This North Italy road trip will instill in your children a taste for the good life early. Cuisine, culture, and a knack for having fun, Italy is easy to love. And in the north we find the country at its gorgeous and gregarious best. What’s more, there’s no age limit on the fun to be had here.
With plenty to captivate both kids and their culture-loving parents, set off on a family road trip through Lombardy and Veneto. From the historic glamour of Venice to the natural beauty of Lake Como, explore medieval towns, cycle through breathtaking scenery, canoe across pristine lakes, and sample the indisputably delicious Italian cuisine.
Your road trip in the north of Italy begins in Milan, Italy’s fashion and finance capital. The city has a reputation for being rather serious but from a tour of the San Siro football stadium to a children’s performance at the Teatro alla Scala, it’s easy to discover Milan’s fun side.
The city is also effortlessly stylish, so to teach your children a little something of “la moda italiana”, a visit to the Design Museum should definitely be on the cards.
But first of all is the mighty Gothic Duomo, with plenty of gargoyles to tempt the kids. Then take a tram ride in one of the traditional 1920s cars.
Next, there’s the Science and Technology Museum, dedicated to Da Vinci, whose legendary Last Supper can be seen in in the Santa Maria delle Grazie — just make sure to book your tickets in advance. Or wander the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the oldest shopping arcade in the world, and sample the gelato at nearby Cioccolati Italiani without which this trip from Milan to Venice would be incomplete.
from Indie Campers Milan depot
drive from the depot
Lake Como, an iconic symbol of glamour and luxury. But you don’t have to be George Clooney to stay here (although he does own a place nearby). Families can also enjoy the delights of this tranquil waterside paradise.
Wooded hills, snow-capped Alps, and a winding shoreline of historic villages, elegant villas, and paradise gardens, Lake Como’s glorious scenery and equally glorious cuisine are next up on your Milan to Venice road trip itinerary.
First things first: take your campervan on a ferry trip around the lake. Or perhaps some canoeing or water skiing? For more beach-based fun, head to Lido di Lenno, the perfect sunning spot where you can relax in Como’s warm waters and the kids can play in the sand.
Perhaps consider a pizza or gelato-making course? Or, depending on the age of your children, there’s the Greenway walk up into the hills around the lake where the views are spectacular.
Lago di Como
drive from Milan
The next stop on your Milan to Venice road trip through Lombardy and Veneto is UNESCO-listed Brescia, sitting at the foot of the Alps and brimming with historic and cultural attractions. Not on the main tourist trail, the city escapes the crowds that flock to more well-known Venice and Verona.
Brescia is home to Roman ruins, a hilltop castle, striking religious artwork, as well as Mille Miglia, a vintage car race that takes place in May each year.
Head first to the Foro where you’ll see a temple dating from 73 to 74 AD, a theatre that can seat up to 15,000, and the dungeons of Palazzo Martinengo. Then there’s the gardens of the Santa Giulia museum — ideal for relaxing.
Brescia castle, with its secret passages, drawbridges, and towers, is a hit with young and old. And for amazing views, head to the Maddalena mountain with its vistas of Lake Garda, the Apennines, and the Monte Rosa, perfect for a hike or barbecue.
from Lake Como
from Lake Como
“Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene…” Your kids are probably sick of you quoting this well-known line from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. But it’s thanks to the iconic romance that Verona is now the fourth most-visited city in Italy.
Visitors flock here in search of the star-crossed lovers and on arrival they find a city of picturesque piazzas, winding lanes, bell-towers, and an enormous 1st-century amphitheatre where the annual summer opera festival is held.
Love-sick teenagers might enjoy a visit to the House of Juliet, thought to have once belonged to the Capuleti family. Climb the Torre dei Lamberti for breathtaking panoramas over the city’s terracotta roofs.
Explore mazes, fountains, gargoyles, and grottoes in the Giardino Giusti. Cross the Adige river on the city’s oldest bridge, the Ponte Pietra. And a visit to the Gardello Tower, former prison, is best combined with a stop at the popular ice cream parlour, Pretto.
drive from Brescia
With Venice stealing the limelight, Padua is the place to head to for peace and quiet. With its canals, arcade streets, churches, and markets, the city has an authentic buzz.
A university seat since the 13th century, its student population — who whizz around on Vespas and bicycles — lend Padua a youthful energy. Of course, the beautiful Basilica of St. Anthony of Padua, attracting visitors from around the world, also makes Padua a great stop on your road trip itinerary.
On your road trip from Milan to Venice, take a tour of the city’s university, Italy’s second-oldest, and give your kids a taste of what education used to be. Highlights include the 16th-century anatomy theatre where students watched bodies being dissected to the sound of lute music — to calm the squeamish among them.
Culture vultures will love Giotto’s frescoes or Titian’s St Anthony in the Scaletta del Santo. Pick up some bargains at the Saturday market in the Prato Della Valle or relax in Europe’s oldest Botanical Garden.
drive from Verona
Last but certainly not least on your Milan to Venice road trip is one of Italy’s leading stars, Venice is built on more than 100 tiny islands in a lagoon in the Adriatic Sea. Given this feat of engineering and architecture, it’s no wonder the city has a magical feel.
And, indeed, Venice is more beguiling and bewitching than any photo can suggest. The whole family will find themselves entranced by what is basically a historic theme park with an extra dash of culture.
Tick off some of the main sights: Piazza San Marco, St. Mark’s Basilica, the Campanile bell tower, and the Palazzo Ducale. Wander alleyways where getting lost is the goal. The Guggenheim Collection is great for kids and adults alike.
Enjoy an array of treats with a traditional Venetian cicchetti. Then a gondola ride is a must, before, perhaps, a ghost walk full of gory tales about the city. Because, Venice, while beautiful, can also be wonderfully creepy.
drive from Padua