From the fashion houses of Milan to the crumbling palazzos of Venice. The glamorous shores of Lake Como to the medieval hill towns of Umbria. South of the Alps, Northern Italy’s attractions are as diverse as its landscapes, and include some of the world’s most celebrated art and architecture.
Straddling 120 islands, sliced by 177 canals and crossed by 450 bridges, Venice was made for meandering. Highlights include Piazza San Marco, the ‘finest drawing room in Europe’ according to Napoleon, fronted by the Doges Palace and the Byzantine jewel box of the Basilica. You’ll also want to check out the Guggenheim, and take a vaporetto along the Grand Canal to admire its fancy-fronted medieval palaces.
Over in the high-powered fashion capital of Milan, attractions range from the prestigious La Scala opera house to the gothic masterpiece of the Duomo. Not forgetting the glittering arcades of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the mighty San Siro football stadium and the unassuming Santa Maria delle Grazie convent – home of Da Vinci’s masterpiece, ‘The Last Supper’.
Just beyond Milan, the Italian Lakes have been enthralling holidaymakers, from Hollywood starlets to European aristocrats, for centuries. Many are drawn to the deep blue waters, pretty towns and lavish lakefront villas of Como and Garda, but also consider the romantic, quieter shores of Orta.
Speaking of scenic landscapes, you’d be hard pushed to find anywhere in Europe more beautiful than Tuscany. Olive groves, terraced vineyards, fairytale castles and historic farmhouses dot the rolling hills, whilst its cities - Florence, Pisa, Siena - lay claim to the world’s greatest Renaissance art and architecture. A little further south in the ‘green heart’ of Umbria, visitors are rewarded with tiny medieval towns, grand ecclesiastical buildings and marvellous food and wine.