Northern Italy: 10 essential steps for a successful road trip

Who I am
Lluis Enric Mayans

Author and references

From the shores of the Mediterranean, through the region of lakes, and up to the Adriatic Sea, northern Italy invites the traveler to discover a large panel of contrasts. The region is indeed full of assets and varied pleasures: its cuisine, its culture, or its extraordinary landscapes will surely satisfy you, whether city ​​side (Genoa, Venice, Verona, or Turin) or countryside side (Tuscany, Langhe, Alps etc.). And above all, the destination has the merit of giving you a change of scenery without having to cross half the planet (it's better for the environment).

Accessible by car from France (or even by train), the north of the country will satisfy you if you prefer to relax during your next vacation in Italy in Club all inclusive mode. But above all, she will be there perfect destination for a road trip as a couple, with family, or even with friends. My many stays (6 months cumulated there) have now allowed me to get a good idea of ​​the unmissable places if you are planning to embark on this traveling journey.

Alors here is my selection of the 10 places not to be missed in Northern Italy.

My itinerary in Northern Italy

Map legend :
• Blue dots: the essentials
• Yellow dots: the options (according to your wishes, and the timing)
• Direction: I describe the route counterclockwise, but you can very well do it the other way (clockwise)… it's up to you.

1. The Italian Queyras and its high mountains

The valley of Mount Viso

Start this road trip in Northern Italy by crossing the border by the Agnel collar : from there, you will be overwhelmed by the breathtaking alpine landscapes!
If you have time for a short hike on the road, the Soustre valley I was totally captivated (watch my video): we cross the pasture in a setting worthy of Heidi to arrive at the foot of beautiful waterfalls. Wow!
Then continue your way through the Mount Viso valley via Sampeyre, and stop at one of the many honey producers for a few purchases: the quality of the products is there and the prices are half the price in France.

2. The Langhe and its recognized vineyards

Typical Langhe landscape

Still in Piedmont, go past the province of Asti, in the heart of Haut Montferrat (Alto Monferrato): hills replace high mountains, and vineyards stretch as far as the eye can see. To please your palate, take a tour ofAlba where the scent of truffles (his specialty) perfumes every street corner. And you will have no trouble filling up with good bottles as there are many wine merchants here (the warm welcome from the owner of the “Enoteca del Borgo di Neive in Borgonovo” still leaves me with many good memories). Do not forget to take breaks passing through the many villages with medieval characters, such as Canelli which remains one of my favorites.

3. Acqui Terme, the charm of a small spa town

Acqui Terme

Not far away, you will pass in the province of Alexandria. Then stop at Acqui Terme, a small spa town in northern Italy that is relatively unknown, yet very charming. Stroll to the city center, and you will come across a very original little fountain: natural water gushes out at over 70 ° C (be careful, it burns!). On the road to your next stop, several choices are available to you according to your priorities: a stopover in one of the pretty villages along the winding road, or if you prefer nature, I recommend a hike in the heart of the Beigua Natural Park : le Val Gargassa.

4. Genoa and its sumptuous palaces

Ferrari's Piazza Raffaele in Genoa

After these first fairly quiet stages, our roadtrip takes us to Genoa. The first big city on our itinerary, it can be visited in one day, but you won't have to hang around. With its highway that passes through the center, the city does not really attract at first glance. You will have to rush into the small alleys that dot the city to capture all its charm: and here, the magnificent palaces compete in splendor! Do not miss Via Garibaldi (one of the most beautiful streets in Northern Italy, with its 42 palaces) or Piazza Raffaele de Ferrari and its imposing fountain. A break in one of the many restaurants in the city will allow you to taste the Genoese cuisine accompanied by the famous pesto and a focaccia.

5. The Cinque Terre, charm on the cliff side

The Cinque Terre

It is by skirting the Mediterranean that you will arrive at the very famous Cinque Terre and its charming villages perched on the side of cliffs. No need to present the destination as there are so many photos on the web ...
Two little tips anyway:
• Park in Monterosso and take the train to the other villages.
• Maybe avoid this stage in July-August, a very busy period here.
> More info here

6. Florence, the pearl of Tuscany

The Ponte Vecchio de Florence

Ah Tuscany! This region of Northern Italy alone deserves a whole dedicated road trip ... But if you are just passing through, you will absolutely have to stop by Florence, surely one of the most beautiful Italian cities, a real open-air museum. Do not try to park in the city center, it is impossible: so allow time to reach the center on foot or by public transport. Once there, here are some spots not to be missed under any circumstances: the mythical Ponte Vecchio, the Duomo, and the Place della Signoria. But the best is to give free rein to the stroll ?.
Always Tuscany, and if you have the time, 2 other cities are definitely worth a look: San Gimignano and its old tower houses which dominate the city, and the charming San Miniato which offers you a beautiful view of the region.

7. Venice, the jewel of the Adriatic

Venice awakens

Head back up to the Adriatic Sea and you'll reach the other Italian gem: the well-known Venice. As in Florence, you will have to park on the outskirts of the city (and plan the budget, parking is a pleasure). If your visit is limited to one day, you will settle for the must-sees (such as Saint Mark's Square or the Bridge of Sighs), but expect to meet a lot, a lot of people depending on the season. If you have time, I advise you to get lost in the secondary districts (the island of Giudecca, or Dorsoduro), more neglected by mass tourism: you will then visit the real Venice, a more local Venice without the crowd.

8. Verona and Lake Garda


Like Venice, and only 1h30, Verona is known to be the city of lovers. In the footsteps of Romeo and Juliet, you explore a city on a human scale, and less touristy than its competitor. Moreover, I have already put aside the 12 visits and activities not to be missed. In the surroundings, and to put you in the green, the Valpolicella and the Natural Park of Lessinia are also two good options if you have the time.

9. Bergamo and the Lakes Region


Returning to the road heading west, stop at the Garda lake : many pretty villages along its coast, and Lazise is a good example. Rather than visit Milan, I then advise you to stop by Bergamo (in Lombardy). From the top of its hill, the upper town (città alta) is a fine example of a medieval Italian city surrounded by ramparts. Charming alleys, pretty squares, and religious monuments full of details will mark your route through the city. On the return from your road-trip, do not hesitate to take a refreshing break near the Lake Maggiore : these large expanses of water in the middle of mountainous landscapes create beautiful contrasts.

10. Turin, the city with a rich past


We finish the loop of our road trip in Northern Italy at Turin, a city with a rich past: it was indeed the capital of different kingdoms. And it left many traces with sumptuous palaces standing in the middle of a clean and rectilinear architecture. Turin's many arcades also give it a real personality: a detail that you will appreciate on rainy days (to stay dry), or on sunny days (to stay in the shade). A pretty city to stroll in peace, far from the tourist influx encountered in Venice or Florence.

To each their own road trip in Northern Italy

I hope that this itinerary idea will have inspired you: moreover, if you have the opportunity to test it, consider putting a little comment at the bottom of the article, just to give us feedback. Obviously, Northern Italy can be visited in a thousand and one ways, and many are the stages that we could add as there are beautiful things to see or visit ... So it's up to you to make this itinerary your own, to adjust it, to arrange it, and to make your road trip , a unique trip that looks like you.

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