If you are living in this ever so romantic city of love it’s hard to leave but in case you decide to venture out to different parts of Italy, here are some of the best places you should check out. Verona has a great location and it’s easy to make this as your base city and travel to other parts of the country for day trips. Even though I was enchanted by the spell of Verona, my husband coaxed me to get up and get exploring some more cities and of course make the best use of our holiday in Italy.
Sirmione in Lake Garda – Both these places are gaining quite the attention of tourists in the past few years and there is no surprise ‘why’. The castle at Sirmione is marvellous and in recent times, many of the social media sites are flooded with the tranquil pictures and videos of the lake and the castle. This place has been given the tag of ‘The pearl of Lake Garda’ and I wouldn’t deny it a bit. It’s a straightforward town so it’s better to walk around. Start your trip in this town by visiting the famous castle Roca Scaligera, it is quite simple from inside but worth a watch. Later on make your way towards the old town, its quite delightful and has plenty of restaurants and cafes.
Some other sights to check out are the Jamaica beach which can be reached by foot, it’s quite tricky to find your way around so make sure you to take some guidance from the locals. Catullo’s Grotto is an ancient Roman villa site and is another wonderful part of Sirmione overlooking the Lake Garda. There are also a couple of wellness places known for their spas so if you do have time make sure you do check it out.
It’s a pretty easy trip from Verona if you are driving as it takes less then an hour.
Venice – Its a pretty straightforward drive from Verona to Venice and it takes about an hour and a half which is not bad. If you are a good with time management half a day is ideal to do most of the touristy things in this romantic city and you have enough time to even stroll along the quieter lanes of Venice. Start your day by visiting St. Marks Square which is one of the best attractions here, visit the Basilica and then head to Doge’s Palace which is just a few steps away from the St Marks Square. The gothic palace is royal, exquisite and will appeal to you if you are history buff, the ticket prices are expensive so make sure to grab the online discounted deal before you head there.
After that historic tour of the palace make your way towards the Rialto Bridge, it starts getting busy here but it still a must-see attraction here. Be careful of your belongings as it does get rough in Venice, and now for the cheery on top which is my ideal place in Venice, it is indeed the Grand Canal. I finally feel that I have achieved something in my life by making a visit to the picturesque Grand Canal, you can even take a gondola ride from here but try negotiating a decent price as it’s on the pricey side.
Just a short walk away from Grand Canal is the Bridge of Sigh which has a sad story attached to it, nevertheless, it’s now a popular spot for pictures. If you want to see the grandeur opera house you can book a show or take a guided tour inside, its worth it. For people who are interested in art and culture, a visit to the Ponte dell’Accademia museum will be appreciated.
If you intend to stay in Venice then you should also visit Murano and Burano which is a short boat ride away.
Bologna – A two-hour drive will take you to the famous Bologna, and apart from its delicious food there is a lot to see and do. I am always excited to explore a new city and seeing Bologna was one of my bucket list moments as I have heard a lot about it from a few of my chef friends. You might be wondering surrounded by Venice, Florence and Rome, why should you spend a day here? Well, it is an underrated destination which still has plenty of things to offer.
Start your tour from Piazza Maggiore which is the centre of the old town, you can find the unfinished Basilica di San Petronio here, Palazzo d’Accursio (town hall) and the Neptune fountain, this square is just minutes away from major attractions. Later on, you can make your way towards Piazza Santo Stefano which is just a few minutes walk from Piazza Maggiore. There are a group of seven churches named after the same Saint and alongside there are also some buildings like Casa Berti (senator palaces), Palazzo Isolani (18th-century townhouse used for various events), and Palazzo Bolognini (Renaissance Palace).
Did you know Bologna also has leaning towers, and they are pretty tilted so you should have a look at the Asinelli tower here. If you like to take a break from the tourist attractions you can enjoy some time at Via dell’Indipendenza and Via Galleria for shopping and eating. For the sake of history lovers, they have an exceptional Archaeological museum which is quite intriguing. Another thing Bologna is known for apart from its food is the arcades, it is fascinating to walk under these famous porticos. These are of course some of the best things to see but if you do have some more time in hand check out the San Luca Sanctuary (church), Museum of History, Saint Dominic Church, and Quadrilatero where you find some great eats.
Modena – Within over an hour you can reach another hypnotising town of Italy, and this time we are talking about Modena. Some people swear by the delicious loaves of bread and the balsamic vinegar here, it’s also particularly popular among people who are car enthusiastic. Don’t be intimidated by the cities size, as it might be small but has plenty of things to offer. Some must-see UNESCO World Heritage sites which you shouldn’t skip here are Ghirlandina bell tower, Modena Duomo, and Piazza Grande. Ducal Palace in Piazza Roma is the former residence of the Este Dukes of Modena and you can visit it with a guided tour. Another fascinating palace which consists of many museums within is Galleria Estense, admire over the sculptures, artworks, porcelains, scientific instruments and many more interesting objects.
Apart from the usual tourist’s things you should surely make a trip to the Ferrari Museum and The Enzo Ferrari, some of the cars here are truly spectacular.
For foodies, you will be spoiled for choices as there are a couple of renowned Michelin Star restaurants and markets which are famed for its delicious food like Mercato Albielli. Well, known Italian opera singer Luciano Pavarotti home tour is also a something you should consider visiting, he was one of the best and to see his house and museum is an achievement in itself.
I could spend a few days easily navigating around Modena and its neighbourhood and often this town is overlooked but once you visit it, you see the delightful vibe of this city.
Brescia – Just under an hour away from Verona is this pleasing town of Brescia, often forgotten due to the proximity to Lake Como and Lake Garda but if you want to explore the culture and traditions of Italy, this place will come across as a nice surprise, plus it’s not flooded with too many tourists. Another reason you should visit this place in May is to witness the race of historic cars (Mille Miglia) and that too cars which were produced prior to 1957.
There are numerous things to catch your attention here like the grand castle of Brescia which is perched on a hill and overlooks the city, the Old Cathedral (Rotonda) in Piazza Paolo VI which is circular in shape and is a Roman Catholic Church and right next to the old cathedral is the New Cathedral (Duomo Nuovo) which is also the largest Roman Catholic Church in the city, both these churches are quite significant to Brescia. Visit the Capitolium which is a Roman archaeological site, restored in the 20th Century and now also stands as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
After the sightseeing take a relaxing stroll in the pleasant Piazza della Loggia which is lined with shops, cafes and the clock tower. To know more about the city a must-visit would be the Museo di Santa Giulia and for retail therapy a walk down Via X Giornate.
Mantova – A 40min drive to this captivating city is recommended if you are into palaces and the regal lives of the royal family. A brief part of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet also has a mention of this city. Mantua has an appealing history.
Mantua’s old town is a part of UNESCO World Heritage. Check out in Piazza Andrea Mantegna the 300-year-old Basilica di Sant’Andrea, it is breathtaking. Later make your way towards Piazza delle Erbe where you get to see the Rotunda di San Lorenzo (oldest church here) which is in honour of Goddess Venus and the clock tower. Out of all the cathedrals and church, the most fascinating one to visit is the Mantua Cathedral in Piazza Sordello, it has a chaotic past but it has stood the test of time and is quite famous here.
I love palaces so a few minutes out of the old town is the Palazzo Te, which is around 500 years old and is stunning. Another palace to see is the Ducal Palace where the Gonzaga family stayed for over 400 years. If time permits there is a lovely castle called Castello San Giorgio which might interest you.
Trento – Just over an hour drive from Verona will take you into this ski town of Italy which is dominated by gorgeous landscapes, back in the days it used to be a part of Austria but after the peace treaty of Saint-Germain, it came under Italy. It’s a perfect place for people who are into sports especially hiking and skiing but that doesn’t mean it will disappoint the art and the history lovers, there is something to please everyone here.
It is indeed a gateway to the Dolomites but has many interesting attractions like the Buonconsiglio Castle which used to be the residence of the Prince Bishops of Trento for around 500 years, Walking through this castle is like being transported back in time. Visit the Piazza del Duomo and the highlight of this square is the Cathedral of Trento (Cathedral of San Vigilio), apart from that you can even see the Clock Tower and the Palazzo Pretoria which is now a museum.
A museum which will impress many is the Museum’s of Natural science (MUSE) a captivating place to take kids or adults into science. Just a few steps away is also Palazzo delle Albere which is used for exhibitions usually.
To enjoy some picturesque views of the city take a cable car ride up to Sardagna which is 600 meters above sea level.
Vicenza – Less than 30min by train and around a 40min drive is Vicenza, perched between Verona and Venice. For a laid back and a relaxing day out of Verona, this is a perfect place as its easily accessible from Verona. Start your day at the main square of Vicenza which is Piazza Dei Signori and here you can visit the well admired Basilica Palladiana which hosts a number of events and exhibitions, it’s also a UNESCO World Heritage, and the clock tower (Torre Bissara). Just a few minutes away from the square is the 15th-century Olympic theatre also known as Teatro Olimpico, it’s one of the three Renaissance theatres which can host up to 400 people. Till today, there are plenty of concerts which take place here especially during The Vicenza Jazz Festival.
Later on either take a break at the delightful Park (Parco Querini) and enjoy the sight of some wild bunnies, ducks, turtles and fishes around the canal or head to La Rotunda which is slightly out of the main square but surely worth a visit to admire the neoclassical villas, it’s no doubt a part of the UNESCO World Heritage list. The villas have been designed by the famous Andrea Palladio and its architecture and the garden around is something many people appreciate.
For a little hike and to be blessed with some fantastic views of the city walk up-to Monte Berico Church, if legends are to be believed the blessed Virgin Mary appeared twice to a peasant worker here. For museum enthusiasts, you should pay a visit to Vicenza’s municipal museum (Palazzo Chiericati) it’s not only a magnificent building but also houses artworks and a huge archaeological collection. Lastly, the Old Town of the city is not gigantic so you can easily stroll around here and appreciate the beauty of the city.
Milan – Also known as the fashion capital of Italy, Milan is a popular place to visit either for a day trip or for over a few days. Last time I spent a week without getting bored, there is so much to do around this city that the day just flies by. Besides driving you can even take the train and it’s should roughly take your around 2 hours to reach Milan city. Start your day trip by seeing the most famous Duomo di Milano. You can visit the cathedral and the rooftop which has pleasing views of the city. Next to the cathedral is the infamous Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II, this shopping mall has some of the best designer stores. Make your way to the restaurant district of the city ‘Naviglio’ this has so many restaurants lined up next to each other and the lovely canal makes the ambience a tiny bit romantic too.
If you are into history then take a tour of the Castello Sforzesco, it’s quite intriguing. For shopping check out these few streets Via Montenapoleone, Corso Buenos Aires and Corso Vittorio Emanuele II. If you are into music and art you would be interested in Teatro Alla Scala (opera house) and Museo del Novecento.
Another eccentric neighbourhood to check out is Brera, you can find cafes here, bakeries and shops. Probably an area you prefer if you want to be away from the touristy crowds.
So if you are staying in Verona or visiting it for a few days these easy day trip options will add more joy to your Italian holiday. Ciao, for now, and do share your favourite places below.