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Italy

Prettiest Small Towns in Northern Italy

Northern Italy is known for its stunning landscapes, picturesque villages, and charming small towns. Here are some of the prettiest small towns in northern Italy:

Towns

  • Bellagio: Located on Lake Como, Bellagio is often referred to as “the pearl of Lake Como.” With its pastel-colored houses, cobblestone streets, and stunning views of the lake and surrounding mountains, it’s no wonder why it’s considered one of the prettiest towns in the region.
  • Portofino: Portofino is a small fishing village on the Italian Riviera. Known for its colorful waterfront buildings, luxury yachts, and crystal-clear waters, it offers a perfect blend of natural beauty and glamorous lifestyle.
  • Sirmione: Situated on Lake Garda, Sirmione is a popular tourist destination. The town’s medieval castle, narrow streets, and thermal baths make it a charming and picturesque place to visit.
  • Alba: Known as the “capital of the Langhe wine region,” Alba is famous for its truffles and wine production. It is surrounded by rolling hills, vineyards, and medieval architecture, creating a beautiful and romantic atmosphere.
  • San Gimignano: While technically located in Tuscany, San Gimignano is worth mentioning due to its proximity to northern Italy. Famous for its 14 medieval towers, this UNESCO World Heritage Site offers stunning views of the surrounding countryside and a well-preserved medieval atmosphere.
  • Verona: Famous as the setting of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” Verona is a charming town with a rich history. It boasts beautiful squares, Renaissance buildings, and the impressive Verona Arena, known for its opera performances.
  • Belluno: Nestled in the Dolomites, Belluno is a small town surrounded by scenic mountains. Its medieval old town, with its colorful buildings and charming streets, offers visitors a glimpse into the region’s rich history and natural beauty.
  • Mantua: Situated in the Lombardy region, Mantua is known for its Renaissance architecture and powerful Gonzaga family dynasty. The town is surrounded by three artificial lakes, creating a unique and picturesque setting.

Whether you’re exploring the lakes, visiting the Dolomites, or experiencing the charm of small medieval towns, the northern region of Italy offers some of the most beautiful small towns in the country.

Best things to do

  • Visit Lake Como: This beautiful lake is surrounded by charming small towns like Bellagio, Varenna, and Menaggio. You can enjoy stunning views, take boat rides, visit beautiful villas and gardens, and indulge in local cuisine.
  • Explore Cinque Terre: These five colorful fishing villages on the Italian Riviera are known for their picturesque beauty. You can hike along the cliffside trails, swim in crystal-clear waters, and sample local seafood.
  • Wander through San Gimignano: This medieval hilltop town in Tuscany is famous for its 14 remaining medieval towers. You can stroll through narrow streets, admire well-preserved buildings, and enjoy panoramic views of vineyards and olive groves.
  • Discover Sirmione: Located on Lake Garda, Sirmione is known for its charm and its impressive medieval castle. Explore the narrow streets, relax on the pebble beaches, and visit the renowned Roman ruins of the Grotte di Catullo.
  • Visit Orta San Giulio: This tiny village on Lake Orta offers a peaceful and picturesque escape. Take a boat ride to the island of San Giulio, wander through the village’s narrow streets, and enjoy stunning views of the lake and the surrounding mountains.
  • Explore Bolzano: Located in the Italian Alps, Bolzano is a charming city surrounded by breathtaking scenery. You can explore its historic center, visit the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, and take cable cars to enjoy the mountain views.
  • Experience Verbania: Situated on Lake Maggiore, Verbania is famous for its beautiful gardens and parks. Visit the Villa Taranto Botanical Garden, stroll along the lake promenade, and explore the old town’s charming streets.
  • Discover Cortina d’Ampezzo: This enchanting Alpine town is a popular destination for outdoor enthusiasts. It offers excellent skiing in the winter and fantastic hiking and mountain biking opportunities in the summer. Take a cable car ride to enjoy panoramic views of the Dolomites.
  • Wander through Bormio: Nestled in the Italian Alps, Bormio is a perfect destination for both relaxation and adventure. Explore its historic center, visit the ancient thermal baths, and enjoy outdoor activities like skiing, hiking, and cycling.
  • Visit Alberobello: Although not in Northern Italy, Alberobello deserves a mention due to its unique charm. Located in the Puglia region, it is famous for its trulli houses, which are traditional dry stone huts with conical roofs. Wander through the narrow streets and absorb the distinctive atmosphere of this UNESCO World Heritage site.

Tips for Visiting

  1. Plan your itinerary: Research and decide which small towns in Northern Italy you want to visit. Consider factors like distance from major cities, transportation options, and the attractions each town offers.
  2. Visit during the off-peak season: To avoid crowds and enjoy a more authentic experience, consider visiting these towns during the shoulder seasons of spring or autumn. The weather is pleasant, prices are lower, and you’ll have more flexibility in exploring.
  3. Rent a car: Consider renting a car to have more freedom and flexibility in exploring the small towns, as public transportation might not be as accessible or frequent in some areas. It also gives you the opportunity to take scenic drives through the countryside.
  4. Take your time: Don’t rush through the towns, as they often offer hidden gems and local experiences beyond the main attractions. Take leisurely walks, sit at local cafes, and immerse yourself in the local culture.
  5. Visit the scenic Lake District: Explore picturesque towns such as Lake Como, Lake Maggiore, or Lake Garda. Besides the stunning lakes, you can also enjoy boating, hiking, or visiting charming villas and gardens.
  6. Try regional cuisine: Each town in Northern Italy has its own unique culinary specialties. Don’t miss out on trying local dishes and wines. Explore small trattorias or look for local food festivals where you can taste traditional delicacies.
  7. Learn a few Italian phrases: Although English is sometimes spoken, it’s always appreciated if you can communicate in Italian. Learn basic phrases like greetings, ordering food, and asking for directions. Locals will appreciate your effort and might offer you even more assistance.
  8. Be respectful of the locals and their customs: It’s important to remember that you’re a guest in these towns. Respect the local traditions, follow their etiquette, and adhere to any dress codes, especially when visiting churches or sacred sites.
  9. Visit the lesser-known towns: While famous towns like Cinque Terre or Verona are undoubtedly beautiful, there are numerous lesser-known small towns in Northern Italy that offer equally stunning sights. Do your research and include some hidden gems in your itinerary.
  10. Support local businesses: When visiting small towns, make an effort to support local businesses such as family-owned shops, artisanal craft stores, or locally sourced restaurants. This helps the local economy and contributes to the authenticity of your experience.
  11. Take in the natural beauty: Northern Italy is not only renowned for its charming towns but also its breath-taking landscapes. Don’t miss the opportunity to explore the nearby countryside, mountains, or national parks. Consider hiking, biking, or taking scenic drives to appreciate the natural beauty of the region.

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