The bustling city of Milan is one of the top destinations for travelers in Italy, especially for those interested in fashion, culture, and food. However, there are plenty of other fascinating sites in northern Italy to visit, thanks to the number of historic towns and breathtaking landscapes. And because of Milan’s central location, most of these places can be reached in just a few hours by public transportation. Whether you’re interested in history, culture, or gastronomy, you’ll have no problem finding a day trip that suits your tastes. Just take a look at the following destinations that can easily be explored outside of Milan.
What is the Best Day Trip from Milan?
If you’re planning a day trip from Milan, you’ll have plenty of cities, natural wonders, and historical attractions to choose from, like Verona, Parma, and Venice or smaller towns like Brescia, Varese, and Lugano (in Switerzland). And for those interested in the outdoors, a trip to Lake Como or Lake Maggiore is the perfect way to immerse yourself in nature.
A short 40-minute train ride from the city center of Milan drops you off at one of the most picturesque places in northern Italy.
Perched at the base of the Alps, Lake Como is a lush resort area known for its extravagant villas, panoramic vistas, and deep blue waters.
Many villas are open to the public (Villa Carlotta, Villa Monastero, Villa Balbianello) while others are more exclusive and only accessible to guests or residents.
As you might imagine, the lake is a prime setting for those interested in watersports (think swimming, sailing, and kiteboarding).
For dinner, head to Bellagio, a famous town with e waterside promenade, cobblestone streets, and multitudes of mouthwatering restaurants.
Italy is known for its plethora of romantic cities, and Verona is no exception. As the home of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Verona oozes history and charm around every corner.
You can even visit Juliet’s balcony or attend a live performance of the play that takes place in her courtyard.
Verona also has its fair share of historic landmarks, including the Verona Area, which was built by the Romans in 30 AD. Other notable sights include Piazzale Castel San Pietro, Castelvecchio, and Ponte Scaligero.
But even if you’re not a fan of history, it’s still worth visiting Verona just to wander around the old town, a labyrinth of narrow alleys lined with boutique shops, Italian trattorias, and cozy wine bars.
Although it makes for a long day trip (2.5 hours by train), Venice is a great option for those who want to tick another iconic Italian city off their list.
Known for its flowing canals, arched pedestrian bridges, and grandiose palaces, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is arguably one of the most popular cities to visit in Italy.
From hidden bookshops, cozy cafes, and local markets, there’s something to explore around every corner. And don’t worry if you get lost – it’s easy to do in such a compact city!
In addition to taking a gondola ride (if you’re lucky, the gondolier will even sing to you!), visiting Doge’s Palace and St. Mark’s Square is a must.
If you have extra time, you can also take a short ferry to the neighboring islands of Murano and Burano. Murano is known for its glassmaking, while Burano specializes in lace work.
Lake Maggiore and the Borromean Islands
From Milan, you can reach the glistening Lake Maggiore in just under 1.5 hours. It’s the second-largest lake in Italy (after Lake Garda) and even extends north into Switzerland.
As such, you can enjoy picturesque views of the Alps as well as green Mediterranean vegetation around the lake.
On the western side of the lake sits the Borromean Islands. Although there are five islands in total, only three of them are accessible to the public.
Isola Madre is home to lush botanical gardens, while Isola Superiore has a charming old town with restaurants and shops. The largest island, Isola Bella, has a pleasant mix of both gardens and city life, making it a popular tourist destination.
Situated between Milan and Verona is Brescia, which is known for housing some of the best-preserved Roman buildings in northern Italy.
This includes a Roman forum, which includes a temple, a Roman theater, and a sanctuary with mosaics from the 1st century BC.
Another highlight is the Monastic complex of San Salvatore-Santa Guilia, which contains over 11,000 different art pieces and artifacts.
Although Brescia is a relatively small city (only 200,000 residents), it has many museums to keep you occupied during your visit.
Visit the Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo for Renaissance art, the Museo Nazionale della fotografia for photography, and the Museo delle Armi “Luigi Marzoli” for medieval armor and weaponry.
Architecture lovers won’t want to miss out on a trip to Varese. This quiet town, an hour from Milan, is famous for the impressive 17th, 18th, and 19th-century villas scattered around the city center.
Although the villas themselves are stunningly beautiful, their location on the hills of the Campo dei Fiori mountain range makes them that much more spectacular to see.
Varese is also home to the Sacro Monte di Varese, a religious pilgrimage site located inside the Campo dei Fiori park.
This UNESCO World Heritage Site features 14 different chapels, many of which are adorned with colorful frescoes and ornate statues.
Since Milan is located near the Italian-Swiss border, it’s entirely possible to cross over into Switerzland for a day trip! Take the train straight into the Alps to Lugano, a quaint town on the banks of Lake Lugano.
The mix of Baroque and Renaissance architecture of the churches, public squares, and houses is the perfect backdrop for a mid-day stroll.
If you’re craving a bit of fresh air, you can trek to the top of Monte San Salvatore for panoramic views over the lake.
There’s also a funicular for those who want to enjoy the views without the exercise. And if you’re visiting in the summer, don’t forget to go for a swim!
Calling all foodies! If you’re looking for a mouthwatering day trip from Milan, then consider making the 2-hour journey to Parma.
The city is prized for its culinary scene (after all, it’s world famous for producing Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and Prosciutto di Parma).
Although you could spend the entire day tasting your way through town, make sure to take a few breaks to see a couple of the major sites.
For example, stop by the Parma Cathedral, a Romanesque church famous for its frescoes and statues.
Or visit the Palazzo della Pilotta, a sprawling historical complex with an art school, archeological museum, and Renaissance theater.
As the second-largest city in Italy, Milan has a seemingly never-ending number of sights and attractions. But if you manage to have a few extra days to kill, then it’s worth heading outside the city to experience one of the many beautiful areas in northern Italy.