Subject: North Italy Itinerary
Key: * = very interesting; ** = Don't miss, a visit is strongly recommended.

ITINERARY 1, from Milan to Florence by car (lake district, Aosta Valley with Castles, Piemonte wine route and Ligurian sea resorts). This trip will give you a general view of northern Italian countryside.

- 1 day (76 km): rent a car in Milan and drive to Bellagio (in the middle corner of the lake Como) by Lecco (don't stop in Lecco) then drive down to Como (*) city, enjoy its lake promenade and its down town. Stay in Como for a night. - 1 day (58 km): drive to Laveno on lake Maggiore (don't waste your time visiting Varese!). In Laveno you can get a cable car up to Poggio Sant Elena (974 meters high) where you can have a great view of the lake. If you like walking, you can take a walk up to Sasso del Ferro (1062 meters high) in about 20 minutes. Five kilometers south from Laveno along the lake there is Saint Caterina's shrine (*) on the shore (XIII century - great view) which is nice.
>From Laveno you can catch a ferry to Verbania or drive along the lake up to Switzerland (stop in Locarno) and down to Verbania (80 km). Go to Stresa (*) and use it as a base. - 1 day : Go to the Borromee Islands (**) where you can visit old palaces with great parks (both closed in winter) and a fisherman's village. Then drive to Orta, on lake Orta, visit this great town and go to St. Giorgio island by boat (a few minutes). - 2 or 3 days: Now you can spend a few days visiting Aosta Valley (*) or you can miss it out. Aosta Valley: Castles, Nat. Park and ski resort (in winter). Use Ivrea as a base and visit some of castles in the Valley: Verres, Issogne, Montjovet (ruins), Ussel (close Chatillon), Fenis (*) (the most beautiful and preserved one), Nus, and Quart. Visit the regional capital Aosta (*) (founded in 25 BC by emperor Augusto). Chamois is a small town (100 people) on mountain around the Valtournenche valley (1800 meters high) where you can go to only by a cable car, there is no road to Chamois. If you enjoy trekking and walking, don't miss the Gran Paradiso National Park. You can start your walk from Cogne, Valsavarenche (+), Rhemes-Notre-Dame (+), Noasca (+), Ceresole Reale (+), and Ronco Canavese (+) (+ = visitor center). Other famous and characteristic towns are Breuil-Cervinia, St. Vincent, Courmayeur, Champoluc and Cogne where there are great ski resorts which are full of tourists during winter. - 1 or 2 days (48 km): Now you can spend some days in Turin (*) or you can miss it out. You can visit The Cathedral (VX cent.) where the Holy Shroud is preserved, the king's Palace and the Egyptian museum (*) (the most important Egyptian museum in the world after the Cairo one!)

- 2 days (130 km): Piemonte wine route in Langhe district. Drive, by the A21 motorway, to Asti (the district capital) then to Alba. Use Alba as a base. Alba has a medieval down town and it is well know for its truffle fair (late October / beginning of November every year), Alba is the truffle capital! In the Langhe district you can visit Cherasto (XII cent. Castle), La Morra (medieval town), Barolo (where is produced the great Barolo wine that you can taste at the oenological museum in the castle), Dogliani (medieval town surrounded by vineyards), Bossolasco (great view from the Madonna di Mellea's church), Serralunga d'Alba (nice castle), and Grinzane Cavour where there is a castle (XIII cent.), now is the regional oenological museum of Piemonte. In many of these towns you can taste the typical wine of Langhe: Barolo, Barbaresco, Barbera, Dolcetto, and Nebiolo. If you like wine you mustn't miss this tour! This district is full of tourists only during the truffle fair.

Liguria region: - Now you can spend one full day in Genoa (*) or you can miss it out (120 km). Walk through Via del Pre', Via del Campo and Via Garibaldi, visit Doria Palace, the Cathedral, Tursi Palace, St. Matteo church, Piazza Caricamento and the great aquarium (the biggest one in Europe). - 1 day (28 km): get the A12 motorway and come off in Rapallo (take base). Now you can visit Tigullio promontory (**) and its towns by bus, boat or train. Be sure to leave your car in Rapallo because you can't go to all the towns by car. Start with Camogli. Camogli is a nice fishing village and the 2nd Sunday of May there is a fish festival: they cook fried fish in big pots. Portofino (**) is a picturesque and very famous town. Don't try to go to Portofino by car because only few cars can enter down town! S. Margherita Ligure is a well known seaside resort. Rapallo is a seaside resort with a nice promenade. The Tigullio promontory is a regional park so you can take some relaxing walks in the park and go to the light house, St. Giorgi castle, and to St Fruttuoso Abbey (*). There are no roads to get there so you can go only by boat or on foot. If you like walking, you can take an easy footpath from Camogli to S. Margherita Ligure through St Fruttuoso and Portofino. - 1 or 2 days (40 km): drive to Cinque Terre (**), use one of the Cinque Terre towns as a base (Corniglia, Monterosso, Vernazza, Manarola, and Riomaggiore) and leave your car there. Visit all or some of these picturesque fishing village. You can go to all the towns by train, boat or on foot. There is a nice (but a bit narrow) footpath that runs through all the towns.

- 1 or 2 days (96 km): use the A12 motorway to Sarzana than drive to Fosdinovo. Fosdinovo is a less touristic medieval town, in the Alpi Apuane regional park, where there is an interesting castle (XIII-XIV cent.). Visit the castle then go back to the motorway and come off in Lucca. Lucca (**) has a very nice medieval down town boarded by well preserved 4 km long walls (XVI cent.), great churches (especially the Cathedral, St Michele in Foro and St Ferdinando). Enjoy walking through the down town. 46 km north of Lucca, close by Braga, there is the Grotta del Vento. It is a great cave under the Apuan Alps. There are 4 possible itinerary (from 1 to 2 hours long), departures every hour. For more information, please check the following web address : http://www.grottadelvento.com . - 1 day (80 km): Go to Pisa (**) and visit the well know Piazza dei Miracoli with the Cathedral, the Tower and the Cemetery. Just a few kilometers east of Pisa you can visit the Certosa di Pisa Abbey (*) (close by Calci). Then go to Florence.

ITINERARY 2, from Milan to Venice by car (this itinerary will show you Veneto's villas, the Veneto wine route and great architecture by famous artists (Palladio, Giorgione and Giotto)):

- 1 day (120 km): Take the A4 motorway to Bergamo (*) and get up to the medieval down town, at the top of the hill, by cable car (you can't use cars the center). Visit Piazza Vecchia, St. Maria Maggiore church, the Baptistery, Colleoni's chapel, and walk around the center. Go back to the motorway and come off in Sirmione (**). Sirmione is a peninsula of lake Garda. Cars are not allowed in the down town. Visit the Rocca Scaligera (a castle), and the Grotte di Catullo at the top of the peninsula (Romans villa ruins, great view of the lake). Then go to Salo' on the lake for the night.

- 2 days: If you like mountains and like skiing too, you can go to some well know ski resorts in winter or have beautiful walks in summer (Dolomiti mountain (*)): Madonna di Campiglio, Ortisei, and Cortina d'Ampezzo. Great views, landscape and trekking circuits.

- 1 or 2 days (54 km): Go back to the motorway and come off inVerona (**). Verona was Romeo's and Juliet's city. Visit its great squares in the center, palaces, churches, the great Verona Arena (a Roman theater still used for lyrical representations - I cent.), the castle, and the Scaligero bridge on the Adige river.

2 days (48 km): Go to Vicenza or Padova and use one of these city as a base (Vicenza is smaller and there is less traffic than in Padova). Visit Vicenza (*). Walk through the down town, visit the Basilica palace, the Olimpico theater and some churches. Bassano del Grappa: It is a medieval town between the hills, walk over the nice bridge over the Brenta river. Bassano is well know as producer of a white brandy named Grappa. Maser (*) (a few kilometers east from Asolo): great countryside villa (Barbaro - XVI cent.) with frescos by Palladio. Don't miss the Villa's cellar where you will taste the local wines. Treviso: It is an enjoyable medium size town with a Renaissance style down town crossed by canals. Visit the cathedral (XV cent.), St. Nicolo' church (XIII cent. in gothic style), Piazza dei Signori, and walk around the center. Castelfranco Veneto: Visit the cathedral (XVIII cent.) that is located into the town center boarded by walls (castle's walls). In the Cathedral there is a well know picture painted by Giorgione. 7.5 km north from Castelfranco there is Villa Elmo (it is close to Fanzolo di Vedelago), a great villa with frescos by Palladio. If you like wine, drive around Valdobbiadene, you'll find many big and small cellars that sell great wines (especially the Prosecco white one).

-1 day (30 km): Go to Padova (**). Visit the Palazzo della Ragione (a palace - XIII cent.), the heart of the medieval city. St. Antonio church (AD 1232 - named the Saint by padovans) where many great artists worked to build the church). The Scrovegni's Chapel where you'll find great frescos by Giotto (AD 1305). - 1 day: Drive through the Padovan countryside (Euganei hills). This is another great district for wine. Try to go into small cellars : don't be surprised if the owner gives you a glass and tells you to taste wines from casks freely, it is possible in this area! Montagna: its down town is boarded by walls (the best preserved ones in Europe). Visit the Cathedral (AD 1400) and Pisani Palace (AD 1560). Nearby Montagna you'll find other countryside villas. Este: there is a nice castle (XIV cent.), now a museum. Monselice: Visit the castle (XI-XII cent.) where there is beautiful furniture, arms, and tapestries; the Cathedral (AD 1256). Abano Terme is a well known spa resort. Don't miss the Praglia Abbey (*) (XII cent.) in the countryside around Abano.

1 day (30 km): take the SS11 road to Venice and stop in Stra where there is a villa (*) (Pisani - XVIII cent.), now Nazionale Villa, with great frescos. In Riscossa there is another villa (Seriman - XVIII cent.). Oriago: visit Foscari Villa (*) (better know as la Malcontenta Villa), XVI cent. built by Palladio.

- Not far from Venice:

-1 day (130 km): take SS309 road to Chioggia. Chioggia is a 'little Venice' with canals. Unfortunately here cars can enter. Walk through the main street in center (Corso del Popolo). Go to Ferrara (**). Ferrara is a great medieval city. Visit the Cathedral (XII cent. - great statues and frescos), Este castle (AD1385 - frescos), Schifanoia Palace (XIV cent., now a museum with great frescos), Ludovico il Moro's Palace (XV cent., now an archeological museum), Diamanti Palace (XV cent., now a painting museum). - 1 day (45 km): Go to Bologna (*), the Emilia Romagna regional capital. Visit St. Petronio church (XIV cent.), see the great Nettuno fountain in the Nettuno square and the medieval towers, visit the National Gallery where there are great pictures by Giotto, Raffaello, Perugino and others, visit St. Domenico church (XVI cent. with the great St. Domenico's grave and statues by Michelangelo), St. Francesco church (XIII cent.), the medieval museum and other Places. - 1 day (120 km): Take the A14 motorway then the A14 dir and go to Ravenna (**). Ravenna is well known for its great mosaics. Visit the old octagonal St. Vitale church (VI cent., where there is a fine mosaic), Galla Placidia 's Mausuleum (V cent., great mosaic), the Neoniano Baptistery (V cent., great mosaic), the old Dante Alighieri's grave (currently in St. Croce church in Florence), St. Apollinare Nuovo church (XV cent., great mosaics). Don't miss St. Apollinare in Classe church! It is 5 km south of Ravenna (VI cent., where there are some mosaics). Take the SS16 road and go to Rimini. Use Rimini (or an other nearby towns) as a base.

Enjoy and feel free to send me an e_mail for more info.

Ciao, Marco in Milan (Italy)