๐Ÿ 7-10 Days in Northern Italy: 2 Efficient Itineraries

A blue sky with an orange-roof skyline and a big dome sticking out.

The northern regions of Italy are known for their world-renowned restaurants, famous historical sites, and picturesque villages nestled on mountainsides and lakeshores.

With seven to ten days in northern Italy, you have enough time to visit four to five distinct areas featuring coastal villages, intricate canals, and historic cities.

I spent a fantastic two weeks in Italy and here, I share amazing things to do and tips to optimize your trip itinerary. This post covers:

  • ๐Ÿ—“๏ธ 2 different optimized itineraries
  • ๐Ÿ“ Best destinations in Northern Vietnam
  • โญ๏ธ Top attractions in the region
  • ๐Ÿ—บ๏ธ Italy map with key places
  • โœ๏ธ Italy trip planner

Planning a trip? Here’s what to know about Italy.

Disclosure: Lists By Lukiih is readers-supported. If you buy through an affiliate link on this post, I may earn a small commission. Thanks!

3 Essential Tips for Visiting Northern Italy

Before getting into the itineraries, here are five practical things to keep in mind when traveling to northern Italy.

๐Ÿ 1. Book restaurant reservations.

One of the most important things I learned after spending over two weeks in Italy is that there’s always a long wait for good restaurants in bigger cities like Milan and Florence. This is especially true during Italy’s high season in the summer.

Make sure to make reservations a week or more in advance. Otherwise, you might have to wait for hours or eat at more touristy restaurants with less authentic food and higher prices.

A view from up a hill with lots of gardens.
Florence. (Photo by my friend, Nami Sumida.)

๐Ÿ’ถ 2. Carry some euros.

Although Italy has a great credit card infrastructure, many smaller businesses and some of the charming areas like Cinque Terre and Venice are cash-only, so carry some euros.

Learn other cash-related tips when traveling to Italy.

๐ŸšŠ 3. Get around on Italy’s trains.

Italy has one of the best train infrastructures in the world. You can rely on their trains to get to most major cities (and even some smaller towns) within the country. In this itinerary, you will be primarily relying on public transportation.

Learn other practical tips when traveling to Italy.

Northern Italy Itineraries

Below are two different itineraries for northern Italy, covering distinct destinations with varying activities and atmospheres.

These Italy itineraries are the improved version of my two-wek trip. Iโ€™ve included some of my actual timestamps, so you can plan and sequence activities efficiently.

7-Day Northern Italy Itinerary

You can spend more than two weeks traveling around northern Italy and not run out of things to see or do. If you only have a week there, below is a great and efficient way to see four of Italy’s best places:

  • Milan, the fashion capital of the world
  • Venice, a city famous for its intricate canals
  • Cinque Terre, a picturesque coastal village
  • Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance

Theย Italy trip plannerย below has this itinerary prefilled.

Milan (1 day)
Day 1โœˆ๏ธ Arrive in Milan (morning)
โ›ช๏ธ Visit the Duomo di Milano (30-60 mins, afternoon)
๐Ÿ–ผ๏ธ See The Last Supper (1 hr, afternoon)
๐Ÿ›๏ธ Wander around and shop (2 hrs, afternoon)
๐Ÿ Walk around and have dinner in Navigli District (evening)
๐Ÿจ Eat gelato for dessert (evening)
Venice (2 days)
Day 2๐Ÿš† Train to Venice from Milan (3 hrs, morning)
๐Ÿ‘Ÿ Explore San Marco’s top attractions (3-4 hrs, afternoon)
โ˜€๏ธ Catch the sunset at Fondamenta delle Zatter (30 mins, evening)
๐Ÿท Eat cicchetti and sip wine at Vino Vero (90 mins, evening)
Day 3๐Ÿชด Explore the Castello district (1.5 hrs, afternoon)
๐Ÿ’ง Walk to and cross Ponte dellโ€™Accademia (45 mins)
๐Ÿ‘Ÿ Explore the Dorsoduro district (1.5 hrs, afternoon)
๐Ÿ›ถ Go on a gondola ride (30 mins, late afternoon)
๐Ÿฅ– Eat more cicchetti for dinner (90 mins, evening)
Cinque Terre (2 days)
Day 4๐Ÿš† Train to Cinque Terre (5 hrs, morning)
๐Ÿฅพ Hike and explore the five picturesque villages (all day)
Day 5๐ŸŒŠ Finish exploring the Cinque Terre villages (all day)
Florence (2 days)
Day 6๐Ÿš† Train to Florence (3 hrs, morning)
โ›ช๏ธ Visit Florence’s Duomo and walk around the main square (1 hr)
๐Ÿท Take a wine tour in the Tuscany countryside (5 hrs, afternoon)
Day 7๐Ÿ–ผ๏ธ Visit the Uffizi Gallery (1 hr, morning)
โœˆ๏ธ Depart to Rome in Central Italy or head home (afternoon)
A view of many colorful buildings on a mountain by the ocean.
Cinque Terre in northern Italy.

10-Day Northern Italy Itinerary

Below is an efficient way to see six of northern Italy’s best places in ten days. This ten-day itinerary features city landscapes, coastal villages, narrow canals, wine country, and stunning views.

This itinerary closely resembles my busy and packed trip, so I’ve included some of my suggested duration. Scroll below to see how to modify this itinerary for more downtime.

Milan (1 day)
Day 1โœˆ๏ธ Arrive in Milan (morning)
โ›ช๏ธ Visit the Duomo di Milano (30-60 mins, afternoon)
๐Ÿ–ผ๏ธ See The Last Supper (1 hr, afternoon)
๐Ÿ›๏ธ Wander around and shop (2 hrs, afternoon)
๐Ÿ Walk around and have dinner in Navigli District (evening)
๐Ÿจ Eat gelato for dessert (evening)
Lake Como or Lake Garda day trip (1 day)
Day 2๐Ÿš† Train to Varenna from Milan (90 mins, morning)
๐Ÿฐ Explore Castello di Vezio (45 mins, morning)
๐Ÿ‘Ÿ Explore Varenna’s town (30 mins, afternoon)
๐ŸŒท Visit Villa Monastero (1 hr, afternoon)
โ›ด๏ธ Ferry to Bellagio (15 mins, afternoon)
๐Ÿจ Explore Bellagio’s town (90 mins, afternoon)
๐Ÿ’ง Walk to Bellagio’s waterfront and east side (1 hr, afternoon)
โ›ด๏ธ Ferry back to Varenna (15 mins, evening)
๐Ÿš† Train back to Milan (90 mins, evening)
Venice (2 days)
Day 3๐Ÿš† Train to Venice from Milan (3 hrs, morning)
๐Ÿ‘Ÿ Explore San Marco’s top attractions (3-4 hrs, afternoon)
โ˜€๏ธ Catch the sunset at Fondamenta delle Zatter (30 mins, evening)
๐Ÿท Eat cicchetti and sip wine at Vino Vero (90 mins, evening)
Day 4๐Ÿชด Explore the Castello district (1.5 hrs, afternoon)
๐Ÿ’ง Walk to and cross Ponte dellโ€™Accademia (45 mins)
๐Ÿ‘Ÿ Explore the Dorsoduro district (1.5 hrs, afternoon)
๐Ÿ›ถ Go on a gondola ride (30 mins, late afternoon)
๐Ÿฅ– Eat more cicchetti for dinner (90 mins, evening)
Bologna, Modena or Parma (1 day)
Day 5๐Ÿš† Train to Bologna, Modena, or Parma (2+ hrs, morning)
๐Ÿ Eat at a Michelin-starred local restaurant
Cinque Terre (2 days)
Day 6๐Ÿš† Train to Cinque Terre from Parma (3 hrs, morning)
๐Ÿฅพ Hike through and explore the five picturesque villages (all day)
Day 7๐ŸŒŠ Finish exploring the Cinque Terre villages (all day)
Florence (3 days)
Day 8๐Ÿš† Train to Florence (3 hrs, morning)
โ›ช๏ธ Visit Florence’s Duomo and walk around the main square (1 hr)
โ˜€๏ธ Cross Ponte Vecchio to Piazzale Michelangelo for sunset (3 hrs, evening)
Day 9๐Ÿ–ผ๏ธ Visit the Uffizi Gallery (1 hr, morning)
๐Ÿท Take a wine tour in the Tuscany countryside (5 hrs, afternoon)
Day 10๐Ÿ Have a Florentine meal (morning)
โœˆ๏ธ Depart to Rome in Central Italy or head home (afternoon)
A woman sitting in front of a fountain surrounded by marble sculptures.
Next stop: Rome.

I share all my expenses doing an itinerary similar to the one above in this Italy trip cost breakdown.

๐Ÿ—“๏ธ Slower 10-Day Northern Italy Itinerary

For more downtime and a slower northern Italy itinerary, skip Bologna, Modena, and Parma. Instead, spend an extra day visiting the beautiful villages of Cinque Terre.

Your slower ten-day itinerary can look like this:

Day 1Milan
Day 2Lake Como Day Trip
Days 3โ€“4Venice
Days 5โ€“7Cinque Terre
Days 8โ€“10Florence

If you want to further minimize taking the train to different areas of northern Italy, skip the Lake Como day trip and spend another day exploring Milan instead.

๐Ÿ With More Time: Extending Your 10-Day Trip

If you have an extra day or two in northern Italy, you can either spend extra time in Cinque Terre, Florence, or the Emilia-Romagna region, which includes Bologna, Modena, and Parma.

  • Cinque Terre is beautiful and you can take your time hiking between the villages if you want to extend your trip there to three days.
  • Florence is one of Italy’s most visited places and it’s a perfect place to spend more time if you love history and the arts.
  • The Emilia-Romagna region is worth visiting over two to three days, but it’s usually not a main stop in many first-timers’ itineraries.

Here’s a comparison of Bologna, Modena, and Parma.

๐Ÿ’ง Alternative to Lake Como: Visit Lake Garda

Lake Como is Italy’s most popular lake and it’s an hour-and-a-half train ride north of Milan. A great alternative option is to travel to Lake Garda (Lago di Garda) instead, which is a one-hour train ride east of Milan and takes you much closer to Venice.

Lake Garda vs. Lake Como

Lake Garda is not as picturesque as Lake Como, but it’s the largest lake in Italy.

Lake Garda boasts a more diverse landscape and offers a bigger range of water activities (e.g., windsurfing, sailing, kiteboarding).

Lake Garda’s Best Towns

Like Lake Como, Lake Garda is surrounded by charming towns. Its most popular towns include:

A narrow cobblestone street surrounded by colorful buildings.
Bellagio on Lake Como.

Northern Italy Map

This Italy map has all the recommended places mentioned in this post.

6 Amazing Places To Visit in Northern Italy

Here are six destinations in northern Italy with distinct environments and experiences for a complete trip.

These destinations are some of northern Italy’s top places and attractions featuring a mix of wine country, coastal villages, and spectacular views.

1. Milan

An economic center in Italy, Milan is known as the premier fashion capital of the world and has some of Italy’s most treasured cultural heritage.

โœจ Top Attractions in Milan

The vibrant city of Milan is best known for these main attractions:

  • Duomo di Milano (Milan Cathedral) is the largest church in Italy and is a Gothic architectural masterpiece in the city center. It’s considered one of the must-see attractions in Milan.
The exterior view of an elaborate, white cathedral.
The Duomo di Milano.
  • Santa Maria delle Grazie is a UNESCO World Heritage Site as this Renaissance church hosts Leonardo Da Vinci’s most famous artwork, The Last Supper.

The Last Supper can only be viewed for 15 minutes. You must book a timed ticket to see it and some tours will allow you to skip the line.

  • Navigli District is one of the most famous districts in Milan. Navigli runs along the river and is a picturesque town that comes alive during the night.

Many of Milan’s top restaurants are often booked, especially in popular areas like Navigli. Make reservations in advance or else you might be waiting for seats for hours, which is what happened to me.

๐Ÿ“ Getting To Milan

Milan is located in the Lombardy region in the northernmost part of Italy. It has one of Italy’s major international airports, Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP), that visitors can fly into.

Milan is a major city well-connected to Italy’s trains. Its location makes it the best city to visit Lake Como as a day trip. It’s also a little under three hours west of Venice by train.

๐Ÿ—“๏ธ How Long To Spend in Milan

You can spend one to four days in Milan, depending on your interest. One to two days is sufficient time to visit the top attractions, but if you want to shop and explore more of the galleries, three days or more is appropriate.

See the best of Milan and understand its history better in this well-rated guided tour.

๐Ÿ€ My Take on Milan

Truthfully, Milan was my least favorite city in northern Italy, which is why I recommend spending only one to two days there in my itinerary.

Milan is a great place to see a bustling and fashionable city in Italy, but I found all other cities and towns more unique and breathtaking. That said, I found it to be one of the best places to eat gelato.

A hand holding up a creamy gelato with two flavors.
Creamy gelato in Milan.

2. Lake Como

One of the most beautiful lakes in Italy, Lake Como is known for its dramatic mountain scenery with spectacular views, picturesque towns lined along its shores, and villas with beautiful gardens.

Colorful buildings in a lush, green mountain on the shore of a blue lake.
View of Lake Como from a ferry.

Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore are Italy’s second and third most popular lakes that are also known for beautiful views. They’re both a one to two-hour train ride away from Milan, making them good alternatives to Lake Como.

โœจ Top Attractions in Lake Como

Lake Como is surrounded by more than ten towns and villages. Its most famous towns are Bellagio, Varenna, and Como, and here are their top attractions:

  • Castello di Vezio in Varenna is a medieval castle with some of the best views of the lake.
A woman sitting in front of a large lake with a mountain in the background.
Lake Como view from Castello di Vezio.
  • Villa Monastero in Varenna is one of Lake Como’s most notable villas, featuring a beautiful botanical garden.
  • Bellagio is a small town considered to be one of Lake Como’s most charming ones. Famous Street gives visitors a picturesque view of the lake and town shops.

See how to plan a day trip to Lake Como.

๐Ÿ“ Getting To Lake Como

Lake Como is very far north of Italy, located less than 10 miles south of Switzerland.

The best way to get to Lake Como is from Milan by train. The train ride takes one to two hours, depending on which of the lake’s towns you’re visiting.

๐Ÿ—“๏ธ How Long To Spend in Lake Como

You can spend one to three days on Lake Como depending on how many towns you want to visit.

๐Ÿ€ My Take on Lake Como

Lake Como is a beautiful lakefront that’s worth spending a full day at. If you enjoy visiting villas or are visiting northern Italy in the summer and love water activities, Lake Como is worth at least a two-day trip.

3. Venice

Venice is a beautiful city that’s world-famous for its intricate networks of canals, gondola rides, and romantic ambiance.

A woman taking a bite out of a crepe while standing in front of a narrow water canal.
Venice’s small canals.

โœจ Top Attractions in Venice

Here are some of Venice’s best attractions and activities:

  • St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco) is Venice’s main square lined with cafes. It’s a major tourist attraction featuring notable, historic buildings.
  • St. Markโ€™s Basilica (Basilica di San Marco) is a stunning church with intricate details. It’s one of Venice’s most popular attractions, so expect long lines, even in the morning when it first opens.
  • Doge’s Palace (Palazzo Ducale) is a historic palace connected to the famous Bridge of Sighs on the Grand Canal.

Due to its rich history, Doge’s Palace is best experienced with a guided tour. Here’s a highly-rated tour combined with a tour of St. Mark’s Basilica.

  • Rialto Bridge is one of Venice’s most iconic bridges. It’s the oldest bridge on the Grand Canal and was historically a bustling center of trade.
  • Venetian gondola rides are one of Venice’s most iconic activities.

Learn the best place to catch a gondola ride in Venice.

A woman sitting on a boat floating on a small canal surrounded by colorful buildings.
Start of a gondola ride in Venice.
  • Cichetti are small snacks typically served on a piece of bread and Venice is an excellent place to enjoy them. I had them at several places and my personal favorite was at a local spot called Vino Vero.

Learn more about exploring Venice in a day.

A plate of bread with different savory toppings on it.
Cicchetti in Venice.

๐Ÿ“ Getting To Venice

Venice is located on the northeast coast of Italy. It has one of Italy’s international airports, Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE), that visitors can fly into.

Venice is also located a three-hour train ride east of Milan.

The train ride from Milan passes through the city of Verona, which is most famous for Casa di Giulietta, the setting for Romeo and Juliet.

๐Ÿ—“๏ธ How Long To Spend in Venice

Two to three days in Venice is sufficient to do its main attractions and explore its different districts on foot.

Given its popularity, try to avoid traveling to Venice during the weekend. The small canals and streets become overly crowded. It’s a much more pleasant city to visit on the weekdays.

๐Ÿ€ My Take on Venice

With its narrow streets and canals, Venice is a perfect place to wander. Venice has six districts and although San Marco is the most popular one, I enjoyed walking around the quieter Dorsoduro district the most.

4. Bologna, Modena and Parma

Bologna, Modena, and Parma are well-known cities located in the Emilia-Romagna region. The region is known to have some of the best local restaurants in the world, so they’re great places to stop for food lovers.

A plate full of cured meat with a glass of red wine.
Prosciutto di Parma from a Michelin restaurant in Parma.

Learn more about the differences between Bologna, Modena, and Parma.

๐Ÿ€ My Take on Parma

I recommend stopping in one of these three cities even for just a day because it’s a nice way to break up the commute from Venice to Cinque Terre. I chose to do Parma because I wanted to eat some of the world’s best prosciutto.

One of my favorite discoveries in the region is Lambrusco, a sparkling red wine that’s difficult to find in other regions of Italy.

5. Cinque Terre

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cinque Terre is one of the most beautiful places in Italy. It’s known for hiking trails, picturesque villages, dramatic cliffs, and ocean views.

A woman standing in front of a background with colorful buildings on a mountain by the ocean.
A Cinque Terre town.

Cinque Terre is the more affordable version of the popular and luxurious Almafi Coast in southern Italy. This Italy cost breakdown has all my trip’s expenses.

โœจ Top Attractions in Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is comprised of five villages located near the coast. Aside from wandering around each small village, one of the best things to do is hike through them.

Learn how to hike through Cinque Terre.

Colorful houses on a mountain cliff sticking out into the ocean.
Another view in Cinque Terre.

๐Ÿ“ Getting To Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre is located on the northwest coast of Italy. The best way to get to Cinque Terre is by taking the train to Monterosso al Mare (the northernmost town) or Riommaggiore (the southernmost town).

๐Ÿ—“๏ธ How Long To Spend in Cinque Terre

Two to three days in Cinque Terre is a sufficient amount of time to visit and spend meaningful time in all five of its villages.

๐Ÿ€ My Take on Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre was my favorite place in northern Italy and it’s absolutely worth visiting. The hike and breathtaking views were a pleasant break from the cities and old architectural landscapes commonly found in other regions of Italy.

6. Florence

Called the “Cradle of the Renaissance,” Florence is known for its historical sites and acts as a gateway to the Tuscany wine countryside of Italy.

โœจ Top Attractions in Florence

Here are Florence’s top attractions and activities:

A woman standing in front of a white, intricate church.
Piazza del Duomo in Florence.

One of the most popular things to do is to climb Brunelleschi’s Dome of Florecen’s Duomo to get a panoramic view of the city. You need a guided tour, like this highly-rated one, to visit the dome.

  • Piazzale Michelangelo is another famous square in Florence. Piazzale Michelangelo gives you a panoramic view of the city and is a great place to catch the sunset. You can walk across the famous Ponte Vecchio to get to the square.
  • Florence is located near several famous wine regions in Tuscany, so it’s a great place to do a wine-tasting tour.

I did this highly-rated, small-group wine-tasting guided tour from Florence and highly recommend it.

A woman holding a glass of red wine against a field of grapes.
On a wine-tasting tour in Florence.

๐Ÿ“ Getting To Florence

Florence is the capital city of the Tuscany region. It’s a two-hour train ride from Rome, making it a great last stop in northern Italy before visiting southern Italy.

๐Ÿš‡ Getting there: If you take the train from Cinque Terre to Florence, you will pass by the Leaning Tower of Pisa. You can get off at the Pisa S. Rossore train station for a quick visit to the tower.

๐Ÿ—“๏ธ How Long To Spend in Florence

Three days is sufficient to visit and see Florence’s top attractions.

๐Ÿ€ My Take on Florence

Florence is a great city that mixes history and charm, while still feeling like a big city. I spent five days in Florence, which was a bit too long for me, so I recommend spending under five days there.

See how to spend three days in Florence.

Italy Trip Planner

To make your travel planning easier, download the trip planner below and use it as a starting point. The planner has country-specific travel information, an itinerary, a packing list, and a map with key places pinned.

The trip planner is built on Notion, which I use for all my travel planning (I genuinely love this tool). If you don’t have Notion, creating an account is free.

Three Notion template screenshots are shown: travel information, itinerary, and map + packing list templates.
Preview of Italy trip planner.

If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave a comment below.

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If you find my travel tips helpful, say thanks with a bubble tea๐Ÿง‹!

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