While there are plenty of beautiful Italian cities to put on your Italy itinerary, Milan is definitely one you do not want to miss. Found in the north of Italy, Milan is both a trip in itself as well as a great jumping off point for a trip through the country. And though there are plenty of things to do in Milan, there is also a great deal to see surrounding the city making for a number of wonderful day trips.
With a spare day or two in your Milan itinerary, and this list as your guide, you’ll have no problem finding things to see in Italy outside of Milan, as well as one or two places beyond Italy’s borders. Here are some of the best day trips from Milan to get you started.
1. Lake Como
When it comes to Milan day trips, one of the most obvious and common is a journey to Lake Como. Located north of Milan, most visits to Lake Como start with the town of Como itself. Walking through the narrow town streets you’ll soon come to the elegant and inviting waterfront of Como. Walking in one direction you’ll come to the lovely gardens of Villa Olmo while the other way will take you to the Brunate funicular, at the top of which you’ll find a stunning panoramic terrace. Other towns along the shores of Lake Como not to be missed include Bellagio, Griante, and Varenna. Of course the best thing to do in Lake Como is to take a boat ride out on the beautiful blue waters of the lake.
Getting there: While it’s possible to reach the town of Como from Milan in 40 minutes by train, to really see more of Lake Como you’ll want to take a guided tour around the lake’s attractions.
One of the closest destinations to Milan in Lombardy is the small city of Bergamo. Not only is it easy to visit from Milan, but Bergamo also intrigues visitors thanks to its historic and modern districts which are divided by old Venetian walls. Begin your time here with the Duomo di Bergamo, and its equally impressive religious neighbors the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore and Cappella Colleoni. A short walk around the corner will take you into Piazza Vecchia, the heart of Bergamo. Be sure to climb up the Torre Civica bell tower which connects two majestic palaces and provides superb city views. Otherwise, Bergamo is the kind of place where it’s nice to wander cobblestone alleys and explore the medieval fortifications which run around the city.
Getting there: Just a short trip from Milan, Bergamo is only a 50 minute train ride from the city, with hourly connections. Another way to get to Bergamo is on a day tour from Milan.
A fascinating city to visit in northern Italy and also one of the easy train trips from Milan is Bologna. Your ideal starting point there is in the atmospheric central square of Piazza Maggiore, many important landmarks such as the Fountain of Neptune and Palazzo Re Enzo are found there. Spend a moment to also visit the Basilica di San Petronio and see the view from its rooftop. Next, walk through Bologna’s trademark portico arcades along Via Rizzoli to the gorgeous Palazzo della Mercanzia and the medieval Two Towers which have become symbols of Bologna. The oldest Western university in the world also lies in Bologna, with one of the most important buildings being the Archiginnasio of Bologna.
Getting there: The simplest way to reach Bologna from Milan is to take the hourly train between the cities which takes an hour.
Simply one of the best places to visit in Italy, the city of Florence is best seen over several days, but in a pinch can be visited in one. This Renaissance city is loaded with culture and history, and the Piazza del Duomo is a great place to see that. The artwork inside both the Cathedral and Baptistery on the square is inspiring, as are the superb views of Florence from the top of the Duomo and Campanile bell tower. Taking a meandering wander through the city, your next stop is the gallery of statues in the Loggia dei Lanzi and Palazzo Vecchio on Piazza della Signoria, another important city square. If you have time, be sure to see the world-class art inside the Uffizi or the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze art gallery. A short walk brings you to the Arno river and its signature picture postcard Ponte Vecchio bridge.
Getting there: Reaching Florence from Milan is quite straightforward by train, with the trip taking 1 hour 40 minutes. Trains depart every hour.
For a change of pace from bustling Milan, consider a trip south to peaceful Pavia. Start your time in this relaxed city with the customary visit to the Pavia Cathedral. Next, take a stroll through the beautiful Cupola Arnaboldi arcade and gradually make your way down to the covered Ponte Coperto on the Ticino River. Coming back to the city center, you’ll find the University of Pavia which dates back to 1361, so there’s plenty to learn about in its dedicated University History Museum. Just nearby sits the Civic Museum which is full of historic artifacts and artwork and is located inside the medieval Castello Visconteo. One last sight worth catching on your way back to Milan is the Certosa di Pavia, a striking monastery complex outside the city.
Getting there: Travel from Milan to Pavia is best done either by bus or by train. Both have hourly connections which take roughly 40 minutes.
6. Lake Maggiore
Another magical lake which you’ll want to visit from Milan is the mighty impressive Lake Maggiore. One of the best places to visit from Milan, many visits to Maggiore start with the resort town of Stresa, where you can enjoy the lovely scenery by its lakefront. The highlight of Lake Maggiore is a boat cruise to see the Borromean Islands, a group of three idyllic islands just off shore from Stresa. Stroll through the ultra-scenic botanical gardens of Isola Madre and see the grandeur of Palazzo Borromeo on Isola Bella. Back in Stresa, don’t miss a chance to see Lake Maggiore from above by taking a cable car up to the summit of Mount Mottarone.
Getting there: To reach Stresa from Milan, simply take one of the regular hour-long train rides to the lakeside town. To have all the transport and boat rides handled for you, consider taking an organized tour of Lake Maggiore.
A place like no other, spending only a day in Venice isn’t the ideal way to see this fantastic destination, but if it’s your only chance then it’s worth it. Over on Italy’s east coast, Venice is a city of islands and canals. Once you’ve reached the city, take a ferry along the Grand Canal down to the magnificent Ponte Rialto. After admiring this romantic bridge and the rest of the incredible waterfront, venture into the maze of small streets and canals which twist their way through the center of Venice. Your next stop should eventually be the famed and busy St Mark’s Square with all of the iconic sights that call it home. On this square alone you get to admire the details of St Mark’s Clocktower, the interior of Saint Mark’s Basilica, the views from St. Mark’s Campanile, and the architecture of the Doge’s Palace. End your day with the obligatory gondola ride along the city’s network of canals, marveling at the city as you go.
Getting there: Twice an hour trains depart for Venice from Milan, with the journey taking roughly 2 hours 30 minutes. A better way to get to Venice is on a guided tour from Milan.
Not all the best side trips from Milan are to cities or lakes, as proven by Franciacorta wine country. Lying in the hills south of Lake Iseo, Franciacorta has long been an ideal area for growing grapes and many wineries now call the district home. With a relaxing visit to this slice of Italy, you can tour various boutique vineyards to learn more about the local winemaking techniques and sample local wines as you go. Franciacorta is also home to the Franciacorta Outlet Village which is a perfect spot to do some shopping without Milan’s lofty price tags.
Getting there: Visiting wineries is generally easier and more fun as part of a wine tour, with tours to Franciacorta typically combining wine-tasting with some shopping for a pleasant day out.
Often overlooked for other major cities in northern Italy, Verona is the perfect size for a day trip. Start your sightseeing here with the enormous Verona Arena, an impressive amphitheatre that has survived since the days of Ancient Rome. From there seek out a later historical addition, the striking medieval castle of Castelvecchio. In addition to exploring the castle’s fortifications, make sure you see the Castelvecchio Bridge which grants you nice views of the Adige Riverfront. In the heart of Old Town you’ll find Piazza dei Signori and nearby sights like the Scaliger Tombs and lofty Torre dei Lamberti. To many, Verona is best known as the setting of Romeo and Juliet, and most visitors make sure to at least briefly see the balcony of the Juliet House, said to be an inspiration for Shakespeare’s story.
Getting there: Verona is easy to reach from Milan, thanks to frequent trains which make the 1 hour 20 minute journey. However, If you’d like to combine Verona with other destinations like Lake Garda, you’re better off taking a guided tour.
10. Lake Garda
On a day trip to Lake Garda, you can tailor your visit around the activities which most interest you. For a day of fun and relaxation, consider having some family fun at Gardaland Amusement Park. If experiencing the beauty of the lake and its history is more your speed, then the towns of Desenzano and Sirmione will be your best bet. You’ll want to visit Desenzano for its castle and the Roman Villa, while Sirmione is fascinating because of the long narrow peninsula which it sits on. In Sirmione you can’t miss Scaligero Castle or the Archaeological site of Grotte di Catullo.
Getting there: To see this side of Lake Garda, first take a regular hour-long train from Milan to Desenzano. You can then get between Desenzano and Sirmione either by local bus or ferry.
11. Cinque Terre
To see some of Italy’s most beautiful coastline, a trip to Cinque Terre from Milan is in order. Stretched along the coast of the Liguria region, this national park surrounds the five villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. Each seaside village lying along this coastline boasts its own distinct scenery, from quaint harbors to terraced vineyards to inviting beaches. The one thing these villages have in common is the charming look of their colorful traditional houses nestled along the dramatic rocky coast. To get the best views of each village in Cinque Terre, you’ll want to follow the hiking trails that connect the five villages. For more on what there is to do there, be sure to see our guide to Cinque Terre.
Getting there: The distance from Milan to Cinque Terre makes the journey by public transport less than desirable. No wonder then, that Cinque Terre is one of the most popular day tours from Milan, with an organized tour all of the logistics of getting about are handled for you.
One coastal gem that’s hard to say no to visiting from Milan is the exquisite seaside town of Portofino. Down on the Italian Riviera, this harbor town in Liguria is picture perfect. Even though there’s plenty to see in this little town, you won’t quite realize just how small Portofino is until you’re standing down by its waterfront. After walking through its streets, lined with pastel colored houses, it’s time to admire the yachts in the marina. If you’ve ever wondered how the other half live, the luxury yachts in Portofino should give you some idea. Next, walk out onto the peninsula to see Castello Brown and the local lighthouse, then turn back towards the village for the best view of Portofino.
Getting there: The easiest way to reach Portofino from Milan is to take a group tour. They’ll drive you there and likely also show you nearby Genoa. Otherwise, it’s a 2 hour train ride to Santa Margherita Ligure and then a 20 minute local bus ride to reach Portofino by public transport.
Normally mistaken as more of a business and industrial city, those who choose to visit Turin won’t be disappointed by the city’s attractions. Start your visit in the Piazza San Carlo and follow the grand arcades up to the city’s main square of Piazza Castello. It’s here that you have your pick of major cultural institutions to visit. The Madama Palace right on the square is home to artwork and antiquities, while next door sits the incredible Royal Armoury and Palace of Turin. The city’s Egyptian Museum is also not to be missed, with one of the largest collections of Egyptian artifacts in the world. Finally, to get some stellar views of Turin and the distant mountains, be sure to head up the Mole Antonelliana tower.
Getting there: Getting from Milan to Turin is very straightforward with hourly trains making the journey in around 50 minutes.
14. St. Moritz, Switzerland
Switzerland really isn’t far from Milan and one of the best places to visit there is the mountain resort town of St. Moritz. Up in the Swiss Alps, St. Moritz is likely the kind of place you picture when you think of the Alps, sitting by a lake with snowy mountains all around. But as nice as it is to explore the town, your trip there will be just as exciting and memorable. The Bernina Express is a special panoramic train which runs from the Swiss border up through the mountains and past glaciers to bring you to St. Moritz. Thanks to its long curved windows, you’ll be able to see all of the alpine scenery you pass through, including meadows, forests, and rugged mountain rocks. If you’re after something really different from Milan, this is the trip for you.
Getting there: Organizing the transport connections to ensure you get on the Bernina Express and reach St. Moritz can be tricky, so it’s best to do this day trip with a guided tour. This way you can just sit back and enjoy the wonderful scenery.
You don’t always have to travel far from Milan to find somewhere interesting, as proven by the town of Vigevano. The most logical place to begin in Vigevano is with the large Piazza Ducale and the exquisite arcades which run down its sides. At one end of the square lies the Vigevano Cathedral and its subdued architectural style. Also found off the square is the Palazzo Ducale Vigevano and the Torre del Bramante tower, but more importantly the Visconti-Sforza Castle. This 14th to 15th century castle was built for the lords and dukes of Milan and is now used as the Vigevano City Museum. Another museum to visit in town is the Leonardiana, completely dedicated to the life and work of Leonardo da Vinci.
Getting there: Only half an hour from Milan by train, Vigevano is easily reached thanks to hourly train departures.
Those are many of the best places in Italy that you can reach on a day trip from Milan. With that kind of variety and quality, the most difficult part is making a decision about where to go!