When one Imagines traveling to Italy, particularly the north, images of romantic Venice and it’s beautiful canals or imposing Milan with its upscale stores may come to mind. However often it is the places off the beaten track that most reflect the personality of a region and especially of its people and culture. Northern Italy is an area extremely rich in history, architecture and a culture that celebrates everything from food to fashion. Head away from the larger well-known cities and the traveller can take delight in the quieter yet still magnificent towns that punctuate a wonderful diversity of landscape. Modena with its iconic meandering streets seems a typical Italian town.
However, foodies and Ferrari lovers can comfortably rub shoulders as the town is the home of balsamic vinegar, tortellini pasta and houses the manufacturing plant of both Ferrari and Maserati. Ferrara, home to yet another amazing Gothic cathedral is located in the same region as Modena. In its day this city was well ahead of its time boasting cinema, fine art and literature projects as early as the 14th century. The city is still home to castles and it’s majestic city walls. Another beautiful Gothic cathedral can be found in Aquileia a small town of only a few thousand people.
The importance of its Roman history has deemed it a UNESCO world heritage site and the archaeological areas make fascinating viewing in this delightful town near the Slovenian border.
If all that history and architecture gets a little exhausting, you can always head out to Camogli situated about 30 minutes from Genoa. This destination is popular with northern Italians for good reason. The beaches are beautiful and the town itself a delight with many homes decorated with tromp l’oeil that give the centre a unique artistic look. Fresh seafood is naturally abundant and the local festivals celebrating that are a must. Don’t like the beach or the sun? How about escaping to the snowy paradise in the little mountain town of Livigno in the Lombardy region. The scenery is exceptional with wonderful vistas of the Alps but the shopping is also a treat if you enjoy designer stores and duty-free shops all with a view! Also in Lombardy is the town of Mantua that might be more recognizable to some as Mantua a town referenced in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
As expected it is filled with art and history and once was home to the poet Virgil. Again, a stunning location, this time on the lake, makes this lesser known town a must-see. Most people who visit any part of Italy are in expectation of some good food. Much of the more sumptuous delicacies come from the northern regions and none more so then the white truffles found in Alba. In addition to that the decadence continues with the use of the local hazelnuts. Alba is the home to Ferrero famous for the chocolates and of course Nutella!
To Compliment this there are also beautiful vine yards in the nearby countryside. Finally, the town of Courmayeur offers another wonderful mountain haven, nestled behind Mount Blanc Europe’s tallest mountain. The skiing and hiking are exceptional and the rigors of such activities can be soothed away by visiting the spa, eating the local fondue or spending money at the luxury shops. If you have the time Northern Italy can certainly, fill it with amazing small and less well-known destinations that will delight the traveller and offer a more personal window into the amazingly diverse nature of the region.