Northern Italy: A cultural and gourmet paradise on your doorstep
Northern Italy has historically been associated with designer fashions, stylish attractions and chic cafs. This is still absolutely the case and with plenty of sunshine thrown in too. The best news, however, is that if you travel around the area outside of Milan or Rome, it’s not going to cost you the Earth!
With an Autumn temperature that is, on average, far warmer than the UK, the cities of Bologna and Florence are only half an hour away from one another if you take the fast train, which travels up to 300km an hour. Venice and Verona, also in the vicinity, are cultural behemoths in their own rights and well worth a visit too.
Art-wise it’s possible to see an enormous variety of works by well- known artists, over just a few hundred Italian square kilometres. Today we’re going to have a look at the cultural and culinary delights these Northern Italian cities; Bologna, Florence, Verona and Venice, have to offer and why you should be planning to visit them soon.
Eating out in Bologna
Bologna is home of a favourite global dish that Britain has practically adopted as its own; spaghetti bolognese! Adults and kids alike will love tasting the delicious, original recipe, which is available from just about every trattoria along the street. Of course, it tastes even better eaten outside in the warm sunshine, accompanied by a glass of fine red wine!
Other gourmet specialities here include exquisite pizzas with thin crusts and tasty toppings, as well as a mascarpone dessert, which consists of sweet cheese, combined with dark chocolate.
For a cheap but filling snack, look out for ‘Aperativo’ in local barsfrom around 7pm. This is the Bolognese version of Spanish tapas; an astonishing array of tasty snacks sold inexpensively in a buffet-style. This offering is a bid to lure traditionally late-socialising locals out for a drink earlier in the evening.
The Bologna skyline is dominated by two Medieval towers. One now stands at quite a precarious angle, but the other is definitely seen as an attraction to be conquered by visitors to the city. As long as you’re not scared of heights, a trip up the interior staircase to the top is well worth a visit.
Tickets for most Bologna attractions can be bought from the local Tourism Office, but many a happy hour can also be spent exploring the labyrinthine streets and picturesque squares, which are filled with boutiques, bars and gelaterias; artisan ice cream shops where you can buy a couple of exotic creamy flavours for as little as 2 Euros.
So what’s the best way to experience Bologna? Here at Aspen Travel we offer a number of different packages. For a truly immersive delving into the city’s culture, why not pick our Cox and Kings all inclusive luxury package with Bologna experts; Olivia Dobell and Andrew Spira as your own personal tour guides? This is a great way to gain a full insight into the foods and art of the region and includes a tour of the university, which is the oldest in the Western world. This trip will also take you to neighbouring cities; Modena and Parma. You can find this exciting adventure’s full details here. Or you can make a direct enquiry via our contact form
Titan Travel offer a different sort of package; the chance for you to spend Christmas in Bologna. It’s a fun way to escape the cold, grey skies of the UK at this time of year. You’ll see the festive lights and gift-filled markets, enjoy a wine-fuelled brunch on Christmas Eve and take your Christmas meal in a local restaurant, with an excellent reputation for delicious cuisine. Due to it’s unique angle on Northern Italy, this is a very popular tour amongst travelers, you can find full details here, or get in touch with our Italia Holiday specialists via 0161 755 3081 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Or, to take in Bologna as part of a wider tour of Northern Italy, you might want to consider Uniworld’s ‘Splendours of Northern Italy’ tour, which will deliver you to Venice, Florence and Rome as well. Simply give our knowledgable team a call on 0161 755 3081 with your travel preferences to find the best package for you.
Art in Florence
Florence is a major city for Renaissance art. Statues of the prominent artists of this era; Rafael, Michelangelo, Donatello and Leonardo line the streets outside the world famous Uffizi Gallery, where you’ll see the statue of David, along with other recognisable masterpieces.
The architecture in this beautiful city certainly has the wow factor as well. If you’ve reached the centre by train, one of the first things you’ll see is the impressive Duomo; Florence’s cathedral. In striped green and white, this large, intricately decorated building wouldn’t be out of place on the front of a chocolate box and if you’re prepared to queue, you can gain access to its stunning interior.
From the square surrounding the Duomo, you can take a horse and carriage to other parts of the city. Be sure to keep an eye out for the Neptune Fountain; one of many nearby, on your way to the Ponte Vecchio, the old and infamous bridge which stretches over the river and houses many an opulent jewellery shop, making it the perfect place for a Florentine marriage proposal.
The next stop around these parts is surely one of the many museums, or the sculpture park in Baboli Gardens. Here, not only can you stroll along the grass-lined pathways, past modern sculptures heavily inspired by the classical styles, but you’ll also enjoy the panoramic view of orange trees and olive groves from the highest plateau of the park; next to the Porcelain Museum. One of the biggest attractions within the gardens is the Medici Grottos; caves filled with commissioned works of important artists, by the wealthy Medici family and now carefully preserved for future generations to enjoy.
If you’re travelling around the city in the Summer, when temperatures can reach a lofty 40 degrees, the traditional way to cool down is with a spritz; Prosecco combined with either Aperol or Campari and plenty of ice! This is best accompanied by a Florentine steak; a huge, tender T-bone, which is perfect for sharing.
To discover Florence with city experts Sian Walters or Gayna Pelham, why not consider our ‘Florence: Patronage & Palaces’ tour by Cox and Kings? You’ll gain an Italian cultural expert’s insight into churches, art, burial sites and gourmet foods in the city. Your tour will include guided tours of the palaces and art galleries which Florence have to offer, to book this tour please contact us on 0161 755 3081 for latest price and availability
Food and places of interest in Verona
Verona is to Northern Italy what Stratford is to the UK. Thanks to its associations with Romeo and Juliet, the city of Verona is a big pull for fans of Shakespearean romance, making it a great destination for lovers.
Popular attractions here include the city’s many parks, museums, art galleries and the Roman Arena. The latter is a beautifully preserved Roman amphitheatre from 1 AD, which has been so well built, it famously survived a large earthquake in the 12th century.
As for choosing a meal in a Verona pavement caf, you can’t go wrong with the local gnocchi. A typical Veronese pasta and sardines dish is also delicious. You’ll find a great array of snacks in the bars here. They’re best enjoyed as you bask in the sun and friendly warmth of the city; with a glass of wine in your hand and love in your heart!
The wonder of Venice
Venice practically needs no introduction. A famous magnet for the romantically inclined, Venice with its many islands; large and small, is built across a lagoon and connected by bridges, water taxis and the city’s iconic gondolas.
The must-see sights here include San Marco Square, the Rialto Bridge and the Bridge of Sighs. There are plenty of galleries in which you can view the ubiquitous Renaissance art of the region, but for European modern masters, you’ll want to make your way over to the Guggenheim.
Our ‘Venice & The Verona Opera‘ tour by Great Rail Journeys is one of our favourite tours. It takes in both cities. You’ll see the incredible sights along the waterways of Venice and around the streets of Verona, not to mention a memorable operatic performance.
Northern Italy is only a couple of hours flight away from the UK. Short breaks are easy and stress free when you use our booking processes. Please get in touch with our expert Aspen Travel team to find out about our extensive range of luxury all-inclusive packages. We’ll be able to find a trip to suit your budget and holiday preferences.