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Frommer's Northern Italy is the premier guide to the region, with complete coverage of Venice, the Dolomites and South Tirol, Milan and Lombardy, Liguria and the Italian Riviera, and more. You'll get candid reviews of the best hotels, restaurants, and nightlife, as well as the author's picks for the best travel experiences, including: cruising the brenta canal; driving the great dolomite road; riding the cable cars over mont blanc; hiking the cinque terre; taking in the art at the Pinacoteca di Brera in Milan; partying at the spring Carnevale in Venice; and more.
Every one of our honest, in-depth hotel reviews is based on a recent personal inspection; every restaurant has been tried personally; and every sight and shop was checked out in detail. You’ll get the latest trip-planning advice, valuable cultural insights, wonderful tips for venturing off the beaten path, and detailed, accurate maps. With Frommer’s in hand, it’s a snap to design the Italian adventure that’s right for you.
What's New in Northern Italy.
1. The Best of Northern Italy.
2. Planning Your Trip to Northern Italy.
4. The Veneto.
5. Trentino-Alto Adige: The Dolomites & South Tirol.
6. Friuli-Venezio Giulia.
7. Milan & Lombardy.
8. The Lakes.
9. Piedmont & the Valle d'Aosta.
10. Liguria & the Italian Riviera.
Appendix A: Italy in Depth.
Appendix B: Glossary of Useful Terms.
Northern Italy's riches are vast, varied, and yours to discover, from art-packed museums and mosaicked cathedrals to Roman ruins and hill towns amid vineyards that produce some of Europe's best wines. You can dine at refined restaurants that casually flaunt their Michelin star ratings, or chow down with the town priest and police chief at osterie (small local eateries) that have spent generations perfecting traditional recipes. You can spend the night in a sumptuous Renaissance villa on Lake Como in the Alpine foothills where Napoléon once stayed (the Villa d'Este), or in a converted 17th-century Venetian palazzo where the room opens directly onto the Grand Canal but costs a mere $109 (the Hotel Galleria). Here's a short list of the best of what northern Italy has to offer.
1 The Best Travel Experiences
Gondola Ride in Venice: Yes, it's hokey. Yes, it's way overpriced. But when it comes down to it, there's nothing quite so romantic after a long Venetian dinner as a ride on one of these long black skiffs, settling back into the plush seats with that special someone and a bottle of wine and sliding through the waters of Venice's back canals guided by the expert oar of a gondolier. See p. 78. A Day Among the Islands of the Venetian Lagoon: Venice's ferrysystem extends outside the city proper to a series of other inhabited islands in the lagoon. First stop, Murano, a village where the famed local glassblowing industry began and where its largest factories and best artisans still reside. Not only can you tour a glass factory (complete with hard sell in the display room at the end), but you'll discover a pair of lovely churches, one hung with paintings by Giovanni Bellini, Veronese, and Tintoretto, the other a Byzantine-Romanesque masterpiece of decoration. The isle of Burano is a colorful fishing village with an ancient lace-making tradition and houses in a variety of super-saturated hues. Nearby, lonely Torcello may have been one of the first lagoon islands settled, but it's long been almost abandoned, home to a straggly vineyard, reed-banked canals, the fine Cipriani restaurant, and a stunning Byzantine cathedral swathed in mosaics (see "The Best Churches," below). Time it right and you'll be riding the last ferry back from Torcello into Venice proper as the sun sets and lights up the lagoon waters. See p. 151. Cruising the Brenta Canal: The lazy Brenta Canal, lacing its way into the Veneto from Venice's lagoon, has long been the Hamptons of Venice, where the city's nobility and merchant princes have kept summer villas. From the massive, palatial Villa Pisani, with its elaborate gardens, to the Villa Foscari, designed by Palladio himself, most of these villas span the 16th to 19th centuries and are open to visitors. In the past few years, a few have even been opened as elegant hotels. There are two ways to tour the Brenta: on a leisurely full-day cruise between Padua and Venice, stopping to tour several villas along the way with an optional fish lunch; or by driving yourself along the banks, which allows you to pop into the villas you are most interested in-plus you can pull over at any grassy embankment for a picnic lunch on the canal. See p. 168. Driving the Great Dolomite Road: From the Adige Valley outside Bozen (Bolzano) across to the ski resort of Cortina d'Ampezzo runs 110km (68 miles) of twisting, winding, switchbacked highway called the Great Dolomite Road, which wends its way around some of the most dramatic mountain scenery in Italy. The Dolomiti are craggier and sheerer than the Alps, and as this road crawls around the peaks and climbs over the passes, one breathtaking panorama after another opens before you, undulating to the distant Po plains to the south and to the mighty Swiss Alps to the north. See p. 232. Riding the Cable Cars over Mont Blanc: There are not many more dramatic trips in Europe than this one, where a series of cable cars and gondolas rise from Courmayeur in the Valle d'Aosta to the 3,300m (11,000-foot) Punta Helbronner from which the icy vistas spread over Mont Blanc's flank in one direction and across to Monte Cervina (the Matterhorn) in the other. It is here that the true thrill ride begins as you clamber into a four-seat enclosed gondola that dangles from a trio of stout cables some 2.4km (1 1/2 miles) above the deep fissures of the Vallée Blanche glacier. It takes half an hour to cross to Aiguille du Midi on French soil-the longest cable car ride in the world not supported by pylons. From here, you can take a jaunt down into France's charming Chamonix if you'd like, or turn around to head back into Italian territory, perhaps stopping at the Alpine Garden two-thirds of the way back to Courmayeur to sun yourself and admire the wildflowers. See p. 365. Hiking the Cinque Terre: At the southern end of the Italian Riviera lies a string of former pirate coves called the Cinque Terre. These five fishing villages are linked by a local train line; a meandering trail that clambers over headlands, plunges amid olive groves and vineyards, and skirts cliff edges above the glittering Ligurian Sea and hidden scraps of beach; and an excellent communal white wine. Though tourism is discovering this magical corner of Italy, there are as yet no big resort hotels or over-development; just trattorie on the tiny harbors and houses and apartments converted into small family hotels and short-term rental units. It takes a full, long day to hike from one end to the other, or you can simply walk the stretches you prefer (conveniently, the trails get progressively easier from north to south) and use the cheap train to connect to the other towns. Pause as you like in the osterie and bars of each town to sample the dry Cinque Terre white wine and refresh yourself for the next stretch. See p. 410.
2 The Best Museums
Galleria dell'Accademia (Venice): The single most important gallery of Venetian painting and one of Italy's top museums was founded in 1750 and gorgeously installed in this trio of Renaissance buildings by Napoléon himself in 1807. (Napoléon swelled the collections with altarpieces confiscated from churches and monasteries he suppressed.) The works, spanning the 14th through 18th centuries, include masterpieces by all the local, Northern Italian greats-the Bellini clan, Paolo Veneziano, Carpaccio, Giorgione, Mantegna, Piero della Francesca, Lorenzo Lotto, Palma il Vecchio, Paolo Veronese, Titian, Tintoretto, Tiepolo, and Canaletto. See p. 128. Collezione Peggy Guggenheim (Venice): The Guggenheim family was one of the 20th century's greatest art patrons. Peggy not only amassed a stunning collection of modern art, she even married Max Ernst. Her half-finished 18th-century palazzo on the Grand Canal is now installed with her collections, works by Picasso, Pollock (an artist Peggy "discovered"), Magritte, Dalí, Miró, Brancusi, Kandinsky, and Marini. See p. 128. Museo Archeologico dell'Alto Adige (Bozen): Bozen's major sight is a high-tech, modern museum crafted around one of the most important archaeological finds of the past 50 years. When hikers first discovered the body of Ötzi high in the Alps at the Austrian border, everyone thought it was a mountaineer who succumbed to the elements. It turned out to be a 5,300-year-old hunter whose body, clothing, and tools had been preserved intact by the ice in which he was frozen. The Ice Man has done more to give us glimpses into daily life in the Stone Age than any other find, and the museum does a great job of relaying all that scientists are still learning from him. See p. 216.
Pinacoteca di Brera (Milan): One of Italy's finest collections of art, from medieval to modern, is housed in a 17th-century Milanese palazzo. Venice's Accademia may have a richer collection of Venetian art, but the Brera has a broader collection of masterpieces from across northern and central Italy. As with the Accademia, the Brera started as a warehouse for artworks Napoléon looted from churches, monasteries, and private collections. There are masterpieces from Mantegna, Raphael, Piero della Francesca, the Bellinis, Signorelli, Titian, Tintoretto, Reni, Caravaggio, Tiepolo, and Canaletto, and great works by 20th-century geniuses such as Umberto Boccioni, Gino Severini, Giorgio Morandi, and Giorgio de Chirico. They even throw in some works by Rembrandt, Goya, and Reynolds. See p. 265.
Museo Egizio & Galleria Sabauda (Turin): The world's first real museum of Egyptian artifacts remains one of the most important outside Cairo and London's British Museum. The history between Italy and Egypt dates back to Julius Caesar and Cleopatra, though this collection of 30,000 pieces was largely amassed by the Piedmont Savoy kings. The exhibits range from a papyrus Book of the Dead to a full 15th-century B.C. temple to fascinating objects from everyday life. But Egypt isn't all; upstairs the Galleria Sabauda displays the Savoy's amazing collection of Flemish and Dutch paintings by Van Dyck, Van Eyck, Rembrandt, Hans Memling, and Van der Weyden. See p. 339. (Continues...)
Excerpted from Frommer's Northern Italy by Reid Bramblett Excerpted by permission.
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