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Colorful buildings on a small street in Parma, Italy.

16 Best Day Trips from Milan + Map & Tips

This article was originally written by Clair Rogers, and it’s since been updated and added to by Candice Criscione. Last updated on November 19, 2023

Milan is Italy’s fashion capital. It’s a chic, dynamic destination that’s probably the only truly cosmopolitan city in the whole country. If you’re staying for a few days, you’re sure to find enough to keep you busy –amazing restaurants, wonderful tourist sites and monuments, buzzing bars and districts, and a whole lot of museums, art and culture.

However, if you’re doing a long stay OR you’re looking for your next destination for your onward journey, here are sixteen of the best day trips you can take from Milan.

Best Day Trips from Milan

DESTINATIONBEST TRANSPORTTRAVEL TIMEVISIT FOR
Lake Comotrain40 – 60 minnature, relaxing, shopping, views
Lake Maggioretrain60 minsightseeing, relaxing, nature, views
Lake Ortacar75 minsightseeing, relaxing, nature, views
Cinque Terretrain2.5 hrshiking, nature, views, beach
Lake Garda train or car1.5 hrsnature, beach, views, sightseeing, kids
Veronatrain75 minsightseeing, shopping
Venicetrain2.5 hourssightseeing, views, kids
Paviatrain30 minsightseeing
Turintrain70 minsightseeing, shopping, food
Bergamotrain or car60 minsightseeing
Bresciatrain36 minsightseeing
Varesetrain or car50 – 60 minsightseeing, hiking
Saint Moritztrain5 hrs (2.5 hrs on the scenic Bernina Express)hiking, nature, views, shopping
Genoatrain95 minsightseeing, beach, kids
Parmatrain50 minfood, sightseeing
Cremonatrain or car70 – 80 minsightseeing, food

Map of Best Day Trips from Milan

Transportation for Milan Day Trips

Depending on the destination and your personal preferences, you can take day trips from Milan using a car or the train.  You can also hire a private driver (NCC – noleggio con conducente or take a guided tour from Milan).  

For each destination, we’ve listed what we think is the best way to get there, but feel free to use other modes of transport.  

You may want to read more about
Renting a Car in Milan
Train Travel in Italy
Driving in Italy
Renting a Car in Italy

Lake Como

Italy’s northern lakes are just a train ride away, and Lake Como is one of the most beautiful. The city of Como itself is a fairly easy day trip by train. Still, if you want to combine it with some of the other delightful towns on the lake, like Varenna, Bellano and – perhaps the most famous – Bellagio, you’re best off taking the boat from Como and then meandering slowly up the lake.  

Como itself is doable by car, but the lake roads are narrow, and parking can be a challenge. If you want to explore further up the lake, it’s much better to combine the train with the ferry.

How Far: Como city is 40 min – 1 hour

Best Reached By: train 

Things to See and Do:

  • Take the ferry up the lake and explore the delightful little villages.
  • Head to “the Pearl of Lake Como,” Bellagio to see the point where the two branches of Lake Como meet.
  • Walk the Greenway, an easy and well-signed 6-mile path that offers incredible views.
  • Visit Como’s 14th century cathedral – one of the most beautiful in Northern Italy.

Lake Maggiore

View of Isola Bella's gardens.  The island is on Lake Maggiore in northern Italy.
Isola Bella

Lake Maggiore is often overlooked, as George Clooney (and Vegas’s Bellagio casino) has made Lake Como more famous! However, Lake Maggiore is just as spectacular and as easily reachable. It might even prove to be your favorite lake! For a day trip, you’ll probably want to head to Stresa, which is the departure point for boats to the spectacular Borromean Islands. It’s easy enough by car up the A8 highway, but it’s just as simple by train from Milan Central Station.

How Far: Approximately 1 hour to Stresa

Best Reached By: train 

Things to See and Do:

  • Take the public boat or water taxi to the enchanting Isola Bella.
  • Stroll Stresa’s lakefront and check out its grand hotels. 
  • Take a boat trip to the picturesque Hermitage of Santa Caterina, perched on the rocks.
  • Head to bustling Verbania, just 20 minutes away for shopping and great restaurants. 

Read more about
Stresa – A Local’s Guide
Visiting Isola Bella

Lake Orta

Town hall in Orta San Giulio, Italy.
Orta San Giulio

Lake Orta is a delightful little jewel nestled amid mountains at the foot of the Strona Valley, close to Lake Maggiore, that tourists often miss. This tiny lake with an island and a basilica at its center has a dreamy, romantic atmosphere that makes it well worth a visit. It’s still home to a small community of cloistered Benedictine nuns. It’s not that well connected, and a trip by train from Milan involves a 2-hour ride, changing trains at Novara. It’s quicker by car.

How Far: 1 hour 15 mins.

Best Reached By: car

Things to See and Do:

  • Take a short boat ride to the Island of San Giulio
  • Walk the Via del Silenzio – the footpath circling around San Giulio 
  • View the gorgeous frescoes in the Basilica and see St. Laurence being roasted on a grate!
  • Try the delicious Pane di St. Giulio – a typical sweet bread made by Benedictine nuns.

Read our Local’s Guide to Orta San Giulio

Cinque Terre

Again, this is a trek and only really recommended if you’re short on vacation time. The five villages (Cinque Terre) are part of a beautiful, terraced landscape (but be careful in summer when the area can be overrun with tourists). Bring your walking shoes if you’d like to walk from one village to the other…otherwise, take the train or boat.

How Far: 2.5 hours by train

Best Reached By: train

Things to See and Do:

  • Hike from one village to the next
  • Enjoy fried anchovies and other delights in the Cinque Terre towns.
  • Have a great meal at Ristorante Belforte in Vernazza
  • See Monterosso’s amazing Giant

Other Transport Options:

Cars are a BIG no-no. The villages are tiny and there is nowhere to park unless you’re a resident (and even then it’s difficult).  During the summer months you can split your journey into train and ferry if you want. Take the train to La Spezia and take a ferry to the Cinque Terre. Seeing the villages from the water is wonderful.

Lake Garda 

People wading in the water at Jamaica Beach in Sirmione on Lake Garda, Italy.
My boys playing at Jamaica Beach in Sirmione

Lake Garda is one of Italy’s most popular holiday destinations. It has some delightful beaches, picturesque little towns, and also Italy’s biggest theme park, Gardaland. 

How Far: 1 hour 30 mins by train to Peschiera del Garda

Best Reached By: train (but easier with a car if you want to explore many places around the lake)

Things to See and Do:

Check out my guide to Lake Garda with Kids

Verona

Verona is an incredibly elegant city with its famous Roman amphitheater, the Arena, hosting operas, concerts, and other world-class events. Of course, it’s also home to a destination for lovestruck teenagers everywhere – Juliet’s (supposed) balcony. There are amazing restaurants, great shopping, and the spectacular Pizza delle Erbe, Verona’s central square. The old city center is packed full of historic buildings and has tons of charm.

How Far: 1 hour 15 mins by train

Best Reached By: train

Things to See and Do:

  • It’s highly touristy but you have to do it – snap a pic of Juliet’s balcony in Verona.
  • Enjoy the perfect spritz at Caffè Monte Baldo.
  • Tour the Arena in Piazza Bra.

Venice

Boy by a puddle in Piazza San Marco in Venice, Italy.
My son checking out Piazza San Marco

A dream destination for many with its incredible palazzi lining the Grand Canal, the beauties of Venice can keep you occupied for far more than a single day. In a normal world, would I recommend Venice as a day trip? No, of course not – there’s far too much to see.  But if you’re very short on time during your vacation and you can’t leave Italy without seeing it, Venice is doable from Milan. Leave early and come back as late as possible!

How Far: 2.5 hours by train

Best Reached By: train

Things to See and Do:

  • Take a gondola ride
  • St. Mark’s Square (Piazza San Marco), the Basilica, and the belltower
  • The Doge’s Palace
  • Wander the street and get lost in the beauty!
  • Visit one of Venice’s islands (Murano for glass, Burano for lace and colorful buildings)

Read more about
The Best Things to Do in Venice

Tips for Your First Trip to Venice
Venice in Winter
Venice with Kids

Islands of Venice – Which Should You Visit?

Other Transport Options:

A bus will take you around 4 hours, which makes it a bit of a slog for a day trip.

Driving will take you about 3 hours, BUT you need to choose your departure time carefully to avoid being stuck in traffic on Milan’s tangenziale (ring road). Parking in Venice at Tronchetto can also prove costly. This is definitely a case where you should let the train take the strain!

Pavia

Once the capital of the Lombardy region and home to one of Italy’s oldest and most prestigious universities, Pavia makes a great day trip as it’s very close by both train and car.

Located on the Ticino River, at the heart of a fertile region that’s especially famous for its rice production, it’s a charming place that preserves a great deal of heritage.

How Far: 30 mins by train or 1 hour by car

Best Reached By: train 

Things to See and Do:

  • Just 8 km outside the city is the famous Certosa, a huge and beautiful monastery.
  • Enjoy some traditional risotto and Pavia’s sweet specialty – the Torta del Paradiso.
  • Walk across the Ponte Coperto – the replica of the 14th-century covered bridge across of the River Ticino.
  • Visconti Castle – See the enormous castle that was home to one of Lombardy’s ruling families. The castle is also home to the town’s museums.

Turin

Leave the capital of Lombardy and visit that of Piedmont: Turin (Torino). This a magnificent city, as befits a place that was once home to the Kings of Italy. It has some incredible palaces, elegant cafés and stores, and wide, Parisian-style boulevards. It’s elegant, stylish, and home to some amazing food. It’s easy to visit by train from Milan, and the train is much quicker than the car.  

How Far: 1 hour 10 mins by high-speed train

Best Reached By: train

Things to See and Do:

  • The Museo Egizio – Egyptian Museum – is one of the world’s finest.
  • Palazzo Reale – this stunning palace displays the personal art collection of Italy’s ruling Savoy family.
  • Try one of Turin’s most famous products – the hazelnut chocolate gianduiotto. You’ll find them all over the city, but the best are made by Guido Gobino.
  • Sample amazing gastronomic delights in one of the city’s restaurants or osterie. Turin is one of the cities where you eat best in the whole of Italy (and that’s a hard call).
  • Finish off with the city’s signature coffee – a cream-topped chocolate/coffee concoction called bicerin at the café of the same name, established in 1763.

Read more about Italy’s Most Famous Museums

Bergamo

Piazza della Cittadella

This interesting and often overlooked city is just over 30 miles from Milan. It is built in two parts – the older, upper ‘Bergamo Alto,’ which is walled and can be accessed via funicular and the more modern ‘Bergamo Basso’, or lower part.  It was Italy’s Capital of Culture for 2023, and you’ll get an authentic, non-touristy experience in a city with plenty of highlights. Bergamo’s Orio Al Serio airport is also a hub for many low-cost European flights.

How Far: Around 1 hour by car or train 

Best Reached By: train or car

Things to See and Do:

  • Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore – Legend has it that this 12th-century basilica was built to fulfill a vow made to the Virgin Mary by the people of Bergamo to protect them from the plague sweeping across northern Italy. Inside are a wealth of gorgeous tapestries, frescoes, and stuccoes. It’s also the burial place of one of Bergamo’s most famous citizens, composer Gaetano Donizetti, best known for his 70 operas.
  • Accademia Carrara Art Gallery  – This is known as the ‘Italian collectors museum’: with fabulous, once private, art collections now made available to the general public.  It houses works from the Gothic and Renaissance period (notably by Raphael and Botticelli), right up to the 19th century.
  • Funicolare – take a ride on the funicular, or cable railway, linking the lower and upper parts of the city for some great views. On a clear day you may even get to see the Apennines – Italy’s mountainous backbone. 

Read more about
How to Visit Bergamo in One Day
Bergamo with Kids
Renting a Car at the Bergamo Airport

Brescia

Piazza della Loggia empty, at night, in the city of Brescia in northern Italy.
Piazza della Loggia

Another of Italy’s Capitals of Culture for 2023, Brescia – known as the Lioness of Italy for its ferocity in combatting the Austrian rulers – is a seriously underrated city, especially for Roman history buffs. Its Via Musei was part of a Roman road leading to the Lombard capital, Milan, and its ruins are seriously impressive. Apart from history, it’s an elegant town with great shopping and is perfectly placed midway between Lake Garda and Lake Iseo.

How Far: Around 1 hr 15 mins by car or 36 mins by high-speed train 

Best Reached By: high-speed train

Things to See and Do:

  • Roman ruins – Bresica has the largest Roman archaeological site in the whole of northern Italy, with the old Roman Forum, the Capitolium Temple (commissioned in A.D. 73, by Emperor Vespasian) and a Roman theatre, right in the city center.
  • Santa Giulia Museum  – This museum is housed in a former Longobard monastery complex. It contains over 10,000 archaeological exhibits, as well as a Roman domus (home of the wealthy) decorated with mosaics and frescoes.
  • Museo Mille Miglia – This museum is a must for motoring enthusiasts and is a 10- minute cab ride from the city center. The Mille Miglia is Italy’s most famous classic car race and the museum recounts its history, alongside an impressive collection of vintage cars. 

You may want to read about Italy’s Best Car Museums

Varese

Varese is located on the lake of the same name and has a charming historic center. It’s compact and walkable with lovely scenery and is a great getaway, especially in summer when Milan becomes unbearable in the heat. It’s the perfect place for some great hiking, or just enjoy strolling its elegant little streets and trying the delicious local risotto.

How Far: around 50 mins by train and 1 hour by car

Best Reached By: train or car

Things to See and Do:

  • Sacro Monte di Varese – a UNESCO world heritage site, has fourteen chapels, leading to the sanctuary of Santa Maria del Monte, a place of pilgrimage since the Middle Ages. A beautiful place to explore that offers spectacular views over the surrounding landscape.
  • Villa Panza – run by the FAI (Italy’s National Trust). Not your usual 18th-century villa – this is home to some great contemporary US art and the elegant juxtaposition between old and new is really striking.
  • Estensi Palace and Gardens – the gardens are landscaped in the style of the Schönbrunn Palace in Vienna and the Palace itself (now the city’s Town Hall) was the alternative residence of Francesco III d’Este, Duke of Modena and Lord of Varese. Stendhal called it “the Versailles of Milan”.

St. Moritz (via the Bernina Express)

Fancy seeing a whole new country in one day? It’s doable and fans of raclette, cows and chocolate should head right this way on one of the world’s most famous, glass-sided panoramic trains through the gorgeous Swiss Alps. While St. Moritz is an extremely fancy destination and you can spend a couple of hours there before returning, this day trip is all about the journey.

You’ll need to be an early bird for this one. Take the first train out of Milan central station (at 6.20 am) to the border town of Tirano where you can pick up the Bernina Express. It’s an extremely popular train, especially in the summer months, so best to reserve first online. If your budget can stretch to it, pay for a first-class ticket for the journey there (you can always do second class on the way back if needs be). 

How Far: 2.5 hours to Tirano then 2.5 hours on the Bernina Express

Best Reached By: panoramic train! (that’s the whole point)

Things to See and Do:

  • Enjoy amazing scenery on the train – the famous Landwasser viaduct, Lago Bianco (the ‘White Lake’ at 7391 feet above sea level, Alp Grüm with its unique view of the Palü glacier and an incredible feat of engineering – the circular Brusio viaduct.
  • Piz Nair – even if you’re not a hiker, this mountain is easily accessible from the village of St. Moritz. Take the funicular railway and a cable car to reach the peak. 
  • Stroll around the Moritzersee – St. Moritz lake – and take in the breathtaking mountain scenery. 

Genoa

Boy looking at jellyfish in an aquarium.
My son checking out the jellyfish at Genoa’s aquarium

Genoa (Genova )is a pretty unique city. While people generally head into Liguria for the famous Cinque Terre, if you don’t visit Genoa itself, you’re really missing out. It has a medieval historic center that bears witness to its role as a marine republic – a 13th-century superpower. It has a great waterfront area, and you can find some superb seafood in the city.

How Far: 1 hour 35 mins by train 

Best Reached By:  train (parking is a pain in Liguria)

Things to See and Do:

  • The Rolli Palaces – stroll down Via Garibaldi, Via Balbi and Via Cairoli to see the city’s finest buildings that hosted visiting dignitaries through the centuries. Not all are open to the public so you may only get to view the entrance (which is impressive enough) but Palazzo Rosso, Palazzo Bianco and Palazzo Reale can be visited year-round.
  • MEI The National Museum of Italian Emigration – as a port city Genoa has welcomed new citizens from all over the world and has been the departure point for many Italians as they embarked on treacherous journeys to new lives in the Americas, Asia, Africa and Australia. You may be able to trace an ancestor or hear the stories of those who emigrated through letters, diaries and photographs in this fascinating museum.
  • Christopher Columbus’ house – one of the world’s most (in)famous seafarers – Cristoforo Colombo – was born right here in Genoa. Just outside the ancient medieval walls, is the so-called Columbus House. It is probably an 18th-century reconstruction of the original, medieval building (destroyed by the French) where Columbus lived as a young man between around 1455 and 1470. 
  • The Genoa Aquarium – one of the best in Italy

Parma

Purple door on a house in Parma, Italy.

If you want a foodie destination Parma is ideal. As well as being world famous for prosciutto (ham) and Parmesan cheese, it’s an elegant, easily walkable city packed with Renaissance art and architectural marvels.

How Far: Less than 50 mins by high-speed train

Best Reached By: train (you can also drive straight down the A1 highway in an hour and a half, but it’s easier – and quicker – by train)

Things to See and Do:

  • Eat, eat then eat some more! The pig is king here and – if you’re not a vegetarian -you’re going to have to try a charcuterie board. As well as Parma ham, enjoy some of the area’s other famous porky cold-cuts like Culatello di Zibello , Salame di Felino, Coppa, Pancetta, Fiocchetto, Mortadella, Cicciolata and Strolghino.
  • The Cathedral and Baptistery – the gorgeous 12th century cathedral contains frescoes by Correggio, among others and the Battistero, or Baptistery, next door is another fresco-filled wonder.
  • Teatro Farnese – the Farnese Theatre is a Renaissance theatre (the original was destroyed by Allied bombing in 1944) commissioned in 1618 by Ranuccio I, Duke of Parma and Piacenza, who wanted to celebrate a stopover in Parma by Grand Duke of Tuscany, Cosimo II, on his way to Milan. The impressive, wooden reconstruction is well worth a visit.

Read more about
Best Things to Do in Parma
Parma with Kids

Cremona

This town may not be on your tourist radar but if you play a stringed instrument, you’ll definitely have heard of Cremona! Andrea Amati was the father of the modern violin and Cremona became the epicenter of the luthier’s (a maker of stringed instruments) art. Even if you’re not a musician, you’ll have heard of one of these craftsmen: the famous Stradivarius (Antonio Stradivari, born in Cremona in the mid-17th century). As well as music, Cremona is a lovely little town filled with beautiful architecture and an easy day trip from Milan.

How Far: 1 hour and 10 minutes by train or 1 hour and 20 mins by car

Best Reached By: train or car

Things to See and Do:

  • The Violin Museum -the history of violin and stringed instrument making, together with period and modern instruments, along with ‘the sound of Stradivari’- performances on historic violins.
  • The Duomo (Cathedral) and Torazzo (Belltower)  – an impressive 12th century cathedral with beautiful frescoes and Italy’s tallest belltower with one of the world’s largest astronomical clocks!
  • Eat – Cremona also has some great typical produce. One is a Christmas favorite that can be enjoyed all year round. Torrone, or nougat. One of Italy’s most famous manufacturers, Enea Sperlari, founded his store here in 1836. 
  • You can also sample mostarda cremonese. This is candied fruit with mustard-flavored syrup, so it has a little kick to it and it’s a great traditional accompaniment for cheese or boiled meat.

More Milan Day Trip Ideas

Small street in Modena, Italy.
Streets of Modena
  • Monza – visit the Villa Reale; wander through the Parco di Monza; catch a race at the Autodromo di Monza
  • Bologna – stuff your face with the city’s incredible food; climb the Torre Asinelli; read more about visiting Bologna and Bologna with Kids
  • Modena – sample balsamic vinegar; wander the charming center; visit the historic food market; visit the Ferrari Museum in town
  • Piedmont Wine Country – head to the hills of Piedmont to sample wines like Barolo and Barbera and dine on truffle-based meals

Not Recommended for a Day Trip From Milan

We often think that a two-hour journey is a long time to spend traveling here when there are so many great things to see in Milan.  Of course, if you come from a place in the US where you’d spend all day driving and never even leave your state, then it may seem like we’re overreacting.

No judgment – if you feel like you might not get a second chance and this is a once-in-a-lifetime trip, then even Florence or Rome (!) is doable in theory on a high-speed train. However, if you think you may get the chance to revisit Italy, we really don’t recommend it. There’s so much to see in these cities that you’ll feel extremely frustrated if you attempt a day trip, and there’s no way you’ll do them justice. 

Why not try some other great places that are more easily reachable, like the suggestions above?

Day Trips from Milan FAQ

Can you do a day trip from Milan to Lake Como?

Yes, you can. Make sure you leave early so you can make the most of your day, especially if you are visiting the picturesque little towns further up the lake, like Lenno or Bellagio, and not just Como city. Best to use the train and the boat – driving on narrow lakeside roads and finding parking is tough.

Which train station should I use in Milan for a day trip?

Milan has many train stations, but the city’s principal train station is Milano Centrale train station (Milan Central train station).  Milan has a few other ‘main’ train stations, including Milano Cadorna, Milano Porta Garibaldi, and Milano Cadorna.  When you’re making your reservations on Trenitalia.com or Italotreno.it make sure you note the Milan train station you’ll leave from or arrive in.