North Italy – In a search of elsewhere

To find the true essence of a region, you often have to dig a little deeper. As the third most visited country in Europe, Italy is no exception. Leave the crowds of Venice and Trieste behind and discover seven places in north Italy that will surprise you with their charm, beauty, and localism. From the Piedmont region in the West to the Friuli region in the East.

1 Modena. The magic of Modena can’t be described. It has to be experienced. The early evening aperitivo is not a choice, it’s a part of life. A cultural ritual of northern Italy that embodies the idea of a good life lived. Something you understand when you mingle through the streets on a Friday night. Or any other night of the week for that part. A mix of taste and style symbolized by the Balsamico di Modena and the most famous sports car in the world, showcased at the Enzo Ferrari Museum.

2 Chioggia. Some places are so crowded they have become a cliché. Venice is one of them. Luckily there is an alternative. Across the bay is Chioggia, the holy grail of north Italy’s Veneto region. A small fishing village representing the local, unspoiled, and day-to-day part of Italy, filled to the brink with canal facing houses and family-owned restaurants. A 1950s version of its bigger brother that, if any place, is to be called “Little Venice”.

3 Bergamo. If you ever get tired of Milan, or just want to be a little bit more unique, head to the neighbouring city Bergamo. Take the funicular to Città Alta, the beautiful old town, full of small cafés, deli shops, and cobblestone osterias. But it’s downtown, in Città Bassa, that the magic happens. Go for a late day aperitivo and dive into a night of never ending Negronis, street dance, and restaurants in a place where it just doesn’t seem to be enough tables.

4 Orta San Guilio. Situated west of Lombardy, in the Piemonte region, Lago di’Orta is the forgotten lake of northern Italy. Head to Orta San Giulio, the lake’s capital city, full of small-town life, family owned restaurants, and beautiful houses. Leave your bags at Hotel Leon d’Oro or rent yourself a seaside villa along the cobblestone promenade. Five hundred steps up is the UNESCO world heritage Sacro Monte di Orta, overlooking the monastery of the San Giulio island.

5 Udine. As the historical capital of Friuli, Udine has nothing to prove. Yet, it impress without even trying. Head to Piazza Giacomo Matteotti, where people sit for hours drinking coffee surrounded by sun bleached facades, sparkling fountains, and a myriad of 1950s shop signs. The perfect place to practice the Italian concept of “La Dolce Far Niente”, the art of doing nothing in a joyful way. Laidback at day, vibrating at night. Always with a local touch.

6 Cividale del Friuli. If it wasn’t for Ponte del Diablo, the Devil’s bridge, Cividale del Friuli would probably pass by unnoticed by most people. But don’t for a second think it’s just another sleepy mountain village. Every night, the Piazza Paolo Diacono is filled with bustling family dinners, teenagers drinking Nebiolo at the local osteria. Just to wake up in a city full of beautiful architecture, art installations, and yellow-pink houses surrounded by green rolling hills.

7 Spilimbergo. Walk through the old gate of Spilimbergo and enter a world of cobblestone squares, hand painted facades, and cosy restaurants. Yet another picturesque town until you find out that it’s the international center of mosaic art. Head to the Scuola Mosaicisti del Friuli, the world’s leading contemporary school of mosaic, and get a unique insight into the creation of mosaics and a first hand glance of the student’s new works.

Written by Erik Ekberger. Photography: Erik Ekberger

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