lovely square surrounded by beautiful buildings to have a coffee. The city of Verona has a river and you may see Castel San Pietro on the top of the city. It is definitely worth it, to take the little cable car up to the castle to admire the view. This was definitely my favorite spot in Verona. We continued our northern Italy road trip in the afternoon to the Dolomites.
My tip: Verona is a cute, historical city and half a day can be enough to visit it all. If you are short on time, do not spend here a full day, continue the trip instead.
Dolomites (Cortina d’Ampezzo)
Here comes the sad part of this trip. We planned on staying two days in this area, but it turned out to be a waste of time due to bad weather. Cortina d’Ampezzo is a famous ski resort during the winter time and we expected that it won’t be snowing anymore in the end of April. Unfortunately, we were wrong.
The first hike we planned was San Viglio to Lake Braeis. We started the hike in the snow, without proper equipment and after half an hour, the road disappeared into the snow, we had to turn back. Instead, we drove to see Lake Braeis. The lake was half frozen. Still beautiful, but not as you see it on the pictures. On the second day we wanted to hike to Lake Sorapis, but we didn’t even start as the weather turned cold and rainy. It is really a pity that we didn’t get to explore the magnificent Dolomites.
My tip: I believe a northern Italy road trip cannot be complete without the Dolomites, but do not be optimistic about weather situation. The best time to visit the Dolomites is during the summer months, even if it means more people. Unless you want to ski 🙂
As I mentioned before, I planed this whole northern Italy road trip because I wanted to show Venice to my husband. e arrived to Venice by car, it was easy to find the Tronchetto Mercato car park station. From here, you can take the Waterbus to the city center. We bought a two days ticket which included the water buses commuting to Burano and Murano.
The Rialto Bridge is the biggest bridge and it is very beautiful both during the day and night. Saint Mark Square is a great spot to sit down and sip on the famous Aperol Spritz, but expect it to be more expensive than elsewhere! We also visited the Acqua Alta Book Shop. It is such a famous instagram hotspot, that you need to wait in line to take your picture. One of my favorite view in Venice was from the Bell Tower. Don’t worry, there is an elevator, so it is very convenient to access it. For me, visiting Venice couldn’t be complete without a Gondola ride.A 40 minutes ride costs 80 euro (standardized price, no place for negotiation)during the day. If this is above your budget, you can always find Gondola stations where people wait in line and share with them the boat and the cost.
Most of these activities along with tasty Italian pizza and pasta could fit into one day. However, if you have 2 days in your hand, I also recommend visiting Burano. This island is located 40 minutes ferry ride away from the main island and can be a beautiful half day trip. Upon arrival, you will be directed to the glass factory. Here you can see a demonstration about the art of making beautiful, colorful glasses. If you walk through the canals, you will find less tourists than in Venice itself and the waterfront houses are beautiful. Regarding food, Venice has countless great restaurants for all budget. You can always grab a slice of fresh pizza for 1 or 2 euros or enjoy an authentic Italian restaurant, my favorite ones were with a little hidden green garden.
My tip: My absolute favorite thing to do in Venice is just sitting at the front seat on the waterbus and admire the city. I went on the full length of waterbus line 2 and it is really beautiful during sunset!
One of the most famous lake in Italy is Lake Como. This place gained even more popularity after George Clooney bought a villa here. The lake has a few charming cities, we decided to visit Lecco. The weather was just perfect for a short uphill hike, around 20 degrees and sunny.
We took the the cross of San Martino trail, path number 52. The uphill walk was fairly easy, it took us about 1,5 hour to reach the summit. The path stretches out in a forest, we could her the birds singing and didn’t see other tourist but instead we met a lot of friendly locals. You cannot buy water during the hike, so it is important to prepare it along with some light snack. When we reached the summit, the view was simply breathtaking! We could see the city of Lecco overlooking Lake Como and Lakes Briantei with surrounding mountains.
My tip: If we had more time, I would definitely go for a small boat or sailing trip as well!
Even tough we visited five places in a week, I didn’t feel that time was short. We always had time for a great Italian coffee and pizza. MY ONLY REGRET with this northern Italy road trip itinerary is the unfortunate whether in the Dolomites.