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6 Cities in Northern Italy to Visit Before Everyone Else Does

For travelers who are willing to dig a little deeper, Italy has countless gorgeous small towns waiting to be explored. We’ve partnered with NYC-based travel blogger Sher from Sher She Goes to discover some off-the-beaten-path cities in northern Italy for your next trip!

Rome. Venice. Florence. These are the blockbuster Italian cities you’ve heard of… and for good reason! They’re busy, bustling and beautiful. But as with many places, the true character and charm of a culture can be found in its small towns. After countless trips to Italy, I’ve fallen in love with some of Northern Italy’s hidden gems: little known towns and postcard perfect fishing villages far off the beaten tourist track.

Here are 6 cities in Northern Italy to consider for your next Italian vacation, whether you like food, history, sunshine or antiques. As a bonus – many of these small Italian towns are just a short train ride from the major cities!

 Ravenna

History and art lovers will adore Ravenna. This small town in Northern Italy’s Emilia-Romagna province was once the capital of the Byzantine Empire and is most known for its intricate mosaics, which date back to the 6th century. Ravenna is a quick 90 minute detour on the Venice – Florence train route and can easily be explored in a day trip. Its quaint town center is best experienced on bike as Ravenna’s various churches and mosaic attractions are slightly spread out throughout the town. For visitors overwhelmed by large summer crowds, Ravenna is a refreshingly quiet and un-touristy destination! Hotels in Ravenna, Italy

Parma

Parma is the birthplace of parmesan cheese and parma ham, two of Italy’s most famous culinary exports. Food lovers should head to the city’s countryside for an in-depth tour of local meat and cheese factories and head to the city center for traditional restaurants serving simple, delightful Northern Italian cuisine. Once the home of Renaissance painter Correggio and 20th century conductor Arturo Toscanini, Parma today boasts fantastic theatres, museums and opera concerts. Don’t miss out on exploring this quaint riverside city! Hotels in Parma, Italy

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Bologna

Bologna makes another excellent pit stop for foodies and is architecturally distinctive for its portici, or archways, which extend over 24 miles around the city. This university town remains delightfully low profile to international visitors, but among Italians, Bologna is nicknamed La Grassa (meaning The Fat) for its delicious cuisine! When visiting Bologna, prepare to feast on everything from tagliatelle al ragù (pasta bolognese) to tortellini en brodo (stuffed pasta in broth) and mortadella(baloney). Make sure to save room for dessert too. Bologna’s La Sorbetteria Castiglione has won numerous awards throughout Italy for its gelato and serves up an incredibly decadent dark chocolate scoop! Bologna makes a pleasant day trip from several major Italian cities and lies within easy train access of Milan, Rome, Venice and Florence. Hotels in Bologna, Italy

 Lake Maggiore

Lake Maggiore is an idyllic lakeside retreat where wealthy Northern Italians once spent their summer vacations. Its picturesque towns still retain a majestic, vintage air and visitors can easily spend a couple nights in the area soaking in all the charm. Three tiny Borromean Islands in the center of the lake are the main draw, boasting enchanting English-style gardens and a sumptuous palace filled with antiques and priceless porcelain. Lake Maggiore is the second largest lake in Italy and its unique climate and position near the Swiss Alps makes it a must for outdoor lovers! Hotels in Lake Maggiore, Italy

Bergamo

This delightful Medieval Italian town is distinctive for its two cities – it features an ancient hilltop Upper Town and a modern Lower Town connected by funicular. Bergamo is a romantic city for lovers, who will enjoy getting lost among its narrow cobblestone streets and people watching on Piazza Vecchia during happy hour. While you’re in town, don’t forget to try casoncelli, a local pasta unique to Bergamo which is filled with ground meat and cooked in a butter sage sauce. Hotels in Bergamo, Italy

 Santa Margherita

Santa Margherita is a charming seaside resort on the Italian Riviera. Long overshadowed by more popular neighbors Portofino and Cinque Terre, Santa Margherita remains a delightfully unpretentious resort town. Another benefit of its relatively anonymity? Affordable hotel options, especially compared to its glitzy neighbors! Spend your days here relaxing on the beach, exploring the waterfront and dining al fresco. It’s a great idea to make Santa Margherita your base and day trip to other Italian riverfront towns – Portofino, Cinque Terre, Santa Fruttuoso monastery, Camogli, Rapallo and Genoa are all nearby. Hotels in Santa Margherita, Italy

Sher Jordan is an official Travelocity Gnational Gnomad. Gnational Gnomads is an exclusive group of high-profile travel and lifestyle experts who offer tips and inspiration on behalf of Travelocity. For more information on the Travelocity Gnomads, visit travelocitygnomads.com.

Travelocity compensates authors for their writings appearing on this site; such compensation may include travel and other costs.

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