We know when planning our Italy road trip, choosing which route to take was difficult. The choices of what to see and do can make planning the road trip an interesting exercise. So, if you are looking for some wonderful places to spend your time, then this road trip of northeast Italy will have you wanting to visit and explore.
At the end of our 10-country 10-night road trip from North Germany to Italy we spent 2 days in the northeast of Italy. With our next trip planned to visit the Balkans, we wanted to visit northeast Italy again.
We have put together an overview of some places to inspire you, when planning your Italy road trip. Trieste, Treviso, Padua, Ravenna, Bologna and Modena (Venice and Verona will be visited at another time).
Our Italy Road Trip – Places and Foods of Northeast Italy
The weather in September is still warm and the crowds have thinned. We were excited to visit these cities, not only for the history, but the food experiences as well.
This city has always been a place of interest from reading historical stories of the Austro-Hungarian period when at school. Trieste sits on the Adriatic coast and is a prosperous seaport in the Mediterranean region.
While you do find the remains of the Roman period, it is the beauty of the buildings in the Piazza Unita d’Italia which will have you spellbound.
We’re not allowed to say, but we did watch an ad production for a new car model in the Piazza. Ooh and no photos allowed either. We judged our BMW Kiwi car to be way better. Why? Well, we had slept the night, warm and comfy in the back of the car. Waiting out a passing storm with the temperature down to 10 degree Celsius. However, we did feel sorry for the 3 Brits who had cycled up to the hilly campsite only to have a damp night’s sleep.
Trieste like most European cities has many churches to visit from Greek-Orthodox, Serbian-Orthodox, Synagogue and Catholic. If you visit the Piazza Ponterosso you can view San Spiridione and San Antonio. Both churches will have you stopping for photo views. The churches face out to the harbour with small boats lined along the Canal Grande.
Make sure you visit the Castle and Cathedral of San Giusto up on the hill. From here you have spectacular views of Trieste and the harbour.
To plan your exploration of Trieste, click of Walkli.com for our easy walking path.
Our first stop across the border from Slovenia was Treviso. While Treviso may not be the tourist mecca like nearby Venice and Verona, we enjoyed the afternoon exploring its canals and cobblestoned streets.
The highlight was the historic town hall Palazzo dei Trecento (built in 1210) a prominent building in the Piazza dei Signori. A perfect place to enjoy a coffee or a wine in one of the several cafes that line the Piazza. It is easy to imagine the bustle of the medieval town all those centuries ago.
Treviso is also the home of well-known brands like Benetton, Diadora and De’Longhi who have their headquarters here. But what piqued our interest, Treviso is also the area for the original production of Prosecco wine (always a favourite) and the dessert Tiramisu (Maura’s favourite).
We also loved the many various art forms and some delicious homemade gelato.
Arriving at our Airbnb (this link offers you a discount and us too) we knew we were in the Veneto region when we viewed the beautiful church in the suburb we were staying.
One of the things we like about Airbnb is the interaction with a good host. Alina gave us some good tips about where to eat locally, and what to see in Padua. We enjoyed eating at the recommended pizzeria, and were eager to see some of the hidden gems of Padua.
Padua architecture will have you looking up at the overhanging porticos as you walk along narrow cobblestoned streets. The vibrancy you feel is likely due to the students of the University of Padua – it’s Italy’s second oldest university, founded in 1222.
The most impressive highlight for us was turning the corner into via M. Cesaroti and seeing the Basilica of St Anthony. It was the Byzantine Domes and Turkish Minarets catching our attention.
Padua Botanic Gardens are found near the Basilica of St Anthony – the first ever botanic garden in the world (established 1545) and now a UNESCO site.
Prato della Valle, at 80,000 square metres is the largest square in Italy, and one of the largest in Europe. The square was once a Roman theatre, but in 1775 was changed to a Plaza with a statue-lined canal. This area is the place for festivals and markets near one of the old city gates.
To plan your exploration of Padua, click on Walkli.com for our easy walking path.
Our visit to Ravenna wasn’t planned until our eldest son Richard said we had to visit. We added it to our itinerary, and we were so pleased we took his advice.
Ravenna was the capital of the western Roman empire from 402AD and then the Byzantine capital in the 5th-6th centuries. Behind the old city walls not only are there eight UNESCO listed buildings but you will also find the tombs of Dante the poet and Theodoric, King of the Goths.
We had heard the mosaics found in the city were special, but we were unprepared for the beauty we saw. Our first stop was the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, small but nice, but it was the Basilica di San Vitale that had us standing still, heads up and taking in the beauty of the mosaic depictions.
Can you believe these mosaics are nearly 1500 years old?
The Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy was completed in the year 548. The mosaics completely cover the walls and ceilings of the church. The colours are so vibrant, they really have the wow factor. Even if you have already seen many churches in Europe, it is so worth visiting.
Our ticket of €9.50 each from (www.ravennamosaici.it) gave us entry to 5 places of interest:
- Mausoleum of Galla Placidia
- Basilica di san Vitale
- Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo
- Battistero Neoniano
- Museo Arcivescovile e Cappella di Sant’Andrea
Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo again had us taking a seat to view and take in the story depicted in the mosaics.
As you may have guessed, we spent a lot longer than anticipated enjoying all the mosaic artwork of the 5th-8th centuries. Incredible craftsmanship in such detail makes this city is a must see.
If you love spaghetti bolognese then you have found your city to try the authentic dish. Taking a walk through Mercato de Mezzo and the surrounding streets, with all the delicious smells, its enticing windows and range of foods, is mouth-watering.
Bologna is a great city to explore and one way to see it all is to climb the 498 steps to the top of Torre degli Asinelli. Bologna once had more than 200 towers but only 20 have survived the earthquakes, fires and WWII. Along with Garisenda, Asinelli is one of the famous Due Torri of the city.
What you will notice first is that both towers are on a lean (yip, it’s not only Pisa). Asinelli tower is 1.3 degrees off centre, while Garisenda leans at 4 degrees. The Leaning Tower of Pisa leans at 3.8 degrees. Asinelli tower was built between 1109-1119 and is 972 metres tall and you can climb the 498 steps inside the tower to get great views of the city.
Tip – the tickets are available at the tourist office in the Piazza Maggiore not at the Tower.
Piazza Maggiore is the place to find a seat and take in the splendour of the City Hall, the Fountain of Neptune and the Basilica di San Petronio. The large archways of Palazzo del Podesta providing a reprieve from the September sun while you sit and enjoy the people and the views.
Basilica di San Petronio is the largest church built of bricks in the world. When inside the Basilica, look for the sundial. A shaft of light from a hole in the ceiling indicates the time of day on the floor of the church.
To plan your exploration of Bologna, click on Walkli.com for our easy walking path.
We fell in love with Modena, well our stomachs did. It is in Modena where balsamic vinegar is produced in aged barrels. To say it is simply the best taste, is an understatement.
We had tried balsamic vinegar previously in New Zealand, but whether the distance travelled, the quality of the product or simply our imagination, the balsamic we tried in Modena, had us wanting to add it to every meal.
A meal of pasta is always a must in Italy. We couldn’t resist some freshly made vegan ravioli from the indoor market. The water was quickly boiled on our little camp cooker, the pasta jumped in and we so enjoyed the superb flavour.
Modena is easy to navigate and explore.
Torre Civica – Ghirlandina provides magnificent views of the city. The Duomo de Modena next to the Tower is a UNESCO building where the sunken nave is one of splendour to visit. It was at this church, the funeral of Luciano Pavarotti was held.
And for those of you who love speed (vehicle we mean) Modena was the birthplace of Enzo Ferrari. The Ferrari Museum has some great showpieces. You can also walk through the first workshop of Alfredo Ferrari, Enzo’s father which is attached to the old family home.
Road Trip through Italy – One of the Benefits
The benefit of hiring a car and taking a road trip through Italy, is being able to stop and explore places piquing your interest as you drive.
And it pays to be flexible when planning your road trip. Why?
Well the locals always have tips for you to see places nearby with suggestions too of local foods to try. This makes taking a road trip of Italy, that much more enjoyable.
Castello di Monselice
Driving along the autostrada between Bologna and Trieste, was an saw an unexpected but amazing view of Castello di Monselice. What caught our attention was the seven chapels ascending the hillside. We needed to stop for a coffee, so it made the perfect place to visit.
Road Trip Italy – Travelling Tips
Autostrada tolls are on the high side in northeast Italy. At various sections of the autostrada you will find toll booths accepting payment by cash or credit card. We found the autostrada is the quickest and most efficient road for travel in northeast Italy.
However, be prepared to encounter lots of heavy haulage trucks. Plus you need to be aware of the Italian drivers with a need for speed. They also like to cuddle up with you in the lane, until they decide which lane they want to be in.
Secondary roads are the alternative. They are single lane but are often congested when travelling at 70km and 50km through the small towns. These secondary roads are not well maintained and can make your trip a lot slower.
Fuel is on the high side in Italy in comparison to Germany, and even more expensive at the autostrada fuel stops. Sometimes 20c higher.
So, when you next plan your road trip of Italy, we know you will enjoy visiting these wonderful places of northeast Italy. The countryside is stunning, the cities with so much history and the food always great to sample.
If you need help with planning your Italy road trip then you can always contact us at email@example.com