Planning the perfect Northern Italy itinerary can be a bit overwhelming, especially if you only have 10 days in which to explore this varied and dynamic region. There is a lot to see in the north of this diverse country — from beautiful cities to storied lakes to incredible coastline — that there is absolutely no way one can pack everything into just 10 days in Northern Italy.
However, if you know what you want to see and adequately plan out your time, you can see a lot of Northern Italy in 10 days if you simply prioritise your top destinations. Whether you’re after a Milan-Venice-Lake Como itinerary or you’re searching for something that loops you through Emilia-Romagna and Liguria, the routes below are sure to help you plan out your perfect trip to Northern Italy!
Getting To & Around Northern Italy
Whether you’re looking to map out a Northern Italy itinerary by train or would like to opt for a North Italy road trip, it is important to discuss A) how to get to your desired destination and B) how you plan to get around whilst there.
We will start with the first point. Both of the routes outlined below begin in Milan and that is for good reason – Milan Malpensa airport is the second-highest-traffic airport in Italy and it’s also the second-largest city in the country. This means that it is the most logical starting-off point if you’re visiting Northern Italy.
There are a few other airports near Milan that can also be a point of entry into the region – especially if you’re flying a budget airline from elsewhere in Italy or from Europe in general. I’m speaking of the Bergamo airport, which is often billed as the “Milan Bergamo Airport” but do keep in mind that this airport is in the city of Bergamo and is located about one hour from Milan itself – though it is easy to reach Milan.
There are other airports in most of the cities that are mentioned in both routes, including Venice, Bologna and Genoa, however, they are smaller and not as many flights go to them from as many destinations.
When it comes to getting around on your trip to Northern Italy, you also have a few options open to you. By far the easiest way to go on either of the routes listed below would be by car. This will help you save time and also allow you to make stops along the way and reach further-flung places. Driving in Northern Italy is easy and holds none of the stressors that you may experience in the south of the country.
You don’t need a car to get around the major cities like Milan, Venice, Bologna, Bergamo, Verona and Genoa, meaning that it makes the most sense to find a place to park your car and use public transit (or your own two feet) while in these destinations. However, having your own vehicle can make day trips exceptionally easy and convenient.
Having your own car is also ideal for exploring Lakes Como and Garda as, again, it gives you a lot more flexibility. You can browse Rentalcars.com to compare prices on rental cars.
However, if you don’t want to rent a car or don’t drive for whatever reason, both of the routes outlined below are also doable via train with a few considerations in mind.
You likely won’t be able to see as much as you could if you had your own vehicle just because coordinating timetables can be tricky, but that doesn’t mean you will have any less of a fulfilling trip to Northern Italy. You can browse schedules and book train tickets here.
10-Day Northern Italy Itinerary: 2 Great Routes
Without further ago, the two routes below outline different directions you could take in Northern Italy. Both beginning in the vibrant city of Milan, you cannot go wrong with either itinerary and you’re sure to fall in love with this incredible area of the country.
Lombardy & Veneto in 10 Days
This Northern Italy itinerary is perfect for those who want to see the well-known highlights of the region including Milan, Venice and Lake Como. There are also a couple of lesser-visited gems on this route to ensure you have a varied and interesting time exploring the Lombardy and Veneto regions of Northern Italy.
Day 1 – Milan
Plan to spend the first day of your 10 days in Northern Italy exploring the highlights of Milan. Italy’s second-largest city has a lot to offer visitors and you need to spend at least 2 full days getting to know the city.
Your first day should be dedicated to seeing all of the main sites of the city. Begin your day at the iconic Milan Duomo – the city’s main cathedral. A visit here can take several hours and is truly spectacular. You can pre-book tickets here.
You can fill the rest of your day wandering by the Royal Palace, the Museo de Novecento, the Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II and, of course, the famous Teatro La Scala. Plan to spend at least two nights in Milan before moving on to your next destination.
Where to Stay in Milan
Lancaster Hotel – If you’re visiting the Lombardy capital on a mid-range budget, then this classical hotel is a great option. Located in the centre of Milan within walking distance of the city’s top attractions, they have a range of great rooms to choose from and breakfast included for guests each morning. Click here to see their availability
Castello Guest House Milano – This luxury guesthouse is an excellent choice for those after a bit of a splurge while visiting Milan. Well-located for exploring the highlights of the city within a stone’s throw, they have countless lovely rooms on offer and plenty of other amenities to enjoy, as well. Click here to see their availability
Queen Hostel – Budget and solo travellers will love this centrally-located hostel. Well situated for exploring the best Milan has to offer, it is one of the highest-rated hostels in the city and they offer both dorms and private rooms. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Milan hotels!
Day 2 – Milan
Your second day in Milan should be spent getting to know the city just a little bit better. Check out some of the city’s smaller churches, some cool areas and, of course, one of the most famous paintings in the world – da Vinci’s “Last Supper.”
Start your day at the Basilica di Sant’Ambrogio before making your way over to the Chiesa di Santa Maria Delle Grazie where you can view the Last Supper. Afterwards, you can go over and explore Castello Sforzesco and tranquil Sempione Park.
End your day by exploring the hip and happening Navigli district, which is a great place to partake in Italy’s favourite pre-dinner pastime – aperitivo!
Day 3 – Lake Como
Day 3 of this North Italy itinerary takes you out of Milan and to beautiful Lake Como. Keep in mind that it is best and easiest to explore Lake Como if you have your own car, however, it is still possible to see a lot of the villages by relying on the extensive ferry system around the lake.
Many treat Lake Como as a day trip from Milan, however, it is best to spend at least a couple of days here to really get a good feel for this beautiful area.
Plan to spend your first day in Lake Como exploring the iconic villages around the lake – Bellagio, Menaggio and Varenna. These three villages are well-connected by ferry and you can very easily enjoy this day without your own car.
Each village is small and has its own charm so make sure to take your time to get lost in the beautiful little streets and take in tons of incomparable lakeside views.
Where to Stay in Lake Como
B&B Villa Rosalinda – This bed and breakfast in the quiet town of Dongo in the north of Lake Como is a great option for those looking for a tranquil escape on the lake. They have a number of clean and comfortable rooms to choose from and offer breakfast to guests each morning. Click here to see their availability
Villa Lario Resort Mandello – Luxury travellers will swoon over this beautiful hotel located in the town of Mandello del Lario – about fifteen minutes south of quaint Varenna. They have countless luxe rooms to choose from and an extensive list of amenities to ensure that your stay is absolutely perfect. Click here to see their availability
Miralago B&B and Apartments – This bed and breakfast located just outside of Bellagio offers both en-suite rooms and some apartment options for those looking for a comfortable self-catering notion. They are in a great area for exploring Lake Como and breakfast is available upon request. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Lake Como hotels!
Day 4 – Lake Como
Dedicate day 4 to exploring some of Lake Como’s larger cities and also taking in one of the lake’s famous villas and their beautiful gardens.
Spend your morning touring a villa – there are countless to choose from on Lake Como. It’s best to get to whichever villa you choose as early as possible as they can get very busy and popular, especially if you’re travelling in the high season.
Your afternoon can be spent exploring the cities of Como and Lecco, both located on either end of the south of the lake.
Keep in mind that if you’re keen to visit both of these cities in a day, it’s best if you have your own car. If you’re relying on the ferry system on Lake Como, then plan to simply spend your afternoon in Como and maybe go on a cruise on the lake to enjoy it from a different perspective.
Day 5 – Bergamo
On day 5, it’s time to leave Lake Como and drive about an hour to the lovely city of Bergamo. Though its airport acts as a hub for a number of budget airlines across Europe, not enough visitors take the time to explore this delightful city and this is really a shame – it has a lot to offer.
Its compact nature means that you only really need to spend one day in Bergamo to do it justice. Split over two parts – the Citta Alta and Citta Bassa – the majority of the historic sites lie in the Citta Alta, so that is where you will likely dedicate the majority of your time.
You can take the funicular up to the Citta Alta before taking in Piazza Vecchia – Bergamo’s main square. Take another funicular up to the Castello di San Viglia where you can get fantastic views of the city from above. We recommend walking down and making a stop in the botanical gardens on your way.
Later, explore the Duomo di Bergamo and the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore. And if you want even more fantastic views of the city, head up the Campanone tower. Then make your way down, on foot, to the Citta Bassa. You will walk along the Venetian Walls, which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
End your day in Citta Bassa for aperitivo and dinner with the locals.
Where to Stay in Bergamo
B&B Entro Le Mura – Located in Citta Alta close to all the top sites in Bergamo, this bed and breakfast is an excellent option for mid-range travellers. They offer a number of cosy rooms to choose from and, of course, breakfast is included for guests to enjoy each morning. Click here to see their availability
Petronilla – This luxury hotel located in Citta Bassa is great for those looking for a plush stay in Bergamo. Well located for exploring all this wonderful little city has to offer, they have a number of rooms on offer, there is an on-site restaurant/bar and they even allow pets. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Bergamo hotels!
Day 6 – Lake Garda
From Bergamo, it’s time to head to the incredible Lake Garda for the sixth day of your Northern Italy itinerary. Though you could easily spend 2 or 3 days in Lake Garda, you can get a good feel for the lake and some of its towns in just one day, as well.
Where you decide to go in Lake Garda really depends on if you have a car or not, as the lake can be difficult to navigate without your own vehicle. Keeping that in mind, if you’re doing your Northern Italy itinerary by train, plan to explore the area in and around Sirmione, which has easy train connections.
If you have a car, you have the option to go wherever you choose on the lake, however, keep in mind that this is the largest lake in Italy and it may take some time to drive between places.
You can opt to spend the morning in Sirmione before heading up the western side of Garda and exploring the towns of Salo, Maderno and Gargnano.
Alternatively, you could spend your time at the north of Lake Garda and explore the towns of Limone and Riva del Garda before heading down the eastern coast to lovely Malcesine.
Plan to spend the next two nights on Lake Garda – there are lots of lovely towns to stay in on the lake.
Where to Stay in Lake Garda
Ambienthotel PrimaLuna – This hotel is an excellent mid-range hotel in Lake Garda. Located in the lovely town of Malcesine, they have a number of lovely rooms to choose from and there is even a great swimming pool to enjoy and a fantastic breakfast available for guests each morning. Click here to see their availability
Grand Hotel Fasano – Located in Gardone Riviera between the towns of Salo and Maderno on Lake Garda’s western side, this hotel is perfect for those after a bit of luxury when visiting Italy’s largest lake. They have a number of plush rooms to choose from, two swimming pools to enjoy and an on-site bar, spa and wellness centre. Click here to see their availability
Blue Sky Garda – This two-bedroom apartment can be a great option on Lake Garda if you’re after the convenience and privacy of your own flat. Situated in the town of Malcesine on the eastern side of the lake, its location is perfect for exploring the area. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Lake Garda hotels!
Day 7 – Verona
From Lake Garda, it’s time to head to nearby Verona. An oft-overlooked city in the Veneto region, Verona is perhaps most well known for being the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, however, this city has a lot more to offer than just that.
During your day in Verona, make sure not to miss the Casa di Giulietta (Juliet’s house) and, of course, the Verona Arena.
The arena is an impressive Roman colosseum that attracts only a fraction of the crowds found at the most famous one in Rome. There are plenty of other Roman ruins to enjoy in Verona, not just this incredible arena.
Plan to spend your night in Lake Garda before heading to Venice the next day.
Day 8 – Venice
Generally, no visit to Northern Italy is considered complete without visiting the iconic city of Venice.
This is a city that needs no introduction but keep in mind that the city has been struggling under the stresses of overtourism and it is important to spend a good amount of time here in order to travel a bit more sustainably and have the most benefit to the local economy. That is why we recommend spending up to 3 days in Venice.
Spend your first day in this city of canals taking in the top and most iconic sites. These include, of course, the Rialto Bridge and St Mark’s Square. Make sure to take your time to simply enjoy the ambience of this incredible city and even get out onto the canals on a gondola!
Spend your evening in a cosy taverna eating local fare and simply enjoying the final destination on your fantastic itinerary through Northern Italy.
Where to Stay in Venice
Ca’ Angeli – This hotel in the San Polo neighbourhood only has 6 rooms on offer, but it is a great choice for those looking for a wonderful, central place to stay when exploring Venice. They have a number of great amenities for guests to enjoy along with a wonderful breakfast on offer each morning. Click here to see their availability
Riva del Vin Boutique Hotel – Located within spitting distance of the iconic Rialto Bridge, this is the perfect place for a luxury escape to Venice. Couples are sure to love the chic rooms on offer and there is also an on-site bar and wonderful breakfast included each morning. Click here to see their availability
Combo Venezia – Those looking to save as much money in notoriously expensive Venice as possible will love this small, locally-run hostel. Perfect for solo travellers, as well, it is located in the cool Cannaregio neighbourhood and they have a range of dorms and privates available along with great common areas. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Venice hotels!
Day 9 – Venice
Your second day in Venice should be spent digging a little bit deeper and enjoying some of the lesser visited neighbourhoods of the city – the places where the Venice locals live away from the tourist crowds.
Start your morning by wandering around the historic San Polo neighbourhood before making your way over to the lovely Dorsoduro neighbourhood. Cross over the Accademia Bridge back to the historic, central San Marco neighbourhood to round out your afternoon.
In the evening, head to the lively Cannaregio neighbourhood in order to get a real local feel and to dine at a wonderful Venetian restaurant!
Day 10 – Venice
On the final day of your 10 days in Northern Italy, you’re still in Venice and it’s time to explore some of the islands off the coast of this incredible city. The most famous of these islands include Murano and Burano, known for their incredibly colourful houses and charming atmosphere.
If the season is right, you could also use this day as a beach day, lounging on one of the many sandy stretches close to the city. You can book a tour here.
Alternatively, you could opt to go on a day trip to the nearby Prosecco region and sip some of the area’s eponymous Sparking wine. Another popular day trip option is to the town of Treviso, which is located just outside of Venice and worth the journey.
Lombardy, Emilia-Romagna & Liguria in 10 Days
Also beginning in Milan, this 10-day Northern Italy itinerary is great for those looking for something different from the routes that include the lakes and Venice (such as the one outlined above).
Winding you through gastronomic Emilia-Romagna before ending in gorgeous Liguria, you’re sure to fall in love with this area of Northern Italy.
Day 1 – Milan
Begin day one of this route through Northern Italy in the vibrant city of Milan. As mentioned in the route outlined above, spend this first day exploring the highlights of the city centre, including the Milan Duomo and the Teatro La Scala.
End your day like the Milanese do with an aperitivo before heading out to dinner. Plan to spend three nights in Milan for this itinerary, though we will only spend 2 full days exploring the city proper.
Day 2 – Milan
Your second day in Milan should be spent seeing all of the sites in the city that you didn’t get to on your first day in the city. This includes various churches, viewing Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper and relaxing in a tranquil park.
Spend your evening exploring the hip and happening Navigli district where you can get an authentic taste of Milanese life away from throngs of tourist crowds.
Day 3 – Lake Como or Bergamo
The third day in Milan should be spent on a day trip – where to is up to you! Milan makes for an excellent base to explore a couple of nearby areas, so you have a couple of options open to you.
If you’d like to head to the Italian lakes, then a day trip to Lake Como is definitely in the cards. You can hop on a train to Varenna and spend the day riding the ferries between beautiful Menaggio, Bellagio and Varenna itself. Alternatively, you can organise a guided tour here.
Alternatively, if you want to explore a city that isn’t on the radar of a lot of international visitors to the Lombardy region, consider going on a day trip to historic Bergamo.
Bergamo has a lot to offer visitors and it is an absolutely beautiful city to visit and spend some time in. One day is definitely enough to see all of the highlights of this lovely place.
Day 4 – Modena
Day 4 of this Northern Italy itinerary sees you heading to the incredible Emilia-Romagna region. Your final destination for today will be the region’s capital of Bologna, however, make sure to make a pit stop in the charming city of Modena first.
Modena is known, primarily, for being the homeland of Balsamic vinegar and heading to an acetaia (the place where traditional vinegar is made) is an excellent thing to do in the city. However, there is a lot more on offer here than just that – especially if you’re into food!
Spend your day wandering through the incredible Mercato Albinelli to see what fresh produce and local pastas are made fresh here. Then simply take the time to get lost in the city. Wander through the winding streets and grand piazzas, take in the lively Cathedral and simply enjoy this lovely city.
Modena is located only about a 30-minute drive or train ride from Bologna, so it’s not difficult to end your day in the latter city.
Where to Stay in Bologna
B&B Chez Moi Lame 57 – This cute boutique B&B is perfect for those after a romantic escape to Bologna. They offer a handful of chic, quaint, clean and comfortable rooms on offer and there is a breakfast voucher given to guests daily to dine in a nearby local cafe. Click here to see their availability
Hotel Metropolitan – If it’s luxury you’re after in Emilia-Romagna’s capital, then this plush hotel is the perfect option. They have an excellent location in the heart of Bologna, myriad chic rooms on offer and countless luxe amenities to ensure your stay is fantastic. Click here to see their availability
Dopa Hostel – Budget and solo travellers will love this hip hostel located in the centre of Bologna. They have a range of both dorm beds and private rooms on offer, breakfast is included each morning and it’s a great place to meet other travellers. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Bologna hotels!
Day 5 – Bologna
The fifth day of this route through Northern Italy sees you exploring Emilia-Romagna’s capital city of Bologna. Home to ragu bolognese and plenty of other gastronomic delights, Bologna has a lot to offer visitors beyond its food scene (but it’s totally fine to visit just for that, as well!).
Start your day in Bologna in the Piazza Maggiore, Bologna’s main square. Take in the towers and the Basilica di San Petronio before wandering down Via Rizzoli, the city’s main drag filled with shops. Spend your afternoon and evening exploring the university area – Bologna is home to one of Europe’s oldest universities.
End your day in one of the city’s many restaurants dining on local fare and enjoying every minute.
Day 6 – Bologna
On day six of this itinerary, you have the option to either continue exploring Bologna or to go on a day trip to nearby Parma. If you choose the former, there are a number of things that you can choose to occupy your time.
One of the best things to do in Bologna is to go on a food tour – some of the most famous Italian dishes come from this city and it is a great chance to sample them with context.
If you choose to go on a day trip, you can’t go wrong with beautiful Parma. Parma is well-known for being the homeplace of such delicacies as prosciutto di Parma and, of course, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.
You can sample these to your heart’s desire in Parma, along with exploring what is one of the most charming and historic cities in the region.
Day 7 – Cinque Terre
When you get to your seventh day of this trip through Northern Italy, it’s time to head to another region and area of the country – Liguria and, more specifically, Cinque Terre.
Literally translating to “five villages,” this area is made up of five lovely little towns situated on the dramatic Ligurian coast. These postcard-perfect towns are a can’t-miss destination on this itinerary!
Spend your first day in the main city near Cinque Terra, La Spezia. Though not one of the five villages itself, it is absolutely beautiful and it has a lot to offer visitors.
You can also use this day to explore two of the five villages. Take the time to wander around beautiful Riomaggiore and charming Manarola before calling it a day and resting up for another perfect day of exploration tomorrow.
Where to Stay in Cinque Terre
L’Approdo Dell’Ammiraglio – Those after a good mid-range place to base themselves for exploring Cinque Terre will love this guesthouse in La Spezia. They have numerous lovely and bright rooms on offer and an unbeatable location. Click here to see their availability
Miramare Apartments&Suites – This aparthotel is great for those after the convenience of an entire apartment with all the benefits of a traditional hotel. Located in La Spezia within easy reach of Cinque Terre, they have a number of different fully-furnished apartments available that range in size. Click here to see their availability
La Serra Sul Mare – Located in the town of Monterosso, this is one of the best places to stay in Cinque Terre for those looking for a luxury option. They have an unbeatable location within five minutes of the beach, all rooms have their own balcony and there are countless other amenities offered. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Cinque Terre hotels!
Day 8 – Cinque Terre
Your second day in Cinque Terre should be spent exploring more of the five lovely villages. Start your day in Monterosso al Mare – the largest of five towns that make up Cinque Terre. Known for its beautiful beaches, incredible scenery and charming old town.
From Monterosso, head to the village of Vernazza. This is a gorgeous fortified town with, like all other villages in the region, incredible sea views to enjoy. In fact, this is a great place to enjoy a sunset cruise on the sea, if it suits your fancy.
Day 9 – Genoa
The final destination for this particular 10-day Northern Italy itinerary should end in the Ligurian capital of Genoa. This seaside city is absolutely beautiful and full of interesting things to do – in fact, plan to spend 2 days in Genoa to round out your trip to the north of Italy.
Your first day in Genoa should begin by wandering down Via Garibaldi, the city’s main’s drag. After getting your bearings, head over to the Palazzi dei Rolli. Once you’ve explored this former palace, visit the San Lorenzo Cathedral.
Of course, no visit to Genoa would be complete without gorging yourself on delicious pesto pasta — the famous basil, pine nut and parmesan sauce hails from this city.
Where to Stay in Genoa
B&B Dormire Dai Grimaldi – Mid-range travellers will love this quaint and cosy bed and breakfast in the centre of Genoa. They offer a number of different en-suite rooms, a lovely communal lounge area and there is a hearty breakfast included each morning. Click here to see their availability
Hotel Astoria – If you’re after luxury in the Ligurian capital, then this plush hotel is a great option. For those looking for a high-end option, then this luxe hotel is a great choice. They have an excellent central location for exploring Genoa and have a range of lovely rooms to choose from, along with numerous other amenities. Click here to see their availability
OStellin Genova Hostel – For those looking for a budget option or a great social atmosphere while travelling, then this hostel is a great option. They offer both private rooms and dorm beds and have an excellent location for exploring all Genoa has to offer. Click here to see their availability
Not quite what you’re looking for? Click here to browse more Genoa hotels!
Day 10 – Genoa
Dedicate the final day of this itinerary to getting to Genoa just a little bit better. Spend your morning in Genoa along the seaside and visit the renowned Genoa Aquarium which is the largest aquarium in Italy and the largest of its kind in all of Europe.
There is a lot to see here so plan to spend a good amount of time learning about all of the sea creatures here.
In the afternoon, take the time to get lost in the lovely Porto Antico (old port) neighbourhood along the harbour. Dine on delicious, fresh seafood and really make sure to savour you last day of your Northern Italian adventure.
Have 14 Days in Northern Italy?
If you, for example, have 14 days in Northern Italy or more to spend, your options are virtually unlimited. There are so many incredible areas to explore that you won’t struggle to figure out where to go.
If you’re following the first route on this itinerary, you could easily add a visit to the Dolomites after exploring Venice. Spending time in getting to know the regions of Trentino and South Tyrol and taking in the incredible views of the Italian Alps is always worth it.
Alternatively, a good place to visit when moving on from Genoa is the city of Turin. As one of Italy’s largest cities, it can be overlooked. However, there is a lot to do in Turin (and in the Piedmont region, in general) that it is definitely.
You could also choose to fuse the two itineraries together for a longer trip through Northern Italy. From Venice in the first route, head to Bologna, Cinque Terre, Genoa and beyond!
Northern Italy is one of the most fascinating regions of the country to explore. With so much to offer, mapping out the ideal 10-day itinerary can be a bit overwhelming, but once you weigh out your priorities, you’re sure to have an exceptional trip.
Are you planning to visit Northern Italy? Have any questions about this itinerary? Let us know in the comments!