The North Italy road trip is a bucket-list thing anyone in love with travel should do at least once in their lifetime. That region of Italy is filled with historic cities, charming castles and some incredible nature. From the transparent blue sea, massive mountains to some of the most beautiful lakes you’ll find in Europe, North Italy has them all.
To help you make the most out of your trip, here is the North Italy Road Trip guide, including the visits to Milan, Lake Como, Trento and Verona.
North Italy Road Trip
Going on a road trip is one of the best ways to explore a new country or a region. And that’s especially true when it comes to Italy. Its scenery is so magical and often surprising, with many small churches, hidden villages or ancient ruins you’ll stumble upon while riding around it.
North Italy has a long and rich history, going all the way back to the pre-Roman times. It’s home to the oldest European university, the University of Bologna. Milan’s Cathedral is one of the finest examples of Gothic architecture. That city was also home to Leonardo da Vinci during the Renaissance time. On the other hand, Verona is famous as a setting for one of the best known romantic novels of all time, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. There is so much to be discovered for art and culture enthusiasts during the road trip to North Italy.
North Italy Road Trip Itinerary
As I already mentioned, my suggestion is to start your trip in Milan and do a sort of a round trip then by visiting Lake Como, Trento and Verona. I’d reserve seven to ten days for it, so you’ll have enough time to explore all of these beautiful locations. And enjoy in the nature of North Italy along the way.
Driving distance: 55 kilometres (34 miles) from Milan Airport, 2 – 3 days stay
After arriving at Milan Airport, you can rent a car there and drive to Milan then. With more than one million residents, it’s the second most-populated city in Italy and the capital of the Lombardy region.
Milan is well known today as one of the world fashion capitals. Some top-rated fashion brands, such as Armani, Versace or Dolce & Gabbana, all come from Milan. Besides these fashion giants, there are numerous small designer shops all over the city, and exploring them is absolutely one of my favourite things to do in Milan.
With its long history, the city is filled with numerous ancient monuments. Spanning from the Roman times and the Middle Ages to the Historicistic and Modernist buildings, they all form a lovely setting to this Italian city.
Milan was one of the leading towns during the Renaissance time. This is when a famous painter Leonardo da Vinci lived and worked in it. His fascinating Last Supper fresco could still be seen at Santa Maria delle Grazie Church in Milan today. And I highly recommend visiting it!
The unmissable place in the city for any art lovers is the Pinacoteca di Brera Museum. It hosts one of the best collections of Italian art in the world.
There are so many must-see historical places in Milan, like Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, La Scala Theatre, Biblioteca Ambrosiana and the Sforza Castle. Be sure to climb the roof of the Milan Cathedral while there. It’s the fifth largest cathedral in the world and the most important Gothic building in Italy.
Driving distance: 84 kilometres (52 miles) from Milan, 2 – 3 days stay
After spending a few days in a busy Milan, a perfect way to continue your North Italy road trip is by driving to the countryside.
Como is a large lake located in the Lombardy region, north of Milan, very close to the Swiss border. It’s been a popular destination among aristocrats and wealthy people since Roman times. That’s why it’s home to many gorgeous villas with extensive gardens today. Because of its picturesque nature and beautiful colourful houses, it was often used as a filming location. Star Wars are just among some of the movies filmed there.
Among the most popular places at the lake are Como, Bellagio, Varenna and Menaggio. It’s convenient to stay in one of them because they are well connected with ferries. However, they could also get a bit busy during the summer months. So if you prefer a more peaceful place, many small villages around the lake are equally pretty (and well connected by the road).
Be sure to reserve one day to explore Lake Como on one of the ferries. They are comfortable and you’ll have a lovely view of the lake from them. Ferries are also departing very often, so you won’t spend much time waiting for them. I would definitely advise you to get a daily pass and just hop on and off and explore the lake.
⤷ Read more: Three days at Lake Como
Driving distance: 298 kilometres (185 miles) from Lake Como, 2 days stay
Located right in the middle of the Italian Alps, Trento is one of Italy’s hidden gems. It was named Tridentum by the Romans, who in that way gave a tribute to the Roman god Neptune. ‘Tri dentum’ means ‘three teeth’, referring to three hills surrounding the city. Trento was ruled by the Habsburg family for centuries.
The city played an essential role as a host of the Council of Trent (1545 – 1563), which was the start of the counter-Reformation in Europe. Many houses in the city were refurbished, painted and decorated with fantastic frescoes for that occasion.
The city’s architecture has a mix of Italian and Austrian influences. Many buildings have characteristics of the Italian Renaissance. However, painted facades are pretty similar to the neighbouring Tyrol region in Austria.
Some of the historical sites that shouldn’t be missed while there are the Cathedral of Saint Vigilius, a medieval church with a fascinating late-Roman crypt. Another beautiful site in Trento is the Buonconsiglio Castle. Not only its architecture is intriguing, but it’s home to quite a unique cycle of Gothic frescoes depicting the months of the year.
Trento is still a bit of a hidden gem in Italy. The massive mountains surrounding it are providing a beautiful setting to pretty old houses in its city centre. It’s definitely a place to put on your North Italy road trip itinerary.
Driving distance: 100 kilometres (62 miles) from Trento, 1 – 2 days stay
Verona is world-known as the most romantic Italian city. Besides the inevitable Romeo and Juliet story that marked the town, numerous beautiful sites make Verona worth visiting.
Castelvecchio is a beautiful medieval castle located in the city centre, next to the Adige River. With its white and red stone, it looks very similar to some other medieval public buildings in Italy, like, for example, the Town Hall in Siena. Located just next to it is another interesting historical site – Arco dei Gavi. It’s an ancient arch built in the 1st century by one of the noble families living in Verona. During the Middle Ages, it was used as the city entrance built into the city walls.
One of the most beautiful things to do in Verona is taking a walk next to the Adige River in the evening. The houses alongside the river are painted in numerous beautiful yellow, orange, red and peach shades. These warm colours are in such a nice contrast with many green trees next to the river. It almost feels as you walked into the Renaissance painting.
Verona old town is home to some fantastic buildings such as the Cathedral, Verona Arena and Romeo’s and Juliet’s houses. It’s a charming town full of hidden gems and fascinating history, and definitely worth making a stop during your North Italy road trip.
⤷ Read more: Quick guide to Verona
Some tips for driving in Italy
Driving around Italy could be a bit challenging. However, if you prepare for your North Italy Road Trip well, you shouldn’t have any issues. Just to be on the safe side, here is the link to the Italy Tourism Organisation’s website with all the rules to be aware of when driving around that country.
North Italy is home to a wonderful combination of fascinating history and beautiful nature. With so many places to see there, I hope this North Italy Road Trip guide will help you plan your trip there.
*Featured image by Nirmal Rajendharkumar on Unsplash