If you want a real change in scenery from the Italy you're used to (I mean I could go to Tuscany 1000x and never get sick of it but change is good), then may I suggest the South Tyrolean region of Trentino Alto-Adige located in Italy's alps, also known as the Dolomites. Located in northeastern Italy, this region borders Austria and Switzerland and sometimes has you fooled that you're actually in those countries! Many people speak German and as a matter of fact all signage is in German, Italian & English. The food is even more like that of Austria (strudel, yum!) but don't worry, you will still be able to find a dish of pasta.
The capital city of this region is Trento, which is a lovely, medieval town to visit. It is pretty small in terms of Italian cities go but it's friendly and those mountains are a lovely backdrop to your aperitivo. In the fall it's not too busy, but I would imagine that things pick up a bit in winter, seeing as how this is a perfect jumping off point to explore & ski the Dolomites. Trento is well connected by smaller airports and train stations, but the closest major airport is Venice. So the next time you take a trip to La Serenissima, consider venturing off into the mountains for a little taste of something different! Plus, Trento hardly makes it on the tourist map making your stay an authentic one which deserves brownie points in my book.
You don't need much time in Trento to be able to see it and experience what it has to offer so a night or two should be enough unless you're looking for some extra relaxation or plan to do some skiing. There are plenty of boutique hotels, B&Bs and inns to choose from, none of which will break the bank. Our hotel, B&B Luxury Heart of Trento even had a jacuzzi on the balcony incase you needed to soak some sore muscles after a day on the slopes or if you were just looking to relax with the mountains in the background (btw, spas in this town seem to be as abundant as espresso!) TIP: Don't miss the Funivia Trento-Sardagna, which is a cable car/gondola that brings you from the city center of Trento up to the hilltop town of Sardagna for some sweeping views of the city below and the mountains in the distance.
A must-do if you're visiting Trento is to take a day trip to nearby Bolzano which is a lively town located about 45min to an hour north. Bolzano is even further into the mountains and only an hour south of the Austrian border making it feel more Austrian than Italian (just look around and admire all of the chalets...all that's missing are some yodellers!) TIP: Don't miss the Funivia Soprabolzano, which is a cable car/gondola that brings you from Bolzano way up into the mountains to the tiny little town of Soprabolzano. Grab a coffee and homemade strudel at Trattoria Babsi before heading out on the Renon railway for some amazing views of the Dolomites.
And lastly, here are some food & drink reccos for your hungry bellies. Enjoy!
Enoteca Il Libertino for a casual dinner
Ai Tre Garofani for a more upscale, modern Italian dinner
Bar Pasi & Duomo 34 for aperitivo and people watching
Casa del Cioccolato & Casa del Caffe for the best coffee and pastry
Cafe de la Paix for craft beer and live music in a cozy setting
Birreria Pedavena & Forst for pretzels & beer in a German brewhaus
Pasticceria Hofer for gourmet coffee and pastry
Piazza delle Erbe for some market snacks
Bar Caffe da Té for some liquid courage in a small, local's hole-in-the-wall before getting on the funivia
Panificio Hackhofer for some authentic pretzels