The countdown is well and truly on to the summer months and fingers crossed a more Covid free world. With the next few months looking much brighter both metaphorically and literally, we can finally look forward to the gradual opening up of international travel once more. We know for a definite that that first trip away, exploring, relaxing and sightseeing is going to be special, as it is only when it is taken away from you do you fully realise just how amazing travelling is. Of course, everyone’s first trip after lockdown will depend on personal preference, but at The Guide we believe an unforgettable jet-setting trip would have to be travelling across the famous North Italian cities and countryside, for a Great Northern Italian Odyssey.
Starting in the fashion capital of Milan, we will travel south east towards the home of Romeo and Juliet, Verona and then we will head down to the celebrated city of Venice. The journey across the Italian landscape can be done by train or car and whichever you chose, one thing is a certainty, it will be an extraordinary expedition in the temperate Italian summer.
There are many superlatives that could be used to describe Milan and for a city that is steeped in history, as well as its influence in both fashion and art, it has to be a bucket list location for lovers of culture and style. You can expect to find a large selection of hotels, boutique establishments and hostels that all offer chic, sophisticated accommodation, however our recommendations would have to be the Palazzo Segreti or LaFavia Milano. The Palazzo Segreti is a sheltered boutique hotel that offers light airy rooms, with a prime location right in the heart of the city. LaFavia Milano on the other hand is a quaint four-bedroom B&B that has sophisticated, yet intimate rooms, in which Art Deco is accompanied with local interior designs.
The gastronomical and mixological landscape in Milan is just as impressive as its renowned shops and architecture. For pre or even post-dinner drinks then both the Fonderie Milanesi and Bar Basso are staples that will not disappoint. Fonderie Milanesi is a well-known spot for the Aperitivo that attracts a mixed crowd of both students and locals, so you can be sure of a lively atmosphere! Bar Basso on the other hand offers phenomenal mixology and is famous for its signature cocktail Negroni Sbagliato.
Afterwards, heading out to dinner may seem like a difficult choice with the extensive number of world class restaurants in Milan. For us Ratana and Erba Brusca are excellent choices that bring the best of the city. Ratan focuses on traditional Milanese cuisine and without doubt is the best in the city for contemporary takes on classic dishes such as Risotto alla Milanese con ossobuco. Erba Brusca is a more unconventional restaurant located on the southern edge of the city, and the cuisine is heavily influenced by the idea of ‘farm to table’, with only the freshest ingredients used in the hybrid Californian, Italian and French inspired dishes.
Without doubt, one of the main attractions of the capital of Lombardy is the landmarks and sightseeing opportunities. Whilst it would take up an entire article to look at the best places to visit in Milan, here are two places that are a little off the beaten track and will not be overrun by tourists. Both Leonardo’s Vineyard and Via Lincoln are charming examples of Milanese culture and should not be missed. Leonardo’s Vineyard is a brilliant museum, which also includes the vineyard of Leonardo Da Vinci that was gifted to him by the Duke of Milan in 1498. The Via Lincoln alternatively is one of the most colourful and artistic streets in Milan, with fascinating architecture and its famous brightly coloured houses.
From Milan, make your way down to the romantic city of Verona, whilst making sure to take in the stunning Italian countryside. Verona is a much smaller city than Milan but offers so much! As the city is located close to Lago di Garda, it is definitely worth taking the day out to the lake especially to the town of Bardolino. The town is a hub of vineyards and wine making and it is a quaint, but busy settlement, bustling with visitors. For a chance to taste Veronese wine, then stop in Musella winery and try the superb Amarone. The dining options are wide ranging, but for a high-quality al fresco meal then make sure to stop by at Osteria Munus which has a traditional pizzeria as well as a restaurant.
In Verona itself, the city offers many quaint and secluded guesthouses and hotels, which you can be assured have the mark of Italian quality and class. The Hotel Due Torri is one of the finest hotels in the city and is just a stone’s throw away from the famous Juliet Balcony as well as other key attractions in the centre of Verona. Set away on a hilltop you can find Delser hotel, which is a transformed Roman water cistern. Surrounded by beautiful gardens and breath-taking views of the city as well as the Adige River, Delser is a perfect spot for a getaway from the hustle of the city.
Exploring the culinary side of Verona is exciting as there are many hidden gems that serve exquisite dishes. For a restaurant that has hardly been touched by tourists, then Trattoria dal Ropeton is for you. Specialising in traditional Veronese food, the gastronomy here is second to none and bursting with flavour. Not only that but the wine is of the highest calibre and is fairly priced.
The trip from Verona to Venice is relatively short; about 1 hour 20 minutes by both train and car, so the journey can be a leisurely one. Due to Venice’s fame, it can be easy to be sucked into the funnel of tourism and only visit the classic landmarks, hotels and restaurants. We have tried to pick out the more niche areas of what Venice has to offer, which allows for a more rounded trip to the fabled city.
With an abundance of Venetian interiors, accompanied with contemporary Italian style, the hotels and guesthouses in Venice are in a league of their own. As with the other cities on this trip, you will be spoilt for choice, but we would have to recommend the Novecento Boutique Hotel and Corti di Gabriela. The Novecento Boutique Hotel is a family run establishment, with tasteful interiors, as well as a charming courtyard where you can enjoy freshly cooked Venetian dishes in the tepid Venice sunshine. Corti di Gabriela on the other hand is a carefully designed industrial style hotel that is a juxtaposition of Novecento. You can be assured of a mouth-watering breakfast which includes freshly made crepes.
When it comes to sightseeing, it can be very tempting to be drawn towards St Mark’s Square and rightly so, however there is so much more that Venice can offer. One of our best tips for Venice is actually to just follow your nose and lose yourself in the streets, as this is when you can experience the city in its most candid form. Rather than heading to St Mark’s Square, navigate your way through the streets leading up to it, starting with Rialto Bridge and from there you will be able to find the Bridge of Sighs. Throughout the trip up to St Mark’s there are many cafes, bars and restaurants that all cater more towards locals than tourists, and you are definitely encouraged to try these places as they usually have better dishes, atmosphere and authenticity.
Following the trend of Milan and Verona, Venice is no stranger to excellent cuisine. You are spoilt for choice in the Floating City, and there are some hidden gems that often go unseen. One of the best kept secrets in Venice is Osteria Al Bacco, which is found on the quiet Canal delle Capuzine, and you can expect to find a small number of tables covered by overflowing vines. The food served is excellent and dishes include Spaghetti cooked in black squid ink as well as a number of fish dishes that are always the catch of the day. A trip to Venice would not be complete without experiencing one of their many different bars, and Cantina Arnaldi is definitely the spot to go to if you want to try some of the premier wines in the city. Expertly paired with meat and cheese boards, this secluded gem is still relatively untouched by tourists, so make sure keep it a secret!
Italy, north or south, never disappoints. With the wealth of culture and style that the country possesses, it is hard to go wrong. Northern Italy is gold mine attractions, and whilst we have picked out three cities, you are still spoilt for choice for places to visit and enjoy in the summer climes.