Milan is not only a great city to start your Italian adventure but also makes for a superb base if you want to visit some more towns and neighbouring cities for day trips. If you are not comfortable driving in Italy you can either take a train or a guided tour. Since I have been here a couple of times before, I prefer the trains even though at times it’s unreliable but it’s still well connected to some of the major cities and tourists attractions. There are plenty of options for day trips from Milan so you are in for one adventure of a lifetime.
Lake Como – If you just have a spare day and would like to choose the best city to visit from idealistic Milan, it has to be the exquisite Lake Como, you wouldn’t regret taking this trip. I drove to Bellagio which is rich in history and each corner of this town is absolutely spectacular, words are not enough to describe the beauty of this place. From here you can take a cruise which will take you along the shores of the Lago di Como, from where you can see various different houses and towns and if I did have the time I would have loved to get off at each station and stroll around the tiny towns of Como.
You will see the famous Villa Carlotta which has a marvellous botanical garden and a museum, from the cruise trip you can see the grandeur building standing in all its glory. Lake Como has steamers running across from most of its towns so if you wish to explore any of the neighbourhoods you can get off at any one of the stations. Some places you should not miss are Bellagio, Tremezzo, Varenna and Como.
Venice – A trip to Venice takes a little longer than most of the places from Milan but I would still suggest it as I prefer spending the night in Milan since Venice can get pretty expensive as its famous among tourists from all around the world. If you are a good with time management half a day is ideal to do most of the touristy things in this romantic city and you have enough time to even stroll along the quieter lanes of Venice. Start your day by visiting St. Marks Square which is one of the best attractions here, visit the Basilica and then head to Doge’s Palace which is just a few steps away from the St Marks Square. The gothic palace is royal, exquisite and will appeal to you if you are history buff, the ticket prices are expensive so make sure to grab the online discounted deal before you head there.
After that historic tour of the palace make your way towards the Rialto Bridge, it starts getting busy here but it still a must-see attraction here. Be careful of your belongings as it does get rough in Venice, and now for the cheery on top which is my ideal place in Venice, it is indeed the Grand Canal. I finally feel that I have achieved something in my life by making a visit to the picturesque Grand Canal, you can even take a gondola ride from here but try negotiating a decent price as it’s on the pricey side.
Just a short walk away from Grand Canal is the Bridge of Sigh which has a sad story attached to it, nevertheless, it’s now a popular spot for pictures. If you want to see the grandeur opera house you can book a show or take a guided tour inside, its worth it. For people who are interested in art and culture, a visit to the Ponte dell’Accademia museum will be appreciated.
If you intend to stay in Venice then you should also visit Murano and Burano which is a short boat ride away.
Lake Garda – Considered as the largest lake in Italy, Lake Garda oozes charm and is well worth a visit especially if you love cliffs, beaches and castles. The main attraction of Lake Garda is the town of Sirmione and it’s fantastic moat entrance. Another enchanting place is Malcesine, the views are phenomenal here and the castle Scaligero is wonderful but the place which wins my heart is Riva del Garda which is perched between the mountain and has a superb view of the lake, it is the largest town and famous for its Cascata Waterfalls. If you decide to reach Lake Garda by train you would stumble upon the Desenzano del Garda which has numerous restaurants and cafes and gives you an idea of what to expect from Lake Garda. Taking a cruise on the lake gives you a better picture of the surrounding town.
There is also a theme park here called Gardaland which would be ideal for families with kids as its full day dedicated to fun. Not like Italy lacks history but if you need a dose of the past then check out Peschiera del Garda, it has old fortress, lovely canals and some authentic Italian food. There are so many little gems to visit here but another favourite of many is Torri del Benaco, which is surrounded by waterfront houses and the mountain.
You can reach Lake Garda from Milan by road or by train. To embark on this lovely journey from Milan you have to disembark at Desenzano del Garda. There are many activities to do around here, so would suggest starting your day early.
Verona – Verona is known for the inspiration behind Shakespeare’s famous Romeo and Juliet and that’s the reason many of the people love to flock to this town. You can even see the amphitheatre which resembles quite a bit to the Colosseum in Rome. Juliet’s balcony is something you should definitely visit especially if you are a fan of Shakespeare’s work. You can even take a walk or cycle around the Castelvecchio (castle) quite visited attraction here. The Piazza Delle Erbe is the main square here which is aligned with restaurants and shop. If you want to visit the tower to admire the skyline, do so as its unbelievable. Some of the most interesting buildings lie in Piazza Dei Signori square. They even have a cathedral (Duomo) but it’s not as grand as the Milan one, but well worth a look.
For shopping head to the old town (Via Mazzini) and there you can find many prominent brands. If you have more time around this town then a visit to the marvellous garden of Giardinon Giusti planted by the family in the 1400s, isn’t that something?
Turin – A hub of culture, history and graceful architecture, Turin is all that I had imagined. I can aimlessly wander around the streets without boredom hitting me. Just slightly over an hour from Milan is another bewitching town of Italy, ‘Turin’, felt in love with this part of Italy. Some of the finest museums, royal residences, churches, cathedral, cafes and shopping, it has it all. I feel it is such an underrated destination and deserves more exposure.
You need to start your day at the Piazza Castello square where there are many iconic monuments around like First World War Memorial, Palazzo Madama (palace) and the start of Palazzo Reale which used to be a royal residence, do visit if you like to know how the royals lived.
When it comes to preserving its history Turin does it the best, that’s why you can find a number of museums here like The Carignan Palace, Egyptian Museum, Automobile Museum, and the National Museum of Cinema.
Apart from these, the famed Valentino park is admirable too, popular picnic spot for the locals. Don’t miss the medieval village of Turin, and the fortress located in this park. If you are hungry and want to try some typical Italian restaurants then make your way towards Quadrilatero Romano which is lined with restaurants. When it comes to places of worship Royal Church of San Lorenzo and the Turin Cathedral is an ideal place to visit. For the ones who are in search of a good skyline view of the city definitely check out Mole Antonelliana from where you can take the panoramic lift to see the stellar view.
I would ideally recommend a full day or two to experience Turin but if you are short on time you have the option to take free tours or guided tours around the city to know the best of Turin.
Bergamo – With Milan just an hour away from Bergamo, a trip to Bergamo is easily doable. It is a historical place which you should surely tick off from your bucket list, this delightful city of Italy is a must-visit. Situated in the Lombardy region, it has some fascinating history and architecture which will enchant you. The Citta Alta (upper old town) is where most of the attractions are located and the famed Piazza Vecchia square.
Citta Alta can be reached by a funicular and you can start your exploration from Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe which is the main square here. Over here you can see the Torre di Gombito which is a tower, and later make your way towards the Church of San Michele al Pozzo Bianco or San’tAndrea. There are abundant shops and restaurants around too, in case you want to take a break from sightseeing.
Plenty of museums and art galleries if you want to learn a thing or two, like the Natural Science Museum, Rocca Museum, Art Gallery of the Accademia Carrara and Museo Donizetti. You can even walk around the Venetian walls and shop your way through Via XX Settembre which is their famous shopping district in the Citta Bassa which is the lower city of Bergamo. Lastly don’t forget the prominent Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore chapel, Cappella Colleoni (chapel) and Bergamo Cathedral, it is one of their popular attractions here.
Cinque Terre – One of the most beautiful places on the coast of Italy are these five villages and that’s where it gets its name from ‘Five Lands’ meaning Cinque Terre. Ideally, it would be perfect to see all the five islands but at times due to bad weather the hiking trails are closed and the only way to reach some of the places are by boat and of course the train which stops at all five islands. If you have to choose out of the five islands which to visit go for Monterosso al Mare as it’s has a beach and Vernazza as it’s so scenic. You can catch an early morning train from La Spezia to reach the islands. People also go hike from one island to the other. Riomaggiore is vast but too touristy for me so I prefer Manarola over it.
Cinque Terre just like Amalfi coast is beautiful but considering I was staying in Milan this was the closest coast and a place on my bucket list for a while.
Parma – The land of the delicious parmesan cheese is worth visiting if you want to get drowned in history and culture, this town is not as busy as Milan so it’s more fun to stroll around without bumping into many tourists. You can either take a two-hour train from Milan or drive which takes about the same time. Some of the attractions to see in this city are Parma Cathedral which is famous for its interiors and devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary. Piazza Garibaldi is a delightful square which is surrounded by famous buildings and a statue. Unlike another opera house, the one at Parma is wooden and was also the largest theatre at once. Go for a stroll in the pleasing park Parco Duacle, this park is refreshing and glorious.
If you like to check out museums there are numerous places which will interest you like National Gallery of Parma, Museo Glauco Lombardi, and the Diocesan Museum.
The Battistero Parma is another ideal place to see as it showcases a fabulous mix of Roman and Gothic architecture.
Genoa – This port city in Italy sits on the gigantic Ligurian Sea and as a result, has been an important economical city back in the days due to its location. When it comes to attractions and activities to do this city surely doesn’t let you down. Start your journey in Genoa from the old town, Piazza de Ferrari square is surrounded by some prominent buildings and an ornate fountain. Genoa also attracts tourists as it was the birthplace of Christopher Columbus but I was here to try two of its most prominent dishes pesto and focaccia as Genoa is known for it. A short walk from the Piazza de Ferrari is the Porta Soprana which has a gatehouse and a tower, the view is beautiful from the tower. Just like the Piazza De Ferrari is another important square known for some significant buildings which are Piazza Matteotti, the vital Doges Palace is situated here.
For the shopaholics the prime street to spend your bucks would be at Via Garibaldi street it is indeed quite impressive and a UNESCO World Heritage site. If you like to visit the Genoa Cathedral do so as it resembles quite a bit like the Florence cathedral which is gigantic.
Before leaving this town make sure to spend an evening at the Genoa Harbour as it’s insanely pretty and a dinner or light snack near the Ligurian sea makes this trip extremely worthwhile. If you intend to spend a few more nights around here then check out the Genoas Maritime Museum, Aquarium, and take a stroll around the Boccadasse neighbourhood which is a fishing village, it reminded me a bit of Cinque Terre. Many even take a half-day trip to Portofino by cruise as it’s not too far from Genoa.
St Moritz – If you are looking for a ski break then look no further then Switzerland’s beautiful town St. Moritz. It’s a perfect place for people craving the snowy mountains and a break from the busy lifestyle of Milan. You would usually go to St Moritz to either embark on the breathtaking train Glacier Express or Bernina Express and to simply to ski in the mountains. Regardless, St Moritz is a fabulous place to be, and the Lake Saint Moritz a perfect place to spend the afternoon. From most of the places mentioned here, St Moritz in Switzerland is the furthest, which takes approximately about 3 hours to reach but once there you are going to love the place and peace around it.
With these top 10 ultimate day trips from Milan, you will love Italy immensely and if the thought of shifting here hasn’t crossed your mind I don’t know what will!