Whether you like small charming towns, the lakes, the mountains or art cities, there are many beautiful day trips from Milan you can choose from.
Best known as one of the Fashion Capitals in the world and often overlooked, there are plenty of things to do in Milan. Furthermore, the city is a perfect gateway to explore enchanting spots within easy reach. One of the reasons I like living in Milan is being near to almost everything. It takes about one hour to go from Milan to Lake Como, in a couple of hours you can get to the Alps, and by high-speed train, Florence is less than two hours away. That’s reason enough to add Milan to your Italy travel bucket list.
Over the last few years, I’ve been exploring more and more my own backyard. The result is that I’m increasingly stunned by how many amazing places there are near Milan.
Beautiful day trips from Milan you shouldn’t miss
I willingly picked up gorgeous places you can easily reach from Milan by train so that you won’t need a car. There’s no better way to spoil holidays than traffic, and the stress to find a parking place. In some cases, a day tour from Milan is the best and easiest way to discover beautiful spots.
Actually, when planning your Trip, you may want to know about the best areas to stay in Milan. Choosing the right neighborhood to visit the city and also being conveniently locate to experience day trips from Milan can mke a substantial difference.
Mesmerizing Lake Como
Lake Como has been a favorite tourist destination for centuries. George Clooney may well have sparked the interest towards one of the most beautiful lakes in Italy. However, many other celebrities chose this corner of paradise before him.
There are so many gorgeous places that I never get tired of Lake Como, and every time I try to explore something new. However, if you only have time to visit Lake Como as a day trip from Milan, here are some of Lake Como towns and attractions that are a must.
Except in Winter, Bellagio is overflowing with tourists, especially from the United States, but the town is so picturesque that it’s almost impossible to skip it. Stroll along the pretty cobblestone alleys and look at the quaint shops. To get away from the crowds, I recommend you walk toward the town of San Giovanni and on the way back stop and visit the stunning Villa Melzi.
A charming town on the Lecco arm, Varenna is another beautiful spot you shouldn’t miss. Furthermore, it’s very convenient to take the boat to Bellagio. You’ll love the colorful houses overlooking the tiny harbor, and if you have enough time I recommend you visit the gardens of Villa Monastero.
For breathtaking views of Lake Como, walk the steep road up to the Vezio Castle. The ruins are actually lovely, but most of all you’ll be rewarded with awe-inspiring scenery. The hike uphill takes about 20-30 minutes but believe me; it’s worth the effort.
A Boat trip
You should absolutely take a boat trip on Lake Como to admire the stunning villas and take in the dramatic beauty of the mountains dropping steeply to the lake. Although Como is usually the most common starting point, you can also board at other towns along the lake.
Lake Como Villas
George Clooney aside, Lake Como has been known for its magnificent villas for a long time, and some of them were also the setting for famous films. George Lucas chose Villa del Balbianello for Star Wars II – Attack of the Clones. In the 60s, Luchino Visconti filmed part of Rocco and his Brothers in Bellagio. And some scenes of James Bond Casino Royale took place at Villa del Balbianello and Villa La Gaeta. Last but not least, Ocean’s Twelve is partly set in two famous villas: Villa Erba and Villa Oleandra. This latter is the mansion George Clooney bought on Lake Como.
There are so many villas on Lake Como that to visit them all, you would need to spend days. However, on a day trip from Milan, you’ll likely have time for only one or two. The most famous are Villa Serbelloni, Villa Melzi, and Villa d’Este, but there are indeed many more. If you need help to make up your mind, why not buying a book?
Italian Gardens of Lake Como is a beautiful photography book that will undoubtedly inspire you. Travel guides are always useful, thus have a look at Lonely Planet Italian Lakes and the Rough Guide to Italian Lakes.
How to plan a day trip to Lake Como from Milan
Here’s a selection of guided day tours from Milan to Lake Como:
♦ Lake Como, Bellagio, and Varenna: A full-day excursion to Lake Como, Bellagio, and Varenna, including the bus from Milan and boat and a ferry ride on the lake.
♦ Lake Como and Bellagio Day Trip: Enjoy Lake Como, stroll in Como with a guide, take a cruise to Bellagio in summer tour and the funicular to Brunate in winter.
♦ Lake Como: Classic Tour and Cruise to Bellagio for max 7 participants. If you prefer small groups and something more exclusive, this day trip for a maximum of seven participants might be the right choice. You’ll get to discover Como, Varenna, and Bellagio (including private boat and ferry).
♦ Lake Como Day Trip from Milan: Varenna, Bellagio, and Tremezzo. A day trip from Milan to Lake Como by train and boat. You’ll discover Varenna, hop on a boat and cruise over to Bellagio. Afterward, you’ll hop on another ferry to charming Tremezzo and visit Villa Carlotta.
♦ Lake Como, Bellagio, and Lugano. Discover both northern Italy and southern Switzerland on a day trip from Milan, including a boat cruise on Lake Como.
♦ Lake Como and Valtellina Valley Small-Group Tour from Milan. Discover Lake Como and the beautiful, off the beaten track Valtellina valley.
How to travel from Milan to Lake Como on an independent day trip
How to get to Lake Como from Milan: Frequent trains connect Milan to Como. Depending on where you stay in Milan, you can leave from Milano Centrale Station or Milano Cadorna. The journey is about one hour. Check the timetables and buy your tickets.
A fun way to visit Lake Como is taking a 3-hours tour with electric bikes, equipped with an i-pad mini and Bluetooth headphones.
Tip: The easiest way to visit Bellagio and Varenna is to take a round trip. Milan -> Train to Como -> Boat to Bellagio -> Boat to Varenna -> Train to Milan (or the other way round).
Check here the timetables of the ferries sailing Lake Como to plan your day trip from Milan to Lake Como.
Lake Garda, a gem to discover
Lake Garda has been a favorite destination for Germans since long ago, but to tourists from the UK and the USA, it is lesser-known than Lake Como. The truth is that Lake Garda is every bit as beautiful, even without… George Clooney (who, by the way, is not easy to spot when he stays at his villa on Lake Como).
Sirmione is considered a gem of Lake’ Garda’s southern shore, whose beauty was appreciated by writers, poets, and artists like Goethe, Stendhal, Lord Byron, D.H. Lawrence, Gustav Klimt, Maria Callas.
Picturesque and romantic, Sirmione seems far away from the hustle-bustle of Milan. Visit the famous Scaliger Castle, dating back to the 13th Century. Admire the Catullo’s Caves, the remains of a Roman Villa overlooking the lake’s blue water. Get lost in the alleys lined with colorful houses. Finally, indulge yourself at one of the alfresco cafés and chill out in this enchanting spot of Lombardy.
Tip: If possible, avoid the weekend when Sirmione is jam-packed with tourists.
How to plan a day trip to Lake Garda from Milan
Here’s a selection of guided day tours from Milan to Lake Garda:
♦ Full-Day Coach Trip to Verona and Lake Garda. Have a walking tour of Verona, visit Sirmione and Desenzano, and enjoy a private boat cruise on Lake Garda
♦ Verona & Lake Garda Day Trip from Milan: Discover Desenzano and Sirmione with an expert guide.
♦ Verona and Lake Garda Day Trip from Milan with Hotel Pickup. See Juliet’s House in Verona and learn about the Arena, the famous amphitheater. Discover romantic Sirmione.
How to travel from Milan to Lake Garda on an independent day trip
How to get to Sirmione from Milan: Frequent trains connect Milano Centrale to Desenzano-Sirmione (Frecciabianca 1h, Regional 1h 25min). Check the timetables and buy your tickets. From Desenzano, you can reach Sirmione either by bus or by boat (about 20 min for both).
Even if you travel independently to Lake Garda, you can’t miss a boat tour. Here are a few pleasant excursions:
♦ Sirmione: Peninsular and Lake Garda Boat Tour
♦ Lake Garda: 2-Hour Guided Trike Tour. A funny and unusual way to discover the area.
♦ Lake Garda: 4-Hour Boat Cruise to Isola del Garda & Salò. Discover some of the most enchanting spots in northern Italy.
♦ Sirmione: Scaliger Castle and Grottoes of Catullus Tour.
A Scenic Train Journey to Switzerland and the Alps
Milan is close to the Switzerland border and the mountains. Therefore, although the trip is quite long, you can discover the Swiss Alps on a day trip from Milan, and experience one of the most scenic train rides in Europe.
Although you could hire a car and drive, I strongly recommend you take the Bernina train from Tirano to St. Moritz, one of the best mountain resorts in Switzerland. You’ll be off to an unforgettable train journey, amid a breathtaking landscape.
How to plan a day trip on the Bernina Express
Here are some fantastic day tours from Milan to the Swiss Alps:
♦ Bernina & St.Moritz Day Tour from Milan. Travel by GT coach to Tirano and then board the panoramic train and ride the steepest railway in the world.
♦ Swiss Alps Bernina Express Rail Tour from Milan with Hotel Pick Up.
♦ Bernina scenic train and Lake Como. If you’re short on time and want to discover both Lake Como and the Swiss Alps, you may want to look at this tour. It sure will be rushed, but at least it’ll allow to enjoy these beautiful areas briefly.
Bergamo, the medieval town on the hill
The charming city of Bergamo is one of the most unforgettable day trips from Milan if you want to visit a stunning and romantic medieval city.
Bergamo old town is is perched atop a hill and one of the most enchanting spots in the Lombardy region. Although often overlooked, Bergamo is an easy day trip from Milan, and it’s hard not to fall in love with this charming town.
A cable car (or, if you like to walk, a beautiful footpath) connects the lower city to the historical center, a medieval town surrounded by walls built in the 16th Century. Cobblestone streets flanked by old buildings and elegant shops lead to the city’s main attractions: the old square (Piazza Vecchia), Palazzo della Ragione, the former town hall now a museum, the Colleoni chapel, a magnificent Renaissance building beautifully decorated, the Citadel square (Piazza della Cittadella), with the medieval tower and the Visconti Palace.
Tip: Bergamo is a popular spot for weekend excursions so better avoid Saturday and Sunday if you wish to beat the crowds.
How to plan a day trip to Bergamo
Bergamo guided tours from Milan
♦ Bergamo Upper Town Day Trip from Milan. A full day trip to discover the best in the city.
♦ If you only have little time, you can also have a half-day tour from Milan to Bergamo. It will be short, though.
How to travel from Milan to Bergamo on an independent day trip
How to get from Milan to Bergamo: Regional trains connect Milano Centrale to Bergamo every hour (journey 50-55min). Check the timetables and buy your tickets.
Even if you get to Bergamo independently, you might be willing to take a Private Old Town Walking Tour w/ a Guide.
Another fun way to discover Bergamo is the 3-hour e-bike tour.
Genoa: Stunning city on the sea
If you’re keen to breathe the sea, don’t miss an excursion to Genoa. Indeed, Genoa is an easy day trip from Milan if you want to explore a lesser-known and beautiful city in northern Italy.
First of all, stroll in the picturesque narrow alleys (caruggi) near the harbor (be careful with your belonging, though). Then, take a tour of the Palazzi dei Rolli, the magnificent palaces showing the city’s past splendors and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Enjoy Boccadasse, the old fishermen’s’ neighborhood with its typical colored houses nestled on a cove.
Don’t miss to taste the local food specialties like focaccia (a flatbread baked in the oven), trenette or trofie with pesto sauce, or cima alla Genovese (veal meat filled with vegetables).
If you leave early enough from Milan, you should head a little further along the coast to visit one of the charming seaside villages. Portofino, Santa Margherita Ligure, and Camogli are not far away.
Tip: Genoa offers many attractions for families, including the Aquarium (the largest in Europe), the Città dei Bambini, an interactive museum for kids between 2 and 14.
How to plan a day trip to Genoa
Genoa guided tours from Milan
♦ Genoa and Portofino Full Day. Discover some of the best sights of Genoa and enjoy a boat tour to Portofino and Santa Margherita Ligure. These two colorful towns are among the most beautiful on the Ligurian coast and very popular in summer.
How to travel from Milan to Genoa on an independent day trip
Hot to get to Genoa from Milan: Frequent trains connect Milano Centrale to Genoa (Intercity/Frecciabianca 1h 30min, Regional 1h 50min). Then, from Desenzano, you can reach Sirmione either by bus or by boat (about 20 min for both). Check the timetables and buy your tickets.
Genoa can be intimidating for first-time visitors. Therefore, a 2-hour guided visit of Genoa historical center is a good introduction. After that, you can go and explore the rest by yourself!
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Original article: Beautiful Day Trips from Milan You Shouldn’t Miss
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