Text by Alex Saveliev
When visiting a country, most tourists plan their trip around famous destinations overlooking those less talked about. However, these cities often offer just as compelling and interesting experiences. During my trip to the northern part of Italy, I visited many cities, and each felt more alluring than the previous one. Northern Italy features a plethora of classical landmarks and architecture, while Southern Italy boasts beautiful scenery and a gorgeous coastline. I started my trip by visiting the more notable cities of Florence, Milan, and Rome, but found that the smaller picturesque towns that are less traveled to held the greatest surprises. The three cities that surprised me the most were Modena, Lake Garda, and Parma.
My first stop was Modena, a small city with a great architectural aesthetic prevalent in its many quaint streets and alleyways. Most of Modena’s buildings are colored in a variety of red and orange hues, giving the city a soulful and welcoming feel. The city has a rich history as the birthplace of world-renowned opera singer Luciano Pavarotti casamuseolucianopavarotti.it/en as well as the birthplace for automotive advancements for supercars. The factories and museums of Ferrari, Lamborghini, and Pagani, some of the world’s most significant and advanced automotive companies in the world, are all located in Modena. Visiting all three museums was a surreal experience – each had carefully curated the holy grails of each company’s car line in beautiful displays. The Lamborghini factory lamborghini.com/en-en/museum was the most impressive. Having virtually every state of the art supercar they have ever manufactured. The most memorable car factory in Modena is that of Pagani pagani.com/factory-tours-2018. While their lineup of cars is short compared to Ferrari. ferrari.com/en-EN/museums/factory-tour and Lamborghini, each of Horacio Pagani’s creations is more unique and perfect as evidenced by the multimillion-dollar price tags for the cars. Modena is not only a hub for the creation of supercars, but also a paradise for your taste buds. Balsamic vinegar and tortellini are eaten around the world and were created in Modena. The city is home to a secret gem, La Osteria Francescana osteriafrancescana.it, which for several years was the top-rated restaurant in the world. A fine dining experience there requires a reservation months in advance. Upon arriving at the restaurant, one can easily miss the entrance as it blends in with the rest of the red and orange Italian buildings. The three Michelin starred restaurant only has ten tables – the quality and complexity of its cuisine preclude it from serving any more customers. Osteria offers a 12- course tasting meal and a wine pairing alongside the a la carte menu. The most memorable starter was the Five Ages of Parmigiano Reggiano, a creative dish rich in varying textures and temperatures that was unlike any other I have experienced. The main courses that stood out for their perfectly balanced flavors were the duck, tagliatelle ragu, and yellowtail sashimi. The service matched the impeccable quality of the food, completing the unforgettable dining experience. Modena is an exhilarating destination for any avid car lover and food enthusiast.
My next stop was Parma, which is a gastronomic paradise. The legendary Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, which is eaten all around the globe and praised by cheese connoisseurs, comes from this area. Prosciutto di Parma, another world-famous delicacy, is integral to the culture of Parma and Italy. Those interested in the production and history of one of the pillars of Italian cuisine should visit the Parmigiano Reggiano museum located in Parma museiparma.it. The city of Parma has its own food culture, and it offers an unforgettable experience to anyone who visits Italy. Wherever you eat, your taste buds will be surprised and satisfied.
After devouring a year’s worth of prosciutto di Parma, we moved on to Lake Garda, one of the most beautiful lakes in Italy. This lake holds everything an avid traveler can look for, with natural hot springs, medieval castles, 16 Michelin Star restaurants, and even an amusement park gardaland.it. Northern Lake Garda is famous for the picturesque scenery on its walking and biking paths alongside its quaint towns which are surrounded by mountains. The southern part is flatter and more populated as the coast is lined with many towns. The renowned biking path allows cycling lovers to explore the nature-filled banks of Lake Garda on a smooth unobstructed path around the lake. The lake is home to many roads and views that attract tourists and filmmakers alike. The opening driving scene from the 007 Quantum Solace movie was shot here to capture the awe-inducing view. As you drive up this winding road up and along the sheer cliffs, you reach the town of Tremosine, which offers one of the best views in Europe. To see a more dynamic view of the whole lake, you can take a cable car that slowly spins 360° up to one of the larger mountains in Malcinese. The whole coastline of Lake Garda hides many unique little towns, such as Limone, which is a historical town with many lemon terrace gardens and even a museum to celebrate its citrusy history visittrentino.info/en/articles/cycling-and-mountain-biking/lake-garda-by-bike. Another town, Salo, has a marble boardwalk, which is a great spot to stroll on and lounge at one of the many restaurants, gazing past your delicious food and onto the beautiful shimmering lake. Salo was also the capital of the Italian Social Republic during WW2. The once villa resort of Benito Mussolini is now considered one of the best and most luxurious hotels near the lake villafeltrinelli.com/en. The lake-side town of Sirmione is a great place to stop and walk around to see Scaliger Castle, one of the oldest full medieval castles in Italy settled right on the water atlasobscura.com/places/scaliger-castle. Sirmione also houses thermal hot springs which are known to have many healing properties. You can spend a couple of days cruising around the lake and stopping and exploring the towns, or you can spend a month. I fell in love with this charming lake and its surrounding towns. My trip took one week, but I could have spent several months exploring the wonders that Italy holds. These enchanting places let you experience life to the fullest while avoiding the larger crowds of the country’s most popular destinations.