Bergamo – The Italian Lake Region – The Langhe – Milan
This past fall, my husband and I took a spur-of-the-moment European vacation to Northern Italy – and it just might be the dreamiest vacation we’ve ever been on. (And that’s saying something because we traveled to the Amalfi Coast a couple of years ago which is one of the most picturesque places in the entire world.)
5 Reasons to Visit Northern Italy Right Now
Because knew we wanted this Italian vacation to be pretty low-key and off-the-grid, we purposely chose to avoid super touristy locations like Venice or Rome. If your goal is to see every sight, visit every museum and ogle at every church, then this itinerary to Northern Italy is probably not for you. However, this itinerary IS for you if you want to:
- Experience authentic Italy without huge swarms of tourists.
- Surround yourself with incredible scenery.
- Eat and drink the most amazing Italian food and wine.
- Spend your days exploring little Italian villages with no set itinerary.
- Truly relax and unwind and live la dolce vita.
A Dreamy 10-Day Itinerary for Northern Italy
- A Weekend in Bergamo (2 Nights)
- A Relaxing Getaway at Lake Iseo in the Italian Lake Region (3 nights)
- Wine and Food in Northern Italy’s Langhe Region (3 nights)
- History and Shopping in Milan (2 nights)
We found an excellent deal on roundtrip tickets to Milan, so we knew we wanted to stay within driving distance of Milan for our itinerary. We rented a small car when we purchased our plane tickets, and trust me, you want your rental car to be small. With some of the tight turns, roads and parking spaces we encountered on our trip, it would have been difficult to get around with a larger vehicle. Except for some traffic in and out of Milan, we did not have any issues driving during our time in Northern Italy.
A Weekend in Bergamo, Italy (2 nights)
When we landed in Milan, we picked up our rental car and hit the road in the direction of Bergamo for the weekend. Bergamo is a beautiful Italian city about an hour northeast of Milan. The city is divided into two parts- a lower and upper city. The upper city, called the Città Alta, is surrounded by Venetian Walls built in the 1500’s, which were named a UNESCO world heritage site in 2017. We rented an AirBNB in Città Alta, and spent the weekend exploring the history of the city, the Piazza Vecchia, taking in churches, lots of wine and some amazing food. Bergamo was my husband’s favorite city on the trip, and we would definitely go back.
If you did want to squeeze in a visit to Venice, you could replace the weekend in Bergamo with a weekend in Venice. Venice is about a 3-hour drive east of Milan, and is an absolutely magical city. We decided we didn’t want to deal with the logistics of taking a boat into the city and the hassle of tourists, so we chose not to visit on this trip… next time!
For more details on what to see and do in Bergamo, read my full weekend guide here.
A Relaxing Getaway at Lake Iseo in the Italian Lake Region (3 nights)
Following our weekend in Bergamo, we hit the road for a few relaxing days in the Italian Lake Region. Northern Italy boasts some of the most alluring lakes with breathtaking scenery. The main lakes of the region are Lake Garda, Lake Iseo, the famous Lake Como and Lake Maggiore. Staying true to our off-the-grid vacation, we selected the smaller and lesser-known, but not any less beautiful- Lake Iseo. (You find a detailed travel guide for Lake Iseo here.)
Lake Iseo is about 45-minute drive from Bergamo, and we stayed at the family-run Hotel Rivalagoin the tiny Italian town of Sulzano. The Hotel Rivalago is right on the lakefront, and we woke up to the most serene lake views every single morning and spent our evenings sipping prosecco in the hot tub watching the sun slowly disappear behind the lake’s hills. The hotel also has a 5-star complimentary breakfast which was the perfect way to fuel our days. We spent our time leisurely driving around Lake Iseo, (which can easily be done in a day) pulling off in little villages to take in the scenery, grabbing a bite to eat and enjoying an aperol spritz.
Lake Iseo is also home to Monte Isola, the largest lake island in Italy. Monte Isola is a very quick (10-15 minutes) ferry ride from Sulzano and is definitely worth a visit. A trip to Monte Isola is like taking a step back into a slower, simpler time. There are no cars allowed on the island, but you will find the shores lined with fishing boats and the daily catches of sardines set out to dry along the sidewalk.
I will carry the views and experiences from our time in Lake Iseo with me for many years to come, and I’m so glad we picked this little piece of Italian heaven for our time in Northern Italy.
Wine and Food in Northern Italy’s Langhe Region (3 nights)
This is the Italy of dreams. Let me set the stage for you. Picture…
Rolling hills of vineyards as far as the eye can see. The Italian Alps peaking out over the horizon in the distance. Narrow, winding roads with little Italian villages appearing around the next bend. World-class, family-run wineries with welcoming tasting rooms. Unassuming restaurants that happen to hold a Michelin Star. A slower pace of life that is truly meant for savoring every moment, every morsel and every sip.
The Langhe, located in the Piedmont region, is what most people picture when they think of Tuscany, but without the throngs of tourists. You can truly get lost in authentic Italy in the Langhe. The Langhe is one of the most premier wine-growing regions in the world, known for their signature Barolos and Barbarescos.
We stayed in the most beautiful bed and breakfast surrounded by vineyards, and it was the highlight of our entire stay in Italy. The Langhe Country House is near the small Italian village of Neive, and pictures simply cannot do it justice. We spent our days getting lost in the small villages of the Langhe, sipping wine and lingering over the most exquisite meals. You can read a full review the Langhe Country House here, plus a detailed travel guide for the Langhe.
History and Shopping in Milan (2 nights)
After our wine-drenched days in the Langhe, we said goodbye to our beautiful bed and breakfast and headed toward Milan. Neive is a little under a two-hour drive from Milan. Since our flights were from the city, we slated a short stay to explore some of the best Milan has to offer. We toured the Duomo, went shopping (or I should say mostly looking) at the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and devoured some of the best pizza we’ve had outside of Naples at Obicà.
All in all, we enjoyed Milan, however, we certainly favored our other Italian destinations. Milan is always a great place to spend a couple of days as a means of a port of entry and departure.
If you have any questions about our Northern Italy itinerary, please do not hesitate to reach out. Send me a note or a post in the comments. If you’ve been, I’d love to hear your highlights. Italy holds a special place in our hearts, and we will definitely be back.