12 best day trips from Milan

Joanne Owen

written by
Joanne Owen

updated 06.02.2024

In welcome news for travellers who want more from their city breaks, Milan offers easy access to a host of handsome destinations. Interest piqued? Read on to discover the 12 best day trips from Milan. From exploring some of Lombardy's lakes, and discovering Bologna’s gastronomic delights, to revelling in Verona’s romance, this rundown might just leave you longing to extend your trip.

1. Lake Como

1 hour from Milan by train

Surrounded by lush, green woodland, with shimmering waters to traverse on romantic boat trips, there’s a reason Lake Como is widely considered to be one of the loveliest Italian lakes.

On a day trip from Milan, your best bet is to focus on its southern area. Conveniently, Lake Como’s principal towns, Como and Lecco, are at the southernmost tips of their own branches of the lake — Ramo di Como and Ramo di Lecco. 

Lake Como, Italy

Lake Como, Italy — one of the best day trips from Milan © Shutterstock


Set around a small bay at the southernmost tip of the lake’s western fork, Como is an affluent, ancient town. Much of its wealth comes from outlying factories that produce luxury silk items for the fashion houses of Milan, Paris and New York.  

At the centre of the bay, lakeside Piazza Cavour is bounded by hotels. However, it takes only a few steps to find yourself among historic churches and atmospheric streets.

After wandering Como’s once-walled quarter, with pedestrianized cobbled lanes reflecting their Roman origins, visit the Duomo. With an enchanting mix of fairy-tale pinnacles, classical statues, and Renaissance tapestries, this is esteemed as Italy’s best example of Gothic-Renaissance fusion.

Next up, stroll the lakeside promenade that curls through a park to Villa Olmo, a Neoclassical pile with glorious (free) gardens. Then ride the funicular railway past nineteenth-century villas to Brunate. This small hilltop resort has plenty of places to eat and drink while you take in gorgeous views of the lake.

Como city cathedral and city skyline © Shutterstock

Como city cathedral and city skyline © Shutterstock


With the Grigne mountain range as a broodings backdrop, Lecco is at its most atmospheric in the morning, when mists shroud the lake.  

Love literature? Visit Villa Manzoni, the childhood home of Alessandro Manzoni, author of the great nineteenth-century Italian novel Promessi Sposi (“The Betrothed”). Today this houses the Museo Manzoniano, a local art gallery, and library. 

Another Lecco highlight is the lakefront Basilica, where you can climb the second highest bell tower in Italy for soul-stirring views of the city, lake and mountains

Lecco colorful square view, Como Lake, Lombardy region of Italy © Shutterstock

Lecco colorful square view, Como Lake, Lombardy region of Italy © Shutterstock

2. Lake Garda

1 hour from Milan by train

At 52km long and 17km wide, Lake Garda (Lago di Garda) is Italy’s largest lake. In fact, Lake Garda actually alters the local climate. As a result of a specific pattern of lake breezes, it’s milder here, and often sunnier than might be expected. 

Of all Italy’s lakes, Lake Garda also draws the most visitors, and comes recommended as one of the best day trips from Milan. Take your pick from these two beauties:


At the bottom of Lake Garda, the long, narrow promontory of Sirmione is lined with hotels leading up to a very pretty village that’s accessed through ancient castle walls.  

Sirmione’s picture-postcard charm owes much to the fairy-tale castle at its entrance. Built when the Della Scala/Scaligeri family of Verona expanded and fortified their territory in the thirteenth century, the Rocca Scaligera is almost entirely surrounded by water.  

At the far end of the promontory, a mere fifteen-minute stroll from the castle, you’ll find the remains of a first-century BC/AD Roman villa — the Grotte di Catullo. Scattered among ancient olive trees, the ruins offer superb views across the lake.  

Partway along the route to the Roman ruins, a path heads to a shingle beach, the Lido delle Bionde. Here you can eat, drink, swim in the lake, or sunbathe on the pontoon.

 Sirmione, popular travel destination on Lake Garda in Italy © Shutterstock

Sirmione, popular travel destination on Lake Garda in Italy © Shutterstock

Desenzano del Garda

At Garda’s southwest extremity, Desenzano is a good access point to the lake, and is also within easy reach of Milan. Its attractive waterfront squares – Piazza Malvezzi and Piazza Matteotti – are lined with bars and restaurants. 

Nearby, the Roman villa on Via Crocifisso boasts marvellous mosaics, while the castle looming over town offers spectacular views.

Love the sound of the lakes? You'll fall head over heels in love with our customisable Enchanting Italian Lakes itinerary. You'd also do well to get The Rough Guide to the Italian Lakes.

Porto Vecchio in Desenzano del Garda, Italy © Shutterstock

Porto Vecchio in Desenzano del Garda, Italy © Shutterstock

3. Pavia

45-minutes from Milan by train

For some respite from Milan’s bustle, head to the small, ancient city of Pavia. Here architectural wonders are served with fine wine, best enjoyed along the banks of the winding Ticino River. 

The main reason people are pulled to the Pavia area is to visit the Certosa di Pavia (Charterhouse of Pavia). Set among the rice fields around 40km south of Milan, this is one of the most extravagant monasteries in Europe. Commissioned in 1396 by the Duke of Milan as the family mausoleum, it took a century to build.

As a work of art, the Certosa di Pavia is one of the most important testimonies to the transformation from late-Gothic to Renaissance and Mannerist styles. However, Pavia also boasts a range of Romanesque and Gothic churches, and a plethora of pretty places to eat.

Aerial View Pavia, Italy Certosa di Pavia © Shutterstock

Aerial view of Pavia, Italy - Certosa di Pavia © Shutterstock

4. Cremona

1 hour from Milan by train

Mad about music? Cremona is definitely one of the best day trips from Milan! 

A cosy provincial town in the middle of the Po plain, Cremona is famed for its violins. Andrea Amati established the first violin workshop here in 1566, followed by his son, grandson, and pupils Guarneri and Antonio Stradivari. 

Today the city is home to an internationally esteemed school of violin making, and the fascinating Museo del Violino. Add to that some fine Renaissance and medieval buildings, the splendid Piazza del Comune and Duomo, plus plenty of scenic spots to sip wine and people watch, and your day trip from Milan will amount to a richly rewarding experience.

Cremona panorama © Shutterstock

Cremona panorama © Shutterstock

5. Genoa

2 hours from Milan by train. Fast train: 1h 27m

Exhilaratingly eclectic, “La Superba” — as Genoa was known at the height of its powers — exudes undeniable vibrancy and intrigue. As such, it’s one of our favourite day trips from Milan. 

Stretching behind the revitalised old port, Genoa’s old town is an alluring labyrinth of medieval alleyways. Here you’ll find food shops tucked housed in former palaces, carpenters’ workshops jammed between designer furniture outlets, and no shortage of charming places to sample local seafood.  

Aside from soaking up the city’s cosmopolitan buzz, don’t miss the Cattedrale di San Lorenzo, the Palazzo Ducale, and the Renaissance palaces of Via Garibaldi, which contain the best of Genoa’s art collections. 

If it’s art you’re after, you’ll also want to visit the Gesù. Located on the corner of Piazza de Ferrari and Piazza Matteotti, this was designed by Pellegrino Tibaldi at the end of the sixteenth century. Today it houses a marvel of marble and gilt stucco and some fine Baroque paintings. Higlhights include Guido Reni’s Assumption, and two works by Rubens — The Miracles of St Ignatius, and The Circumcision.


Genoa's old town © Shutterstock

6. Turin

45-minutes from Milan by train

Turin is the perfect place to devour hearty, rich Piemonte cooking at its finest. Given that it is a top destination for foodies, visiting this heritage-rich city might just turn out to be your favourite day trip from Milan.  

Chocolate production in Turin began more than 500 years ago. As a mark of the city’s chocolate credentials, even Swiss chocolatiers train here. It is also worth metioning that Turin’s Pepino gelataria claims to have created the first choco ice, with them patenting their “pinguino” in Turin in 1939. In other firsts for Turin, the city created Vermouth back 1786, and also claims to have invented the Italy-wide tradition of aperitivo.     

With Baroque avenues, opulent palaces and splendid art, Turin also has plenty to keep culture vultures happy. Don’t miss visiting the incredible Egyptian Museum and Royal Palace. While the museum is second only to Cairo’s Egyptian museum, the Royal Palace was the most opulent residence of Italy's House of Savoy royal family. 

Rough Guides tip: Food figure high as a travel priority? Browse our customisable Wine and Food in Tuscany trip, or talk to our local Italy experts to curate your perfect food-focussed experience.


Turin, Italy © Shutterstock

7. Verona

1 hour 15 minutes from Milan by train

Famed for being the home of Romeo and Juliet, Verona is a romantic gem. Think pink-hued medieval buildings, ancient bridges crossing the broad curves of the Adige River, and more pretty piazzas and palazzos than you can wave an opera glove at. On that subject, visit in August for Verona's world-famous opera festival. 

With a bounty of Roman attractions, and historic sites that are only second in number to Venice, unlike Venice, Verona is never overwhelmed by tourists. In addition, despite being the largest city of the mainland Veneto, Verona invites easy immersion. With cars and buses prohibited from many squares and medieval lanes in its historic centre, it’s a place to amble at leisure. 

Don’t miss the remarkable Roman amphitheatre, red-and-white-striped Duomo, 14th-century Arche Scaligere market, Palazzo della Ragione and Piazza dei Signori.  

If you’ve been drawn by the city’s Shakespearean connections, the Casa di Giulietta is the foremost of Verona’s Romeo and Juliet attractions. You can also visit “Romeo’s house”, a private dwelling at Via Arche Scaligere 4, and the Tomba di Giulietta, in the southeast of the city.


Verona © Shutterstock

8. Bologna

1 hour from Milan by train

As with Turin, if you love your grub, bella Bologna is one of the best day trips from Milan. Capital of Emilia-Romagna, Bologna’s restaurants are said to be the best in Italy. It’s not for nothing that the city is known as La Grassa — “The Fat One”. 

To start getting stuck into Bologna’s cuisine, head to the Mercato di Mezzo, where you can buy fresh salads, calamari, platters of ham and cheese, plus wine and beer. We also recommend taking a food-themed walking tour of the city to sample the region’s incredible cheese, tortellini and mortadella. 

Once you’ve had your fill, meander the city’s impossibly pretty medieval streets and the grand central square of Piazza Maggiore. An attractive mass of red brick buildings and balconies, Piazza Maggiore is also a magnificent place to drink decadent hot chocolate while watching the world go by.

Home to Europe’s first university, Bologna boasts museums and galleries galore. Top of the tree sits the Museo Civici d’Arte Antica, which is home to the Collezioni Comunali d’Arte, the Museo Davia Bargellini, and the Museo Civico Medievale.


Piazza Maggiore, Bologna, Italy © Shutterstock

9. Lake Maggiore 

1 hour by train to Stresa by train, plus a 20-minute ferry to the Borromean Islands

Characterised by crystalline, blue waters, and surrounded by green hills, with palms and oleanders lining the lakeside promenades, Lake Maggiore has a marvellously serene air. At 66km, it’s also Italy’s longest lake. 

Most day-trippers from Milan take the high-speed train to the genteel, sleepy scenic resort town of Stresa. From here, the glorious gardens and villas of the Borromean islands — Bella, Madre and Pescatore — are within easy reach via a 20-minute ferry ride. 

Famed for being a favourite haunt of Ernest Hemingway, this trio of beauties are known for their palatial villas, lush parks, and vibrant endemic flora. Romantics will be especially bowled over by Isola Bella. As well as exploring its sumptuous Baroque gardens, don't miss the island’s opulent palazzo. This boasts a banqueting hall, ballroom and throne room, with mirror- and shell-encrusted grottoes down at water level.

Elegant, charming and out-of-this-world enchanting, it’s fair to say that visiting Lake Maggiore makes for an unforgettable day trip from Milan.

Isola Bella is one of the Borromean Islands of Lago Maggiore © Shutterstock

Isola Bella is one of the Borromean Islands of Lago Maggiore © Shutterstock

10. Lugano

1.5 hours by train from Milan

Located in the Swiss canton of Ticino, taking a day trip from Milan to Lugano can't come more highly recommended. And the reason? With its compact cluster of Italianate piazzas and tree-lined promenades, Lugano is the most alluring of Ticino’s lake resorts. Which is really saying something. 

Basking on a south-facing bay of Lake Lugano, the city is framed by wooded hills that rise sheer from the water. Less famous than its Italian near-neighbour Como, Lugano is smaller, sassier and even more stylish. 

From its old alleys and winding lanes, to its up-market delicatessens, boutiques, and villa-style hotels, Lugano invites visitors to enjoy the good life. It's also a place to explore churches and galleries, and indulge in strolls under lakeside palms.  

For breath-taking views, take a two-stage funicular to Monte Brè from Cassarate — ten minutes’ walk east of the centre of Lugano. Rising directly above the city to a height of 660m, the vista from the summit showcases the lake and surrounding mountains in all their jaw-dropping glory.


Lugano, Switzerland © Shutterstock

11. Bergamo

1 hour by train from Milan. 45-minute fast trains also available

50km northeast of Milan, Bergamo looks and feels much closer to the mountains. As such, to mix up your experience, it’s the perfect place to head to on a day trip from Milan. 

A real beauty, Bergamo owes much of its magic to the Venetians, who ruled the town for over 350 years. They gave the city its ring of gated walls. You’ll also see facades and open spaces adorned with the Venetian lion. 

Another unique element of Bergamo is the way it comprises two distinct parts — Bergamo Bassa, the lower town, city centre on the plain, and medieval Bergamo Alta, 100m above. With charming medieval cobbled quarters rubbing shoulders with late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century buildings, Bergamo Bassa is an architectural delight. 

Meanwhile, Bergamo Alta, the upper town, is one of northern Italy’s loveliest urban centres. Attractive and easy-going, in appearance Bergamo Alta remains pretty much as it was in the Middle Ages. The main public spaces – Piazza Vecchia and Piazza del Duomo – combine medieval austerity with the elegance of later Renaissance design.


Bergamo, Italy © Shutterstock

12. Brescia

36 minutes from Milan by train

Boasting a scenic backdrop of vine-covered hills, wealthy Brescia has much to offer travellers who love the allure of ancient attractions, art and contemporary verve. 

Overlooked by its Castello, which has been perched on a hill overlook town since the fifteenth century, Brescia boasts Roman remains, Renaissance squares and a magnificent medieval centre. Here you’ll find the marvellous Santa Giulia museum complex.  

Visit the Castello to see one of the most extensive collections of arms and weaponry in Europe, or visit in May for Brescia’s legendary Mille Miglia car race. This sees hundreds of stunning classic cars set off from the city centre to Rome. 

Into art? Housed in a historic sixteenth century building, the Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo has been the home of Brecia’s impressive art collection since 1908. The exhibition kicks off with works from the fourteenth century, followed by Raphael’s Christ Blessing and Angel, before moving to sixteenth century Brescian paintings.

Meanwhile, the Parco Archeologico di Brescia Romana reveals the remarkably well-preserved Roman ruins of ancient Brixia. Built in the first century, the Santuario Repubblicano here showcases wall paintings that are the only surviving monumental example of Republican Roman painting in northern Italy.


Brescia, Italy © Shutterstock

For more inspiration, browse our customisable Italy itineraries, or talk to our local Italy experts.

Joanne Owen

written by
Joanne Owen

updated 06.02.2024

Joanne is a Pembrokeshire-born writer with a passion for the nature, cultures and histories of the Caribbean region, especially Dominica. Also passionate about inspiring a love of adventure in young people, she’s the author of several books for children and young adults, hosts international writing workshops, and has written articles on the Caribbean and inspirational community initiatives for Rough Guides. Follow her @JoanneOwen on Twitter and @joanneowenwrites on Instagram.

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