The Perfect Art And Architecture Trail In Northern Italy For History Buffs 

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Italy is a paradise for art and food lovers! Credit: Madhurima Chaudhuri

Photo of Italy by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Art lovers always head to Rome. The city is decadent in terms of art and architecture, and has been romanticized in songs and films over the years, but Italy has a lot more to offer to history buffs. Northern Italy especially. If you're planning a northern Italy itinerary, and are a major art and architecture aficionado, make it a point to not miss what the country offers — masterpieces by the great Masters.

Start your northern Italy itinerary by gazing at Michaelangelo's artistic wonders in Tuscany. Then make your way to Lombardy to see works by Raphael and Titian and finally, marvel at Da Vinci's Vitruvian Man in Venezia.

I am a self-professed lover of the arts and my trip to Italy was nothing short of marvelous, getting a chance to finally see in person the artworks I'd studied and read about over the years. An Italian holiday is always happy filled with gelatos and pizzas but to actually plan a trip around an art and architecture trail in the country is something you won't forget in a hurry. Indulge in art, drink some wine and eat well on your northern Italy itinerary.

Start your art and architecture trail in the Tuscan region of Italy. The region is rich with art and there are tons of galleries and museums to start your north Italian itinerary with.

A view of Firenze. Credit: Divya Binani

Photo of Florence, Metropolitan City of Florence, Italy by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Firenze or Florence in Tuscany is the hub of Renaissance art and architecture. It's where the movement began. The famous Medici family patronised most of the Renaissance masters and that's why Florence is the perfect city to begin your north Italian itinerary at.

Remember that with so much to see in Florence, either book your museum passes online with a reserved entry time or invest in the 72-hour Firenze card which costs 72 euros (Rs 5100 approx) which allows you to skip the long queues.

Botticelli's Birth of Venus. Credit: Lucas, Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo of Uffizi Gallery, Piazzale degli Uffizi, Florence, Metropolitan City of Florence, Italy by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Walk to the Uffizi Gallery situated adjacent to the Piazza della Signoria in central Florence. The museum has priceless works of art from the Renaissance period. Some of the must-see things consist of Titian's Venus of Urbino, Giotto's Ognissanti Madonna, Sandro Botticelli's Primavera and the Birth of Venus, and Rafael's Madonna of the Goldfinch. Please remember photography inside the gallery is not allowed.

For more information, get in touch here. Timings: Tuesday to Sunday, from 8.15 to 18.50 Entry fee: €8 Book your tickets here

A copy of Michaelangelo's David. Credit: Madhurima Chaudhuri

Photo of Galleria dell'Accademia, Via Ricasoli, Florence, Metropolitan City of Florence, Italy by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

From Uffizi, walk over to Florence's other famous gallery — the Accademia which houses Michelangelo's famous white marble masterpiece David. It's kept in the Hall of the Prisoners, also displaying Michelangelo’s unfinished Slaves. Another masterpiece, this one by Giambologna, which can also been seen in the gallery is Rape of the Sabines carved from a single block of marble.

For more information, get in touch here. Timings: Tuesday to Sunday, from 8: 15-18: 50 Entry fee: €8 Book your tickets here

A view of the Orsanmichele Church. Credit: ScottOldham, Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo of Orsanmichele, Via dell'Arte della Lana, Florence, Metropolitan City of Florence, Italy by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Don't miss the Orsanmichele church (Church of the merchants) near the cathedral square. It's facades held 14 architecturally designed niches and were filled in the early 1400s by famous sculptors. The most famous are by Donatello who carved Saint Mark. The original is displayed inside the museum while a copy stands in the exterior today. His St George is today at the Bargello while a bronze cast copy adorns the niche.

For more information, get in touch here. Timings: Monday to Sunday, from 10.00-17.00 Entry fee: free

Masaccio's Holy Trinity. Credit: tpholland, Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo of Santa Maria Novella, Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, Florence, Metropolitan City of Florence, Italy by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Make your way to Santa Maria Novella to see early Renaissance painter Masaccio's fresco Holy Trinity. The Holy Trinity with the Virgin and Saint John and donors is considered to be the artist's masterpiece who died very young. It's one of the earliest works to show linear perspective. There has been much restoration work done on the piece since it's rediscovery in the late 19th century.

For more information, get in touch here. Timings: Monday to Sunday, from 9:00-17: 30 Entry fee: €5 Book your tickets here

Don't forget to visit the Duomo in Firenze. Credit: Madhurima Chaudhuri

Photo of Duomo, Florence, Metropolitan City of Florence, Italy by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

No visit to Florence can be complete without visiting the famous Duomo or dome. The cathedral started in the end of the 13th century by Arnolfo di Cambio, and the dome, which dominates the exterior, was added in the 15th century on a design of Filippo Brunelleschi. It took over two centuries for the cathedral to be completed! The exterior has exquisite marble work in pink, white and green. The clock above the entrance designed by Paolo Uccello in 1443 still works and the cathedral's frescoes of the Last Judgment designed by Vasari and painted by Frederico Zuccari is a highlight.

For more information, get in touch here. Timings: Monday to Sunday, from 10:00-16:30 Entry fee: Cathedral free

The gorgeous and golden Gates of Paradise. Credit: Madhurima Chaudhuri

Photo of Florence Baptistery, Piazza del Duomo, Florence, Metropolitan City of Florence, Italy by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

The Piazza del Duomo is filled with great works of art and visiting the Baptistery should be on your north Italian itinerary. It's renowned for it's east doors, dubbed by Michelangelo as the Gates of Paradise. The bronze door with relief sculptures was created by Lorenzo Ghiberti.

For more information, get in touch here. Timings: Monday to Sunday, from 08:15-10:15; 11:15-19:30 Entry fee: Free

Beautiful Siena. Credit: littlestar19, Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo of Siena, Province of Siena, Italy by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Enjoy a day trip from Florence by visiting Siena which is about 90 minutes away by bus. Stepping into Siena is like walking into medieval Tuscany. The UNESCO heritage site was one of the most important independent towns during the Renaissance. It should definitely be on your northern Italy itinerary.

In Siena, head to the Pinacoteca Nazionale to see late Medieval and Renaissance paintings in its gallery. Duccio di Buoninsegna, Simone Martini and the Lorenzetti brothers were among the most important Sienese painters and their works were less naturalistic than Florentine art. See Duccio's Madonna dei Francescani which is a masterpiece as it shows different styles.

For more information, get in touch here. Timings: Sun–Mon 9am–1pm; Tues–Sat 8:15am–7:15pm Entry fee: €4

Siena Cathedral. Credit: Sean X Liu, Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo of Siena Cathedral, Piazza del Duomo, Siena, Province of Siena, Italy by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

It's one of Italy's finest Gothic churches and features works by the country's finest artists — Nicola and Giovanni Pisano, Donatello, Ghiberti, and Bernini. Work on the cathedral started in 1229 while the dome was completed in 1264.

For more information, get in touch here. Timings: 10:30-19:00 Entry fee: €4

Where to stay in Florence?

Stay in the historic centre in Florence because walking around all the artwork will be easy. Check Booking.com and Airbnb for good deals. A room at a good hotel should start from about 65 euros (Rs 4600 approx) a night and most places serve breakfast.

Where to eat in Florence?

Delicious stuff from the bakery! Credit: Madhurima Chaudhuri

Photo of The Perfect Art And Architecture Trail In Northern Italy For History Buffs by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Trattorias and cafes line Florence sidewalks. There's a lot to choose from so here are some recommendations.

It's a Michelin star restaurant located in the heart of Florence. Typical Tuscan ingredients are used by the chef but put together like an art form.

Another place is this family-run trattoria which is famous with tourists and locals alike. They all go here to devour the blue bistecca alla fiorentina.

For an authentic market lunch, look no further than Da Nerbone. Choose your food, pay at the counter and eat with the locals at the benches. Try the Florentine specialty of Lampredotto (stomach of a cow).

Lampredotto anyone? Credit: moarplease, Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo of Da Nerbone, Mercato Centrale, Florence, Metropolitan City of Florence, Italy by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

It's time to move from Tuscany to the Emilia Romagna region. The area is famous for medieval cities, gastronomy and seaside resorts.

A view of Bologna. Credit: Lorenzoclick, Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo of Bologna, Italy by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Bologna, the historical capital of the region has many things to offer and especially for bike lovers, the Ducati Museum is a must-visit. The variety of food is also wonderful. And there's so much history in the town that it must be on your northern Italy itinerary.

The two towers. Credit: Giacomo Boschi, Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo of Due Torri, Bologna, Metropolitan City of Bologna, Italy by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

The two towers are relics from the medieval past, a reminder of all the warfare from that time. Move over Leaning Tower of Pisa as you walk up the Asinelli Tower (the other one is Garisenda), for beautiful views.

For more information, get in touch here. Timings: 9:00-17:00 Entry fee: €3

To see some of the most well preserved Baroque styles, don't miss heading to the National gallery. The collections started in 1796 and has kept growing. Artwork by the Carracci brothers, who were instrumental in bringing forth the Baroque style, are on display along with paintings by high-Baroque artist Guido Reni. The gallery covers a whole range of artwork, starting from the 13th century to upto the 18th century.

For more information, get in touch here. Timings: Tuesday-Wednesday 9:00-13:30;Thursday-Sunday 14:00-19:00 Entry fee: €6

Where to stay in Bologna?

The best option is the city centre because of the tourist sites and restaurants nearby. Rooms in a good hotel start from approx Rs 5500 (78 euros).

Where to eat in Bologna?

Food in Bologna is special with so much on offer. When in Bologna, eat like the locals and indulge in fresh hand cut pasta, ragu, a ton of Mortadella and of course, copious amounts of gelato!

This restaurant should be on your northern Italy itinerary list. Don't miss their famous Bologna specials like Tagliatelle al ragù, two of the region's delicacies in one.

Tagliatelle al ragu anyone? Credit: Michele Ursino, Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo of Trattoria Anna Maria, Via delle Belle Arti, Bologna, Metropolitan City of Bologna, Italy by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

The tortellini is another pasta dish which should not be missed in Bologna. The almost-100-year-old eatery serves a delicious bowl of tortellini in brodo.

Start your jounrye in Lombardy at Milan. Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of Lombardy, Italy by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

From Emilia Romagna, head up towards the region of Lombardy where fashion and finance meet. There's incredible art and architecture in the region which shouldn't be missed on your northern Italy itinerary.

Stay in Milan, shop in it's famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and indulge in great Italian fare. But for art and architecture lovers, don't forget to visit the following:

A replica of the Last Supper outside the actual location. Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of Santa Maria delle Grazie, Piazza di Santa Maria delle Grazie, Milan, Metropolitan City of Milan, Italy by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

A visit to Milan must include going to see Leanardo da Vinci's 15th century mural - the Last Supper on a wall at the refectory adjoining the Basilica. Remember to book your tickets in advance because otherwise it's next to impossible to get them during the tourist season.

For more information, get in touch here. Timings: Monday-Sunday, entry in groups. Entry fee: €44. Book your tickets here

After 600 years in the making! Credit: Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Photo of Duomo di Milano, Piazza del Duomo, Milan, Metropolitan City of Milan, Italy by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Don't forget to visit the famous cathedral located in the heart of the city. Begun by Giangaleazzo Visconti in 1386, it took about 600 years to complete! It's a must-visit Gothic cathedral. And on a clear day, one can even see the Alps right from the top.

For more information, get in touch here. Timings: Monday-Sunday 8:00-19:00 Entry fee: Cathedral free

A view of Bergamo. Credit: Matthew Peoples, Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo of Bergamo, Italy by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Take a day trip to Bergamo from Milan which is about an hour away and located on foothills of the Bergamo Alps. While the upper city is the historic centre and surrounded by Venetian walls built in the 16th century; the lower city is the more modern area.

Visit the Accademia Carrara to soak in some art from the high Renaissance period. Located in a beautiful Neoclassical building, see masterpieces by Titian, Bellini, Botticelli and Lorenzo Lotto. It began on bequests and donations, and after refurbishment, reopened in 2015.

For more information, get in touch here. Timings: Wednesday to Monday 10.00-19.00 Entry fee: €12 Book your tickets here

Where to stay in Milan?

Staying in the city centre is worthwhile because of the proximity of tourist attractions. However, a night at a hotel will set you back by a minimum of Rs 20000 (286 euroes)! Try areas like San Siro, Citta Studi or Porta Romana for cheaper options. Rooms can start from about Rs 3000 (45 euros).

Where to eat in Milan?

Head to Peck, a deli which has been in business for years, to eat some authentic Milanese food. Indulge in risottos and perfectly done roasts.

For an authentic saffron infused risotto, this is the place to go to. Just ask for Risotto alla Milanese, traditionally made with saffron, onions and beef marrow.

Risotto alla Milanese anyone? Credit: tomek broszkiewicz, Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo of Trattoria Casa Fontana - 23 risotti, Milan, Metropolitan City of Milan, Italy by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Don't forget to travel for a bit and go to the 'new slaughterhouse' to indulge in some delicious Cotoletta alla Milanese!

End your search for art and architecture on your northern Italy itinerary in the Veneto region. The region stretches from the Dolomite Mountains to the Adriatic Sea and has beautiful art for history buffs.

When in Padua. Credit: Madhurima Chaudhuri

Photo of Padua, Italy by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Remember the name Padua? The name resonates so often in literature, right from Shakespeare to Oscar Wilde. Well, it's about half an hour away from Venice and much less touristy. Its a medieval city-state and home to Italy’s second-oldest university. A day trip from Venice is a very good option.

The chapel in Padua. Credit: Eleonora Porta, Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo of Cappella degli Scrovegni, Piazza Eremitani, Padua, Province of Padua, Italy by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Padua's answer to the Vatican's Sistine Chapel, the chapel houses one of the great Renaissance masterpieces – Giotto's frescoes. The Italian painter is considered one of the first in the line of great artists who contributed to the Renaissance. Do pre-book tickets to visit the chapel.

For more information, get in touch here. Timings: Tuesday-Sunday 9:00-18:45 Entry fee: €13 Buy your tickets here

Hello Venice! Credit: Madhurima Chaudhuri

Photo of Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Finally, end your north Italian itinerary in Venice, the city of canals, gondola rides and romance. Spread over 118 small islands, the whole city is an architectural masterpiece and houses masterpieces by the greats.

A view of the Doge Palace and the clock tower from the waters. Credit: Madhurima Chaudhuri

Photo of Palazzo Ducale, Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

Out of all the historical places to visit in Venice, definitely stop by Doge palace or Palazzo Ducale to see the history of the city exemplified in its architecture. The facade has a diamond pattern of coloured stone resembling the late Byzantine architecture while the lattice carvings and arcades have Islamic and Gothic influences.

For more information, get in touch here. Timings: Monday-Sunday 8:30-19:00 Entry fee: €20. Buy your tickets here

Lastly, visit the Accademia to see Leonardo da Vinci's famous Virtuvian Man. Drawn around 1490 it's based on the correlations of ideal human proportions with geometry described by the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius.

For more information, get in touch here. Timings: Tuesday-Sunday 8:15-19:30 Entry fee: €12 Buy your tickets here

Where to stay in Venice?

Venice is expensive and staying in the city centre will set your budget back. It's preferable to stay in Mestre because rates start from approx Rs 3000 a night (45 euoes).

Where to eat in Venice?

The star is the antipasti or starters and here, indulge in shrimps with polenta, spider crabs, prawns and other Adriatic delights, washing it down with delicious wine.

Antipasti anyone? Credit: Mark Longair, Flickr, Creative Commons

Photo of Corte Sconta, Venice, Metropolitan City of Venice, Italy by Sharmistha Chaudhuri

End your north Italian itinerary with a meal at the formal Michelin star restaurant, eating traditional meat dishes from the region.

So what are you waiting for? Head to northern Italy for your fill of art, architecture and delicious food!

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