Secret places in Northern Italy: gems that not all travelers know about

By Alina GoncharovaFeb 12, 2024 20:22 PMItaly
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Secret places in Northern Italy: gems that not all travelers know about
Fantastic landscapes of Italy. Source: Image Leonhard Niederwimmer/Pixabay

Italy is home to a large number of unique sights, classic and truly elegant places that are on the bucket list of numerous travelers from every corner of the world. However, this European country also offers many mysterious treasures that tourists may have never even heard of. In particular, this applies to Northern Italy, which consists of eight separate regions, each of which is full of beautiful cities and picturesque villages. From the unsurpassed beauty of San Remo and Portofino to the majestic Dolomites, you will not face a shortage of new and special locations to explore. So, if you want to get off the beaten path and explore the other side of this stunning European picture, the following list contains the top 18 hidden gems of Northern Italy that are worthy of attention.

Campione d'Italia

Secret places in Northern Italy: gems that not all travelers know about
A unique region of Northern Italy. Source: Image by Alan Iselin/Pixabay

Among the amazing places in Northern Italy, Campione d'Italia deserves special attention. This is a truly unique location, an exclave - a small region separated from the main part of the country and surrounded by the territory of Switzerland. Campione d'Italia, with its lake views and rich culture, is less than one kilometer from the rest of Italy. However, the way to get there is through Switzerland; you need to overcome 14 kilometers of winding roads while enjoying the amazing views. Among the sights that can be seen here are the Oratory of San Pietro, the ancient church of San Zenone, and the Sanctuary of Santa Maria dei Ghirli.

South Tyrol

Another special pearl of Northern Italy is South Tyrol. Its uniqueness lies in the fact that it is a German-speaking alpine region. Before the First World War, the location belonged to Austria. Today, the Italian part retains a large number of authentic traditions and German character. Another reason to visit South Tyrol, besides its rich culture and history, is its fantastic mountain scenery. Among the main attractions worth your visit are:

  • The Dolomites;
  • Val Gardena Valley with a wide range of ski slopes;
  • the province of Bolzano;
  • the city of Merano, one of the most popular climate resorts in Europe.

The location is different from the rest of Italy, so if you want to explore the other side of the country, be sure to plan your visit here. South Tyrol offers a variety of activities to suit all tastes, such as skiing, thrilling adventures, and many other outdoor activities.

Chiusa

Right in the heart of the Italian Alps is a small but very beautiful town known for its artistic scene dating back centuries. Chiusa also boasts colorful buildings and their Gothic counterparts, ancient churches and retro landscapes of incredible beauty.

The main feature of the city, which it is proud of, is the museum, which houses treasures and valuable exhibits of Loreto: from ceramics to paintings by Spanish and Italian artists from centuries ago. In addition, Chiuscia offers a large number of luxurious restaurants that serve gourmet dishes from Mediterranean to Alpine cuisine.

Bergamo

Secret places in Northern Italy: gems that not all travelers know about
Panorama of Bergamo. Source: Image Ben Kerckx/Pixabay

Bergamo is one of the mysterious places in Northern Italy that locals like to keep to themselves to avoid the crowds of tourists and fully enjoy its beauty. The small but very beautiful town fascinates with its streets and alleys filled with buildings with vintage facades. If you want to visit as many events and festivals as possible, we recommend that you travel between May and September, which is characterized by surprisingly good weather.

Bergamo has an amazing classic Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore with golden ceilings. You should also see the elegant Casa Palma Camozzi Vertova, Palazzo Agliardi, and visit the ancient Colleoni di Solza Castle. In general, the historic streets of the city have many treasures that are so pleasant to discover.

Modena

This ideal place to visit in Northern Italy is primarily associated with vinegar and racing cars. Modena is not a popular location among tourists, but the city is widely known among fans of exclusive Bugattis, as the French automaker once had a factory here. Although the production is no longer in operation, this does not prevent travelers from taking a closer look at the city's collection of Maseratis owned by the Panini family. Other important sights worth visiting include:

  • Acetaia Villa San Donnino;
  • Duomo di Modena;
  • Enzo Ferrari Museum of Modena.

The city is also home to some authentic Italian dishes, such as Frutti di Mare and tagliatelle stew. Various festivals take place regularly in Modena, so the best time to visit is from April to October when the weather is perfect.

Trieste

There are many reasons to visit Trieste, and one of them is that it is the most beautiful hidden gem of Northern Italy, filled to the brim with unique buildings from the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Known as the country's forgotten city, today it is one of the largest coffee producers, so every corner is naturally imbued with the invigorating aroma of caffeine. In addition, Trieste boasts not only coffee shops but also numerous cultural buildings. In particular, you should definitely visit the Castello di Miramare, a historic palace that was built in 1855, so it is full of hidden treasures.

Alba

Fans of beautiful photos for social media should definitely visit Alba. This Italian city with vineyards and picturesque historic streets is the perfect retro backdrop for photos, especially considering the gorgeous brown earth combined with constant clouds of thick fog hanging in the morning and at night.

In addition, Alba is famous for its extremely expensive and flavorful white truffles, Italy's most popular product. Thanks to its growing industry, the city and its neighboring areas have become home to some of the country's best Michelin-starred restaurants. Another reason to visit Alba is that it is the birthplace of the world's favorite chocolate and nut paste, Nutella.

Valle d'Aosta

Valle d'Aosta is another hidden gem of Northern Italy that you should see at least once in your life. Here, vacationers can enjoy the natural beauty of the region and its special atmosphere. This place is considered one of the best and most mysterious, and is perfect for those travelers who want to have a remote vacation with minimal crowds. There are hot springs here, so Valle d'Aosta is a good choice for a winter vacation. Guests of the city will also find ancient buildings and popular routes to the Valle d'Aosta mountains, as well as breathtaking views of the region's mountain resorts.

Throughout the year, the city offers a variety of activities and important attractions, including the Astronomical Observatory of the Autonomous Region, the Romano Theater, Aosta, and the Gran Paradiso National Park. The region promises the best conditions for skiing in winter and fantastic views of mountain ranges in summer along numerous hiking trails.

Treviso

An extensive canal system and well-preserved historic buildings dating back to the 15th century have earned Treviso the nickname of "Little Venice". The Renaissance-style Palazzo Pretorio stands on Piazza Dei Signori, so a walk here is an integral part of an Italian trip. Other attractions worth visiting in Treviso include:

  • Treviso Cathedral;
  • City walls and gates;
  • Treviso Casa dei Carraresi.

Just like when traveling to Venice, tourists should not miss the inspiring walks along the numerous water canals. If you are planning a vacation, we recommend choosing the period from April to June to avoid possible crowds of travelers.

Lake Orta

North of Milan, this amazing lake is recognized only by a native of the cultural center of Italy, because, just as the elite tend to Como, a villa near Lake Orta is an indicator of social status. This atmospheric body of water is surrounded by majestic Alpine mountains and medieval buildings located in the heart of the region.

The island of Orta offers a variety of accommodation options - from classic mansions to luxury resort complexes. The majestic palazzos in the surrounding areas are often rented out to vacationers from Italy and other neighboring countries during the summer. The most favorable time to visit is from May to September when the weather is mild and the landscapes are full of wildflowers.

Gardena Pass

There are many beautiful places in Northern Italy that boast incredible views, but for those who like to travel by car, the Passo Gardena is the undisputed leader. This is one of the most picturesque roads in the region, so you will certainly get a lot of aesthetic pleasure while driving along it.

Translated from Italian, Passo Gardena means "Garden Pass". This road is especially popular among traveling bikers and other travelers because the pass offers fantastic views of mountain ranges, including the unsurpassed Dolomites. You can not only drive along this route, but also stay here. There are various shops at the top of the pass, and there are also several accommodation options for tourists.

Outdoor enthusiasts have the opportunity to overcome the complex network of slopes by booking a private ski tour in the Sellaronda ski area. It includes 26 kilometers of trails of varying difficulty at an altitude of over 2000 meters. In addition, Val Gardena offers several equipped parks for mountain biking. Fans of freeride and experienced bikers can choose the Freeride Ciampino trail, which runs at an altitude of 2254 meters and requires great courage and skill.

Trezzo Sull'Adda

Located just 29 miles from Milan, this is not just a charming Italian village, but an important historical UNESCO World Heritage Site. Despite its enormous significance, this location is easy to miss because it is not in such high demand among travelers. The Trezzo Sull'Adda is filled with many architectural wonders, including the Visconti Castle, a 14th-century citadel. Another attraction worth visiting is the stunning Villa Cavenago.

Hot Springs Saturnia

This location used to be one of the most secretive gems of Northern Italy, but the fame of it has spread, so now there is no secret left. We are talking about The Saturnia hot springs. The hot springs are heated by the surrounding underground volcanoes in the area. The water temperature is kept at 37 degrees, so you can enjoy soaking in the warm healing pools. Visitors get the most pleasure at sunrise and sunset when their stay here becomes as refined and aesthetic as possible, full of beauty. Another advantage of the Saturnia hot springs is that they are open around the clock, and the entrance is free for everyone. The most favorable time to visit is spring and autumn when guests will find a calm atmosphere and mild temperatures.

Bormio

Bormio combines the best of both worlds: Italian dolce vita and the icy adventures of neighboring Switzerland. The ancient resort town with numerous natural hot springs and snow-capped mountains is one of the hidden places in Northern Italy, located between the Alps of the Lombardy region. Here you will find a large number of the best resorts, ski slopes along with trattorias, pizzerias and lamp bars.

Bormio, with its warm rustic charm typical of a ski area, but with the warmth of Italy, is best visited from December to February for winter activities and from June to September for summer vacations. If you want to enjoy the natural beauty of this amazing place, head to the Stelvio National Park with its many trails and hiking routes of varying difficulty.

Camogli

The coastal villages of Northern Italy beckon with wide golden beaches, open sea, colorful houses and the freshest seafood, not letting go of their pleasant shadows. However, if you stay here for a long time, you can miss visiting the equally beautiful, but not-so-popular seaside town of Camogli. The fishing village is located on the western side of the outstanding Portofino and near Genoa. Camogli, like other towns along the Amalfi Coast, is characterized by buildings of various pastel colors standing close to each other above the blue sea, surrounded by medieval castles, each with its own history, promenades and small family-run trattorias. The city also offers the following key natural and historical attractions to explore:

  • Basilica di Santa Maria Assunta;
  • San Fruttuoso Abbey;
  • Portofino Natural Park.

Camogli is a great choice for travelers who want to discover an offbeat destination and enjoy one of the most beautiful cities in Italy, choosing for a change a location other than the Amalfi Coast.

Borghetto

One of the many hidden places in Northern Italy is located along the Mincio River. In fact, one part of the Borghetto is even built over the water. A small village in the province of Verona is rightly considered a contender for the title of the most beautiful in the country, known for its enchanting landscapes.

In the Borghetto, visitors can enjoy its medieval glory: bridges, castles and fortresses are well-preserved and have stood the test of time. Be sure to add the Scaliger Castle, Sigurtha Garden Park, and a walk along Mantua Street to your list.

Travelers who want to stay here for more than a few days should keep in mind that although the small village has small hotels and cozy cafes, there are no pharmacies or post offices. This is not surprising, because the Borghetto is a secret place in Italy.

Moltrasio

This picturesque town of historical significance and incredible natural beauty is located on the western shore of the famous Lake Como near the Swiss border. In Moltasio, you can find several amazing locations worth exploring, such as the Oratory and the Tower of San Rocco, a medieval building dating back to the 13th century. For a glimpse into the region's rich past, be sure to visit the Church of San Martino and Sant'Agata, which offers fantastic panoramic views of Lake Como. The earliest mention of this religious building dates back to 1207. This church houses the most valuable work of art - a wooden altar created in 1507 by the sculptor Alvise de Donato. There are other important relics in the chapel, as well as frescoes illustrating the life of San Carlo and San Francesco.

Imbersago

Only a few kilometers northeast of Milan, in the province of Lecco, is the modest, at first glance, commune of Imbersago, which can be considered a hidden gem of Northern Italy. With its ancient churches, medieval watchtowers, and 17th-century sanctuaries, this ancient town can be proud of its rich artistic and architectural heritage.

However, the main advantage of Imbersago is its location. The city is located on the banks of the picturesque Adda River and is connected to Villa d'Adda on the opposite bank by a ferry. This transportation is quite unusual and worthy of travelers' attention. The Villa D'Adda Reaction Ferry is the only ferry with a reaction drive in Italy. This means that the water transport moves over the water, based on the flow of the river, not a motorized engine. It is believed that the ferry was designed by Leonardo da Vinci himself.

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