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If you are planning a trip to Italy, it makes sense to get familiar with the various regions of Italy first and then make an itinerary that takes you to your favorite spots. Here is a list of the most popular regions of Italy, their main cities and what to see and do in each of these Italian regions.
Northern Italy encompasses the regions of Liguria, Valle d’ Aosta, Piedmont, Lombardy, Trentino-Alto Adige, Veneto and Fruili. This vast area includes the Italian Alps and Dolomites, the glorious Lake Como and Lake Maggiore, the Italian Riviera, and the mysterious and magical city of Venice. Aside from Venice, Liguria and the lakes area, this part of Italy is still undiscovered by tourists. Until the 2006 Winter Olympics, Torino (Turin) was a sleeping beauty, but it has now awakened and has shown its beauty to the world.
Liguria is known as the Italian Riviera; it hugs the Mediterranean coast and offers wonderful resort towns such as Portofino, and San Remo as well as the now-famous Cinque Terre. Genoa is the largest city in this bustling region.
Valle d’ Aosta and Piedmont
Valle d’ Aosta and Piedmont are rural areas with the exception of Torino (Turin), a cultural treasure. From the Alps in the north to the vineyards near Barolo, this part of Italy is alpine or involved in agriculture. The Parco Nationale del Gran Paradiso is prized by naturalists for its unspoiled scenery and wildlife.
The Lombardy region stretches from the Swiss Alps to the plains of the River Po. The lakes region to the north provides ample opportunities for relaxation and outdoor activities.
In the Po valley, agriculture reigns supreme. Milan, the center of Fashion and commerce is well worth exploring. It is in Milan where you can find the famous Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci.
Trentino Alto Adige
Trentino Alto Adige is an interesting region because the language of Trentino is Italian and the language spoken in Adige is German. This area is located in the Dolomite Mountains and has some of the best ski resorts in Italy.
Veneto and Fruili
Veneto’s terrain is mountainous to the north and flat to the south. Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake, borders Veneto on the west. Padua, Verona and lovely Venice are the stars of this region. Both Veneto and Fruili border the Adriatic to the south. Fruili also borders Austria to the north and Slovenia to the east. Trieste is a lovely port city on the Adriatic bordering Slovenia.
Climate of Northern Italy
The climate of Northern Italy is best described as cold winters and warm, rainy summers. The average winter temperatures in the lowlands are rarely below 40 degrees and the summer averages in the low 80’s. Rainfall is abundant in spring and fall with October being the rainiest of the year.
A Couple Of Our Favorite Hotels In Northern Italy
We love this hotel situated near St. Marks Square and with a breathtaking view if the Bridge of Sighs. You arrive at their doorstep by water taxi and enter a lovely lobby with staff ready to serve you. Hotels in Venice are extremely expensive, but this hotel is reasonable for its category.
This hotel is a luxury hotel beyond belief. Set atop a hill overlooking Portofino and the sea, the views are incredible and the service is as one would expect. The Splendido has a sister hotel, the Splendido Mare, located in Portofino near the sea. It isn’t as regal, but it is half the price and you are able to use the services at the Splendido.
We stayed here and really had the best of both worlds. We swam in the Splendido pool and had a wonderful lunch and dinner there with views that just knock your socks off. We also enjoyed the Splendido Mare piano bar in the evening, listening to Italian arias sung by the talented piano player. So, for Luxury the Splendido is tops, but for a luxurious “bargain”, try the Splendido Mare.
Central Italy includes the regions of Emilia Romagna, Tuscany, Umbria and Le Marche. This area includes beautiful towns and charming landscapes steeped in culture and history.
Emilia Romagna is one of the most prosperous areas of Italy. With the Po river valley to the north and the Apennine Mountains to the south, this region is the breadbasket of Italy.
Agriculture thrives in this rich area and consequently, Emilia Romagna is known as a great gastronomic center. This is the home of Parma Ham and Parmesan cheese. The main cities in Emilia Romagna are Bologna and Ravenna. Follow our Italy Road Trip Itinerary from Venice to Bologna to explore more of this beautiful region.
There has been much ado about Tuscany in the past several years. Several books and movies about Tuscany have made people fall in love with this area, and why wouldn’t we? Florence, Lucca, Sienna, San Gimignano, and Arezzo are all very special Tuscan towns that are endowed with many of the artistic treasures of Italy. The hills of Chianti and the mountains of the Alpi Apuane provide the scenery we have learned to recognize as Tuscan. Tuscany is the artistic heart of Italy.
Umbria, Tuscany’s neighbor to the east, is considered the “Green Heart of Italy”. the rolling hills and rugged mountains provide a wonderful landscape for the medieval towns and Roman ruins of Umbria. Assisi is the largest town in Umbria, but Perugia, Orvietto, Todai, Gubbio and Spoleto are all places worth visiting. The rich soil of Umbria yields exquisite olive oils, truffles, and many different wines.
Between the Apennine Mountains and the Adriatic Sea lies the region of Le Marche (the marshes.) This largely undiscovered area is known for its long stretches of sandy beaches and its agricultural countryside. The main city in Le Marche is the medieval city of Urbino, which is the home to one of the most beautiful Renaissance palaces in Italy: Palazzo Ducale, which now houses the Galleria Nationale delle Marche.
Central Italy is what people think about when dreaming of an Italy vacation: Italian Cypress spiking into the sky, red-tiled roofs peeking from behind rolling hills, Renaissance architecture and world-class art treasures, mouth-watering food and famous Italian wines. Central Italy is the heart and soul of this enchanting country.
Rome and Lazio
For most travelers to Italy, Rome is the furthest south they will travel. The golden triangle encompassing Rome, Venice and Florence is the main route. But the south has so much to offer! The regions of the south include, Lazio and within it Rome and Vatican City, Abruzzo, Molise, and Puglia along the Adriatic, Naples, and Campania, the toe of the boot Basilicata and Calabria, and the island of Sicily.
Lazio is a region of lakes, mountains, and vineyards. The area was formed by the eruption of four volcanoes and has left the region with numerous hot springs and volcanic crater lakes. Lazio’s best beaches can be found in the Parco Nazionale del Circeo between Gaeta and Sabaudia.
Naples, the capital of Campania, is an ancient city founded by the Greeks but conquered by the Normans, the French, Spanish and more. It has survived through grit and the feistiness of the people, which is evident today in this somewhat impoverished city.
A few of the sights you might want to visit while there are Castel Capuano and Porta Capuana. The Castle was a royal palace until 1540 when it was transformed into the Court of Justice. The nearby Puerta Capuanais the finest Renaissance gateway in Italy. The Duomo was built between 1294 and 1323. The Museo Archeologico Nazionale is one of the world’s most important archeological museums in the world. Nearby is the petrified city of Pompeii buried in ash by the 79 AD eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. Read our guide on the best things to do in Naples Italy here.
The Amalfi coast is a real tourist draw because of the beautiful hill towns such as Sorrento, Praiano, Amalfi and Positano, the enchanting views of the Mediterranean and the Ile of Capri, just a ferry-boat ride away. Ravello offers the best views along this winding cliff-side drive.
Abruzzo, Molise, and Puglia
Abruzzo, Molise and Puglia are the three regions forming a long strip along the Adriatic Sea. Dominated by the Apennine mountain range, this region has the contrasts of the Gran Sasso peak at 9554 ft. and The Adriatic sea’s glorious beaches.
L’Aquila, Abruzzo’s capital lies at the foot of the Gran Sasso. Outdoor lovers are intrigued by the Parco Nazionale d’ Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise. This park is one of Europe’s most important nature preserves. This park is open for hiking, trekking, and climbing.
Bari, Puglia’s capital, a port city with ferries to Croatia and Greece is enhanced by the nearby Castle Del Monte, a UNESCO site. Alberobello is distinguished by the number of Trulli within its borders. Trulli are little, circular, white-washed buildings that have conical roofs. The origin of these buildings is obscure, but are interesting historically.
Lecce is home to the Lecce Baroque style architecture mastered by Giuseppe and Antonio Zimbalo. Some examples can be found in the Chiesa de Rosario, the Palazzo Vescovile and Duomo, and the Santa Croce.
One of the poorest regions of Italy, Basilicata and Calabria form the toe of the “Italian Boot”. Scattered with Greek ruins, and isolated towns, this region is almost virgin territory for tourists. Matera offers fantastic views from its perch atop a cliff. The Sassi section, below the bustling city, was once home to Matheran cave dwellers. Tropea is one of a string of unspoiled, picturesque towns along the Mediterranean.
Sicily was a crossroads from Africa and Europe and has retained customs from the many cultures that crossed its path. Mt Etna has provided the fertile land that gives this island agricultural abundance. Tourism is still relatively low, so lovers of history and rich Italian cuisine should put Sicily travel on their short-list.
Palermo is an exotic city worth exploring. A few of the many main sights are the Duomo, Palazzo Reale, La Mangione, and Villa Guilia. The Duomo at Monreale with its glorious mosaics is one of the finest examples of Norman architecture in Sicily. The Port of Marsala evokes memories of the sweet wine that has been produced here since the 18th century.
Taormina is one of Sicily’s most visited resorts. The well-preserved Greek Theater offers magnificent views of Mt Etna. Siracusa, former Greek stronghold is filled with Greek temples and artifacts. The Museo de Archeologico Regionale Paolo Orsi has important artifacts from the Paleolithic to Byzantine eras.
Most Popular Regions of Italy was Written by Terri Fogarty for EuropeUpClose.com