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Exploring Northern Italy's Vibrant Cities: A City Camping Guide background image

Exploring Northern Italy's Vibrant Cities: A City Camping Guide

If you're keen to visit Italy but aren't sure where to go – why not enjoy some dolce vita in Italy's stunning cities? Today we're exploring Italy's main cities, starting with Northern Italy.

30 March 2023
Read time: 6m 57s

If you're keen to visit Italy but aren't sure where to go – why not enjoy some dolce vita in Italy's stunning cities? Today we're exploring Italy's main cities, starting with Northern Italy.

Northern Italy's cities are as diverse as they are beautiful. On the east coast, you'll find the enchanting island city of Venice, famed for its waterways and artistic heritage. Further inland, the fashion capital of Milan and the foodie hotspot of Bologna offer yet more magnificent architecture and cosmopolitan culture.

We know the costs of city breaks can quickly add up, so we've also included our picks of the best city campsites offering easy access to Italy's vibrant urban centres.

Here's your brief introduction to three northern Italian cities, their fascinating history, food and culture, and attractions and landmarks for the whole family.


Milan is one of the largest cities in Italy. It's a mecca for arts and culture and offers some of the best designer shopping in the country.

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Milan

History & culture

Milan has an ancient and captivating history. It was an important centre for many of Italy's rulers, including the Caesars, Napoleon and Mussolini. Despite this, it was only after the unification of Italy in 1861 that Milan blossomed into the economic and cultural centre it is today.

Milan is famed for its many art and design galleries (including the Pinacoteca de Brera, the Museo del Novecento and the Triennale Design Museum), boasting a mix of cutting-edge contemporary art and historical masterpieces. It's also home to "La Scala" (one of the world's most famous opera houses) and modern architectural wonders from Zaha Hadid and César Pelli.

Food & drink

Due to its rich industrial and economic heritage, Milanese gastronomy is rich, stylish and decadent. Classic dishes include cotoletta (a delicious, buttery veal) and saffron risotto. Due to its position in northern Italy, Milan's food and drink scene marries Mediterranean flavours with French techniques and central European inspirations. It's also the urban centre with the most Michelin stars in the country.

As well as high-end cuisine, Milan houses hundreds of trendy bars and affordable restaurants offering fabulous flavours without Michelin price tags.

Shopping & attractions

Milan's most famous shopping district is Quadrilatero d'Oro. Even if your budget might not stretch to high-end designer gear, it's well worth browsing and window shopping in the morning. Fashion houses are also branching out into the city's bars and restaurants, hotels and galleries – turning style into an everyday art form.

As well as retail therapy, some of Milan's top attractions include The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci, Milan's extravagant gothic Duomo and the Castello Sforzesco – home to the powerful Sforza dynasty.

Where to stay

As the only campsite within Milan, Camping Citta di Milano is the number one choice for any visitors to the city. With pitches set among large, mature trees, it has everything a discerning camper could hope for. Facilities include a sauna, restaurant, bar and a nearby waterpark – perfect if you're travelling with the family.

Camping Citta di Milano

Citta di Milano is the only campsite within Milan. The site has everything a camper looks for: restaurant, bar, sauna, good sanitary facilities, lots of...


Bologna is the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region and a uniquely beautiful and historic city. It combines effortless elegance with a creative cultural scene housed within medieval walls.

Belvedere di San Michele in Bosco, Bologna
Belvedere di San Michele in Bosco, Bologna

History & culture

Known as La Rossa ("the red one") due to its many terracotta medieval buildings, Bologna boasts a beautiful skyline, lively piazzas, and edgy bars. It also has one of the world's oldest universities and many historic religious buildings. The city's large student population (giving the city a youthful, creative vibe) also earned Bologna another nickname – La Dotta, meaning "the learned one".

Bologna also has a wide selection of museums and galleries for arts and culture vultures. The Museo Internazionale e Biblioteca della Musica di Bologna (featuring six centuries of musical history) and Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna are well worth a visit.

Food & drink

As well as a centre of learning and culture, another nickname for Bologna (yes, there are a few!) is La Grassa. Translating as "the fat one", this comical moniker celebrates the city's rich food heritage. Indeed, the famous Bolognese sauce was first invented here. Gelato (ice-cream), parmigiano reggiano (parmesan cheese), parma ham and balsamico modena (balsamic vinegar) are yet more delights.

To take your Bologna food experience to the next level, FICO Eataly World (7 kilometres northeast of Piazza Maggiore) is foodie heaven. It features over 40 restaurants, including offerings from Michelin-starred chefs, street-food kiosks and plenty of local wines and beers. If you time your visit right, you might be lucky enough to join a workshop or demo.

Shopping & attractions

The centre of Bologna is reasonably compact, making it an excellent destination for speedy weekend breaks.

The city's many churches are well worth a visit, including the Basilica di Santo Stefano (an interlocking labyrinth of medieval structures) and the Basilica di San Petronio (Europe's sixth-largest church). Its two leaning towers are also one of the city's main symbols – with the taller of the two (the Torre degli Asinelli) measuring a staggering 97 metres.

To the east of Piazza Maggiore, you'll also find the Quadrilatero. Strolling through this district is a wonderful way to spend a laid-back afternoon, as it's packed full of market stalls and cafes celebrating local goods and dishes.

Where to stay

Camping Hotel Città di Bologna is a spacious city site just outside this ancient, academic city. You'll find plenty of level grass pitches, a restaurant, and a swimming pool – ideal after a long day of urban exploring. There's a regular bus service straight into the city centre too, so getting around is a breeze.

Camping Hotel Città di Bologna

This spacious city site was established in 1993 on the edge of the Trade Fair Centre of this ancient and historic city and is very...


Venice is one of the world's most beautiful and unusual cities. The second you step into its narrow winding streets and dreamy canals… it's not hard to see why.

Canals of Venice at dusk
Canals of Venice at dusk

History & culture

Venice is a unique island city that's joined together with a network of canals and over 400 bridges. It was a major financial and commercial centre during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance – trading in silks, spices, grains and art.

The Central Grand Canal (famously depicted by Canaletto) is almost impossible to miss, forming a gateway to the city's many winding streets. In terms of architectural marvels, there are almost too many to list… but the Bridge of Sighs, the Rialto Bridge and the Doges Palace are all particular historical highlights.

Food & drink

Venice can be expensive, but if you plan in advance, you can discover some true foodie gems.

Explore off-the-beaten track and research local trattorias and osterias (traditional eating and drinking establishments) before you go. You can also get a quick bite-to-eat at a bacaro, dining quickly and lightly in true Venetian style. In terms of dishes, expect lots of delicious seafood (like "sarde in saor"), "cicchetti" (a bit like small Spanish tapas dishes) and fabulous risotto.

Bars and cafes also hold a prominent place in Venetian culture, and you'll find them all over the city – serving early-morning patisseries through to late-night jazz clubs and cocktails.

Shopping & attractions

Venice is a fantastic city for shopping. You'll find small independent stores and markets dotted all over – selling Venetian specialities such as Murano glass, lace, masks and leather accessories.

While you're on your travels, make sure to stop at St Mark's Square. Here, you'll find the Basilica di San Marco (with more than 8,000 square metres of luminous mosaics) and flocks of pigeons adding to the urban romance. While there, wind down in one of the Square's many cafes and enjoy a coffee and cake al fresco.

If you're headed to Venice in the summer months (and staying for more than a few days), getting out of the hustle and bustle of the city is also a great idea. You can hop on a water taxi to the Venice Lido and soak up the sun on long stretches of golden sands.

Where to stay

Camping Fusina offers fantastic views over the Venice Lagoon, with glimpses of the famous towers of Saint Mark's Square. At this unassuming yet wonderfully friendly site, you can also watch huge ships passing – a delight for children and adults alike! With water on three sides, there's a ferry to Venice departing from just outside the gates, making it a perfect city base.

If you're planning an Italian adventure, there are plenty more fabulous cities (and city campsites) to choose from. Explore our full list of Alan Rogers approved campsites in Italy for more inspiration – and buon viaggio!

Camping Fusina

This is traditional camping, but what fun. Choose from 350 well-shaded, flat, grassy informal pitches or an unrivalled position directly by the water with fantastic...

Other campsites near cities

Camping Rialto

Camping Rialto is a family run site with a pleasant atmosphere. Its main attraction is its short 10 minute bus ride to Venice, which can...

Camping Miramare

This small, neat, family owned site (since 1962) is well located, being the closest site to the Punta Sabbioni ferry to Venice. The site provides...

Camping Village Marina di Venezia

Camping Village Marina di Venezia is an amazingly large site (2,818 pitches) with every conceivable facility. It has a pleasant feel with cheerful staff and...

Camping Ca’Savio

Included in our guides:

2019, 2018

Ca’Savio is a very large, family owned site of almost 50 years standing. It is in traditional Italian style and is set on a wide...