Travel Guide To Northern Italy

Why Northern Italy? Amazing food (World’s 50 Best & Michelin), Maserati and Ferrari, Massimo Bottura, The Leaning Tower of Pisa, Cinque Terre, the Hills of Tuscany, Venice, Statue of David, George Clooney’s Summer House, Afternoon Tea Rituals, Turkish Baths, Luxury Shopping and so much more!

Duration: 13 days / 12 nights

2 Countries / 10 cities: Milano, Venezia, Bologna, Florence, Tuscany (Barga), Pisa, Cinque Terre, Modena, Como and bonus city Mendrisio, Switzerland

Method: Flight & Car


Land in Milan and rent a car

Stop 1: Drive Milan to Venice

  • Venice Lodging : Boscolo Venezia 5-Star (same property as Milan accommodations in stop 7)
  • Venice Food : Brunch at Il Giardino Segreto.  Lunch or dinner at Al Bagolo.
  • Venice Points of Interest : Saint Mark’s Basilica, Piazza San Marco, self-guided walking tour of canals.

All you need in Venice is 48 hours.  Beyond 2 days, Venice becomes extremely boring. Set up camp at Boscolo Boutique hotel ~ 5-stars and simply stunning!  Skip the gondola ride – very touristy and rather expensive with no real value. Instead walk the canals and go to Saint Mark’s Basilica.  Eat brunch at Il Giardino Segreto and/or grab pizza in The Square. Pop in for an espresso at any open coffee shop and be sure to eat lunch or dinner at Al Bagolo. Try not to have too much of an agenda, just roam around and set your soul free soaking in the sights and sounds off the Adriatic Sea.  Watch out for vendors trying to sell you selfie-sticks every two feet.  Resist the urge and instead buy a scarf or two or three.   DO NOT BRING LUGGAGE. The streets are cobblestone and you will make such a ruckus that you’ll stand out like a crazy tourist if you have large luggage (or any luggage) on wheels. Transfer two days worth of stuff to a small duffel bag (lock suitcases in your car) and throw it over your shoulder for the walk between Venezia Tronchetto (parking structure) and your hotel.

Stop 2: Drive Venice to Bologna

  • Bologna Points of Interest: Maserati Brother’s first workshop & The Fountain of Neptune in Piazza Maggiore.

After checking-out of the Boscolo Venezia hotel,  jump in the car for a day-trip to Bologna as you drive straight through to Tuscany. Go see where the Maserati Brother’s drew inspiration for their logo and locate their very first workshop on a very unsuspecting side street, 1 Via de’ Pepoli.  After spending a few hours looking around, continue on to Florence, Tuscany. Once you make it to Tuscany for the night, eat at Trattoria L’Altana in Barga (no known website).

Stop 3: Drive Bologna to Tuscany 

For the next four (4) nights, set up camp at the gorgeous Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa (Marriott property) outside of Barga located about 1.5 hours from Florence.  You’re going to use Tuscany as your jumping off point for stops 4, 5 & 6.

Stop 4: Drive Tuscany to Florence

  • Florence Food : Winter Garden by Caino  (One Michelin Star 2017) and St. Regis Florence.
  • Florence Points of Interest : Michelangelo’s Statue of David, The Galleria dell’ Accademia, Afternoon Tea Ritual and four monuments at Piazza del Duomo with the highlight being the Giotto Bell Tower

After a good night’s sleep, hop in the car and head to Florence proper! The St. Regis boasts a lovely afternoon tea service ahead of wandering through Firenze.  Once you scope out the Giotto Bell Tower, take the 414-step staircase to the top for a splendid view of the city.  Secure tickets in advance and opt for the add-on tour of the crypt. Continue on to see Michelangelo’s Statue of David at the Galleria dell’Accademia then head back to The St. Regis for a Michelin Star dinner at Winter Garden by Caino.

Keep in mind you’re using Tuscany as your jumping off point, so you’ll be sleeping in the same spot for a few more nights which creates opportunity for well-rested day trips in the surrounding cities.

Stop 5: Drive Tuscany to Pisa

  • Pisa Point of Interest: Leaning Tower of Pisa

Take a day trip from Tuscany to Pisa and be sure to carry coins with you.  The WC (watering closets) require a small fee at the monument and it’s often flooded with tourists. Have your camera ready and be prepared to get in line for a tour inside of Pisa. (Don’t forget to take the cliche vantage-point picture acting as if you are pushing over the tower.)  We secured our tickets in advance, which helps the day flow better and bypasses waiting in unnecessary lines.  Walk to the top of Pisa and get the ultimate view then head back to the resort for some R&R. You’ll want to carve out time to enjoy the hotel’s spa, pool and fitness center. Eat at the Le Salette onsite at the Renaissance Tuscany and while you’re there, don’t miss the Birrificio La Petrognola Chestnut beer.

Stop 6: Drive Tuscany to Cinque Terre

  • Cinque Terre Food : Gelato at Gelateria Vernazza and lunch at Belforte
  • Cinque Terre Points of Interest : Monterosso to Vernazza Footpath, National Park, The hiking trail Via dell’ Amore and The Mediterranean Sea.

Pack up your suitcase (after night 4 in Tuscany) and check-out of the Renaissance then head over to Cinque Terre for the day as you drive straight through to Modena. Park in La Spezia and  hop on the train to the furthest station at Monterosso then walk the footpath back to Vernazza.  Make sure to bring a love lock! Find a place to lock it along the lover’s footpath. We’d suggest carrying a backpack with water as you’ll be away from civilization for a couple of miles (2 mile hike took roughly 1 hour 40 min).  This trail is not for the faint of heart – it’s steep and there are no guard rails in most places, but it’s entirely beautiful along the oceanfront as the path winds through vineyards with occasional farrow cats to greet you along the way! Absolutely stunning view of the colorful villages, ocean and islands. Take time to eat at Ristorante Belforte and grab a gelato from Gelateria Vernazza. Take the train back to La Spezia and head to Modena for the next two nights.

Stop 7: Drive Cinque Terre to Modena

  • Modena Lodging : Airbnb
  • Modena Food : Osteria Francescana (No. 02 World’s 50 Best , Three Michelin Stars)
  • Modena Points of Interest : Museo Enzo Ferrari, Maserati Headquarters and Massimo Bottura

Set up camp in Modena for two (2) nights to see the Maserati dealership, Enzo Museum and to eat at No. 02 best restaurant in the world, Osteria Francescana.  Take a tour of the Maserati dealership which you’ll want to schedule in advance.

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Stop 8: Drive Modena to Milan

  • Milano Lodging: Boscolo Milano Luxury Hotel (same property as Venezia accommodations in stop 1)
  • Milano Food : Unico Milano (Bib Gourmand 2017), Pasticceria Gelateria Valente Di Khella Botros (no known website), Ristorante Charleston.  Also walk around and talk to the locals to learn their favorites, find your own hidden gems.
  • Points of Interest :  Turkish (Hamam Roman) Baths, Milan Cathedral, Metropolis of fine dining and luxury shopping.

Once in Milano, check into luxury hotel, Boscolo Milano for four (4) nights and relax in the Turkish Baths at the hotel’s spa. Eat a special dinner at Unico Milano with gorgeous views of the city while enjoying a fabulous menu.  Shopping is extraordinary in Milan and there are plenty of statues and historical places to conduct a self-guided walking tour.  Use these final days in Milan to decompress so you don’t end up needing a vacation from your vacation – after all, you’ve just packed in a lot of transfers and driving over the past few days.

Take time to rest on days 9 and 10 and enjoy the full amenities of the hotel.

Stop 9: Drive Milan to Lake Como

  • Lake Como Food : Cafe Varenna (no known website)
  • Lake Como Points of Interest : George Clooney’s Summer Estate, Villa Oleandra

From Milano, take a day trip to Lake Como to see George Clooney’s summer house and grab a snack and coffee from Cafe Varenna then park at any open lot and set up a picnic by the lake.  Continue on to Switzerland for a day’s worth of shopping.

Stop 10: Drive Lake Como to Mendrisio, Switzerland

  • Mendrisio Food : Dolce Tentazione
  • Mendrisio Points of Interest : Fox Town and scenic drive from Como Italy to Mendrisio, Switzerland.

Last stop on your 13-day/12-night tour of Northern Italy is the ninth (10th) and final city which comes as a nice bonus in Switzerland!  More passport stamps, we wish, but they do not stamp your passport at the border – bummer! After driving through Como for the greater part of the morning, continue on to Mendrisio, Switzerland to Fox Town for an outstanding experience at the Luxury Brand clothing outlet and be sure to grab a pastry or lunch from Dolce Tentazione. You’ll want to declare your purchases upon returning to Milan for the rest of your stay! (be sure to place travel alerts on your bank card/credit card for both Italy and Switzerland ahead of your shopping)!

This is your last full day to enjoy Italy, so sleep in, repack, check-in for flights, and detox at the spa.

Depart Milan on Day 13

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E & B Woodward

Tastemakers, World’s 50 Best Restaurants
5 Continents (South America, North America, Europe, Australia, Africa)

2 Replies to “Travel Guide To Northern Italy”

  1. Erin, I really appreciate you taking time to write and share this amazing trip guide. This makes the difference between just traveling and travel having the greatest culinary experience, the best combination of long lasting memories.

    1. Well, we wrote this memoir specifically with you in mind, Rebecca! Figured we’d save at least one other person (you + rest of the world) some time on the research and logistics. If anything, this will spur some of your own ideas to start flowing. We know you’re going to have THE BEST time in your European adventure and we’re thrilled to watch your experience unravel! XXX Erin & Brandon

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