When heading to Northern Italy, Milan is a perfect place to base yourself. After all, it’s the capital of Lombardy region, has some of the best transport links in the boot-shaped country and is a perfect starting point for plenty of excursions. Here are 15+ day trips from Milan worth taking (and I’m sure you’ll find one you’ll like, there’s enough for each day of an entire fortnight!):
#1 University town of Pavia
Designated a UNESCO world heritage site, Pavia has a Duomo Da Vinci had a hand in designing, plenty of cobbled lanes and one of the oldest universities in Italy. As such, it is packed with historical things to do (including plenty of university museums), and a covered bridge that finds its roots in medieval times.
Milan to Pavia: The easiest way to get to Pavia is by train. After all, the city of Pavia is located on the tracks between Milan and Genoa and Pavia takes just over forty-five minutes to reach from Milano.
#2 Pretty town of Padua/ Padova
Famously known as the setting for Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’, Padua is located in the province of Padua in Italy’s Veneto region. Some of the best things to do in Padua include visiting the city’s huge Byzantine basilica, visiting the University of Padua (the place of learning dates all the way back to 1222), and enjoying some of the city’s café culture.
Milan to Pauda: The best way to reach Padua is by a train which takes just under two hours. Get up earlier in the day to make the most of your time in the city.
Postcards of a 1911 tram in Padova
#3 Lake Como (towns of Como and Lecco)
Glistening lakes overlooking snowy peaks: no, this isn’t the opening scenes of a Disney movie. It’s real life and you can find these fairytale scenes on the fringes of Lake Como in Northern Lombardy. Best visited in the late spring, summer, or early autumn (you’ll want warm, sunny weather to best enjoy the lakes of Italy), highlights of Lake Como include plenty of castles, as well as the beautiful towns of Como and Lecco.
Milan to Como: Reaching the lakes of Lombardy from Milano is much easier than you might expect. You’ll want a car if you want to explore some of the Italian countryside on the way to Como. However, if you’re sticking with public transport, then there’s a direct train from Milan to Como and it takes just under an hour each way.
Book a tour now: Lake Como and Bellagio day trip
#4 Alpine city of Turin/ Torino
Located in the Piedmont region of Italy, Turin is surrounded by mountains and filled with history. Often dubbed the chocolate capital of Italy, you can’t go wrong by dedicating a day of your Italian adventure to exploring the city’s many attractions.
Highlights of Torino include visiting the cathedral where the Turin Shroud is housed (the Shroud itself is only placed on display once every decade or so for preservation purposes), ascending the Mole Antonelliana (often dubbed the ‘Eiffel Tower of Italy’) and sampling some local Piedmontese cuisine. Turin is also home to one of the most important Egyptian collections housed outside of Egypt.
Milan to Turin: You can reach Torino in just over an hour from Milano if you opt for one of the regular high-speed trains that will whisk you from the city centre to city centre. While this option is admittedly faster, if you want to budget, then you can take a slow train that is half the price of the speedy one.
Read more: Where to find the very best views of Turin.
#5 Hilltop town of Bergamo
Of all the cities near Milan, Bergamo should top your list as one of the best places to visit in Italy. After all, one of the biggest mistakes people planning a trip to the North of Italy make is that they miss out on the beautiful town of Bergamo!
When booking budget flights to Bergamo’s international airport, people often assume that this underrated gem of Italy is not worth a visit, and so they skip the city entirely. However, Bergamo is beautiful, filled with historical sites and is a must-see for architecture lovers.
Milan to Bergamo: Just under an hour. That’s all you need to get away from the hustle and bustle of busy Milan life and straight into the time warp that is Bergamo. The easiest way to reach Bergamo is by train and tickets cost just 6 or 7 euro each way.
Read more: How to spend one week in Northern Italy.
#6 The historical town of Brescia
The Celtic turned Roman town of Brescia is located in the Lombardy region of Italy, just like Milan. Highlights of this historically rich settlement include a castle, museums filled with Roman aretefacts, and ecclesiastical buildings filled with frescoes dating back centuries.
Milan to Brescia: If you want to reach Brescia, then the easiest way to do so is by train. One single train takes just thirty-five minutes and so Brescia makes an easy day trip from Milano. A trip to Brescia can easily be combined with a visit to nearby Lake Garda. After all, the beautiful town lies on the shore of the iconic lake.
#7 Certosa di Pavia
Often cited as one of the best examples of Italian Renaissance architecture, the Certosa di Pavia is one of those must-see Lombardy attractions on any trip to Northern Italy. Located 8km North of Pavia, admire the unique blend of Renaissance Architecture meets Gothic style in this family mausoleum turned monastery.
Milan to Certosa di Pavia: A visit to the beautiful monastery of can be taken in conjunction with a trip to the nearby town of the same name, Pavia, or can be done just on its own. After all, if you head there in the early afternoon or early morning, there is rather a lot to see!
#8 City of Parma
The city of Parma, located in Emila-Romagna is named like the ham (yes, really!). Although this city is most famous for its prosciutto meat cuts and cheese, there’s plenty to see for the non-meat eating traveller as well! From Parma’s beautiful architecture to its extensive collection of Caravaggio’s work located throughout the city including inside the Duomo and in the city’s impressive National Gallery.
Milan to Parma: Milano to Parma takes an hour and a half if you choose the more expensive train (though fast trains often cost double the price of their slower counterparts, you’ll save oodles of time, ensuring that you can get the most out of your Italian trip!)
The Deposition, Oil on Canvas, 1613, Caravaggio, Housed in the Galleria Nazionale di Parma
#9 Sleeping Beauty town of Mantua/ Mantova
If you’re looking for a glimpse into what an Italian city must have been like centuries ago, then head to Mantua. Often dubbed the ‘sleeping beauty town of Italy’ thanks to little change in architecture and pace of life over the centuries, Mantua is well worth a visit and totally worth your time!
Milan to Mantua: In order to reach Mantova from Milano, you’ll need to take a train (or two depending on times). If you take just one train and don’t need to change, the trip will take around an hour and fifty minutes. Opt for the slower choice and take two trains, and Milan to Mantua will take over two and a half hours!
Mantua: Piazza delle Erbe, 1907
#10 The Town of Lodi
Located just 19km south of Milan, the pretty town of Lodi is an easy day trip from Milan. Oh, and if you’re a fan of parmesan, then you’ll love Lodi. After all, it’s said to have some of the best cheese in all of Italy. Once a Celtic village known as ‘Laus Pompeia’, the city has seen plenty of changes over the years, and has a rich history spanning centuries.
Highlights of Lodi include the Piazza della Vittoria (one of the most beautiful town squares in Italy), Visconti Castle (a partially destroyed medieval fortress), and plenty of Baroque churches. Elsewhere in the city, you’ll find plenty of cobbled lanes and some great Italian food.
Milan to Lodi: Head to Lodi if you want to embark on one of the fastest day trips from Milan. After all, if you catch a fast train you’ll end up in the city centre within half an hour. Lodi makes for the perfect trip for those pressed for time and searching for a quirky Italian adventure.
#11 Romeo and Juliet’s Verona
At two hours away from Milan, Verona is a little further from the Lombardy capital than other day trips from Milan on this list. However, the beautiful city of love, made famous by Shakespeare’s play, is totally worth a visit and is totally worth your time.
Stroll around the city in search of Juliet (Juliet’s tomb and the Casa di Giulietta are both tourist hotspots), enjoy the architecture and be amazed by the city’s central Roman amphitheatre that has truly stood the test of time.
Milan to Verona: Train times from Milano to Verona vary depending on the time of day you travel. Journey times to Verona typically take between an hour and a half and two hours. Opt to visit the city earlier in the day to avoid the inevitable crowds you’ll find in Verona later in the day.
Book a tour now: Verona and Lake Garda day trip from Milan
Read more: In search of Romeo and Juliet in Verona.
#12 The canals of Venice/ Venezia
If you’re looking to go a little further afield from Milan yet again, then it’s possible to take a day trip from Milan to Venice. The world famous canals and floating houses are iconic throughout Europe and beyond for their beauty and sheer structural genius.
Highlights of Venice include a wander through Piazza San Marco (the city’s main square has plenty of architectural gems), the Doge’s Palace (a gothic style museum), and Saint Mark’s Basilica (one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Europe).
Milan to Venice: As it takes roughly the same amount of time to reach Venezia by car or by public transport, the easiest way to reach the city is clearly by train! Trains from Milan to Venice typically take three hours (a long time to be sitting on a train when there are so many beautiful Italian attractions much closer to Milan!)
Book a tour now: Venice day trip from Milan
#13 The seaside resort of Genoa/ Genova
If you were to pick just one place to visit in the Liguria region of Italy, then you should choose the pretty seaside resort town of Genoa. As the capital of Liguria, the city is best known for its maritime history and is the sixth-largest city in the boot-shaped country, meaning that there are plenty of things to see and do!
Must-see Genoa attractions include impressive fountains, the expansive city walls that were once the longest walls in Italy, and an impressive mountainside fort by the name of ‘Forte Begato’. Other Genova highlights include many a museum and plenty of pretty streets!
Milan to Genoa: Milan has a direct train line running through Pavia to Genoa. Trains from the centre of Milan take approximately an hour and a half to reach Genoa if you choose the high-speed train.
Book a tour now: Genova and Portofino day trip from Milan
Obscure map of Genoa, dated 1800
#14 Art Nouveau City of Varese
Located to the North of Lombardy, in a place where . the alps meet the glittering lakes, the Art Nouveau city of Varese is characterised by its many beautiful villas, nestled in the hills surrounding the city. Of particular note is the rather impressive ‘Sacro Monte di Varese,’ a sacred calvary comprising of 14 fresco chapels, and a sacred path, culminating in a breathtakingly beautiful chapel at the top of the hill.
Milan to Varese: From Milan to the city of Varese it takes just one hour on the train. Alternatively, it takes just one hour to drive between Milano and Varese, and so the choice is totally up to you! Should you choose to take a car, you’ll soon discover that the countryside surrounding Varese is just as pretty as the city itself.
Read more: Varese Province travel guide
#15 The five lands of the Cinque Terre
Beautiful and popular among tourists and locals alike, Cinque Terre (literally translated as ‘five lands’ in English) is a set of five stunning coastal towns set alongside the Western coast of Italy. Populated by pretty houses and interconnected by winding mountainous pathways.
Milan to Cinque Terre: It’s perfectly possible to take yourself on a self-guided day trip from Milan to the five lands via train. However, the journey takes between three and four hours by train. Even if you rent a car, you’ll be looking at a three hour journey time, making this one of the longest Milan day trips.
Book a tour now: Cinque Terre day trip from Milan
Read more: Postcards from Cinque Terre
#16 The UNESCO Bernina Express
Truth be told, of all the Milan day trips you could take, venturing out onto the Bernina Express for a day of sightseeing from the comfort of a train is one of the best experiences you could hope to have. The Bernina train is essentially a picturesque train track that connects Switzerland with Northern Italy, passing through mountainscapes as it wends its way past glaciers and ancient towns.
Book a tour now: Bernina and St Moritz day trip from Milan
#17 Lake Maggiore
Though slightly less famous than Lake Como, one of the most beautiful day trips from Milan is that of Lake Maggiore, a stunning body of water in the province of Varese to the Northern part of Italy. Once there, some of the best things to do include exploring the Borromean Islands and visiting the many lakeside towns dotted across Maggiore.
Milan to Lake Maggiore: The easiest way to get from Milan to Lake Maggiore is by renting a car as this will allow you the flexibility you need (and without time constraints) in order to see the many different towns and villages and other attractions around the body of the lake.
Read more: Province de Varese travel guide
#18 University town of Bologna
If you’re looking for one of the very best day trips from Milan with oodles of history, then you’ll find all this and more if you hop on a train to Bologna. The city of Bologna is the oldest in its entire region and has a metropolitan area of around one million people.
Once an Etruscan city, Bologna’s university was established as early as 1088. Asides from wandering the cobbled lanes, checking out Italy’s coffee culture and sampling local cuisine, some of the best things to do in Bologna include climbing to the tops of the Torre Asinelli (medieval towers), and visiting the stunning Basilica of San Luca (a church which resides on a hill overlooking the entire city).
Milan to Bologna: To reach the town that’s home to the oldest university in the world, you’ll need to just take one train from Milan, that takes exactly an hour to reach Bologna! This is easily one of the best day trips from Milan as you can soak up some history directly under the Emilia-Romagna sun.
Read more: Day trips from Bologna you’ll love taking
Things to know before visiting Milan
The stunning Northern Italian city of Milano is best-known as being the fashion capital of the boot-shaped country. Mode aside, the capital of Lombardy is also home to an impressive Duomo, beautiful canal district, and even a bar designed by Wes Anderson, Bar Luce. Even if you only have one day in Milan itself, you’ll soon discover that there’s more to this Northern Italian city than meets the eye.
With this being said, Milan has seen a real surge of popularity and an increase in tourism over the past decade or so. This means that even if you visit during the European shoulder season, you’ll likely find that most hotels and B&Bs get booked up pretty quickly. As such, I highly recommend booking well in advance (as in, as soon as you’ve booked your flights to visit)! Check the best Milan accommodation rates here.
Finally, you’ll soon discover that everyone speaks great English, especially in the tourism industry. However, it’s only polite to learn some basic Italian. I personally recommend learning how to say ‘please,’ ‘thank you,’ ‘hello,’ and ‘sorry’ to get you started. Otherwise, you might want to bring along an Italian phrasebook like this one. For travelling around Europe, a universal adaptor like this one is a must, so you can keep your essentials (phone, kindle, tablet) charged as you travel.