We've been to Italy several times but usually in the same area, Tuscany, Venice, Florence, Rome, hill towns. We are planning five days in Venice but want to go somewhere else after that, i.e. Parma, Bologna...any ideas for NOT going further south?
Ravenna, just a little south of Venice, has beautiful mosaics in churches. Dolomite mountains are north if you like hiking. Train from Venice to Milan (about 4 hour ride) could get you to see da Vince Last Supper and other Milan things. Note Last Supper is closed on Mondays. Lake Como and Maggiore are north west of Venice.
Look at the Adriatic Coast ... Le Marche and Puglia. Absolutely gorgeous. Very few tourists. Wonderful food. Amazing places (check out the trullis in Alberobello and the sassi in Matera). If you're into beaches, Senigallia is a wonderful place ... a scenic small Italian city with a 14th century fort and a 17th century castle, just a few blocks away from a wonderful golden sand beach where you can sit with your toes in the sand with a glass of wine or beer at the end of the day. Check out the masserias in Puglia. It's like an agriturismo ... in the countryside, quiet, relaxing. We stayed in one with a lovely pool, acres of fruit and olive trees ... it's a whole different kind of Italy.
I didn't like Bologna, but most other people do. Parma is very nice, and Ferrara is also wonderful (and gets very few US visitors). Ravenna not only has the mosaics, but is a nice town. If you haven't been to Padova, that's another nice place. Make reservations for the Scorvegni Chapel (details on how in Rick's Italy book). You can see it as a day trip from Venice, but a couple of nights were very nice (we did Ferrara as a daytrip from Padova). And then there's Verona, Milan, Cremona, Mantova... Lots of places to see without going too far south.