Milan Cathedral, Duomo di Milano, one of the largest churches in the world
MILAN, ITALY – MAY 2: Unique view of Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II seen from above in Milan
Two famous falling towers Asinelli and Garisenda in the morning, Bologna, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Hertford Bridge, popularly known as the Bridge of Sighs
Grand Canal in Venice at the sunset, Italy.
- With Northern Italy being composed of 8 individual regions that contain even more cities and provinces, deciding exactly where to go and what to see can be challenging. One of the regions of Northern Italy, Lombardy, is home to quite a popular destination among travelers and absolutely a must see: Milan. As the largest metropolitan area, and second most populous commune in Italy, Milan is a city full of art and culture; it surrounds you as you walk the beautiful city streets and soak up the sun. One of the most popular sights in Milan is the Milan Cathedral. Standing as the largest church in Italy, and third largest in the world, the Milan Cathedral took almost six centuries to reach completion. Because of the span of time in which it was constructed, it exhibits many different architectural styles inside, with a gothic outer appearance. You can even get up to the roof of the cathedral, where you can view some of its incredible sculpture up close and personal. Inside, there are also many other historical and spectacular pieces, like the 225 rank-pipe organ built under the command of Mussolini that is currently the largest organ in Italy. The Saint Bartholomew Flayed, a statue created by Marco d’Agrate in 1562, is located near the altar and arguably the most famous statue found within the Milan Cathedral.
- The Museo Nazionale Scienza e Tecnologia Leonardo da Vinici is a place for anyone seeking to gain knowledge and enjoy the history in Milan, and a must see on any visit. The largest of its kind in Italy, it pays tribute to much of the city where Leonardo da Vinci did most of his work. Located in a 16th century monastery, the museum is home to over 10,000 pieces ranging from Italy’s first submarine Enrico Toti, to models based off of da Vinci’s sketches. They have even added a helicopter flight simulator, where kids and adults alike can soar the skies of Milan in the cockpit of a real AW109. Piazza Mercanti is another bustling part of Milan to see on your Northern Italy tour. This central city square houses four different buildings, and even used to be the heart of the city during the middle ages! Take in the stunning architecture, and see some of the many statues and monuments found in Piazza Mercanti, like the statue dedicated to Ambrose, one of the most influential ecclesiastic figures of the fourth century, sculpted by Luigin Scorzini. If you are looking for some shopping, be sure to stop by the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the oldest shopping centers in the world. Designed in 1861 and built between 1865 and 1877, this four-story double arcade is unique and well known for its iron and glass roof. It houses many upscale luxury stores, as well as restaurants and cafes where you can grab a delicious bite to eat when you are finished.
- The Emilia-Romagna Region of Northern Italy is home to another must see city: Bologna. Both the capital and the largest city in the region, Bologna offers sights and activities unparalleled. It would not be a trip to Bologna without viewing the Towers of Bologna, with the Two Towers specifically in mind. Considered the landmark of the city, the Two Towers (which both have a lean to them) can be found at the intersection of the roads leading to the five gates of the old ring wall. The taller tower, Asinelli, was used in the 14th century as a prison. Garisenda, the smaller of the two towers, is referenced several times in Dante’s Divine Comedy. Together, the towers were even used as inspiration for the former Twin Towers of New York City. The San Petronio Basilica is another cultural and historical site found in Bologna that everyone should see on their trip. The largest church built of bricks in the world and Bologna’s main church, the San Petronio Basilica has some of the most breathtaking stained glass in its interior, as well as some noteworthy wall color.
- The Piazza Maggiore is a central square in Bologna, and deserves an afternoon walkthrough during your Italian vacation. You will be surrounded by beautiful, historic and religious buildings that have been a part of the city for years prior, like the San Petronio Basilica mentioned above. Palazzo d’Accursio is also found in the Piazza Maggiore. Once the city hall of Bologna, it is now a museum containing the Civic Art Collection. This collection includes paintings spanning from the middle ages to the 19th century. The different floors and rooms of Plazzo d’Accursio are works of art themselves, with an array of frescoes and sculptures found throughout them. Next to the square you can take in the beauty of the Fountain of Neptune. Known for its innovative fountain design, which includes oddly shaped non-geometrical basins into which the water flows, this fountain is made of both bronze and stone. Do not miss the chance to see it in all of its splendor in person while in Bologna. For a day of more frivolous fun, take the family to the Ducati Museum found within the Ducati factory in Bologna. You can see the history play out in front of you through the different bikes; the museum’s collection of technical documentation was even selected to be a part of the national archive by the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Actives.
- Your trek through Northern Italy would not be complete if you did not stop through the Veneto Region of Italy, home to one of the most well-known cities: Venice. Located across multiple islands separated by canals but linked by bridges, the city was a major player in the history of symphonic and operatic music. Venice was even the birthplace of Antonio Vivaldi, one of the greatest baroque composers of all time! Be sure to check out the Bridge of Sighs while on your Venetian vacation. Composed of white limestone, this enclosed bridge gets its name from the view: it was the last thing that convicts would see before being imprisoned, as it connects interrogation rooms from Doges Palace with the new prison. Doges Palace is another site to see while in Venice, as it is one of the landmarks of the city. Once used as the residence for the Doge of Venice, it is currently a museum. You can see old stones and facades from the palace that date back to the 14th and 15th century, as well as a beautiful courtyard and view of the lagoon.
- A trip to Venice would not be complete without a float down the grand canal: one of the major waterways of the city. You can take in the scenery around from a water bus or private water taxi, or take the more romantic route via gondola. Most residents use it as a means of transportation, and only four bridges cross the canal; up until the 19th century though, there was only one. With over 170 buildings lining the canal, there is always something to look at as you glide through peaceful waters. One of the most recognizable features of the city, and last on the list of must see sites in Venice is St. Marks Campanile, the bell tower of St. Marks Basilica. Standing at 323 ft. the tower is a beautiful structure. At the top of the spire that caps the tower, you can see a golden weathervane in the form of archangel Gabriel.
No matter where you go in the regions of Northern Italy, you will be sure to have something historic, exciting, and culture to see or do. Thanks to Back-Roads Touring, your trip can be complete!