If you plan to visit Northern Italy and want to avoid the crowds, there are hundreds of lesser-known yet beautiful places worth adding to your itinerary. If you visit Italy for the first time, for sure all your favourite cities like Rome, Florence, Milan, Venice will be on your list. But the real beauty of Italy goes well beyond the surface of the main attractions. You will be surprised to see how many charming villages and small towns the boot-shaped BelPaese has.
Some of the best places to visit in Northern Italy
I grew up in Italy and returned to reside back in 2004. I have been travelling in my home country for decades and love to explore new things and experience the extraordinary about the lesser-known and secret places in Italy.
From naturalist escapes to food and gourmet regions, in this post, I am showing you some of the best places to visit in Northern Italy, especially in Italy’s North East, an area that boasts small heritage sites and naturalistic treasures that you will love.
Trieste, the pearl of North-East Italy
Last but not least, Trieste, located in Friuli Venezia Giulia, in the North-East Italian city on the border with Slovenia, will amaze you. Although it feels a bit isolated from northern Italian towns, it will be difficult to leave once you get there. I often call Venice’s sister town on the mainland because of its canals and the spectacular, beautiful Piazza D’Unità D’Italia on the sea.
From there, a short stroll along the Molo Audace, a 200-meter paved walkway, takes out to sea. Triest is the pearl of the Karst Plateau, where you can take beautiful walks along the Rilke Trail or the Strada Napoleonica (Napoleonic Way). Another good thing to do in Trieste is walking along its beautiful 6 km promenade that leads to the Miramare Castle, a white castle perched on a small promontory and surrounded by a vast lush green park.
If you are a food and coffee lover, you should know that Triest is a top place for coffee and food. The city is home to the worldwide famous coffee brand, illy coffee. The beautiful contrasts and the rich heritage makes Trieste an ideal destination for a weekend gateway when exploring Northern Italy.
You can also travel to Croatia and Slovenia, as Trieste is located on the border to Slovenia. In a couple of hours, you can get to the beautiful coastal town of Baska Krk Island.
There is something magical about Venice that I cannot put into words. As a local, no other place in Italy makes me feel like strolling on Venice’s Calle. Having visited Venice since I was a kid and throughout my life, whenever I get out of the train and start walking through the Venetian Calli, I always have the impression I am visiting for the first time.
There is always a hidden small place, hundreds of little “calli” (dead-end alleys) to discover and get lost. And many small islands on the Venetian Lagoon that are a real treasure. You can go on a heritage tour and explore more of its naturalistic beauty: go biking, walking, and bird watching.
These are some of Venice’s most unusual places that are not on most tourists when they come to see Venice.
Vittorio Veneto, a small heritage town in Northern Italy
Not many people know that there are so many little charming villages and heritage sites just in a short drive or one-hour train ride from Venice. One of these is Vittorio Veneto, with its beautiful medieval castle and many old buildings from the Renaissance era. Vittorio is one of the most beautiful Italian cities that must be on your bucket list as a day trip from Venice.
The Prosecco Road in Veneto, Italy
Welcome to the best region for all Italian sparkling wines. I’d say the area that can best compete with the French Champagne. There are many types of Prosecco, and the only area where the vineyards grow here is Veneto. You can get to visit the best Prosecco Wineries and go through some fantastic Prosecco hills and lush landscape.
You can also hire a car and drive through the famous Prosecco Road from Conegliano to Vittorio Veneto and further down to Valdobbiadene. This triangle-shaped land encompasses the top white wine region of Italy. In my Summer Italy Tour of the Dolomites, we will be going on a gourmet Tour by tasting the best Prosecco and walking through the picturesque Hills of Vittorio Veneto.
The Northern Dolomites, a UNESCO heritage site
The Italian Dolomites stretch between three regions in North-East Italy: Trentino & South Tyrol, Veneto and Friuli Venezia Julia. Most people tend to choose Cortina, which is very popular with tourists in summer and winter.
I would suggest visiting the surrounding Cadore Region from San Vito and Pieve and Auronzo and more small Dolomites towns like Bolzano. The landscape is truly picturesque. Many hiking trails and green emerald lakes make it for a perfect mix of relaxation and outdoor adventure in one of the best Unesco World Heritage Site you can visit in Europe.
While you can go to the Dolomites on a day trip from Venice, you can also join a tour that encompasses all the above places in northern Italy.
Planning a trip to Northern Italy
If you plan to travel to Italy next summer and explore the small towns and hidden places, I was running a women retreat tour in July 2019. More about it on the link below.
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First published in 2018, last updated in April 2021
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Photos Credits from Shutterstock
Photo no. 1. Trieste Miramare Castle
Photo no. 2. Serravalle Vittorio Veneto
Phooto no. 3 Burano Venice
Photo no. 4. Vittorio Veneto
Photo no. 5. Prosecco Hills Veneto
Photo no. 6. Dolomites Landscape