In this itinerary, I’ll show you how you can see the best of Northern Italy in 10 days. I’ve included transportation tips, where to stay, where to eat and what to do in each stop along the way. I’ve also got a map at the bottom to help you visualize the journey. The most efficient way to see Northern Italy is by starting in Venice and ending in Milan (or vice versa). In between these two cities, it’s easy to access the gems of Northern Italy: Lake Como, Verona, Lake Garda and the Dolomites.
You could definitely tailor this Northern Italy itinerary to be only 7 days. I personally prefer to relax a little on a vacation, but I also understand American vacation days are numbered (like literally to 10). To my European readers: we are all very jealous.
If you want to take this trip in the winter, I’d recommend skipping the lakes. Lake Como and Lake Garda are really impacted by seasonal closures.
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Transportation in Northern Italy
Both Venice and Milan have large international airports and car rental options. Most car rentals are manual transmission, but automatics are available so don’t get discouraged or assume they are nonexistent. Expect to pay tolls and choose a car rental company that doesn’t charge extra for one way drop off. I have used Rentalcars.com to book in the past, but always read the fine print or reach out to their very helpful customer service in the chat option if you need clarification. Be sure to read more of my tips for driving in Italy.
Driving doesn’t sound like your cup of tea? This itinerary could be done by train and bus too, it would just take longer to travel between destinations. Also, consider swapping out Lake Garda and the Dolomites for Bologna or Bolzano (both are more accessible by train). There are so many possibilities and something for everyone in Northern Italy.
Let’s dive in…
Venice: 2 Days
Where to Stay: Hotel Bisanzio
Hotel Bisanzio is close to a water taxi stop and San Marco Square. We felt completely spoiled here when they upgraded us to a room with a terrace because we had Alfie (our dog, if you’re new to the blog).
Travel Tip: You won’t be able to bring a car into Venice itself. You can rent a car at the airport and park it near the Venice port. Alternatively, you can wait until you are departing Venice to rent a car. There are car rental agencies in the port in Venice. Take public transportation or book transportation from the airport to Venice.
Things to do in Venice
- Doge’s Palace and Piazza San Marco (book a tour in advance and skip the line)
- Take a gondola ride
- Day Trip to Burano or Murano (you might need three nights if you want to see these islands)
- Go to the rooftop of Fondaco dei Tedeschi department store, possibly pick up something special while you’re there
- Take a food tour and visit cicchetti bars
- Fancy coffee at Caffe Florian
- Cheap spritz at Al Merca
Corvara, Dolomites: 2 Days
Where to stay: Hotel Kolfuschgerhof or sister property Hotel Belvedere
These two hotels are connected underground and share the same breakfast room part of the year. Hotel Kolfuschgerhof is the more luxury property, but we chose Hotel Belvedere for the view (above photo). We loved Cordova so much we actually decided to stayed a third night. We were there for a wedding and had the most memorable time.
Things to do in Corvara
- Go skiing or hiking depending on the season
- Take gondolas up to Piz Boè Alpine Lounge or Col Pradat Hütte for a nice meal and stunning views of the Dolomites
- Boconara is great for a casual meal and access to an easy hiking trail
Lake Garda: 1 Day
Where to Stay: Du Lac et Du Parc Grand Resort
This resort is the premier luxury property in Riva del Garda. The location was perfect for access to the lake and walking distance to the town. We stayed as guests as part of photography collaboration and I still can’t believe the views from our room.
Things to do in Lake Garda
- Stroll the town of Riva del Garda
- Lounge at the lake
- Rent a bike, kayak or boat
- Have gelato at Gelateria Flora (this is a non-negotiable)
- Eat at Panem for high quality panini and charcuterie boards with friendly service
Verona: 1 Day
Where to Stay: Hotel Milano & Spa
Don’t expect the rooms to be spacious, but Hotel Milano is in an ideal location to see Verona. We had a lovely aperitivo on the rooftop bar and watched the sun go down over the arena.
Things to do in Verona
- Visit Juliet’s balcony
- See the ancient Verona arena
- Take in the views from Castel San Pietro (you can walk or take a funicular)
- Visit the Roman Theatre and Archaeological Museum
- Taste the regional wine Amarone and order Amarone Risotto
Lake Como: 2 Days
Where to Stay: Hotel Bellagio
The weather was less than ideal when we visited Lake Como in early spring. I’m still glad we decided to spend a little extra for the room with a lake view. Hotel Bellagio is right in the middle of Bellagio making it easy to walk to ferries and restaurants.
Things to do in Lake Como
- Rent a boat for incredible view of Lake Como
- Have lunch with a view at Trattoria Baita Belvedere
- Visit Villa Melzi or Villa Carlotta
- Go to the wine bar Enoteca Cava Turacciolo
Milan: 2 Days
Where to Stay: B&B Hotel Milano
We chose to stay at B&B Hotel Milano Central Station to be within walking distance of the train station. It’s an average hotel (compared to other properties in this itinerary), but it’s clean and located near public transportation. Being near a tram or bus stop is important in Milan because the city is so big. Skip the hotel breakfast option and walk over to Pave for excellent coffee and pastries.
Want something more central and glamorous? Book TownHouse Duomo for a luxury experience and views of the Duomo.
Things to do in Milan
- See the famous sites like the Duomo and the Last Supper (consider getting a professional guide and skip the line with this walking tour)
- Go inside the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
- Stroll around and have an aperitivo in the canal area of Naviglio Grande
Have more than 10 days? Consider adding on Bologna, Bergamo, Modena or Cinque Terre.