discover & work in
discover & work in
Northern Italy has some of the Best Destinations in Italy for Workation. Consisting of the regions of Liguria, Piedmont, Lombardy, Veneto, and Friuli-Venezia Giulia, the larger area is known in Italian as Il Nord Settentrione or Alta Italia, which means “Upper Italy.”
Much more than its name, the region is a collection of gorgeous scenery and culture. The mountainous terrain on the northern border runs along the European countries of France, Switzerland, Austria, and Slovenia consisting of the Alps and the Apennines mountains. The snowmelt and rains of the high altitudes run into the Po River basin and feed into the Adriatic Sea.
The Adige River enters the Adriatic Sea by a separate mouth. The northern regions have always been considered more industrial and developed than the south, producing a higher GDP, which accounts for one of the highest GDPs per capita in all of Europe. The northern regions offer memorable travel experiences, from ski trips to alpine treks, artworks to grandiose castles, and secluded mountain villages to elegant seaside resorts. Find the right region in Northern Italy for you with our selection of Italy Workation packages.
The Aosta Valley, Valle d’Aosta, is a hidden treasure overlooked by visitors from around the world on a tight schedule hoping to view the major art pieces of the Vatican Museum. The semi-autonomous mountainous region is located in the northwest of Italy bordering France to the west and Switzerland to the north. The Italian region of Piedmont lies to the south and east.
The Dora Baltea River, along with ancient glaciers and a history of torrential downpours, has carved the valley and its gorgeous 13 sides. The region is Italy’s smallest, overtaking less than 4,000 square miles and consisting of 74 towns. Due to the Aosta Valley’s proximity to France and Switzerland, it is not uncommon to hear French or Swiss German spoken in the streets as opposed to Italian.
The native population also speaks Valdôtain, a form of Franco-Provençal dialect not recognized by the Italian government. The valley floor sits more than 5,250 feet above sea level with the snow season lasting between eight and nine months at the highest points of the mountainous terrain. The climate remains mild despite the high altitude due to the influence of a prevalent oceanic breeze. Fog and mist become prevalent due to the contrasting weather patterns in April and October.
The alpine terrain draws skiers in the winter and hikers in the summer and spring. There are also hot springs in the area popular year-round. Adventurers take to the waters to raft or canoe, while the more ardent fans of extreme sports choose to climb up the rugged granite peaks. A lesser-known, but equally thrilling experience takes visitors across the mountaintops in view of Mont Blanc, the highest mountain in the Alps at nearly 15,775 feet above sea level, on a hot air balloon ride.
Aosta is the capital city of the eponymous volleyed region located nestled between the jagged alpine peaks rising like marble cathedrals. Roman legions settled the area around two millennia ago and the history remains palpable. The charming historic center features retains the ancient grid, surrounded by the misshapen design of the streets sprawling across the valley floor. During the Middle Ages the houses of Savoy in Italy and Burgundy in France fought over the small territory during their battle for supremacy in the mountains and across their regional borders. The musical dialect of the local’s Valdôstan accent seeps into their Italian as well.
The fresh landscape surrounds the tranquil village ambiance of the largest city in the region. Impressive castles line the road leading into the city, relics of the battles fought between the houses of Savoy and Burgundy. Roman and medieval traditions continue to mark the lifestyles of locals, most notably in the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, which contains archeological excavations below the antique foundations. Like many of the towns and cities in Italy, half the fun of visiting Aosta is walking around the ancient streets and experiencing the culture.
When people think of Matterhorn Mountain, they immediately associate the massive, unique peak with Switzerland and possibly the town of Zermatt. A view to the rugged and breathtaking summit is not limited to Zermatt or the borders of Switzerland, with Italy maintaining a deep connection to the Alps as well as the resort of Breuil-Cervinia. Italians of the Aosta Valley refer to the mountain as Monte Cervino. The pyramidal shape of the colossus dominates the skyline at nearly 14,700 feet above sea level.
The resort connected to the commune of Valtournenche stands at over 6,500 feet above sea level on the foot of the Matterhorn in a valley framed by glaciated mountains and sheer rock faces. The grounds share ski runs with the alpine village of Zermatt in Switzerland, connected by the Plateau Rosa glacier. The longest ski run on the mountain stretches between the Klein Matterhorn across the Swiss border to Valtournenche in Italy over a course of 13 miles. Breuil-Cervinia is Europe’s highest ski resort and has the temperatures to prove it with consistent snowfall on the mountain and along the glacier.
The aerial tramway plateau connects visitors to the slopes at an altitude of more than 11,400 feet. There are 24 lift systems on the mountain leading to 56 ski runs, which add up to nearly 125 miles of separate track. The resort also has family-friendly ski runs and an ice skating rink for those too tired, too small, or possibly too timid to travel up the mountain for a full day on the slopes.
The northwest region of Piedmont was once the seat of power of the Italian Kingdom and continues to give the world Fiat cars, as well as a number of the Best things to do in Italy during your Workation. The region borders France to the west, the Aosta Valley, France, and Switzerland to the north, Lombardy to the east, and the regions of Emilia-Romagna and Liguria to the south. The name derives from the medieval Latin phrase Pedemontium, which meant, “at the foot of the mountains.” The rugged mountainous terrain of the Alps borders the region on three sides. Residents speak mainly Piedmontese, a dialect of Italian.
The Alps cover nearly 40 percent of the entire region, sparsely decorated with towns and villages spread across the slopes. The rhythmic quality of the Franco-Provençal dialect of Occitan, which is still spoken in the Occitan Valleys and high-altitude plains, has prompted a unique tone in the regional Italian dialect. Italy’s second largest region is divided into six smaller provinces and maintains a diverse climate due to the mix of the mountainous terrain proximity in the south to the Ligurian coast. Historical villages and grand traditions reflect the distinctive character of the region that gave birth to the unification movement of Italy in the 19th century.
The culinary traditions of the Piedmont consist of wines, cheeses, and truffles. Elegant villas recall the prestigious lives of feudal lords and nobility on the Borromean Islands in Lake Maggiore. Medieval religious towns and sites continue to decorate the foothills, slopes, and valleys, including Sacra di San Michele, a religious complex founded in the 10th century and exhibiting a staircase lined with monks’ tombs. The region gained favor during Italy’s industrial growth, drawing citizens from around the country eager to find work. It remains one of the three most industrious cities in Italy, alongside Milan and Genoa.
As the capital of Piedmont, Turin is as famous for producing Fiat, as for their soccer team, chocolate trade, and also the controversial Shroud of Turin. The city is also easy to reach with a variety of transportation options among the many ways to travel around Italy. The city once had political clout as the home of Italy’s capital and parliament before being moved to Rome. However, the major industrial center and attractive town center provides a graciously unique combination in a city overlooked by tourists each year. The regal ambiance emanates from a history of Savoy princes and elegant shopping arcades. The Mole Antonelliana, a 550-foot tall tower, adorns the skyline.
The city contains a touch of Paris from the tree-lined boulevards and a hint of Vienna from the art-nouveau cafes. Beyond the skyline stand the snow capped Alps and the scent of indulgent chocolate emanates from the numerous confectionaries. The booming contemporary art and architecture scene is drawing more Italians and even a gaggle of Europeans to the city to enjoy the more imaginative elements of creation. The elements of creativity have snuck into the live-music and innovative food scene as well. As with any of Italy’s great cities, the proof of local pride and greatness is discovered wandering the historic streets. You can learn more about how to book and enjoy your trip with information on what to do before booking your Workation in Italy.
Blend the pomp of a former powerful city-state with the comfort of a small rural town and you get Alba, the capital of the Langhe province located less than 40 miles from Piedmont’s capital city of Turin. Local shops, restaurants, and residents retain grace, warmth, and confidence stemming from the gastronomic reputation drawn from white truffles, dark chocolates, and delectable wine. The annual truffle fair in autumn brings droves of gastronomes, including the odd celebrity. The vendemmia grape harvest offers a refreshing and relaxed way to celebrate the fantastical event representing customs dating back to the Roman empire.
Vines stripe the hills outside of town divided by hazelnut groves. The fertile soil replenishes the harvest seasonally and fills the larders of the landscape and the home pantries filled with masterful delicacies. Romans founded the city but the preserved monuments and archeological sites date from between the 13th to 15th centuries. Charm and prestige of the former nobility reigns from the unspoiled medieval streets, decadent palaces, and remains of the 100 marvelous towers that once textured the skyline.
The 11th-century cathedral, known as the Alba Cathedral of San Lorenzo, has a façade blending gothic and Romanesque styles. Three portals grace the façade redesigned in the 19th century against the backdrop of the 13th-century bell tower. The city is a must for wine lovers, truffle enthusiasts, or anyone who enjoys a fine meal now and again. The aromas of quality gelato and the fine pleasures of the Piedmontese cuisine fill the streets in the afternoon and evenings, making a stroll through the public piazzas one of the city’s great indulgences.
Wine connoisseurs and lovers of the vine think of one thing when traveling to the region of Piedmont, Barolo. The commune in the province of Cuneo is located 30 miles southeast of Turin with a population of 750 people as of 2009 spread across little more than a two-square-mile area. The small commune is known for producing championed wines of the same name from vineyards rolling up the hills around the quiet town. Beyond the wine, Barolo offers remarkable scenery around every bend, beginning with a sunrise over the easterly Alps. Myths abound in the region about how the Paramount Pictures logo was designed based upon the sunrise over the mountains of Piedmont.
The wine country connected to the wine and town of Barolo is referred to as the Langhe, collectively connoting Langhe, Roero, and Monferrato, which together create the King of Wines produced from the Nebbiolo grape. Ancient castles pepper the landscape and the local residents carry jovial, welcoming personalities. Southern Italians claim the people of Piedmont, and Barolo, are stuffy and insulated, but when in truth, they open up quickly and effortlessly as if you were a part of the family. One of the best sites to explore while in Barolo, other than the wineries, is Castle Falletti. The 10th-century edifice was a fortress created to protect the region from Hungarians and invading Saracens.
The grounds fell to the commune of Alba, which later passed hands to the Falletti family. The keep from the original structure remains, but the remainder of the castle was raised between the 13th and 16th centuries. The ceilings inside the grand galleries retain the Falletti family’s coat of arms. A monumental fireplace stands beneath the lavish stucco work from the 16th century. The library contains 3,000 volumes of work crafted between the 15th and 19th centuries. The terrace has a marvelous view over the Barolo vineyards and the Langhe hills.
The road leading to the castle contains a museum dedicated to the varieties of corkscrews used to pop open wine over the centuries. The museum covers a unique niche of the wine market for oenophiles with pieces made from brass, horn, ebony, and tortoise shell. In town there are wine bars filled with great sensational bottles and marvelous ambiance for you to relax and sample the true tastes of the region without needing to venture to individual properties across the valley and hills.
The small town of Saluzzo is located in the corner of the Piedmont region in the province of Cuneo at an elevation of less than 1,300 feet above sea level. Settlers built the town on a hill overlooking the soft soils of the plain within reach of the iron, marble, lead, and silver hidden within the mountains. Romans controlled the area in 125 BC after overtaking the tribal city-state of Vagienni and Salluvii. Much of the 15th century old town remains in tack on the hills with the double ring of walls protecting the center. Cobbled streets and steep staircases travel along the slopes leading to churches and elegant palaces.
The Cathedral of the Assumption was built between the late 15th and early 16th centuries over the foundations of an ancient religious center. A 14th-century crucifix decorates the interior alongside a baroque altar and 15th-century triptych. The once powerful city-state shines with historical importance in a contemporary subdued ambiance accentuated by red terracotta brick buildings. The old and new quarters remain separate and the off-the-beaten-track location nearly 40 miles from Turin allows visitors to escape the bustle of the region’s capital city.
The alpine views from the hillside accentuates the historic structures, such as the Dominican church of San Giovani and the civic museum of Casa Cavassa. One of the biggest draws to the small, quiet town is Boccaccio’s Decameron and Chaucer’s “Clerk Tale” in The Canterbury Tales, which both use the setting of the former prominent city-state for their stories. The 13th century Piazza Castello would have already been built at the time the epic poets and scholars wrote their famous works. The imposing shape of the tower soars above the historic fountain located inside the fortifications atop the summit of the village.
In the 15th century Ludovico II renovated the grounds as a gift to his second wife, Marguerite de Foix, renewing the furniture and adding embellishments, from furniture to a garden. Local authorities used the castle as a prison from the 19th century up until the early 1990s. The civic tower at the heart of the old town remains a symbol of the community at over 155 feet tall. You can climb to the top of the tower for a perfect view over the town, the plains, and the hills.
The slender, curved strip of land on the northwest edges of Italy is known as the region of Liguria. The borders straddle the Mediterranean Sea, touch the edges of Tuscany and France, and spread across the southern limits of Piedmont. Resorts and elegant promenades are prominent across the region boasting the Italian Riviera, where sun-starved northern Europeans have traveled to soak up the rays and the relaxed pace for more than a century. The rocky coastline rises into the coastal mountains, whose slopes steepen at the Maritime Alps with an elevation of over 8,500 feet.
The mild climate supports renowned gardens and the influx of tourism during spring, summer, and into mid-autumn. The sea breeze offers a pleasant cooling sensation to the summers while ensuring a pleasant, mild winter. The Apennines mountains protect the province from the cold winds blowing from the north. However, snow is common in the region, especially when visiting the higher altitudes in the mountainous terrain. Four different provinces divide the greater region. From the northwest tip to the southeastern edge, the provinces consist of Imperia, Savona, Genova, and La Spezia. The cuisine of the region consists of delicious seafood and herbaceous basil connected to the 150 miles of shoreline and the rich minerals in the mountainous soil giving way to some of the best food to eat in Italy and where to find it.
More than 230 towns decorate the landscape encompassing nearly 2,100 square miles, with 90 percent of the contemporary population living along the coast. Palm trees, citrus fruits, and other subtropical plants thrive in the region because of the Mediterranean climate, offering a different image of northern Italy than what visitors expect. The natural history of the region dates back to prehistoric times but the main draw for historians and tourists around the region dates back to the 11th century when the city-state of Genoa became a superpower on the waters of the Mediterranean.
The former superpower of Liguria, Genoa remains the regional capital and boasts all the palaces and fascinating museums you would expect from a former maritime powerhouse. The city retains its connection to the waters with one of the largest commercial ports in Italy and one of the busiest ports in the whole of Europe. The city grew powerful around the year 1,000 AD and began to build an empire on the Mediterranean and Black Sea with Liguria as the power base. The navy took control of the Tyrrhenian Sea in the late 13th century after defeating the rival maritime power of Pisa to become the most powerful seafaring republic in the Mediterranean at the time.
The battle with Pisa preceded the victory over the Venetians, leading to full control over the Riviera di Levante until the mid-16th century. Feudal factions and warring fiefdoms eventually tore apart the republic from within. At its peak, the empire of Genoa had settlements in Acre, Jerusalem, Constantinople, and around the Black Sea. The connection to the seafaring culture instilled a love of the water with the republic’s most famous native son, Christopher Columbus, whose home remains a stone-throw away from the 12th century city walls and gate known as the Porta Soprana.
Apart from the vast and prestigious history evident in the splashing fountain of Piazza de Ferrari and in the lavish 16th and 17th century palaces lining Via Garibaldi, Genoa remains a vibrant contemporary life taking pains to celebrate its past. The once tattered port now hosts a myriad of museums and restaurants, turning what was once a place frequented by sailors and gruff seamen, an area enjoyed by couples, families, and visitors from around the world. Fashionable shops and organic trends have revitalized a new city amidst the narrow maze of antique streets in the extensive old city. Despite Genoa’s rebirth and captivating past, it stands in the shadows of other northern cities like Milan and Venice in terms of tourism.
This offers visitors a delightful surprise in terms of ease, accessibility, and cultural connection lacking in the tourist hubs of other cities who have taken the influx of visitors over the years for granted. With that said, Genoa also lacks the organization of other tourist-friendly destinations in Italy, making it difficult or more expensive to visit a compilation of different museums and celebrate sites without first researching which combination of tickets don’t overlap in what they offer.
The French Riviera strike a more familiar chord in the minds of tourists around the world thinking of a beachside vacation somewhere in Europe but the Italian Riviera draws many visitors from across the continent eager to bask in the sun, dip their toes into the Mediterranean, and enjoy the simple pleasures of the northern Italy’s coastline. The Italian Riviera is still famous amongst Europeans, including wealthy Italians, but the culture along the coastline is remarkably different than that of the French Riviera, due to the enchanting mix of history, beaches, panoramic views, colorful architecture, and savory cuisine.
Tourists have embarked on relaxing vacations to the seaside since the 19th century, notably in the famous English authors Percy Shelley and Lord Byron. Visitors recognize the Italian Riviera as the entire coastline of the Ligurian region stretching from the French-Italian border in the northwest to the regional border with Tuscany in the south. The Riviera is divided into two sections consisting of towns east of Genoa, referred to as the Riviera di Levante, and the towns west of Genoa, referred to as the Riviera di Ponente.
The most fascinating part about the Riviera is that every town, no matter the size or position to the shoreline, is unique in its connection to the history of Genoa, the architecture, and the cuisine. The Riviera is a collection of towns, and therefore becomes complicated when trying to decide which is the right place to visit. The following is a brief selection of the towns around the Italian Riviera that are worth spending some time:
Independent, charming, and historical are words to describe the town of Apricale, located at an elevation of nearly 1,000 feet above sea level. The total area of the municipality covers less than eight square miles of mountainous terrain. The Latinate root of the town’s name, referring to apricus, means “exposed to the sunlight,” and references the way the light spreads across the landscape, from the mountain slopes to the Nervia Valley throughout the day. Chestnut and fir trees abound in the woodlands. Settlers crafted the town in the 11th century and quickly gained independent status under the dominion of the Ventimiglia family. A castle with a millennium of history remains a private residence surrounded by a few ruins with three gates, narrow alleys, and stairways leading to former homes.
Parts of the village remain abandoned from the great migration of the residents in the 19th century, but the artists and tourists have found great fascination in the hinterland by exploring the dark alleyways that feel more like tunnels than streets. Cats roam along the uneven cobblestones and shops reflect the local delicacies of wine, cheese, breads, sausages, olive oil, and figs. The community continues to work hard, sipping quick coffees in cafes in the morning and closing for a long lunch in the afternoon. In the evening families stroll through the main piazza or the Passeggiata, an evening stroll after dinner.
The hilltop municipality of Cervo has 1,200 residents and a history dating back to the Roman Empire as a mansion connected to the Via Julia Augusta. The town expanded during the Middle Ages falling under the reign of a fief of the Clavesana marquis, who was beholden to the Republic of Genoa. The town retains the fanciful character of the 16th century with towers and ramparts protecting the village. The baroque church of St. John the Baptist provides views to the Mediterranean Sea.
The Romanesque Oratorio di Santa Caterina contains lavish 18th century frescoes, contrasting the dourer medieval architectural facade. Residents carry on the traditions of their ancestors by fishing and cultivating the landscape to produce olives. The idyllic depiction of the Medieval village on the coastline shows clusters of houses climbing up the hill beside a pebbled beach. The cobbled streets are steep and wind along the pedestrian-friendly center of town, strewn with small shops and elegant galleries.
The hamlet of Bussana Vecchia represents the frail partnership between nature and humanity. The beautiful town was nearly destroyed during an earthquake in 1887, turning the historic streets first built in the 9th century, into a jumble of cobblestones and tumbling towers on a hilltop 700 feet above sea level. The majority of the structures in the village were established in the 15th century. The town reawakened in the public eye during the 1960s after a group of artists turned the ghost town into a spirited village based on the ideals of simple living and artistic connection, drawing fellow artists from across Europe. The contemporary artist village continues amidst a selection of refurbished structures.
The route to town can be challenging, as cars are not allowed or welcomed on the streets, and limited parking is available on the edges of the historic village. Restaurateurs have added to the life of the artist colony, filling the streets with new life from the exquisite aromas drifting from the kitchens amidst the ruins of the original village. Native plants and flowers blossom in the cracks of fallen structures and upended cobblestones from the street. The original church is missing the roof and small gardens offer secondary hideaways for artist residents and visitors. The unique experience of walking through a ghost town populated by artists and wild plants offers a thrilling new way to discover Italian history and culture.
Steep hillsides bordering reflective lakes, prehistoric rock formations, medieval towns, and the sprawling plains of the River Po embody the brilliance of Italy’s most populous region. Lombardy touches the southern border of Switzerland and also connects to four Italian regions, Trentino Alto Adige, Veneto, Emilia-Romagna, and Piedmont. Nearly 1,550 towns populate the region and provide residence to the most industrious region in Italy, home to a collection of manufacturing plants.
Lombardy is also the most contemporary region in Italy, hosting cities like Milan, which is the fashion hub of Italy and connected to high end boutiques from around the world. The Alps roll across the half of the northern border, providing an escape for year round for locals of Lombardy eager to ski in the winter and hike in the summer or spring. The connection of commerce and industry accentuates the dramatic beauty of the landscape, shifting between the urban sprawl of the major cities and the quiet lanes of Alpine or lakeside villages that easily enrapture travelers.
The lakes district on the foothills of the Alps consist of the waters of Lake Como, Lake Iseo, Lake Maggiore, and Lake Garda, each offering a masterpiece of nature, lavish villas, and remarkable restaurants serving regional specialties. Whether in the mood for the glittering nightlife of Milan or the elegance of a romantic village, the flavorful wines of Franciacorta or the picturesque valleys at the foot the Orobie Alps, Lombardy has a grand reputation represented in the churches and medieval town centers in one of the most underrated corners of Italy.
Like a fashion model, Milan makes a great first impression based on its looks. It appears out of a magazine with great structure in the form of blending historic and contemporary architecture. The restaurants represent the exquisite taste demanded by locals and the nightlife embodies a particular spirit absent from the streets and public transportation during the day. The beauty of Milan runs deeper than the skin but is revealed slowly, as opposed to all at once across the more than 70 square miles of cityscape. Celtic tribes settled the region in 400 BC before the Romans conquered the remaining settlers in the 3rd century BC, turning the area at the base of the mountains into a strategic position along the empire’s northern border.
Visigoths, Byzantines, Napoleonic forces and Germans emperors have also taken turns reigning over the city-state before Italy’s reunification. Tourists and locals love Milan for the cutting-edge designs that make sitting in a street-side café on any given day a free fashion show. After the Allies bombed the city during the Second World War, the contemporary architecture has brought remarkable strength to a city famous for its connection to aesthetics, harboring the largest post-war redevelopment in the country with a skyline resembling an image out of a futuristic fairytale.
No matter what style or genre, the city retains a deep connection to art and artistic heritage, whether in architecture, fashion, or on canvas. The Brera and Navigli districts run alongside the historic canals where locals stroll each evening. The Duomo features a staggering roof decorated with 135 hand-carved pinnacles and 2,245 marble statues. The chapel holds up to 40,000 congregants and the walls strike a powerful impression with 52 magnificent 15th and 16th century stained-glass windows.
Who wouldn’t want to follow in the glamorous footsteps of George Clooney and spend time in the shadow of the snowcapped Rhaetian Alps along the waters of Lake Como, the most renowned waterway of the three major lakes in the region? The winding shoreline connects ancient villages and sumptuous villas. Como Town represents the evolution of settlement in the region with remnants of Roman history and marvelous Medieval architecture. The charming historic center hides between 12th century walls. Shops and cafés line the prosperous streets sweeping beneath the grandeur of the city’s cathedral and the prominent esplanade along the lakeshores.
Villages across the edges of the waterway fell under the reign of the Milanese in the 12th century and later built their wealth upon the silk industry. Como Town in particular remains the most important producer of silk products in Europe, represented in the fabulous prices of silk scarves and garments listed in the small boutiques around town. A funicular travels between the colorful city of Como and the quiet hillside town of Brunate.
The seven-minute ride reaches above the city at an altitude more than 2,360 feet above sea level. Villa Olma faces the reflective waters of the lake and remains the biggest landmark in town as an extravagant 18th century palace connected to the Odescalchi family and Pope Innocent XI. The lavish art nouveau interior represents the exquisite and grandiose taste of the times and the family. Como is by no means the only town, village, or villa located on the lake shores.
The floodplains of the Po River represent the divergent topography of the Lombardy region and a distinctive contrast to the snow capped peaks and pristine waters along the northern mountain range home to Italy’s favored Lakes District. The cozy provincial town of Cremona maintains its celebrity as the home of the first violin shop, which opened in the mid-16th century and gave way to the notable instrument-artisan Antonio Stradivari. Renaissance and medieval buildings decorate the cobbled streets, decorating the historic town into a comfortable, storybook ambiance accentuated by the plucking sounds of the violins from the internationally renowned school for craftsmen of the instrument.
The true history of the city dates back more than 1,600 years before the establishment of the musical school and crafts shop. The Romans settled the area as a military outpost in 218 BC. The streets and buildings have been sacked and rebuilt numerous times over the millennia, from rebellions against emperor Vespasian to conflicts with the Guelphs. Gothic palaces and the Romanesque cathedral cast dramatic shadows leading to the 12th century octagonal baptistery.
Mozart once performed in the nearly 300-year-old Teatro Ponchielli, which hosts one of the largest stages in the country, making it a coveted performance space among international recitalists. The cuisine boasts influences of Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna due to its location near the border of the latter’s famous culinary traditions. Honey and toasted almonds are common aromas drifting through the arcades of the city emanating from the delicious bakeries that attract visitors from around the region and across Europe eager to sample the famous nougat or torrone around the holiday season.
Violins represent an ineffable contribution to world heritage and continues to thread generations through an appreciation of the instrument and traditions connected to craftsmanship, sound, and the distinguished image of the city’s development. The Po River is as much of an attraction as the beautiful architecture, providing a space for families, couples, or active locals to wander alongside the rushing water. Musicians practice against the tranquil sound of the river brushing at the banks, cyclists course through the lanes flanking the towpaths, and joggers enjoy the crisscrossing trails along the plains.
The village of Aprica sits at the base of a popular ski area located at nearly 4,000 feet above sea level, with the slopes reaching peaks of almost 7,550 above sea level. In the summer, tourists enjoy the fresh air while hiking, cycling, or mountain biking on the rugged paths and winding roads. In the winter skiers take to the steep grades for exciting tests of stamina and structure. The village developed along the eponymous mountain pass and has become a popular resort for international travelers.
The first chair lift in Lombardy has grown to 19 ski lifts in total, including two cable cars, six chair lifts, and six bay lifts connecting the excited visitors with over eight miles of track. The slopes wind between plateaus and seasoned forests. The natural landscape of Orobie Valtellinesi Park preserves mountain chains averaging 8,200 feet above sea level. Spruce trees and remarkable alpine wildlife, including deer, roe deer, and chamois, populate the more than 108,725-acre protected area. The extensive sanctuary protects the flora and fauna for a perfect mountain getaway in the spring and summer.
In February the town erupts in a display of local tradition and folklore during the Suná day Mars festival, a traditional celebration of Spring’s arrival. Other than winter sports and active explorations of rugged alpine peaks, the resort village is perfect for exploring the ancient towns of Orobie as well. The valley faces a narrow and inhospitable ravine. The higher altitude provides a more breathtaking landscape with views to the morphology of the mountains without the steep plateau, highlighting the “suspended valleys,” which derive from the movement of ancient glaciers.
National parks help maintain the natural beauty of the landscape and the majesty of the biospheres present in and around an area before settlers or migrants crossed paths with the abundant resources in the form of fertile soil, a wealth of woodlands, or an abundance of wildlife and edible flowers. Stelvio National Park embodies the plethora of reasons national parks in Italy are necessary for the preservation of the natural environment, its functions, and beauty for generations to come.
The government established the park in the 1930s, spanning over 3.3 million acres across the heart of the Central Laps to form the largest national park in Italy. The protected scenery encompasses four provinces in the Lombardy region, including Trento, Bolzano, Brescia, and Sondrio across two regions— Lombardy and Trentino-Alto Adige. The park is known for its glamorous alpine peaks and lush forests, green meadows and abundant farms. There have also been historic sawmills and mills cultivating the lands.
Innumerable flora grows wild across the undulating peaks, from glacier buttercups that thrive at nearly 11,500 feet above sea level to snowbells growing around the damp pastures and rocky headlands at less than 10,000 feet above sea level. Foxes, marmots, ermine, and squirrels graze on the open landscape of the valleys with deer and roe deer lingering in the dense woods. Chamois and alpine ibexes forage on the craggy slopes out of view of circling golden eagles. Adventures in the natural scenery match the cultural discoveries with forts, monasteries, and villages hidden from the world in the remarkable seclusion of the alpine landscape.
Trentino-Alto Adige adorns the northern tip of Italy bordering Austria and Switzerland, along with Veneto and Lombardy. Two separate provinces compose the region, Trentino in the south and South Tyrol in the north. 20 percent of the mountainous area of Trentino consists of peaks over 6,600 feet and a 70 percent rate of mountains reaching less than 3,300 feet above sea level. Vast forests spread across the lowlands with a shimmering emerald hue contrasting the snow capped peaks and granite mountain faces of the sloping surroundings.
The province maintains a climate ranging from optimal alpine weather to sub-continental through warm summers and cold, snowy winters. Tourists frequent the mountainous terrain in winter for skiing and in summer to enjoy the wide valleys and numerous lakes. The province of South Tyrol encompasses an area of nearly 2,900 square miles of vast forests and craggy alpine summits. The variety of mountain ranges reaching 9,800 feet above sea level influence the continental climate of the region.
Famous Brenner Pass provides the lowest crossing through the Alps connecting Austria and Italy. The government recognizes a certain degree of autonomy for the region as a result of the Gruber-De Gasperi Agreement in the 1940s, which provides the region leeway to enact their own laws on a wide range of subjects respective of the administrative functions. A later deal solidified the political, legislative, and administrative functions of the region with statute turning the region into a veritable commonwealth. Strings of castles decorate the tranquil alpine paradise around the Adige Valley and medieval towns continue to carry a form of their former political views. Skiers and hikers pass memorials to fallen soldiers of the First World War.
The southern province of Trentino speaks mostly Italian, with a touch of regional dialect, while the northern province of South Tyrol continues to speak mainly German. The region as a whole has one of the highest standards of living in all of Italy hidden in the web of beauty crafted by the Dolomite Mountains. Sheep and cows graze in the valleys. The cuisine has a hardy, cozy quality featuring a blend of Italian flair and Germanic flavor. Thermal baths keep communities warm and spa-goers comfortable amidst the luxurious qualities of the range of elegant accommodations. The region features nearly 1,200 miles of ski slopes and over 650 ski lifts and an average altitude of 6,210 feet. The region remains a gem for those interested in skiing, hiking, mountain biking, or discovering a side of Italy unknown to many outside of the corner touching Italy, Austria, and Switzerland.
Blend the tranquility of the mountains with the atmospheric architecture of the Renaissance and you discover the staggering beauty of Trento, the capital of the Trentino province. The quiet and easy-to-love streets spread from the heart of the city surrounding the Piazza del Duomo. Students sip on wine-based cocktails in the summer and enjoy hardier spirits in the winter to keep warm and cozy in the cold. Fountains mingle with the historical stone castles and serene porticos connecting the luxuries of the present with the exuberant artworks of the past, including signature medieval frescoes. The city stands less than 90 miles to the Austrian border, blending a touch of the neighboring country’s influence into the Italian lifestyle by way of apple strudel and jovial beer halls.
The wide glacial valley opens beneath the stunning crenelated peaks of the Brenta Dolomites. Vineyards and apple orchards grow on the steep slopes. Locals and tourists enjoy year-round activities in the form of hiking, skiing or wine tasting. Nearly 250 miles of bike paths begin in the city and spread across the mountains. History enthusiasts find connection to the city beyond the architecture and learn more about the convening of the 16th century Council of Trent that brought condemnation onto the Protestant movement. The surprisingly rich history of Trento dates back to the Etruscans and gives way to the Gauls, Romans, and the Austro-Hungarian Empire, displaying a wealth of tradition and culture in the historical monuments scattered around the cityscape.
Bolzano has the spirit of bringing together seemingly disparate cultures for a remarkable collection of culture and tradition. The capital of the South Tyrol province, also referred to as Südtirol to the German speakers of the region, is located at over 850 feet above sea level covering a total of 20 square miles. The history of the town dates back to the Raetian Isarci people, who archeologists believe were refugees of the Etruscan civilization fleeing invading Gauls. The settlement fell to the Romans in 15 BC and then Bavarian rulers in the 7th century.
The Holy Roman Empire ruled the province for over half a millennium and fell to Napoleonic forces for a brief time before returning to the German speaking alliance with the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Italy annexed the region after the First World War during the disbandment of the neighboring empire. The capital is only provincial by name but retains the grandeur of the former Austro-Hungarian Empire turning the small city into a conduit between Italian and Austrian culture alongside a high-quality of life. The open space brings a dynamic energy to the streets reflected in the pervading greenness of rotund hills and vast alpine meadows.
Townhomes shine with pastel paint and locals ride bicycles along the riverside paths between wooden market stalls. Cured ham and mountain cheeses are the flavors of the regional cuisine, paired with loaves of dark, seeded bread. 95 percent of the city’s native Italians speak German as a first language. Visit during winter for a fascinating immersion into the fabled markets filling Piazza Walther, when the scent of gingerbread and mulled wine reflect the Germanic holiday traditions.
Vipiteno is Italy’s northernmost city and stands at an altitude of over 3,100 feet above sea level. The city was once a center for mining in the Middle Ages. The working mines in the area continue to bear fruit for the Augsburg family, bringing the region wealth and prosperity. The medieval ambiance, combined with the contemporary culture characterize the draw to the city garnished with charming bays, beautiful gables, and colorful homes. The emblem of the city, Torre delle Dodici, stands at 150 feet tall.
Architects built the tower in the 19th century over the foundations of the original 15th century structure. At the opposite end of the street, visitors are rewarded with a grand view of the surrounding mountains. In spring, geraniums blossom in flower boxes on the windowsills of various homes. Locals and visitors enjoy strolling down the cobbled lanes at all times of year due to the colorful facades and welcoming cafes. Activities range from tennis, performances at the local theater, mountain climbing, glove, horseback riding, paragliding, and hiking.
In winter, adventure-sports fans ski on the local mountain ranges and resorts, which offer nearly 30 miles of slopes. A five-mile long toboggan run, the longest in Italy, also draws enthusiasts eager to enjoy the fast-pace ride down the icy track. In the summer, locals participate in the lantern festival. In winter, the Christmas Market in Advent provides a charming atmosphere at the heart of town with vendors selling sausages, mulled wine, and delicious confections. Culture also abounds in the town and the prevailing valleys with gothic churches, medieval castles, and the luxurious thermal waters of the Balneum Bath.
The northwestern region of Veneto is Italy’s gem and the most visited region in the country’s north with people from around the world interested in visiting the canals of Venice. The Dolomite Mountains shape the northern border against the region of Trentino-Alto Adige and a small stretch of Austria. Lake Garda bounds the west leading to Lombardy. The Adriatic Sea frames the southeast against the borders of the region Friuli-Venezia Giulia. Emilia-Romagna borders Veneto to the south.
The diverse character of the region emanates from the distinctive qualities of the towns and cities, from the crumbling grandeur of Venice to the preserved medieval flavors of Bassano del Grappa. The topography consists of lush plains, marvelous lagoons, fascinating hills, and dramatic mountains. The fabulous landscape shifts from sea level to over 10,700 feet above sea level at the peak of Antelao Mountain. The weather is dependent upon the distinctive properties of the scenery but remains moderate in connection with continental Europe. Climatologists provide an easy rule to understand the difference in temperatures in Veneto; for every 1,00 feet you climb in altitude.
A touch of the Venetian Republic’s charm stretches across the former 15th century city-states in the form of sophisticated art and architecture. Entertainment across the region is accessible within an hour or two, providing ski slopes or hiking trails on the Dolomites for the adventurous, Prosecco for the oenophiles from the hills around Conegliano, and prevalent Roman foundations for history enthusiasts in Verona.
The different faces of the region provide endless activities for the artistic and culturally inclined, visitors focused on the brilliance of nature, amateur archeologists keen on witnessing the ancient or medieval histories nestled between the waters of the Adriatic and the jagged peaks of the Dolomites, or a mixture of the three. Thermal waters heat the luxurious spas around the ascending slopes of the fascinating mountain range and contain therapeutic properties. Small and majestic villas line the Brenta Canal, which once housed noble families from the Venetian Republic and connected the city of Padua to the grandiose heart of Venice.
Dog Sled races and cross-country skiing remain popular in the mountains and volleyball, sailing, and waterskiing draw visitors from across Europe to the shores of Lake Garda. The Po Delta dominates the southeastern edges of the region near the border of Emilia-Romagna, harboring a bird-watcher’s and nature photographer’s paradise. The common ingredient of the cuisine, from seaside to mountaintops, remains rice, vegetables, and polenta. Whether visiting Venice or the hidden medieval towns spread across the plains and foothills, Veneto’s different faces express an extraordinary sense of culture and history amidst the captivating scenery.
The lagoon city is one of the anticipated cities in all of Italy. The unique positioning on the water connects nearly 120 islands together to form the greater former republic. As of 2015, 20 million people visited the city annually, which grew by 2017 due to the volume of cruises and the renowned treasures decorating the city connected by over 400 bridges spanning 150 canals.
The northeast coast of Italy protects the landscape from the Adriatic Sea with the Lido, a 7-mile long strip of land separating the sea from the Venetian lagoon. Vaporetti, boats, gondolas, and ships make passage through the waterways, passing the beaches and bike paths spanning the natural oasis and the dunes around Alberoni. In the winter the moisture dissipates in the form of cold fog, while the summers are humid from the sea and lagoon air. Six districts, known as sestieri, make up the fabric of the city.
As Italy is much more than just three main cities, the region of Veneto is far more than just Venice. The town of Bassano del Grappa has a population of approximately 40,000 people at an elevation of nearly 423 feet. Romans called the settlement Bassianus in the2nd century BC and cultivated the land for a palpable return. The history runs deeper still, when archeologists discovered an ancient bronze sword in 2009, which they believe dates back to the 7th century BC. The discovery suggests a pre-Roman settlement in the area.
The Brenta River winds down the Alpine foothills and rushes around the borders of town famous for the alcoholic spirit, grappa. More than just the cherished tipple, Bassano del Grappa shines with medieval architecture, including the Alpini Wooden Bridge, and a vibrant artisan ceramics trade. Castles, towns, and Venetian villas decorate the hills outside of town, easily reached for day trips from Bassano del Grappa’s central location. Typical Veneto-style arcades create the charming streets in the compact historic center. The prosperous furnishings in the shops and fashionable clothing reflects a history of wealth and keen local aesthetics.
Alpine wooden balconies connote an Austrian flair contrasting the Italianate piazzas. Museums dedicated to ceramics and grappa tell a history of trade, commerce, and distinction amidst the lavish villas connecting the former aristocracy of the Venetian Republic to the quiet outskirts in the provinces. The Civic Museum proudly defines Bassano del Grappa’s past with a small section of archeological finds during local excavations and a spacious art gallery housing the works of a famous local painter Jacopo dal Ponte, also known as Jacopo Bassano, who art historians consider the first landscape artist.
Stylish cafes and small bars provide a selection of eateries throughout the day, many of which serve specialties consisting of the famous local ingredient, asparagus. For restaurants pepper the city center around the many shops decorated with ceramic souvenirs, grappa bottles, and bakeries celebrating delicious fruity cakes. Museums in town remain open all day but churches and palaces close for lunch.
The beauty of the people visiting Cortina d’Ampezzo pales in comparison to the majesty of the landscape in the Italian resort town drawing skiers, snowboarders, mountain bikers, and hikers to the slopes of the Dolomite Mountains. The town stands in the Valley of the River Boite like a wonderland for active vacationers accentuated by the snow capped peaks of the Dolomite and the southern edges of the Alps. Settlements in the region date back more than a millennium when the Patriarchate of Aquileia and the Holy Roman Empire ruled the region.
The town is located at over 4,000 feet above sea level with nearly 90 miles of ski runs reaching a top elevation of 9,610 feet. The population of the town swells in winter from 6,000 to over 50,000 residents. Before the First World War, the region fell under the jurisdiction of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The Kingdom of Italy took a chance on annexing Cortina but reached a stalemate due to the harsh conditions and a local resistance of volunteer fighters aged between 12 and 98. Although jetsetters and aristocrats sample the snow from the slopes annually with fashionable distinction, the town contrasts what outsiders would assume to be an arrogant or portentous sense of self.
Instead, the slopes retain a relaxed ambiance with visitors and locals equally enamored by the beauty of the natural landscape as opposed to the sporting skills or stylistic gear others wear. Every sunrise and at sunset the warm horizon glows with pink and orange hues along the craggy peaks of the Dolomites. The nightlife fills with laughter from bars, music in pubs, Italian wines, Austrian beers, and separate serene areas for couples or families wishing to separate themselves from the melee of a night on the town. The church spires imitated the rocky peaks. The alpine slopes frame the piazzas. Austrian and Italian culture merge for an undeniably splendid tradition captured in the museums, art galleries, shopping, and natural grandeur.
Padua exemplifies an artistic city but hides beneath the façade of its most popular attraction with day-trippers quickly snapping a photo of the Cappella degli Scrovegni before returning to their home base. The city surpasses the title of town but doesn’t reach the size of a city with a population of approximately 215,000 as of the 2011 census. The town stands on the banks of the Bacchiglione River 25 miles west of Venice. The Brenta River once wound through the city and continues to touch the edges of the northern districts. Local legend claims Padua as the oldest city in Italy, named at the time of Virgil’s Aeneid.
Residents claim Trojan prince Antenor founded the town in 1,183 BC after the fall of Troy. A large, ancient stone sarcophagus was exhumed in the 13th century that dates between the 4th and 3rd centuries BC. Discoveries in the center of town reveal settlements as early as the 11th and 10th centuries BC. The city fell under Venetian dominance in the 15th century after battling against Verona for hundreds over years regarding supremacy over the Veneto plains. The city is proud of its wealth of history and culture embodied in archeological findings and the university founded in 1222 to become one of the preeminent universities in Europe, equitable to Oxford in England.
Students continue to populate the town with a youthful exuberance emphasizing antiquity. Away from the Scrovegni Chapel or the Basilica of St. Anthony, you are more likely to meet local students and smartly-dressed business people rather than a crowd of tourists. The town center is stunning with endless historic streets, fine architecture reflecting the layers of the city’ past, and fantastic artworks compelling to art enthusiasts and novice onlookers alike. Arcaded streets, gardens, and parks turn the everyday city into a pleasant place to stroll at a relaxed pace leading to villas, riverboats, and thermal baths, along with the world’s oldest botanical garden.
Markets surround the Palazzo della Ragione for a perfect place to grab small bites or a bottle of wine to enjoy in one of the public parks. Locals flock to ice cream shops around the city on hot days to enjoy the enticing flavors of quality ingredients reflecting the slow food movement championed in Northern Italy and popular around the country.
For no other reason, Verona deserves a special place in the annals of Western Civilization as a city that thrice inspired Shakespeare, first with his comedy The Taming of the Shrew, secondly with another comedy Two Gentlemen of Verona, and finally by his cherished ode to star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet. The city has long stepped out of the shadow cast by the famous English bard, if it in fact was ever in the writer’s shadow, to showcase enchanting streets, captivating history, and a connection to delicious cuisine. The city’s early history remains a mystery before the Roman’s conquered Po River Valley in 300 BC.
Verona became a colony in 89 BC with an important positioning as an intersection between various roads. The collection of gorgeous piazzas, preserved Roman ruins, and fascinating bridges stands less than 75 miles west of Venice on a sweeping curve of the Adige River beneath the slopes of the Italian Alps. The city was an important hub of scientific and artistic thought in the early Renaissance under the powerful patrons of the della Scala family. Reflections of the former provincial aristocrats are everywhere in Verona, under the name Scaligeri. In summer the opera season dominates the Roman Arena with performances in front of a seated audience of 22,000.
The stadium built in the 3rd century AD borders one-half of Piazza Bra, opposite Palazzo Malfatti. The old grounds of Castelvecchio continue to impress passersby on the banks of the Adige River. The powerful walls and impressive Scaligero bridge lead to a traffic-free environment perfect for joggers, families, and strolling couples happy to cross over the rushing water and enjoy the views. Many people visit the city to follow the trail of lovers, hoping to bask in the beauty of Romeo and Juliet’s passion for one another.
It is unlikely William Shakespeare ever set foot in Verona, however, his fascination for the city brought fame to the streets and the two families historians believe were the basis of the feuding Capulets and Montagues. The town has properly marketed its connection to the story of the star-crossed lovers for centuries, opening the doors to the home of Juliet’s manor near the cafes and restaurants of Piazza Erbe, the fascinating market square. Locals and merchants have gathered in the public space for over two millennia.
A whale’s rib brought from the Orient by spice traders over 500 years ago hangs from an Arco della Costa. City historians know where the bone came from, but not how it wound up dangling from the archway. The arch was a former walkway providing safe passage for judges and magistrates considered too noble to associate with the corrupt citizens of the city below the. Legend states the bone will fall on the head of the first truthful person to walk beneath the archway.
The most easterly region of Northern Italy doesn’t make a lot of tourist itineraries, but the natural and cultural history of Friuli-Venezia Giulia deserves the same amount of attention as regions more known to the wider world, such as Tuscany or Campania. The region borders the countries of Austria and Slovenia, along the Italian region of Veneto. The distance between the city of Porec on Croatia’s Istrian Peninsula and Trieste, the capital of Friuli-Venezia Giulia, is less than 50 miles. Its location offered a great opening to Central Europe and easy transport routes between the east and west of Southern Europe.
The region encompasses more than 3,000 square miles stretching from the Adriatic Sea to the Dolomites and Julia Alps. The complicated history emanates from the region’s proximity to Austria. The Austro-Hungarian empire ruled over the area for over 500 years, using Trieste as the main seaport before losing the territory to Italy in the First World War, while Istria fell under the rule of Yugoslavia. The ambiance of Friuli-Venezia Giulia is remarkably different from other regions of Italy.
The cities reflect the different histories of the peoples who conquered and ruled the different provinces over time. Lombards made their seat of power Cividale. The Venetian Republic ruled over the city of Udine. Trieste is a picturesque image of Central European opulence. Residents of the region speak Italian first and foremost, along with German, Slovenian, and Friulian. The latter is a Romance language influenced by the surrounding dialects with over 600,000 speakers across the region. Nature reserves protect marine life, lagoons, and mountains.
Local vineyards produce quality wines sought out by oenophiles. The coastline provides perfect space for pristine beaches and grand rocky coves. Internationally renowned authors like Earnest Hemingway, James Joyce, and Rainer Maria Rilke found inspiration in the landscape tucked away in the east. Roman ruins, coastal and mountain passes, and a traditional decadent cuisine consisting of Montasio cheese, fried cheese, and potato pancakes represent the rich, eclectic heritage of a region too-often overlooked by tourists. Hapsburg coffee houses also played a significant role in local heritage and contemporary life; it is easy to believe the Italian Coffee Culture grew out of the coffee house culture of the region.
It is easier to describe the capital of Friuli-Venezia Giulia by what it doesn’t have, as opposed to what it does. The city holds no unforgettable landmark or familiar monument, and doesn’t draw gastronomes with a specific familiar specialty, however, the city enchants visitors with a quiet charm until they never want to leave. The hills tumble down from the rugged karstic plateau to reach the Adriatic shoreline. Slovenia nearly wraps around the borders of Trieste, isolating the city from the rest of Italy in history, culture, and political affiliation. The city has faced east since the 14th century, finding more in common with Austria or Slovenia than with the country it is currently connected to, blossoming in the 18th and 19th centuries under the reign of the Habsburgs. The city became an escape for affluent Viennese who used the fluid border to intermingle cultures of Germanic, Italian, Slavic, Jewish, and Greek descent. Marvelous belle époque cafes continue to glisten amidst the constant bora wind blowing down from the foothills. Trieste offers an easy connection to Carso and Collio wine growing regions. The cosmopolitan spirit of the city lives on in the reflections of the architecture, penchant for pork knuckle and sauerkraut, and the flavors of the Illy espresso, one of the most famous brand names across the country.
The quiet provincial capital remains relatively unknown to tourists but is one of the most important towns in the northeast corner of Italy. The interesting heritage steps away from Italian traditions, connected more with Austrian and Slovenian culture, which both stand close to the regional borders. The town contains a hint of flair from the Venetian Republic, the Austro-Hungarian empire, and signs of Slovenian language blending with locals speaking Friulano. Archeologists and historians have found evidence of settlers inhabiting the area since the Neolithic age. An old Hungarian legend states Atilla the Hun built a hill in the area when attacking ancient Aquileia. The town was mentioned for the first time in the 10th century AD with the donation of the Utinum castle by the feudal lord of the region. Two small, medieval canals flow through the heart of town, adding an attractive shimmer to the townscape.
Steps leading down to the water were originally designed for residents to have a place to sit and set their baskets when washing the laundry. The streets and architecture create a well-ordered ambiance juxtaposing the type of Italian design of towns and cities west and south of Udine. The varied landscape changes along the beach at Lignano Sabbiadoro to textured snow capped mountains of the Alpine Foothills, Carnic Alps, and Julian Alps. Protected areas around the town include the Friulian Dolomites National Park, where deer, chamois, and ibex roam along the alpine prairies and jagged mountain slopes. The Tarviso Forest sweeping across the Julian Alps is one of the largest wooded areas in Europe.
Ruins of the ancient Roman city Aquileia have shaped the medieval and Renaissance architecture that remain standing in the historic center of Udine embodied in Udine Castle, Palazzo Comunale, and the Civic Museums. Culture abounds in the cherished Unesco World Heritage Sites you can visit when on Workation valued for the archeological discoveries including the fabulous design of the Patriarchal Cathedral and the mosaics on display inside the Paleochristian Museum.
The nearby town of Palmanova offers a unique example of a model Renaissance town calculated to follow a polygonal plan emanating from the central square, Piazza Grande. A 17th century Duomo looks into the piazza and the large statues decorated the gorgeous townscape leading to the streets sprawling outward to the monumental town gates. The cuisine connects more with the flavors and dishes of Central Europe, than the recipes of Italy, but celebrates delicious meats like Sauri prosciutto and sweet treats like gubana, a mille-feuille with walnuts, liqueur, and spices.
Wines like Merlot, Cabernet, Pinot Grigio, and Chardonnay have brought regional oenophiles to the vineyards around the province, along with enthusiasts excited by the prospect of sampling the elusive Picolit, a white wine celebrated for its fruity floral aromas accentuating the rich flavors of any dessert. The ring of semi-rural suburbs give way to the historic center of dramatic Venetian arches, Grecian statues, and Roman columns celebrating the pristine history. Contemporary bars fil the night with laughter and the paintings of Tiepolo symbolize the wealth of artistry spread across a number of museums around the town through which visitors can often wander in the pleasure of their own company.
If a town could be considered a jewel, Pordenone would be a white diamond. The elegance of the Gothic and Renaissance architecture in the historic city center is a priceless treasure inspiring younger works, such as the 18th century Galvani Park. A rose garden on the grounds protects 185 different species of roses and provides a timeline for the history of the flower. The town sits on the western border with Veneto, nestled between the Carnic Alps and the wading waters of the Tagliamento and Livenza rivers.
The greater eponymous province spreads across the valleys, hills, and flatlands for a captivating variety of scenery, including dolomitic rock, deep and narrow vales, and stretches of pebbled rivers unchanged over the centuries beneath soaring karsts. The nearby Regional Park of the Friulian Dolomites protects the natural charms in the form of grazing lands, foothills, and rugged mountain peaks. Locals speak a mixture of Italian with a heavy Venetian accent, and Friulian, the latter of which a regional ordinance has protected since 2007. The cuisine focuses on the rich flavors and hardy textures, including dumplings and risottos, soft creamy cheeses and stewed meats.
Piazza Cavour is at the heart of town with Gothic, Renaissance, and baroque homes flanking the main street of Corso Vittorio Emanuele. The Venetian style of Palazzo Tinti symbolizes the elegant character of the greater townscape and 14th century frescoes decorate the remarkable galleries of Casa Vianello. A prestigious collection of Italian and international artists fills the rooms of the Pizzinato Modern and Contemporary Art Gallery housed in the Galvani villa. Every October the town hosts the world’s largest Silent Film Festival. Pianists and orchestras from around the world spend time in town to provide accompaniment for each piece.
When it comes to food and culture in Italy, Emilia-Romagna Romagna can’t be beat. Emilia Romagna is the Italy people expect to see when watching a classic movie, when old men sit at the outdoor tables of cafes or restaurants talking politics or soccer. Locals wave to one another on the streets while mothers and grandmothers craft handmade pasta for dinner. Photogenic porticos and Romanesque churches become commonplace juxtaposing the lavish cars and regal mansions.
The Po River, Adriatic Sea, and Apennine Mountains form natural borders separating the region from its surroundings of Veneto, Lombardy, and Piedmont in the north, Liguria and Tuscany to the west, along with Le Marche and a greater stretch of Tuscany to the south. The independent Republic of San Marino also touches Emilia-Romagna along the border with Le Marche. A lust for life reigns supreme with locals indulging in the beaches, snow capped mountains, trails along the Po River Delta, and supreme flavors of Parma ham, Parmesan cheese, or balsamic vinegar.
The towns date back to great antiquity, growing along the Via Aemilia, the major Roman route connecting the capital of the empire to the port at Ariminum, which laid the foundations for modern Rimini. Ravenna once acted as the capital of Italy in the twilight days of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century and again between the 6th and 8th centuries under the reign of the Ostrogothic and Byzantine empires. Bologna remains one of the most important towns in the region, and in all of contemporary Italy, yet sees little tourism outside of students attending the historic university and gastronomes in the know about the depths of flavors manifesting in the region’s capital.
The diversity of the landscape features breathtaking colors and fabulous aromas blending the sea air, refreshing mountain breezes, and herbaceous plains. The Romagna Riviera possesses Europe’s longest stretch of beach, drawing crowds from around the continent during the summer to luxuriate around the facilities in Rimini, Riccione, and Cattaolica. The rugged terrain of the Apennines is perfect for horseback riding, trekking, or skiing near the cities of Parma and Piacenza. The relaxing ambiance of natural wellness centers blend ancient thermal baths fed by hidden springs and modern facilities for the ultimate luxuries in Bagno di Romagna and Salsomaggiore.
Residents of the region speak mainly Italian but in certain locations across the region, including the independent principality of San Marino, people also speak local Romance languages shaped by a connection to the dialects of Piedmont, Lombardy, Liguria, and Veneto. These languages are considered separate from Italian by the Red Book of Endangered Languages of UNESCO. Culture abounds in the region’s celebrated connection to Giuseppe Verdi, one of the fathers of Italian Opera in the 19th century following the Romantic period ushered in by Giacchino Rossini. Contemporary cinema owes a whimsical nod to the region as the birthplace of Federico Fellini, whose unmistakable cinematic masterpieces showcased the life of his native-born region.
Beyond the obvious cultural appeal of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites featuring marvelous mosaics, magnificent medieval architecture, and ancient mausoleums, Emilia-Romagna also encourages support for sports cars and motorsport enthusiasts as the home of the Ferrari Museum located in the province of Modena. The town of Imola, located less than 55 miles away from the home of the Ferrari Museum in Maranello, is the Enzo and Dino Ferrari Autodrome, a celebrated venue for bicycle and motorcycle events since 1953. The luxury automotive industry in the region ventures beyond Ferrari to include Maserati, Pagani, and Lamborghini.
As far as capital cities go, Bologna has it all. The old university town contains lavish porticos and exuberant squares, historic buildings and a fascinating medieval core. Restaurants fill the streets with lush aromas and university students provide a youthful ambiance contrasting the spirited past, along with strong left-leaning political views. The city is less than an hour west of the Adriatic coastline and halfway between Florence and Milan spreading over the plain of the Po River Valley and into the hills in view of the peak Corno delle Scale soaring over 6,560 feet above sea level.
Etruscans settled the area approximately 3,000 years ago, giving way to Roman legions and a particular urban design. One of the city’s defining features for the past millennia is the university, which was established in 1088 as the first, and now the oldest, university in Europe. Piazza Maggiore is one of the central squares lined with fabulous arcades and elegant window shop Basilica of San Pietro, but Le Due Torri (the Two Towers) are historic sites in the city that you literally cannot miss. The structures stand guard over Piazza di Porta Ravegnana. They were built in the 12th century and have since listed more than 10 feet.
The two towers have become the main symbol of the city over the years, preserved as artifacts remaining from the more than 100 towers that once decorated the skyline as a sign of the local nobility’s wealth. The tallest tower, Torre degli Asinelli, reaches nearly 320 feet tall. The smaller tower of Torre Garisenda stands at less than half as tall, reaching 155 feet tall but has a more prominent slant. You can climb the more than 490 steps to the top of Torre degli Asinelli for a spectacular view over the grand city.
The heavyweight of Renaissance art and architecture lures ardent fans of culture and history but passes under the radar of newcomers to the Italian landscape who instead stay captivated or captured by the distinguished allure of Florence in Tuscany. The powerful Este family ruled the city for three centuries, attracting artists and writers eager to participate in the lavish designs emerging from the aristocratic streets, including the famous author Ludovico Ariosto, who wrote the epic poem Orlando Furioso. The town remains enclosed in defensive walls reaching six miles long making it one of the best Workation destinations in Italy to visit with family.
The walls once acted as the boundaries between the city and the outside world, with an original buffer of empty land now filled with contemporary housing. The streets quickly lead into the network of medieval and Renaissance architecture at the heart of the city. A number of lanes are dedicated to pedestrians, with most open to cars and the whizzing bikes of locals who bump along the undulating contours of the cobblestones. The relative proximity to Venice has also kept the city a hidden gem from the mass of tourists keeping the preserved palaces tranquil and the presentation of its history, rapturous. Two early centers of settlement are located beneath the cathedral and on the opposite shore of the Volano channel.
The city made its first appearance in historical documents during a mention by the Lombard King Desiderius in the 8th century AD. A more contemporary history relates to the strong Jewish community that persisted through the Middle Ages until the Second World War when Mussolini’s fascist government reintroduced segregation and deported nearly 100 of the city’s 300 Jewish citizens to German concentration camps, of which only five survived. A strong culinary tradition specializes in local flavors as well as nutmeg, butter, sage, and truffles in a variety of dishes, along with stewed eel from the Po delta and Kosher salami made from goose instead of pork.
The Romans named the original settlement Placentia, which meant “pleasant place;” the picturesque historic center of Gothic architecture from the Middle Ages and Renaissance palaces gives credence to the Roman forethought of a pleasant place along the confluence of the Trebbia and P rivers at the northern edge of the Apennine Mountains. The views contain rocky spurs, vineyards spreading across the hills, church spires, sporadic towers, and the thick walls of impressive fortresses. Antique charm emanates from the medieval villages once peppering Via Francigena, the medieval religious road connecting France to Rome, and now conforming into the contours of the greater Piacenza province.
The fertile landscape inspires gastronomic specialties and celebrated wine. The local population of approximately 100,000 people rely on the economy based on wine production and manufacturing. Dramatic castles, elegant parks, and complex religious buildings decorate the cobbled lanes. The regional park of Adda Sud runs alongside the River Adda for miles, providing residents with an escape into the countryside in search of white storks, the Rock of Maccastorna, and bicycle or walking paths. The medium-sized town has unexpected surprises in the form of the Palazzo Farnese and the Liver of Piacenza. Emperor Charles V extended the palace grounds in the 16th century.
The initial palace was commissioned in the 14th century as a fortress, with prevalent architectural elements persisting through the later refurbishment. The complex contains the Museum of Italian Risorgimento and an art gallery housing the 16th and 17th century paintings of the duke’s private collection. Among other galleries and exhibitions inside the complex is the Archeological Museum known for displaying the rare and peculiar ornament known as the Liver of Piacenza. The bronze artifact molded to the shape of a sheep’s liver contains images of the cosmic order known to the ancient Etruscans between 800 and 300 BC.
The culture practiced the art of haruspicy, reading the future from animal entrails, especially livers. The bronze figure dates back to the 3rd century when the Etruscans around Italy had already folded to Roman rule. Archeologists discovered the artifact in the late 19th century and believe the characters reflect Etruscan’s view of the Earth, sun, moon, and a number of heavenly bodies corresponding with relevant gods. The artifact is five inches by three inches but expounds information like an instructional guide to novice soothsayers.
From an art-lover’s perspective, the treasures of Ravenna rival those of Florence, Venice, and Rome. The elegant town is located near the Adriatic coast and is famous for its Byzantine mosaics dating from the 5th and 6th centuries. Historian’s theorize the origin of the name derives from the Etruscan word “Rasenna,” but debates continue in the community. Archeologists have discovered evidence of Thessalonians, Etruscans, and Umbrians before the arrival of Senones around the southern countryside.
Romans ignored the area during their annexation of the Po River Delta and eventually accepted the city into their folds around 89 BC. Julius Caesar used the settlement as a gathering place for his forces before crossing the Rubicon in 49 BC. The most notable history decorating the cityscape derives from the era of the Roman authorities’ dissolution in the west and the rise of the Ostrogothic Kingdom of Italy. The prominent reputation has carried the city through history, from its mention in Canto V of Dante Alighieri’s Inferno to inspiring the likes of Lord Byron, Oscar Wilde, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the director Michelangelo Antonioni. The natural splendors of thick pine-wood forest and undulating sand dunes adds to the pristine allure of the city’s beauty.
The mountains mark the border with the province of Ferrara and the plains separate the province from the historic centers of Lugo, Bagnacavallo, and Massa Lombarda. The city has stood as the center of the Western World since its declaration as the capital of the Western Roman Empire, then again as the heart of the Byzantine Empire in Italy, preserving the impressive complex of early Christian and Byzantine monuments. Naturalists can relish the splendor of the silent flooded woods at the Oasis of Punte Alberete, which conserves rare birds and marsh plants. The Museum of Natural Sciences of Ravenna in Sant’Alberto offers detailed guidance to the natural wonders within the province and the protected landscape of Po Delta Park.
Scuba divers venture to the seabed at Porto Corsini and travelers looking for a more relaxing experience visit the spa resorts to enjoy the luxurious thermal centers. The typical flavors of Emilia-Romagna blend with the culinary traditions of the seaside and marshlands for delicious dishes consisting of fish, frog, and duck. The town remains a pleasant place to explore, offering a depth of history amidst the relaxed, residential ambiance. Piazza del Popolo connects to the main streets of Viale Farini and via Diaz. The charming square becomes the stabilizing point for newcomers, surrounded by a collection of handsome buildings, including the 14th century Town Hall of Palazzo Comunale.
The city alone contains eight of Italy’s 47 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, without mentioning the Roman archeological parks of Domus dei Tappeti di Pietra and Classe Archeological Park, or the distinguishing institutions of the Museo Arcivescovile and the Dante Museum, the latter of which contains the epic poets official tomb. The works of the golden age of Ravenna continue to enchant locals and visitors amongst the terracotta brick churches indicative of a time when the rest of the Italian Peninsula succumbed to a wake of Barbarian invasions.
Northern Italy has so much diversity, showcasing a part of the culture, history, and landscape many visitors don’t expect. Find a different connection to greater Europe, areas that can feel less Italian and more French, German, or Austrian while still immersing you in authentic Italy on your Workation.
Find more ideas on where to go across the country for your Workation with information on the Central Italy Region and Where to Visit or the Southern Italy Region and Where to Visit.