Road trip northern italy: a round trip through bella italia

Breathtaking mountain scenery, azure sea, italy’s largest lake, historic towns, world-famous metropolises and unforgettable nature: a road trip through northern italy is a perfect mix for your vacation. 15 tips for a round trip.

Sitting on the piazza in the evening with pizza and pasta and watching the hustle and bustle, that is always part of a vacation in italy. And that’s just one of the reasons why we Germans are so fond of bella italia. Another: italy offers the perfect mix of mountains and sea, culture and nature, adventure and relaxation – something for everyone. Whether for one, two or three weeks, a road trip to the south is always worthwhile. Shortly behind innsbruck comes the burner – and then: italy!

In the very north you can expect mountain peaks and green meadows, further on it goes over pretty villages and towns to highlights like venice, tuscany or the cinque terre. plus lake garda, the world metropolis milan – and of course every now and then: the sea! in between you just let yourself drift, follow the small country roads with your very own route and discover surely one or the other secret tip. What you should not miss on your round trip through northern italy? Here are 15 tips for a road trip through bella italia.


prags wildsee is one of the popular highlights in south tyrol

at the brenner, austria’s peaks merge seamlessly into italy – and then you’re already in the middle of your road trip. Here in the far north, bella italia is still rough and impressive. not only mountain fans are enthusiastic about the unique beauty of the dolomites – and that’s why you should not take the classic route towards the south, but turn east in brixen and drive via bruneck and the pragser wildsee towards the nature park three peaks. The rocky peaks are the symbol of the Dolomites and a classic among the mountain tours in South Tyrol. From here the route continues via cortina d’ampezzo towards the adriatic sea – and you have to keep concentrating so as not to be distracted from the road by the impressive mountain panoramas. I have compiled even more beautiful mountain tours for you in the article "hiking in south tyrol: 4 favorite tours for beginners".


A gondola rider not far from the rialto bridge on the canale grande

the next stop is mandatory on your road trip through northern italy. but venice is probably on your bucket list anyway. the jewel on the adriatic coast offers not only top sights such as marcus square, the canale grande or the rialto bridge, but also a worldwide unique backdrop. The centuries-old palazzi and the canals in between – in venice, above all, you should simply let yourself drift and go on a voyage of discovery. The popular landmarks such as St. Mark’s Cathedral or the Doge’s Palace are best saved for the next morning. Then the city is still waiting for the big rush and you can enjoy a little authentic Venetian flair while strolling through the alleys. All tips for "la serenissima" can be found in the article "venice: a weekend in the lagoon city".


In bologna’s old town you will find many great food shops

Many Germans think of spaghetti bolognese when they think of bologna. And then you’re in the capital of emilia-romagna and realize: there’s nowhere to find the dish that many pasta fans love. Instead, you will find ragù alla bolognese on many menus, but traditionally with tagliatelle. The old university city of bologna enjoys a reputation as a paradise for gourmets. In the old town quadrilatero, for example, you will find many small food stores, restaurants and bars and you can taste the cuisine of the region. Afterwards you are freshly strengthened to marvel at bologna’s sights. Many are located around the arcade-lined piazza maggiore, including the city hall, neptune’s fountain, and bologna’s cathedral. You can recognize it by the fact that its facade was left unfinished and only half of it was covered with marble.


the cathedral santa maria del fiore is the landmark of florence

Florence is another must on your tour through northern italy. The center of tuscany is considered the capital of the renaissance and one of the most important cultural centers in europe. For culture lovers, the city is a paradise for the arts and home to world-renowned museums. In the uffizia or galleria dell’accademia hang numerous masterpieces. Florence also has a lot to offer in the way of sightseeing. The heart of the city is the cathedral square with the basilica of santa maria del fiore, for example. the ponte vecchio is also one of the city’s landmarks. The bridge over the river arno is considered one of the oldest bridges of its kind in the world. Once you’ve seen the top highlights, you should also just let yourself drift through the city of florence for a while.


the piazza del campo is siena’s good room

From Florence, take the Chiantigiana south and you will end up in Siena. On the way on the wine road you can not only enjoy the picturesque landscape of tuscany, but here in the middle of the chianti at least as a passenger you can also enjoy the wine of the region. siena is only slightly less bustling than florence, as the university city is considered to be another heart of tuscany. the most famous sight is the piazza del campo in the center of town with the gothic town hall and the torre del mangia. And the cathedral of siena, with its characteristic dark green and white marble, is also a must-see before continuing your stroll through the streets of the old town.

San gimignano

san gimignano with its towers is one of the most popular spots in tuscany

The small san gimignano has just under 8.000 inhabitants and is nevertheless one of the most beautiful cities and most visited destinations in tuscany. The town is a unesco world heritage site and can be seen from afar: the skyline is dominated by medieval towers that still reach for the sky today. The so-called gender towers have earned san gimignano the nickname "city of towers" and "manhatten of the Middle Ages". Just like in new york today, the noble families in tuscany were concerned with building even higher, bigger and more beautiful. The old town is surrounded by walls from the 13th century. century and san gimignano from the rolling hills of the siena region.

one of the top sights in italy: the leaning tower of pisa

Who does not know the famous leaning tower of pisa?? the stopover in pisa is worth it just for this landmark alone. The ornate tower is part of the cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and stands together with the marble cathedral in piazza dei Miracoli. It has been leaning ever since it was completed in 1372 – mainly because of the clayey mud and sand on the ground. And yet it still stands today and has become a popular photo motif worldwide. unlike florence or siena, pisa has only a few other sights to see. If you still have time, you can also get to the sea from pisa pretty quickly and plan a little time out by the water.


Lucca is still one of the secret spots in tuscany

The pretty town of lucca is still considered a secret tip in tuscany – and yet, just like siena, it offers a number of sights and a great deal of Italian flair. So if you have enough time, don’t miss this stop. the best view over the rooftops of lucca is from the guinigi tower. There you will find the historic center with its cobblestone streets, surrounded by a well-preserved renaissance city wall. another landmark is the piazza dell’anfiteatro and also the cathedral of lucca is worth a visit. If you want to relax a little after all that sightseeing, it’s also worth taking a trip to lucca and the fashionable beach resort of viareggio.

Cinque terre

The Cinque Terre are one of the must-dos on your road trip through Italy

the cinque terre are one of the must-dos on your road trip through italy

the cinque terre are definitely one of the top highlights in italy and a real picture book scenery. this is a must stop on your itinerary. The five villages nestle photogenically against the rugged cliffs of the Italian Riviera. The colorful houses of the coastal villages of riomaggiore, manarola, corniglia, vernazza and monterosso al mare are built into the hillside in terraces, and the fishing boats are moored in the harbor below. You can’t get much more vacation flair than this – and it’s usually crowded accordingly. You can travel from place to place by train – it’s faster than by car because of the narrow roads. Or you can take the sentiero azzurro trail, hike from village to village and enjoy the panoramic views of the sea.


The pretty portofino is considered a hotspot for the beautiful and rich

the harbor town of portofino is another place of longing on italy’s riviera. Here, too, the colorful houses stand photogenically along the harbor. There are always a few yachts anchored in front of it, as portofino is considered a hotspot for the rich and beautiful . The former fishing village lies in a semicircle around the harbor – and especially in the evening it becomes romantic here. Then choose one of the restaurants on the waterfront and let the ambience take its effect on you. If you are also a pesto fan: it originates from liguria and is actually delicious everywhere here. if you have time before, you can hike up to castello brown and enjoy the view from there.


The pretty palazzi rolli are among the top sights in genoa

I have often left Genoa to the left, the harbor city does not look too inviting at first glance. At second glance, however, the capital of liguria has some really pretty corners. Strolling through the old town you will find magnificent palaces and the cathedral or the palazzo reale are also worth seeing. in the harbor, the galata maritime museum is one of the top attractions. But for me it’s the strade nuove, the "new streets", that are the most interesting. Here are with the pallazzi rolli close together over 160 town palaces from the 16th century. Today they are part of the unesco world cultural heritage. Normally only a few of the palazzi are open to the public – unless you are lucky like us and are in genoa for the rolli days.


the milanese cathedral is the landmark of the metropolis

The scala, the imposing cathedral or the galleria vittorio emanuele: milan’s top sights are world-famous and that alone makes a stopover worthwhile. The capital of Lombardy is Italy’s second largest city, so there’s plenty to see here. For design fans, too, the detour is worthwhile, as milano is considered a stronghold of italian fashion. In the fashion quadrangle you can store extensively with the right amount of money. For art fans, head to the dominican monastery of the church of santa maria delle grazie to marvel at leonardo da vinci’s last supper. And don’t miss the navigli district with its old canals. On their banks you will find many bars and restaurants and the aperitivo with a view of the water is an essential part of a trip to northern Italy’s metropolis.


top destination in verona: the balcony of julia

Romeo and julia have made verona world famous. And yet the city has so much more to offer and is worth at least a stopover on your road trip through northern italy. the famous balcony in the casa di giulietta is of course one of the top attractions in the city on the etsch river. Music and opera fans also come here for the performances in the arena of verona. The well-preserved Roman amphitheater is another of the city’s landmarks. It is also a good starting point for your stroll through the historic center, which will eventually bring you to the piazza delle erbe, Verona’s main street. Here or in one of the nearby squares, you can choose one of the numerous restaurants and enjoy pasta or pizza while taking in the hustle and bustle.

Lake Garda

A stop at lake garda is part of a road trip through northern italy

for many italy vacationers, lake garda is the destination of their trip. From munich, for example, you can make it to riva or torbole in just over four hours with perfect traffic conditions. The northern tip of italy’s largest lake still belongs to trentino and is characterized by high mountains. But this time we come from the south, where lombardy and veneto meet in the middle of the lake and gentle hills dominate the picture. Here you have to decide if you want to go north along the west or east side of Lake Garda. You should make a stopover beforehand in sirmione with its skaglier castle. And depending on which side you choose, malcesine or limone are worth another stop. If you have more time, you can find more tips in the article "lake garda: the most beautiful places on lago di garda".

South Tyrol

the mountains of south tyrol are perfect for a last stop on your road trip through italy

south tyrol is not only italy’s northernmost province, but also a perfect last stop for your road trip through northern italy. Depending on how much time you have left, you can either explore one of south tyrol’s pretty little towns or take off for a tour in the mountains. From bozen it is only a short walk to the ritten or to the seiser alm. And from merano there is even a small chair lift that takes you from the center to the vineyards around the village of tirol. After the many impressions and stops of the road trip you rather feel like relaxing? Even then you are in the right place in south tyrol and just choose one of the great wellness hotels. Don’t miss the south tyrolean cuisine and the delicious wine. You can find numerous tips for a successful conclusion to your round trip in my article "vacation in south tyrol: 22 highlights in the dolomites".

Practical tips

A road trip to northern italy is a stone’s throw, especially from southern germany. From munich you can be in italy in just over two hours by car. If you don’t have your own car, you can find the cheapest rental cars here. you have to pay a toll for using the freeways in italy. The maximum speed here is 130 km/h, on the highway you are allowed to drive maximum 90 km/h. Many italian city centers are closed to traffic. But it’s best not to park in the historic center anyway, because the streets are almost always narrow and parking spaces are scarce. For the whole list you need at least two, better three weeks. best time to visit is june and september: then it is not too hot for a stroll through the city and much less busy than in the vacation months july and august. You will also find it easier to find places to stay overnight, e.g. in Italy.B. about booking.Com. For even more tips, check out the upper italy travel guide by michael muller.

Have you already been to italy and do you have further tips for a stopover?? Then I look forward to your recommendations below in the comments. And if you liked this article, please share it with your friends! To make sure you never miss a new story, you can also follow me on facebook, pinterest, instagram, bloglovin’, flipboard or tripadvisor. Or you can subscribe to my happy places newsletter.

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