Northern Italy is one of the most beautiful and plentiful travel spots in Europe. Milan is a fantastic city but it is also a great place to base yourself from and embark on some day trips from Milan around the regional area. This is a Milan day trips guide to some of my favorites and how to do them yourself.
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10 Unbeatable Day Trips from Milan
Milan is perfectly situated to explore some of the most wonderful places in Northern Italy within a day. The Italian train network is fast and efficient which is ideal for day trips. To honor these amazing Milan day trips made possible by a network of trains that people that aren’t deprived of public transportation (Americans) complain about, I have put together a list of 10 wonderful day trips from Milan.
The vibrant fashion capital of Italy has so much culture and many things to do that sometimes you need to get away from them to appreciate the chaos and life. Fortunately, Milan’s central location in northern Italy makes it an ideal base for day trips. You can escape Milan so easily. In addition, a two-hour train journey might set you back a mere 12.45€.
Northern Italy is home to some of the most fantastic nature and scenery. There are large snow-capped mountains, impressive alpine lakes, and gorgeous coastal cities that lie on the Mediterranean Sea with colorful harbors. This amazing scenery is coupled with some of the best food in the world, with regional and local cooking a staple of Italian culture. There is more to Italy’s cuisine than just taking a Milan food tour or enjoying pizza in Naples.
This guide will take you through what I consider to be the best day trips from Milan, all located within a few hours train ride/drive of the city. I will keep the locations diverse, from alpine lakes to coastal cities so that there is something for every type of traveler. All of these trips can be done as organized day tours from Milan, too.
Lake Como is world-renowned for its stunning beauty and the fact that it’s a playground for the rich and famous. Located an hour north of Milan, you can quickly reach the small city of Como from Milan Cadorna by train, costing a mere 5€.
Lake Como is Italy’s third-largest lake and one of the deepest in Europe. The depth of the lake gives it an amazing deep blue color that perfectly contrasts the lush green hillsides of the mountains the surround it.
Arriving from Milan to Lake Como, you will be taken aback by just how picturesque this lake is and how charming this lakeside city is. From Como itself, you can only see a small portion of the lake, which is oddly shaped, kind of like a person running.
In the city of Como, there are plenty of things to do. You can walk along the edge of the lake, where the Italian elite have had huge impressive villas built over the years. As you walk west along the shore of the lake, you can watch seaplanes take off and land.
To the east of Como there is a funicular railway that will take you to the mountaintop town of Burate, where you can enjoy panoramic views of the lake and the city. Food-wise in Como, I advise avoiding the tourist traps by the lake head into the town where you will find more local places.
To see more of the lake itself, I recommend taking the boat to Bellagio since the small, famous town is perched in the middle point of the fork and provides amazing views of all parts of the lake. There are a few boat choices to head out to Bellagio- the short, 45-minute hydrofoil that will speed through the water, zooming past many of the sites.
Or alternatively, the two-hour ferry that cruises along stopping at many of the small towns and provides the perfect opportunity to relax and enjoy the views as you bob along to Bellagio. To maximize time, I recommend taking the hydrofoil on the way back as you will have enjoyed the scenery on the way there. Bellagio itself is a stunning town with quaint winding streets and exceptional views over the lake.
If you are looking for a stress-free way of exploring Como and seeing the most of the lake and towns, I suggest taking this tour that will take you to three of the towns that sit on the lake and provide a great insight into the stunning lake. Click here to inquire about rates and availability for the tour.
All in all, I really loved my time in Lake Como even if I did spend a large portion of my day working and concentrating on other things. I’d love to go back when there is better weather and I can enjoy the lake a bit more.
Take advantage of Milan’s close proximity to Switzerland by taking an awesome day trip to stunning Lugano, just over the border in Switzerland. The beauty of the Schengen Zone means frictionless travel between the borders of multiple countries and sometimes you can barely tell you are actually in another country because it is just so easy to move around.
The city of Lugano is located just north of the Italian border in the Italian speaking area of Switzerland. Situated on the Lake Lugano, the town is aesthetically beautiful and exudes Swiss charm. If you arrive by train into the town, the walk down to the lakeshore is gorgeous although a bit steep in places. To return back up you can always take a short ride up on the city funicular.
There are a lot of things to do in Lugano as the city has plenty of museums and grand architecture in the town itself where you are able to learn all about the history of the area. There are also plenty of shops, cafes, and bistros where you can relax and enjoy the Swiss way of life (and cry about Swiss prices).
To be honest, the first thing I did when arriving in the town center was to hunt down a Swiss chocolate shop and try some of the world’s best chocolate. I can firmly say that it did not let me down and I ate far too much of it when there. In the winter months, you can enjoy Lugano’s gorgeous Christmas markets.
From Milan, it takes around an hour to reach Lugano by train, making it the perfect Milan day trip. The train ride is jaw-dropping as you work your way up into the Alps passing through awesome scenery, from forest-covered mountains to deep blue mountain lakes.
Those needing a visa to enter Italy should be covered with the same visa to enter Switzerland, but always keep your passport on you. As Switzerland is not part of the EU, it does not use the Euro and instead, they use Swiss Francs (CHF). However, most shops will accept Euros but may give you your change in Francs.
Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy and it is undeniably beautiful. It is a mixture of mountains along the shores of the northern part of the lake to a wider, open, and flatter southern part of the lake. Within the lake itself, there are several islands varying in size, some of which have partially inhabited over history and are now home to grand villas and religious buildings with fascinating stories of their history.
On the southern end of the lake is the impressive town of Sirmione. The area the town is in has had evidence of human activity dating back over 7000 years, with Lugana Vecchia (part of the Prehistoric pile dwellings around the Alps UNESCO World Heritage sites) allowing you to get up close to the remains of a prehistoric settlement, where the inhabitants built raised structures.
During the Roman era, the town was a playground for rich Roman families. However, toward the end of the Roman empire, the town became a strategic ground and continued to be used by various rulers as a military stronghold on Lake Garda. An amazing example of the strategic role the town has played is the Scaligero Castle, a castle that sits right on the port and is home to a small museum.
After exploring the town’s deep history, I highly recommend going to one of the town’s spas to enjoy a thermal bath.
You can easily reach Sirmione and the shores of Lake Garda from Milan by train. The journey takes around an hour and 20 minutes, with trains departing every hour and costing a budget-friendly €9.20. There are quicker trains with Frecciossa albeit, they are more costly.
For a change of scenery, head to the seaside city of Genoa where you can enjoy the relaxing vibes of the Mediterranean. The beautiful port city was one of the region’s most important trade cities given its strategic location on the sea.
Originally starting off life as its own republic with enormous amounts of wealth from establishing trade routes, the Republic of Genoa is also the birthplace of one of the most famous sea explorers, Christopher Columbus. Its maritime history has influenced the culture and traditions of the city and still plays a large role in Genoa to this day.
Genoa is a maze of historic alleyways and squares that spread out from the ancient harbor located in the city center. As you lose yourself in the city center, you will find that there are plenty of hidden gems around each corner from impressive, Baroque style castles to grand churches and medieval gates.
As you explore the streets and passageways, take time to stop and enjoy the impressive array of food that is available. Aside from the amazing fresh seafood that is available, Genoa is famous for pesto. The delicious pasta sauce is best tried fresh from this area and there are plenty of places where you can do so. Alternatively, you can cool off from the Mediterranean heat with a cooling gelato.
Take the opportunity to embrace your inner explorer and use Genoa as a launchpad to explore the quaint coastal towns along the rugged coastline. You will see plenty of little colorful villages perched on top of cliffs and the most picturesque natural harbors.
One of the best ways to have the fullest experience is to take an organized tour of the region from Milan. I highly recommend taking this tour, which is an incredibly relaxing way to explore the Ligurian coast. Click here to see rates and availability for the tour to Genoa.
While I haven’t personally been to Genoa, Aram has and really has nothing but positive things to say about the Italian city. I will certainly make an effort to visit next time I take a Milan day trip.
Varese is not a town on many people’s radar. Just 35 miles north of Milan, this sleepy little town punches above its weight in the perfect day trip from Milan category. The city feels different to the rest of the region. The crowds shy away once they look at a map and they see Lake Como to the right of the city and make a beeline to it. This has led to Varese retaining its local charm and its secret gems hidden.
As you walk around the city, you will quickly notice the size of the houses in the area. There are plenty of villas and grand houses with large green gardens close to the main central location. The main site of Varese is located a mile or so above Varese in the hills, a UNESCO world heritage site called Sacro Monte di Varese.
Sacro Monte di Varese is located in the Campo Dei Fiori regional park and consists of 17th-century chapels along a holy road and it is one of nine similar sites throughout the region. Within the city itself, you have many stunning villas and an impressive old town with interesting clock towers that range from old ones to ones built during Italy’s darker years under Mussolini.
Inside the Basilica di San Vittore, you will find an ornate church that comes as a bit of surprise as the facade is slightly unassuming. There are also plenty of shops, cafes, and restaurants in the area. I had some of the best food in Varese on my trip, with restaurants catering towards Italians rather than tourists.
Varese also has a beautiful lake situated slightly west of the city and it’s the perfect place to relax for a while and enjoy the good weather in summer. On the shores of the lake, you will find lovely parks and beaches where you can enjoy the summer sunshine while lounging around or walking along the trails.
There are also impressive botanical gardens and other interesting sites to see. For those wanting to do some water-based activities, the lake is well known for its rowing and canoeing having hosted several world championship racing events for the sports.
Varese is easily reachable by train from Milano Porta Garibaldi station and the journey takes around an hour and costs about 7€.
If you are looking for a city that is a different pace from Milan, then Turin is your city. There is something about Turin that just sets it apart from other northern Italian cities. Its beauty feels slightly more reserved while still being clearly visible for everyone to see.
The streets are narrow with many of the sidewalks being covered and feeling very grand. The height of the buildings makes it impossible to see what is coming up next and you just have this anticipation that every corner is going to bring something different. You can be walking casually down a street and turn left and find yourself in one of the most beautiful streets of the city without even knowing it was there. The city really keeps you on your toes.
It is easy to get from Milan to Turin and there are multiple train options starting at as little as 12.45€. The main station stops in the center of the city where you can hunt out many of the cities famous buildings and museums.
Turin’s backdrop of church spires set against mountains makes seeking out an amazing panoramic view a must in Turin. If you cross over the river from the old town and head up to Villa Della Regina, you will be greeted with some of the best views over the city. The Villa Della Regina is a great place to spend some time walking around the grounds and seeing the impressive villas.
After enjoying the views, head back down to the river where you can take a gentle stroll and see some nice old bridges that cross the rivers.
Turin is famous various Italian specialties such as Panna Cotta and Nutella. There are plenty of places to eat around the city so you will not go hungry and much of the food is really delicious. After eating, head to a pub and watch one of Turin’s two soccer teams, one of which is the world-famous Juventus.
Italy is home to some of the world’s most romantic towns and cities that have been the focal points of some of the planet’s most famous romantic stories. The most famous of these is Romeo and Juliet, a tale of two star-crossed lovers in Verona. Although it is almost certain that Shakespeare never went to Verona, or even left the shores of England, he was able to portray the beautiful city with incredibly accuracy, bringing to life its romantic ways and Italian charm.
There is plenty to see in Verona, a city with a rich Roman history. The city center is home to impressive Roman artifacts, although some have been destroyed or built over. The crown duel of the Roman history of Verona is the impressive amphitheater that was the third largest in the empire and its famous gladiator fights attracted people from far flung destinations.
As you explore the city, you will need to keep your eyes peeled for further Roman monuments and structures dotted around the Verona city center. The city’s significance continued throughout history and there are several examples of gorgeous medieval architecture, with the impressive Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore standing out as one of the most impressive churches in the city.
The most famous site in the city, and one of the most famous in the world is Juliet’s Balcony. The balcony was added well after the play was written and has still captivated many tourists over the last century and has become a cultural icon.
Lovers used to go to the balcony and stick notes to the wall to ensure they will be lovers forever. These letters inspired the film Letters to Juliet, however, it is important to note this is now illegal and can incur a 500€ fine. Instead of placing a letter, people now touch the statue of Juliet.
To reach Verona from Milan, you can easily use the Italian railway system. Trains take around two hours and costs less than 13€. The train departs from Milan Central Station and takes you directly to the city center.
Bergamo is a small city to the east of Milan and is home to the 3rd busiest airport in the country, yet somehow this small city is completely overlooked by tourists. Split into two sections, the city of Bergamo has an impressive old town (Città Alta) that is perched on the top of a hill while the newer modern town is at the foot of the hill.
From the new town, there are fantastic views up into the old town that imposes itself over the city. The two parts of Bergamo are connected by roads, walkways, and a great funicular railway that takes you right into the heart of the old town.
Recently added to the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites, the old town has a different vibe to it, compared to other old towns in Europe and Italy. There are old stunning example of medieval architecture, but in that mix is a vibrant, youthful undercurrent of hip and cool shops and cafes. It makes for the perfect mix, as every twist and turn brings something new and exciting.
The newer part of Bergamo isn’t quite as interesting but there are still many nice buildings to see and lots of places to eat and drink at. The food in Bergamo is brilliant and I highly recommend spending some time eating regional dishes while you are there.
The region’s specialties include delicious rabbit dishes, polenta, and an amazing meat filled pasta called casoncelli, which is served with a butter and sage sauce and little bits of bacon. Along with delicious hot meals, the city is the birthplace of Stracciatella ice cream. If cheese is your thing, you can also purchase from a cheese shop a hefty wheel of Bergamo cheese for around 4 euros.
There are many things to do in Bergamo and it is truly the perfect day trip from Milan. It takes only an hour to reach Bergamo from Milan by train and during rush hour, these trains can get pretty busy.
Just the word Parma makes me feel hungry. Located to the southeast of Milan, this deliciously-named city is the perfect place to head to try some of the world’s most famous cheese and hams. Food isn’t the only reason to visit the city (definitely the best reason though). It has a long history of over 2000 years and is home to one of the world’s oldest universities.
The best way to spend a day in Parma is to venture into the city exploring the impressive architecture that spans various styles and takes influence from the region’s turbulent history where various rulers have come and gone. As you explore the streets, look out for Pon Lapidis and an ancient bridge dating back to the time of Augustus rule of the Roman empire.
There are also many churches throughout Parma ranging from Gothic churches to more Baroque styles, each with its own history and characteristics along with impressive frescos and ornate facades. In between these churches, you will find grand palaces that were the homes of dukes and governors throughout history.
Inbetween all of the exploring, take time to discover the fantastic eateries available throughout the city. The region is home to many culturally important foods that designated special status by the EU. First of all, hunt out the delicious Parma ham (Prosciutto di Parma). This tasty, cured pork ham is one of the world’s finest and is a must try.
Pairing perfectly with Parma Ham is Parmigiano-Reggiano, the true parmesan cheese. The hard and slightly salty cheese is a perfect snack or after-dinner treat. For more substantial food, Parma also has two special types of stuffed pasta: tortelli d’erbetta and anolini in brodo. Both are delicious, albeit very different.
The tortelli d’erbetta is more like the stuffed pasta common throughout Italy and the anolini in brodo is meat-filled pasta served up in a delectable chicken broth.
Reaching Parma from Milan is really easy and can be done quickly and cheaply by train. The train costs around 11€ and takes about an hour and a half to reach Parma. The train departs at regular hourly intervals so pre-booking shouldn’t be necessary.
Brescia is one of the most interesting cities in northern Italy, with an impressive history dating back over 3000 years. As you walk around the city, you will be taken back through time in Italy and see the many influences that have led to the creation of an enthralling city. Due to its large industrial district, Brescia was often overlooked by tourists until receiving UNESCO World Heritage status in 2011.
The city of Brescia is home to some of the best-preserved Roman Public buildings that gained UNESCO World Heritage status along with the monastery area of San Salvatore-Santa Giulia as part of the “Longboards in Italy, Place of Power” group.
Although this UNESCO group mainly celebrates the impact of the Germanic Tribe the Lombards, there are also some Roman artifacts included. The UNESCO site is concentrated in the town center, the Roman public houses are very well preserved and parts are comparable to the levels of preservation seen in Pompeii and Herculaneum.
As you walk through the area you will see old a Roman Theatre, a small temple, and a Republican sanctuary. The monastery complex is home to some of Italy’s finest treasures and most impressive structures. As you explore the churches and buildings, you will see detailed frescos as well as countless archaeological discoveries from the area.
Throughout the rest of the city, you will find grandiose squares like Piazza della Loggia, where several of the facades of the buildings are decorated by Roman-era tombstones. As you explore the streets, you will discover many other remarkable buildings, each containing their own secrets.
On the edge of the town, the foothills of the Alps begin and you can relax in the forests that overlook the town and provide jaw-dropping panoramic views over the city.
A strange curiosity of the city is that it is home to one of the largest caviar farms in Europe and produces some of the highest quality available in a sustainable method… so if you are feeling fancy while enjoying a glass of the local Franciacorta sparkling wine.
Brescia is just over an hour away from Milan by train and there is a regular service that costs about 7€. From Brescia, you can also quickly reach Lake Garda, if you are looking to hit up two places in one day. Brescia truly is a great day trip from Milan.
There are so many wonderful towns and cities that make for ideal Milan day trips. If you have a recommendation for one, please drop it in the comments section! Thanks!