Northern Italy refers to a cultural region that consists of 8 regions in northern Italy. It is also called Il Nord, Settentrione or Alta Italia.
The Aosta Valley or Valle d’Aosta is a mountainous region that is bordered by France and Switzerland. It is the smallest and least populous Italian region. The highlights of the area are its majestic Alpine peaks. The highest mountains of the Alps can be found in this part of Italy. Mont Blanc, also Monte Bianco, which literally means White Mountain, is the highest peak in the Alps and European Union. Monte Rosa or Mont Rosa, translated Pink Mountain, is the second highest peak in the Alps. Although the main summit is located within Switzerland, parts of its slopes are inside the Aosta Valley. Monte Cervino or Mont Cervin is one of the highest peaks in the Alps and one of the most popular too. Another site of interest in the area is the Gran Paradiso National Park or Parco Nacionale del Gran Paradiso. It is one of the oldest national parks and its initial purpose was to protect Alpine Ibex from intensive hunting. Today, there are other animal species that take refuge in the park’s natural and diverse environment such as chamois, eagles, marmots and many others. Aside from its geography, the city of Aosta is filled with history and traditions. The Arch of Augustus, Porta Pretoria and the Cathedral are all reflections of its Roman origins. An Italian medieval castle located in the town of Fenis is another highlight to visit. With its architectural beauty, its many towers and enduring walls, Fenis Castle is one of the most beautiful castles found in the Aosta Valley.
Another mountainous region in Italy is Piedmont, which actually means at the foot of the mountains. True to its meaning, Piedmont, second largest region in Italy, is surrounded by some of the highest peaks and largest glaciers in Italy. One of the most prominent of these peaks is Monte Viso or Monviso. Known for its height and its pyramid-like shape, it is a spectacular sight up-close or from afar. It is said that Monte Viso could be one of the mountains that inspired the logo for Paramount Pictures. Due to its geographical location, the region provides picturesque landscapes and ski resorts for visitors. With its state-of-the-art facilities, Via Lattea and Sestriere are favorite destinations for winter sports enthusiasts. A UNESCO World Heritage Site sits in this region: The Savoy Residences, located in Turin, are a collection of historical and artistic structures which includes official residences for the Savoys or Royalties, the Palazzo Reale. Other significant structures are Palazzo Madama, Palazzo Carignano, Castello del Valentino and Villa della Regina. In the province of Cuneo lie the two most important routes of medieval pilgrimage: The Way of San Giacomo and Via Francigena. Aside from its cultural heritage of castles and towers, these two significant stops attract tourists to visit Cuneo. Another religious destination in this area is The Sacri Monti or The Sacred Mountain. Besides magnificent landscapes, the collection of churches and chapels and its well-preserved frescoes, paintings and sculptures are attractions visitors could not resist. The landscapes of Langhe and Monferrato are picture-perfect sceneries that will delight any visitor. And so is Lago Maggiore.
Liguria is a region in this area that is most famous for its beaches and cuisine. Overlooking the Ligurian Sea, there are numerous gorgeous ports that greet visitors with amazing views. The Ligurian Sea is also home to sperm whales, dolphins and other cetaceans. Genoa or Genova, the capital of Liguria, is referred to as La Superba or the proud one because of its marvelous past and remarkable landmarks such as the Lanterna, an old and still standing lighthouse that is visible from the sea, and the monumental fountain of Piazza de Ferrari. These two are considered symbols of the city of Genoa. Piazza de Ferrari also houses the Opera, The Palace of the Doges and a house that is said to be Christopher Columbus’ birthplace. Another tourist attraction in the city is the seaside village of Boccadasse with its colorful boats and mariner’s neighborhood. Strada Nuovo, a World Heritage Site, is home to beautiful and grand palaces including Palazzo Reale, Palazzo Bianco and Palazzo Rosso. St. Lawrence Cathedral, the city’s cathedral, is a must visit with its Romanesque-Renaissance architecture.
Lombardy is a region in this part of Italy that has the most UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the world. These include the prehistoric pile dwellings surrounding the Alps, Bernina Railway which is Europe’s highest railway, Monte San Giorgio which was singled out for its record of marine life, the monastery of San Salvatore-Santa Guilia in Brescia, the Dominican Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, the castrum with the Torba Tower and Santa Maria Foris portas, the Valcamonica Rock Drawings with its large collections of prehistoric petroglyphs, the towns of Mantua and Sabbioneta for its historical and cultural significance and the Crespi d’Adda, an outstanding example of a “company town”.
Emilia-Romagna is one of the wealthiest and most developed regions in Europe, and yet a cultural and historical center being home to the oldest university in the world, the University of Bologna, and Romanesque and Renaissance cities of Modena, Parma and Ferrara.
Veneto is a favorite tourist destination because of its capital city Venice, one of the most famous cities in Europe or probably in the world. The Friuli-Venezia Giulia is a region that borders Slovenia and Austria and is overlooking the Adriatic Sea. With its mountain sceneries and lovely seascapes, it is a must-visit. Trentino-Alto Adige is the eighth region in Northern Italy. Bordering Austria and Switzerland, it is best known for its beautiful peaks. Lago di Garda is a sight to behold.