Finally, it seems we can safely return to Italy late summer and fall of this year. That is great news for us and certainly for Italy which cherishes American tourists. This relatively small “boot" country has so much to offer in tourism, it was painful to watch them suffer through the pandemic. But now we can start to reconsider traveling there again. Every trip I have taken to Italy has been delightful, always leaving me with a longing to return. Here I want to highlight a possible trip to Northern Italy, and some of the many fascinating towns and the less-visited places I adore. There are many ways to see Italy: you can drive yourself in a private car or go along with small or large escorted group with a private driver. I opt for the latter way to make my time super easy and hassle-free! And, along the way, I want to stay in small hotels/country villas, around Lake Maggiore, the Italian Riviera, Tuscany and maybe extending over to Venice, with time permitting (who does not want to return there?). A good starting point might be Milan.
Lake Como seems to be the best known of the three major lakes in Northern Italy, but what about Lake Maggiore, which is about one-and-a-half-hours north of Milan. It is the second largest lake of the three majors (with Lake Garda being the largest), situated at the bottom of the Italian Alps, and dotted with villas, islands and palaces. Stresa, a lovely town on Lake Maggiore, established in the 15th century, is a tourist delight and also a place for European elites and their villas. In the evening, you can arrange a small boat to take you off to dinner on Isla dei Pescatori, one of the Borromean Islands (there are three islands on the western side of the lake).
After Lake Maggiore, you might want to consider Sestri Levante on the Ligurian Coast, a famous region in the northwest area of Italy with Genoa as its capital. It has beautiful beaches, picturesque towns and, of course, great food. Here, you can take a boat out to Lake Orta and the island of San Giulo, where there is a working convent. From here, you can visit the seaside town of Santa Margherita Liguere, where again you can take a boat ride off to glamorous Portofino (a key stop on the Italian Riviera), where you can delight in the colorful harbor, dotted with fishing boats (and many yachts of the rich) against a backdrop of pastel-colored buildings. Not far away from there is one of the best sights ever…Cinque Terre (Five lands) which are really five coastal fishing villages, almost inaccessible, situated between the mountains and the Mediterranean… and a UNESCO heritage site. You can arrive by train and then take time to explore on foot. Cinque Terre is incredible!
After the Italian Rivera, you can find Lucca, a medieval city in Tuscany, encircled by 16th century Renaissance walls. Wander around with a local guide exploring the city’s Roman heritage, the Piazza Napoleone. As you advance into the rolling hills of Tuscany, you might want to consider staying several days at Tenuta Di Artimino, a traditional Italian estate. You can even learn to make pasta there with the chef!
Florence is not far away, and there, you can indulge all your senses. I suggest at least two days exploring Florence, to be sure you can visit Michelangelo’s David (there are many replicas throughout the city in different plazas), The Duomo church, the Uffizi Gallery Museum and of course the Boboli Gardens, directly behind the Pitti Palace, laid out by the famous Medici family. Just walking throughout the narrow streets and broad plazas lined with seafood, ice cream and so many other delicacies is pure heaven. There are two other “not to miss” ancient towns in the area. One is Sienna, filled with medieval streets, its dramatic Romanesque-Gothic cathedral and the area of the famous Palio horse racing. The other one is San Gimignano , situated on a hilltop with medieval towers and beautiful views. And what trip to Tuscany would be complete without a trip to a winery, olive groves, and a cooking lesson followed with a lovely luncheon with wine parings at a family estate?
Let me help you create your perfect visit to Northern Italy. Contact Linda Stack, owner of Travelinda, LLC, LLStack9597@gmail.com.