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.
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 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 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 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.
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!
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 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.
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, 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.
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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