It’s impossible to see all of Italy in one trip. It’s impossible to see all of Italy in one lifetime! Last time I wrote about Italy, I included some of my favorite places and restaurants in Tuscany and Sorrento (you can find that article here!). This time, our Goodtaste team is sharing a few of the lesser known places in northeastern Italy that are profoundly beautiful and a dreamy destination for food and wine lovers. We’re barely skimming the surface of what Northeastern Italy has to offer, but consider this a jumping off point for your next off-the-beaten-path Italian adventure.
A LITTLE BACKGROUND
Italy consists of 20 regions – eight of which are in northern Italy. If the farthest north you’ve ever traveled in Italy is Tuscany, then you’ve never even been to northern Italy! Northern Italians pride themselves in providing the economic backbone to Italy. They also pride themselves in their fashion, food and wine.
WHERE TO GO
Note that all of these places can be reached within a couple hours of the Venice Airport.
The Dolomites are, arguably, the most beautiful mountains in the world. A United Nations World Heritage Site, these craggy peaks are truly unique — seeming both dark and ominous, but also inspiring and romantic. In addition to the mountains, the region has tons of breathtaking glacial-fed, alpine lakes (Lago di Braies is pictured here) along with great biking and hiking. And, of course, if you’re visiting in the winter, there is spectacular skiing.
If you’re looking for more of an upscale feel, check out Cortina, a quaint mountain town filled with high-end shops, great restaurants, and maybe even a George Clooney sighting if you’re lucky!
If you want to be one with nature, head to our favorite rifugio (mountain chalet), Rifugio Lagazuoi. To reach this rustic lodge (which is located 3000 meters above sea level), you must take a cable car. Famous for its world-class photography opportunities, this place is truly one of a kind. If you spend the night, you will get a great dinner that highlights the food of the region.
Our other favorite mountain lodge is Rifugio Averau. During the winter, it is a ski lodge to duck into when you need a break from the slopes, but this isn’t your average ski lodge with $20 nachos and a second-rate burger. At Averau, you will eat the best meal of your life. Fresh pastas, house-cured meats, and all of the best wine in Italy. During summer months when the slopes are closed, diners can still take a chairlift to the restaurant.
Valdobbiadene, Conegliano & Asolo
Prosecco, the extra dry sparkling white wine of Italy, is controlled by Italian DOC or DOCG, meaning that in order for Prosecco to be called Prosecco, it must be grown in a very specific region — just like Champagne and Bordeaux.
In and around the towns of Valdobbiadene, Conegliano and Asolo, you will find the DOCG Prosecco which is the strictest designation the wine can receive. The picturesque rolling hills in the area are crisscrossed with vines, and the towns are absolutely charming. You will feel like you are in the real Italy with less tourists and great food pretty much anywhere you go. Pop into any winery for a tasting and buy some bottles. An absolutely excellent bottle of Prosecco, when you buy it from its source, will only run you about $6. Now that’s a reason to visit alone!
Where to stay/eat in the region:
Valdobbiadene: Locanda Sandi — excellent food and you can book a room here, too!
Conegliano: Osteria al Bacareto — here, you can get an incredible Florentine steak. Ours was cooked at the table and finished with a sprinkling of salt laced with pork fat.
Asolo: Antica Osteria Al Bacaro — this place will make you feel like you’re in a Italian kitchen. It has a great local vibe and high quality food.
Verona, Lago di Garda & Valpolicella
A medieval city, Verona has a rich history, but it’s also a vibrant city filled with great restaurants, stores and bars. If you visit in the summer, make sure to catch an opera held in the ancient amphitheater built by the Romans.
Much like the rest of Italy, Verona can become pretty crowded in the summer, so once you get your fill, we recommend heading to Lago di Garda.
Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy, but don’t think traditional “lake” because in many parts, its water is crystal clear. All around the lake are adorable little towns. You really can’t go wrong with where you stay, but we personally recommend Sirmione on the south end of the lake, Riva del Garda on the north end, and Malcesine toward the middle of the lake on the east side.
On your way back to the Venice airport, stop by the wineries in Valpolicella, another DOC wine region of Italy. Here, they’re famous for their Amarone wine. This wine is magnificent and you can snag a bottle (or a crate!) for one-fifth of the cost that it is back home. A personal favorite is the Spada Family Winery.
Check out an Italian agriturismo, or farm stay. Agriturismos are typically very affordable and great for families. Agriturismos also offer an authentic way to experience Italy where you are staying on an actual farm. The farms, though, are geared for tourists, and sometimes they can be quite luxurious. Some of them have farm animals on the premises, sometimes they have pools and playgrounds, and they almost always have a restaurant. Check out the agriturismo site to see what is around where you are traveling.