When you are considering a trip to northern Italy it is great to know in advance some of the best places to visit. This is particularly true as northern Italy covers a wide area with a population of over 27 million people. Northern Italy itself is split into 8 regions named Valle d’Aosta, Piedmont, Liguria, Trentino Alto-Adige, Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna, Friuli-Venezia Giulia and Veneto. Northern Italy is actually the name given to the Northern regions of Italy rather than being an actual place in its own right. The area is more industrially active than Southern Italy and is richer than its Southern counterpart. With this wealth comes some luxurious and beautiful places for tourists to visit.
The beauty of Lake Como
Lake Como is a beautiful lake in Lombardy in the North of Italy that is 56 square miles in size. It is the third largest lake in Italy and surrounded by picturesque glacial mountains called the Grigna mountains. At over 1,300 feet deep it is one of the deepest lakes in Europe but is still high above sea level. This natural beauty spot location has always been popular with rich people and is also very popular amongst other tourists. Many celebrities have had holiday homes in the Lake Como region including Richard Branson and Madonna.
The Lake is very popular for water sports as well. You can participate in sailing, windsurfing and many other water based sports. After you have taken some exercise on the lake you can relax in one of the huge, beautiful Lakeside villas. Or maybe visit one of the many small towns around the lake by using the Lake Como ferry service. This service began life with a steamship in 1826 but life have moved on since then and there are even car ferries. And with thirty towns to choose from you will be spoilt for choice.
The highlights of Milan
In the same area as Lake Como is the majestic city of Milan with a population of around 1.3 million people with a further 5 million on the outskirts. There is plenty to see when you visit Milan from the San Siro Stadium to the breath taking Milan Cathedral. Depending on when you visit you can also experience some world famous events such as the Milan Fashion Week and the Milan Furniture Fair. Not forgetting to go and watch a game with A. C. Milan playing at home!
There is some impressive architecture in Milan. Just looking at the city skyline is an impressive sight. Not surprising when you consider that it is one of the most densely populated areas in the whole of Italy including Northern and Southern areas. Milan Cathedral is an awe inspiring sight to behold and is the fifth largest cathedral in the world. This includes a bronze statue of the Virgin Mary erected in 1774 at the highest point of the cathedral building.
As impressive as the architecture is in Milan there is also some beautiful natural wonders. In the central area of Milan is the Sempione park built in English style in 1890 and featuring the Milan City Aquarium, an art exhibition centre and a public library amongst other things. Milan has a diverse, multi-cultural population including African, Eastern European, Asian and South American residents to name a few.
Of course, you cannot talk about Milan without mentioning the well-known artistic links such as art, fashion and literature. After all Milan is considered one of the fashion capitals of the world. The city has a rich history of world class artists and designers and this attracts a lot of people to visit Milan’s art galleries and fashion houses. You will never be short of things to see and do in Milan whether you are looking to relax in the parks or shop for high fashion items.
Parma is not just cheese and ham!
Moving into the Northern Italian region of Elimia-Romagna you will encounter the city of Parma. Parma is a smaller city with a population of approximately 187,000 people and is named Parma from the Latin for circular shield. Famous for its prosciutto ham and cheese this beautiful city has something for everyone. If you prefer a quieter, cultural experience then this is the place to head for on your trip. This is not to say that there is not lots to do and a thriving atmosphere. Whether you are looking for fine dining or beautifully subtle architecture in pastel colours Palma is a great place to visit.
Despite its size, covering 100 square miles compared to Milan’s 800 square miles if you include the outskirts, Parma is home to lots of great sites of cultural interest. First, there are a number of picturesque churches such as the Romanesque Parma Cathedral houses from the 1100’s. The city has a Benedictine monastery, the San Francesco del Prato 13th century Gothic church and a Baptistery first being used in 1196 to name a few. For those who wish to see Palaces there are no less than six to choose from in the city. The Palazzo della Pilotta built in 1583 is one of the most established palaces and now hosts an Academy of Fine Arts, Library, National Gallery, Theatre and two different museums. For those seeking to indulge in a little learning the University of Palma is also here and is thought to be the oldest University in the world. With such diverse cultural attractions within 100 square miles of the city it is no wonder that Parma is a popular visitor destination.
The romance and inspiration of Venice
No trip to Northern Italy would be complete without a trip to the romantic destination of Venice. Venice is in the North East of Italy and there are 117 small islands in the area all separated by the famous Venetian canals and bridges. The Venetian Lagoon which borders the shorelines of Venus as well as the city itself is listed as a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). This signifies that the area is of high cultural significance to the world. Interestingly, Italy in its entirety has the largest number of World Heritage Sites in the world with 50 overall.
Venice is the capital of the Veneto region of Northern Italy with a population of approximately 270,000 people. Over the last 700 years, Venice has become a wealthy city through its trade of silk, grain and other goods. The city is well known for its art and architectural contributions to the world. This attracts an estimated 3 million international visitors a year who wish to experience its cultural splendour. Many tourists like to experience the classic gondola ride down the Grand Canal where you can sit back, relax and take in the beauty of your surroundings. Riding through the narrow canals, passing under the ornate bridges is a fantastic experience which provides you with a unique view of this busy city. The impressive architecture is mainly in Gothic style although there are other influences apparent including the famous Renaissance style. Around every corner you will discover stunning architecture, from beautifully ornate wooden doors to the decorated churches and baroque style buildings. Spending a day just walking around the city and its narrow alleys will bring plenty of inspiration and enjoyment. Despite not being in the leagues of Milan there is a great choice of fashion houses and shopping for fashion wear certainly will not disappoint. Once you have bought your Louis Vuitton or other famous goods there are plenty of tasty cuisine dishes on offer that can be complimented with some fine Venetian wine.
The Italian Riviera’s Cinque Terra
The Cinque Terre (the five lands) is a coastal area of the Italian Riviera situated in the Liguria region of Northern Italy. It consists of five villages Riomaggiore, Vernezza, Corniglia, Montesrosso at Mare and Manarola. Its coastal area, these five villages as well as the surrounding areas are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park. Similar to Venice, this park is recognised as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
This area of coastline has steep Cliffside areas where over time a number of properties have been built into the Cliffside itself. As you can imagine this terrain can be difficult to navigate if you are not very mobile but luckily there is some transportation available to travel between the five villages. You can travel by train, boat or by foot along the pathways. One of the endearing features of The Cinque Terre area is that due to its access limitations it is largely unaffected by commercial buildings and activities. Cars cannot reach the area from the outside and this would make business difficult in terms of logistics. This gives the area an untouched, timeless quality unmatched anywhere else in the world.
There is some tasty local cuisine and wine found in The Cinque Terre. Unsurprisingly for a coastal area there is plenty of seafood on offer including the local speciality of Anchovies. The area is also known for Pesto sauce which is popular throughout the world. There are two locally produced wines one being called the Cinque Terre and the other Sciachetra wine. There are a number of other local drinks including a local brandy and a sweet lemon liqueur.
With so many beautiful places to visit you will never be short of things to do in Northern Italy. From Gondola rides down the Grand Canal and the world’s oldest university to picturesque parks, art galleries and stunningly beautiful architecture there really is something for everyone in this region. With sightseeing, shopping, theatre and musical activities to experience coupled with beautiful Italian cuisine a visit to Northern Italy is one you are unlikely to ever forget.