There are many fantastic day trips from Milan – it’s just a matter of picking the one that better suits one’s needs and interests.
Milan is one of the most interesting places to visit in Italy, and in recent years it has been getting more and more attention from travelers who enjoy its fantastic museums; its fun nightlife; the infinite shopping opportunities and the incredible vibe. However, fast paced as it is, it can get a bit overwhelming at times. The good news is that this vibrant city is very well connected to the rest of Northern and Central Italy, so it is extremely easy to get out, even just for a day. The choice of day trips from Milan is incredible!
This post highlights the nicest day trips from Milan, with a few tips to make the most of them. For the sake of clarity, I will divide my selection of Milan day trips by larger topics – lakes and lake regions; the gorgeous Cinque Terre; wine tours and cities.
Lake Como is the perfect place for day trips from Milan
10 Fantastic Day Trips From Milan
The region of Lombardia, of which Milan is the capital, is known for the many beautiful lakes. Needless to say, among the best day trips from Milan, there has to be one to the lakes and the beautiful, quaint villages that surround them.
Lake Como and the city that gives it its name are an easy 30-minute train ride north of Milan. The lake, which is of glacial origins, is the third biggest lake in Italy and, with a depth of up to 400 meters, one of the deepest lakes in Europe. It is gorgeous, making it a perfect place to enjoy some good day trips from Milan.
The lake has been a popular retreat for wealthy aristocrats since Roman times. With the many beautiful villages (Bellagio, Brunate and Varenna to name just a few), villas (the most famous ones are Villa Carlotta, Villa d’Este and Villa Serbelloni) and palaces (some of them property of famous actors) that are scattered in the area, it obviously is a fantastic tourist destination, ideal for day trips from Milan.
Lake Como itself is fantastic for kitesurfing, windsurfing and sailing. There are several farms in the surrounding area, producing goods such as honey, cheese, milk, and even olive oil. They are pleasant places to visit, even during Milan day trips.
Lake Maggiore is a good place for day trips from Milan
Lake Maggiore is the second largest lake in Italy. Located in the southern side of the Alps, the lake and its shoreline are divided between the Italian regions of Lombardia and Piemonte, and the Swiss Canton Ticino. It’s a lovely place to go to on day trips from Milan, as it benefits from mild weather throughout the year.
Among the most beautiful small towns on Lake Maggiore there are Stresa, Laverno and Locarno. During day trips from Milan to Lake Maggiore it is possible to cruise around the lake to explore its lovely Borromean Islands such as Isola Bella, Isola Madre and Isola dei Pescatori, all the while admiring the Alps in the distance.
Lake Garda is a good choice for day trips from Milan
Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy, located about half way between Milan and Venice, and on the edge of the Dolomites. It is a very popular holiday destination and, needless to say, it makes for one of the best day trips from Milan, for it offers interesting activities such as boat rides, sailing, kitesurfing and windsurfing.
Scattered across the lake there’s several small islands, that are really nice to visit even during day tours from Milan. The largest one is Isola del Garda, famous for being the place where Francesco d’Assisi founded a monastery in 1220 – though in its place now there is a 19th century gothic style building.
The most popular small town on the lake is the romantic Sirmione, which is packed with interesting tourist sites and good cafés, restaurants and bars. Desenzano del Garda is another lovely village that is pleasant to visit on day trips from Milan. It is a popular bathing resort, but there’s also plenty of cultural sites.
Cinque Terre can actually be seen on day trips from Milan
Cinque Terre probably deserves more than a day, but when time is limited, day trips from Milan to Cinque Terre (or even day trips from Florence to Cinque Terre) are a good way to get at least a feel for it, and prepare to go again.
This part of the coast of Liguria has beautiful, dramatic sceneries. It is so unique that it has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Surrounding the beautiful, colorful coastal villages there are some fabulous vineyards (the wine in this region is excellent) and olive and lemon groves. There are many nice, small beaches – swimming here is a must even during Milan day trips.
Four of the five villages of Cinque Terre – Riomaggiore, Vernazza, Monterosso and Manarola, which is the oldest of them – are right on the coast and have direct access to the sea. Corniglia is higher up on the hills and it is landlocked. There is an old railway that connects all the villages, making it possible to visit them all during day trips from Milan.
When time is limited, the best way to appreciate Cinque Terre, especially during day trips from Milan, is on a guided tour. A guide will be able to guide visitors through the 5 different small towns scattered along the coast, taking care of all the logistics while tourists can just enjoy the extraordinary views.
An excellent company for day trips from Milan to Cinque Terre is Ciao Florence – which as the name may suggests mostly leads tours from Florence to Cinque Terre. A typical tour includes a boat ride along the coast, which is especially appreciated by lovers of photography as there are fantastic views of the towns from the sea.
The Wine Region
There are many wine regions in Italy, and even those who travel to Milan will be pleased to know that there’s one really close by and that can be visited on day trips from Milan. Franciacorta is less than one hour from Milan, the area is very picturesque and – needless to say – the wines are delicious.
Franciacorta wines are sparkling wines, thought to be one of the Italian answers to French Champagne. The region is very pretty, extending all the way to lake Iseo and packed with vintage wineries that are fantastic to visit even during Milan day trips.
The best way to make the most of day tours from Milan to Franciacorta is by pairing wine tasting with good food. Given the fact that this is in Italy, one of the best food destinations in the world, this isn’t going to be difficult at all!
The gorgeous Bergamo Alta is a great place for day trips from Milan
There are many cities to visit in Italy that can be easily reached from Milan either by car, train or bus, and make up for some excellent day trips from Milan. Here, I report the times of the trains I suggest catching in order to enjoy a full day out. Do make sure to check out the updated timetable on the website of Trenitalia.
Bergamo is at a stone’s throw from Milan (around 45 minutes by train) and it is little by little becoming a tourist destination in and of itself. It is really worth to visit Bergamo, even if only on day trips from Milan. The old city, known as Bergamo Alta, is a maze of narrow alleys, gorgeous buildings and viewpoints from where to take in the magnificent views.
The surroundings of Bergamo are just as interesting to visit on Milan day trips. One of my favorite places is Crespi d’Adda, a fantastic example of industrial architecture dating back to the late 19th century and now a UNESCO site. It’s actually right half way between Milan and Bergamo.
Other places to visit on day trips from Milan that are closer to Bergamo are San Pellegrino Terme (QC Terme is the ultimate place to relax) and Scanzo, where it is possible to go on tours to taste the fantastic Moscato di Scanzo wine.
Venice can be seen on day trips from Milan
Venice hardly needs any introduction. Capital of the region of Veneto, this is one of the most incredible places to visit in Italy, if not in the world. Many travelers complain that it is too packed with tourists or too expensive. I can easily overlook these issues, because Venice is simply, impossibly beautiful. The city does deserve a visit for sure. Though I’d recommending spending a few days there to soak in the atmosphere, if time and budget are limited, going there on day trips from Milan is a good idea.
The train from Milan to Venice takes little over two hours. It’s not the closest place to reach, buti f organized properly it can be done, and it can be a pleasant way to explore another city. If going on Milan day trips to Venice, I recommend to plan to leave nice and early. The first direct train leaves from Milan at 6:45 and gets into Venice at 8:58 am, leaving plenty of time throughout the day to explore La Serenissima (that’s one of the nicknames of Venice).
The city has plenty of interesting places to explore, and it is small enough that it’s easy to see them even on day trips from Milan. Among the unmissable places, there are: Rialto Bridge and the Gran Canale, San Marco Square and the Campanile, Doge’s Palace, San Marco Basilica. I also recommend walking around the Ghetto degli Ebrei, it is quieter than the rest of the city and very pleasant. Last but not least, after a short boat ride it is possible to explore the nearby island of Burano and Murano.
It is possible to see Florence on day trips from Milan
One of the most famous places to visit in Italy is Florence, the capital of Tuscany – and for a good reason. The city is stunning, to say the least. The best thing would be to actually spend a few days exploring. Yet, it is well connected so it makes sense to even go there on day trips from Milan. The train takes less than 2 hours, indeed.
The 7:20 train from Milano Central Station takes little over one and a half hours and gets in Florence at 8:59 am, leaving plenty of time to explore the city, even when on day trips from Milan.
As there are many things to do and places to visit in Florence, I suggest that those going there on day trips from Milan keep it simple. The must sees in Florence are: the Cathedral, Santa Croce church, Piazza della Signoria, Palazzo Vecchio and Galleria degli Uffizi and Ponte Vecchio. It is also ok to stretch it all the way to the beautiful Boboli Gardens.
Bologna is the ideal destination for day trips from Milan
Bologna, capital of Emilia Romagna, is the food capital of the country, and one of the nicest places to visit in Italy. It is so close to Milan that I’d make the effort to jump on the train and go there even just for lunch. As it takes only one hour by train, it’s a fantastic place to go to on day trips from Milan.
There’s plenty of direct trains going to Bologna, and since the trip is rather short, even those going there on day trips from Milan don’t have to wake up so early. However, if keen on visiting the city, I recommend hopping on the 8:30 train, that gets there at 9:32 am, leaving plenty of time to enjoy all that the city has to offer (and all the food).
Among the places to visit in Bologna that can be enjoyed even on day tours from Milan, there are Piazza Maggiore and Basilica di San Petronio, the Cathedral, the Palazzo del Podestà and the Pinacoteca. Foodies have ample selection of local delicacies to pick from and can easily spend the day eating (in fact, doing a food tour may be a good idea!) or even taking a cooking class.
Here are some of Bologna’s must eats: tortellacci; mortadella; tagliatelle al ragù alla bolognese (by the way, please note that in Italy we don’t eat “spaghetti bolognaise”!); lasagne (we call them lasagne, not lasagna). These are the most traditional dishes, so watch out for some alternatives – the city is packed with fantastic restaurants. Those planning to visit on day trips from Milan should make sure to book in advance. Here’s a selection of the best restaurants in Bologna.
The lovely Pavia isn’t so touristy yet and is a great place for day trips from Milan
Pavia is a mere 30 minutes drive from Milan and as little as 23 minutes by train, if direct (there is a direct trains every 2 hours, at 10 minutes past the hour). It is still quite unknown to foreign tourism, but a wonderful city to explore, especially with its surroundings. Thus, it is an excellent choice for day trips from Milan.
The city is an architectural gem. There are over 100 towers, and a university which was founded in 1361 and is a great place to visit. Other places to visit in the city include the many medieval and early Renaissance buildings, churches and squares, the Ponte Coperto, che Church of San Michele, the duomo and the Castello Visconteo. It seems a lot, but the city is small and these can all be seen on day trips from Milan.
One of the most important places to visit is the Certosa di Pavia (Chartreuse), which actually is one of the greatest places to visit in Italy. This is a monastery, a sanctuary and beautiful gardens that were founded in the 15th century. It is located at around 8 km from Pavia. Last but not least, on day trips from Milan to Pavia it is also possible to go on a wine tour in the Oltrepo Pavese region.
Have you ever visited Milan? What are your favorite day trips from Milan?
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A day trip from Florence to Cinque Terre is a great and easy way to explore one of the most unique landscapes of Italy.
Italy certainly isn’t a huge country compared to many, but it has so much to offer to its visitors that it can be overwhelming. Organizing a trip to Italy is easier said than done, especially when time is limited and there’s so many places to visit in Italy. With so much to see, it’s hard to pick where to go. I must admit that not even I have seen all of Italy!
Generally speaking, as a local and as an experienced traveler I advise those who visit Italy and want to truly appreciate its culture, history, landscape and nature, and even the uniqueness of its food, to concentrate on one small area at a time, wisely picking a base from where to start exploring. Tuscany and Liguria are good places to travel to in order to get a first feel for Italy, not to mention they are great starting point to go on Cinque Terre tours.
Cinque Terre is one of the most incredible places to visit in Italy. It is a series of five (cinque in Italian) stunning villages perched on the hills and overlooking the beautiful Mediterranean sea, so unique that they have been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cinque Terre tours are probably among the top things to do while visiting Italy. The good news is that it is possible to go from Florence to Cinque Terre on a day trip.
Going from Florence to Cinque Terre
Tuscany is often considered the cradle of modern Italian culture, hence a good place for first time visitors to Italy. Florence, its capital, is a fabulous city that has a lot to offer, packed as it is with art, history and atmosphere. Adding to this, Florence also provides a great starting point to visit the rest of Tuscany and beyond. Indeed, it is possible to go from Florence to Cinque Terre on a day tour, thus venturing to one of the most unique places in Italy.
Needless to say, it’s important to pick a good company to tour Cinque Terre with. One of them is Ciao Florence, which offers a good Cinque Terre day trip from Florence.
Although Cinque Terre certainly deserves more than a day trip, I still believe that, if time is limited, going on a well organized day trip from Florence to Cinque Terre is a good way to appreciate it. But this is not the only reason why travelers should consider a Cinque Terre tour from Florence.
So, here are some more good reasons why taking a day trip from Florence to Cinque Terre is actually a good idea.
5 Reasons To Go On An Organized Day Trip From Florence To Cinque Terre
It defeats time constraints
An organized tour from Florence to Cinque Terre can be done in a day, which is perfect for those who don’t have too much time. As I have said before, time constraint certainly is the main reason people go on organized day tours.
A Cinque Terre day trip from Florence is perfect for those who only have an extra day to spare in their travels but still don’t want to miss the chance to see and appreciate one of the most spectacualar places in Italy.
To find out why I like group tours, read my post “10 reasons to go on a guided tour.”
It’s already, beautifully organized (by an expert)
An organized day trip from Florence to Cinque Terre spares all the organizational issues. One of the biggest challenges that I face, even as an experienced traveler, is organizing a trip – long or short, it hardly matters. Making sure to fit all the things I want to see in a tight schedule is at times mission impossible, and causes a headache or two when I have to check the train times, and the walking distances between the places I want to visit.
Going on a Cinque Terre day trip from Florence means not having to worry about fitting everything into the schedule, checking the train departures – someone else, an expert, is doing that already.
Day trips from Florence to Cinque Terre are guided, which means having someone that will assist the group with any issue and will take care of any problem that may arise during the tour. It also means having someone that speaks Italian, taking the edge off communication for those who don’t speak it or are not comfortable with it.
Furthermore, a Cinque Terre day trip from Florence with a guide also means having an expert that will explain the historical and cultural significance of the various places visited; who will know the best spots for pictures; and who will know how to dodge the crowds of tourists that may be present.
It’s actually convenient
Day trips from Florence to Cinque Terre don’t have to break the bank. The common assumption is that organized tours, including day tours, are too expensive. Tourists would often rather struggle with all the organizational issues – spending a lot of time comparing prices booking every single activity and transportation, just to save a few pennies.
As an experienced traveler, I can say that organized tours are often the way to go not only for the comfort of having something already nicely arranged, but also because they are actually not nearly as expensive as one may think. After all, a guided Cinque Terre day trip from Florence is bound to include transportation, a guide, visits to places of interest, and even a boat ride to Vernazza.
It goes to (almost) all Cinque Terre villages
A day excursion from Florence to Cinque Terre typically goes through Cinque Terre National Park, to explore what is considered one of the most beautiful landscapes in the world. During the day, it is possible to explore four out of five villages in the area.
Typically, the first village visited on a Cinque Terre day trip from Florence is Riomaggiore, which dates back to the early 13th century. The name Riomaggiore comes from the latin “Rivus Major,” and refers to the stream that still flows under the main street. The village grew under the Republic of Genoa, and it became known in Europe for the production of wine. It was beautifully isolated until the end of the 19th century, when the railway connecting Genoa and La Spezia was finally built.
What makes Riomaggiore famous and a must see during Cinque Terre tours is its historic character, as well as its wine. It’s quintessentially Italian: picture colorful houses perched one against the other, and narrow, cobbled alleys. It’s simply gorgeous.
One of the highlights of day trips from Florence to Cinque Terre is Manarola, with its tiny harbor and colorful buildings. Famous for its Sciacchetrà wine, celebrated by Italian poet, writer and revolutionary Gabriele D’Annunzio in his poems and now produced in the entire region, Manarola boasts brighthly painted houses, medieval relics and the incredible Punta Bonfiglio, from where to enjoy a breathtaking view.
Manarola is supposed to be the oldest of Cinque Terre villages, likely founded in Roman times – though the present settlement dates back to the 12th century. During a Cinque Terre day trip from Florence it is possible to explore the main square, where the Oratorio dei Disciplinati and the Church of San Lorenzo and its beautiful tower are located.
A proper day trip from Florence to Cinque Terre must include a visit to Monterosso, known as “the Pearl of Cinque Terre” and famous for its beautiful beaches and the thick vegetation that surrounds it. The village, the largest of the five and temporarily excluded from the Cinque Terre Trail in 1948 on allegations of being “too large,” is probably the least charming of the five.
Yet, Monterosso al Mare makes for an interesting visit even during a Cinque Terre day trip from Florence. Originally only accessed via a mule track that connected it to the other villages in Cinque Terre. Nowadays, it is divided in two parts: the old village; and Fegina, the modern one. These are connected by a tunnel.
During Cinque Terre tours that go to Monterosso, it is possible to visit the old village, where there are the remains of the old medieval fortifications (Fieschi Castle and Aurora Tower), as well as the Church of St. John the Baptist (dating to the late 13th century) and the Capuchin Monastery (which dates back to the 17th century).
Day trips from Florence to Cinque Terre also stop at Fegina, the new village, where there is a beautiful promenade and a nice beach where it is possible to go for a swim.
Finally, a good Cinque Terre day trip from Florence includes a boat ride from Monterosso to Vernazza.
The best way to end a day tour from Florence to Cinque Terre is by taking a boat to Vernazza (there’s no cars there except on Tuesdays, market day). This is a lovely village with a nice natural harbour, colorful houses and a piazzetta (small square). It is thought to be the prettiest of the Cinque Terre villages.
What makes Vernazza a must see during a Cinque Terre day trip from Florence is the incredible atmosphere. The village was first recorded in 1080, when it was called Castrum Vernation and it was used as a naval base. The area where it is located is scattered with fortifications built during Genoa’s rule, which can still be seen today. Furthermore, the surroundings are all terraced and used for the cultivation of olive trees (for oil) and grapes (for wine).
Among the things to see in Vernazza that can be enjoyed during a day tour from Florence to Cinque Terre, there’s Doria Castle, which was built in medieval times to protect the village from pirates; and the Church of Santa Margherita di Antiochia, built in 1318. The village is a maze of tiny alleys (called “caruggi”) lined with lovely cafés and craft shops, and a few wine bars.
Other Things To Do In Cinque Terre
A day trip from Florence to Cinque Terre certainly is a great and easy way to appreciate this gorgeous part of Italy. Needless to say, the area has a lot to offer and one could spend weeks exploring. So, here’s a few other things to enjoy in Cinque Terre.
Less visited compared to the other Cinque Terre villages and not inclued in a Cinque Terre day trip from Florence, Corniglia (whose name, according to legend, comes from Cornelia, the daugther of the Roman farmer who created the settlement) is the only one of the villages that is not directly located on the water. It is located on top of a 100 meters high promontory, and can be reached from the train station via the Lardarina, a brick stairway (though be ready, it is 382 steps!) or a shuttle bus.
What makes Corniglia special is a view point from where it is possible to admire the rest of the villages of Cinque Terre – it’s a real pity that it is not included in day tours from Florence, but a nice addition for those who can arrange a private tour.
What makes Cinque Terre a fabulous place to visit is the incredible hiking opportunities it offers – and which unfortunately can’t be fully enjoyed on day trips from Florence to Cinque Terre. The most famous hiking trail in Cinque Terre is Sentiero Azzurro (Blue Trail), a series of four individual paths that goes along the coast and connects all the villages.
The Sentiero Azzurro can be walked in around 6 hours. However, most people prefer walking one bit at a time, and just spend more time exploring the villages rather than just rushing through the trail.
Of the Sentiero Azzurro, the walk from Vernazza to Corniglia is one of the most difficult – hence the reason it is not included in a day trip from Florence to Cinque Terre. The path is quite steep in certain points, and there is a fair amount of climbing and descending. It takes about 2 hours to walk it.
The longest bit of the Sentiero Azzurro goes from Vernazza to Monterosso: there are lots of stairs and narrow passages, but the views are very rewarding. It is 3 km long and it takes around 2 hours to walk it.
One of the most famous hiking trails of Cinque Terre leaves from Riomaggiore and it is called Via dell’Amore. It’s a short and easy trail that offers stunning views and that can be easily walked even during a Cinque Terre day trip from Florence. However, the trail has been closed to allow some much needed renovation work after it’s been damaged by the floods in 2012.
Another hike that leaves from Riomaggiore and that can be enjoyed on day tours from Florence to Cinque Terre is the short (though uphill) hike to the Sanctuary of Montenero, from where there are gorgeous views of Punta Mesco and the Island of Tino.
A short and sweet walk that can even be enjoyed during Cinque Terre tours is in Vernazza, and goes to the Sanctuary of Nostra Signora di Reggio: the views of the bay along the way are stunning.
Go to the beach
Guided day trips that go from Florence to Cinque Terre typically include the possibility of going to the beach and for a swim. After all, the area is packed with lovely, small beaches and clear waters.
Riomaggiore has a small, lovely pebbly beach. Manarola is thought to have the best deep water swimming in the area. Monterosso has some lovely beaches, both in the new part of the village (Fegina), where there’s a beautiful sandy beach (where day tours from Florence to Cinque Terre typically stop) and in the old town.
Vernazza harbour proves to be a good place to soak in a bit of sun and enjoy a swim. There’s also a stony beach to the east of the village. Guvano beach, not far from Corniglia, is possibly the least crowded one, though a bit harder to reach so possibly not a good idea when on a Cinque Terre day trip from Florence.
Eat and drink
Food and wine are delicious all over Italy, and even during a day trip from Florence to Cinque Terre, one should simply not miss the opportunity to try some of the local specialties. The good news is that all villages have some lovely restaurants where to try typical food. Among the must tries there are:
- Monterosso anchovies;
- aa turta de risu – a salted rice cake;
- aa menestra de cian – a soup made with potatoes and herbs;
- musculi cin – a dish made of mussles which are stuffed with bread, eggs and parmesan;
- Torta dei Fieschi – a cake made with rice, eggs and cheese;
- Gelato al basilico – basil icecream;
- Sciacchetrà – a sweet white passito wine endemic of the region;
- Vernaccia di Corniglia – a white wine made with vernaccia grapes.
There’s more than meets the eye in Italy
As I have already said, Italy is best enjoyed a bit and a region at a time. Unfortunately most foreigners who visit Italy do the typical tour that includes Venice, Florence, Rome (by the way, those interested in visiting Rome and skipping a few lines should read this post), Naples and little more. And here’s a great itinerary for those spending 3 days in Florence.
Yet, there’s much more to see in Italy. Smaller cities like Bergamo deserve a visit. Sicily is a must, with all its volcanoes and smaller islands – Etna, first and foremost; but also Vulcano and Stromboli. And let me not even get started about the beauty of my very own Sardinia.
The good news is that now it is easier to explore some of the most beautiful places even when time is limited – hence why I recommend doing a day tour from Florence to Cinque Terre.
Legal Disclaimer: this post is written in cooperation with Ciao Florence.
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