Top Experiences in Northern Italy

Discovering the Cinque Terre

Along the Italian Riviera east of Genoa are five fishing villages known collectively as the Cinque Terre. The beauty of the landscape—with vine-covered hills pushing against an azure sea—and the charm of the villages have turned the area into one of Italy’s top destinations. The number one activity is hiking the trails that link the villages—the views are once-in-a-lifetime gorgeous—but if hiking isn’t your thing, you can still have fun lounging about in cafés, admiring the water, and wandering through the medieval streets.

Taking Part in Venice’s Festivals

Few people love a good party as much as the Venetians. The biggest is, of course, Carnevale, culminating on Fat Tuesday, but with revelry beginning about 10 days earlier. Hundreds of thousands of visitors from the world over come to enjoy a period of institutionalized fantasy, dressing in exquisitely elaborate costumes. The program changes each year and includes public, mostly free cultural events in all districts of the city.

The Redentore, on the third weekend in July, is a festival essentially for Venetians, but in recent years more and more guests have come to view the festivities and now actually outnumber the locals. The Venetians pack a picnic dinner and eat in boats decorated with paper lanterns in the Bacino di San Marco or on tables set up for private parties along the canals. Just before midnight, there’s a magnificent fireworks display. After the fireworks, young people head for the Lido, where there is dancing on the beach until dawn. The next day (Sunday), everyone crosses a temporary bridge spanning the Canale della Giudecca to Palladio's Redentore church to light a candle.

Venice Biennale is a cutting-edge international art exposition held in odd-numbered years from June to November in exhibition halls in the Venice Public Gardens (Giardini) and in the 14th-century industrial complex (Le Corderie) in the Arsenale. It’s the most important exhibition of contemporary art in Italy and one of the three most important in Europe. In even-numbered years the Biennale devotes itself to architecture, and the Biennale di Architettura has become a must for those interested in contemporary architecture.

Feasting in Bologna

Italians recognize Emilia as the star of its culinary culture and Bologna as its epicenter. Many dishes native to Bologna, such as the slow-cooked meat-and-tomato sauce sugo alla Bolognese, have become so famous that they're widely available throughout Italy and abroad. But you owe it to yourself to try them in the city where they were born, and where they remain a subject of local pride. Take note, however: in Bologna, a sugo is never served with spaghetti, but rather with tagliatelle, lasagna, or tortellini.

Fashion and Style in Milan

Italian clothing and furniture design are world famous, and the center of the Italian design industry is Milan. The best way to see what’s happening in the world of fashion is to browse the showrooms and boutiques of the fabled quadrilatero della moda, along and around Via Montenapoleone. The main event in the world of furniture design is Milan’s annual Salone Internazionale del Mobile, held at the Milan fairgrounds for a week in April. Admission is generally restricted to the trade, but the Salone is open to the general public for one day, generally on a Sunday, during the week of the show.

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