I’m a firm believer that there’s no better way to acquaint yourself with a destination than through a guided tour. No one knows a destination better than local guides and if left to your own devices, the odds are good you’ll miss a lot, particularly if your timeline is tight! So when looking for the best tours in Northern Italy, I knew from past experience that LivItaly was our best choice.
Our 14 day trip to Northern Italy started in Milan, then took us to Verona, Venice, The Dolomites, Tuscany, Cinque Terre, and then back to Milan. It was an absolutely epic trip, and LivItaly played a big part in that making our stops in Verona, Venice, and Cinque Terre unforgettable.
If you’re currently looking to book tours in Northern Italy, here are three reasons that I would recommend booking with LivItaly:
- Private tours are available for two people, but group tours only have a maximum of six guests ensuring your guide has time to answer your questions, isn’t shouting over you, and can make slight changes to the tour based on group preference.
- Guides that work with LivItaly go through extensive training and testing to ensure they truly are knowledgeable about the areas they are taking you through. They often have backgrounds in archaeology, history, and the arts.
- They are a family run business with a deep passion for showcasing the best that Italy has to offer. Their passion is contagious.
THREE UNFORGETTABLE TOURS IN NORTHERN ITALY
VERONA WALKING TOUR
The whole purpose of our stopover in Verona was to see Elton John in concert. It was not to be sadly; Elton fell ill and cancelled his concert. This left me to ask myself if I would have gone out of my way to visit Verona if I didn’t have a concert to attend. The answer is an enthusiastic yes!
VENICE SMALL WALKING TOUR WITH ST. MARKS
Venice could be the poster child for reasons you need a tour guide. With approximately 65,000 tourists a day visiting the floating city, it’s almost impossible to figure it out on your own.
Our LivItaly guide Pamela was able to expertly navigate the six of us through big tourist draws like the Grand Rialto and St. Mark’s, but also find us quiet spaces to explore. And not just quiet spaces, fascinating spaces, like the courtyard of Marco Polo’s family home. Sidenote: Italians have no idea where that Marco Polo game in the water came from. Another fun fact from our guide.
We were in Venice on June 2 which is noteworthy for two reasons. First, it was the day that a cruise ship plowed into a river cruise ship making headlines around the globe. It was also Festa Della Sensa, which is a traditional event in Venice and symbolizes the marriage between the sea and Venice.
Our guide Pamela knew exactly when to get us to St Mark’s Square on Festa Della Sensa, because there are four wooden statues that make one of their semi-annual appearances in the clock tower that day. Pamela found us a great viewing spot, and it was not lost on me that there were thousands of tourists around us who had absolutely no idea what was about to happen. Another example of expert knowledge that LivItaly guides have.
What You Need to Know: The Venice Small Walking Tour is a great way to familiarize yourself with the city if you’re spending a few days. I highly recommend you book this for your first day. Venice is HOT if you’re visiting in the summer so pack something for shade (hat, umbrella), a water bottle, and sunscreen. You’ll also need to have your shoulders and knees covered for entrance in to St. Mark’s so pack or wear something with that in mind. Cost is 99€ per person and the tour is 2 hours.
CINQUE TERRE TOUR – HIKE, BOAT, TRAIN, AND SIGHTSEE
The Cinque Terre Tour is an absolute must-do in my opinion. This full day tour is for two people only, and allows you to take in all five villages in Cinque Terre in a day by train, boat, and on foot. It’s the perfect tour when time is tight.
We met our guide Marcella at the La Spezia train station and instantly hit it off with her. I can’t overstate this enough, because when you’re spending an entire day with a guide, you want them to be personable. Marcella was outstanding with her knowledge, but also fun and outgoing in personality—a winning combination.
Car traffic is strictly prohibited in Cinque Terre to residents only, so if you’re visiting the area you need to hop on a train at La Spezia. We headed directly to Riomaggiore and started our day sightseeing there. The first thing we learned is that the residents in this area have got to be the hardest working people on the planet. How can they not be when you look at the farms they have on the hillsides and the incredibly steep stairs they take everywhere?
Our tour through Riomaggiore led us through winding streets and up and down incredibly steep stairs, so it’s worth noting that your physical fitness level matters on this trip, particularly for the hike from Vernazza to Monterosso.
From Riomaggiore, we hopped on a boat to view Manarola and Corniglia by sea.
It’s a wonderful perspective viewing three of the towns of Cinque Terre from sea. The colourful buildings, rough landscape, and surrounding sea all lend to the beauty of the journey.
We docked in Vernazza for more sightseeing and a break for lunch. Lunch is not included in the price of your tour, and your guide can help you find a place based on budget. If you’re looking for great views, food, and highly entertaining staff though, get your guide to take you to the Belforte Restaurant. You’ll also want to do a little carb-loading here because the next part of your tour is a strenuous 2 hour hike. Oh, and go easy on the wine.
The next part of the Cinque Terre tour is entirely on foot, and while it’s strenuous, it’s absolutely worth it. The views are outstanding and for me, coming into Monterosso at the end of it was the icing on the cake. This view brought me tears to my eyes. The perfect way to end a perfect day.
What you need to know: Pack a backpack for this trip and load it up with a light sweater/windbreaker, sunscreen, and water. Also, you’ll need to bring hiking shoes for the trek from Vernazza to Monterosso, flips flops are strictly forbidden. I wore my super sexy Birkenstocks for most of the day, and changed into my hiking shoes just before we left Vernazza. Cost for this tour 599€ for two people.
Disclosure: I worked with LivItaly tours for the second year in a row. Tours were either discounted or complimentary. All opinions remain mine.
By CANDACE SAMPSON
Candace is founder and editor-in-chief of Life in Pleasantville which isn’t half as fancy as it sounds. You can find her sharing travel stories on What She Said Radio and on CTV Ottawa Morning Live.