Of course you can shop until you drop. Milano is the perfect destination for this. There are clothes, shoes and bags for all budgets and tastes. There are hundreds of cathedrals, ruins, monuments and museums. You can spend a full week in Milan and still not have enough of it. On the other hand, if you are the restless traveler kind, you may want to take a one day tour of Milan and spend the rest of the week exploring the Lombardy region. I’ve been here five times already and I can’t get enough of the lakes, mountains and mouth-watering foods of Northern Italy. These are the best day trips from Milan, should you choose this lovely city as your ground base for the week.
1. Sarnico, Lago d’Iseo
Small and charming, Lake Iseo is the weekend escape of people from Milan and Bergamo, especially when the weather is good. I’ve been there once in December and the second time in November. The December visit was pretty short, as the cold weather called for mulled wine and hot tea rather than walking. Nonetheless, this November I was lucky to be there on a bright, sunny day, with a temperature around 18 degrees Celsius. Sarnico, the small town by the lake is charming and clean. There aren’t too many tourists in the area, but it’s pretty busy during weekends, as many locals come here to relax and enjoy the Sunday market.
2. Lake Como – One of the Best Day Trips from Milan with Switzerland as a Bonus
Surrounded by mountains and hills, this wishbone shaped lake lies at the border between Italy and Switzerland. Its most southern point is about 40km up from Milan. Lake Como, Lago di Como in Italian, is the home of many celebrities and Hollywood stars. George Clooney, Madonna, Sylvester Stallone and Richard Branson are among the most famous celebrities who have chosen this beautiful place to call their home. There are many upscale resorts and hotels around Lake Como, but you don’t have to be as wealthy as George Clooney to be able to enjoy the beauty of this place. There’s a direct train line from Milan to Como, so you don’t have to sleep in five star hotels or villas, if you don’t want to. From Como, you can use the ferry lines to get around the lake. If you want, you can use the funicular lines to climb up the hills. You can also consider hiring a car in Como, in order to explore the neighborhoods at your own pace. While here, you should go see Bellagio, the meeting point of the three branches of Lake Como.
3. Lago di Garda
Lago di Garda is the largest lake in Italy. As you go from Milan to Venice, this lake is located half-way between Brescia and Verona. You can take a regional train from Milan or you can rent a car and take the highway. Depending on your mood, you can spend a few good hours in Sirmione, in the thermal spa complex Terme di Sirmione, or you can take a tour around the lake to enjoy the view and to take some stunning photos. Consider a stop in Limone sul Garda, a charming little holiday resort. Nonetheless, if you want to make the most out of the spas and saunas in the area, you should probably stay for a couple of days at least. Gardaland, the famous amusement park is very close to Lake Garda. I haven’t been there, but if you like this kind of entertainment, you could spend one day in the park and enjoy some adrenaline rush.
4. Bergamo, Citta Alta
Although full of tourists, Citta Alta has a special charm that makes it worth seeing. It is touristy and commercial, but this doesn’t make the experience any less real. I don’t know how Citta Alta feels in summer. Both times I’ve seen it, it was between Christmas and New Year’s Eve holidays. The cold was a good reason to make frequent stops for tasty pizza slices, hot tea and chocolate. The weather in Bergamo can be quite cold, but if there’s no wind, all you need is a warm jacket and a pair of solid boots to feel good outside. Citta Alta is higher than the new town, but you can reach it by funicolare, a cable car that can get you there in a few minutes.
5. Verona, in the footsteps of Romeo and Juliet
You can go from Milan to Verona either by train or by car. The road trips takes about 2 hours on the highway. By train, you can get there in about 1h14m and you’d have to pay 9 Euros for the ride. I’d choose the train; it is clean and fast. However, I’d avoid the rush hour, as these trains are full of people commuting to and from work. If you go early in the morning, you can even spend one day in Verona and come back to Milan for dinner.
Anyway, once in Verona, you have the opportunity to get a new lover (should you need one). According to an old legend, all you have to do is rub Juliet’s right breast. It works for both men and women. I wonder what happens if you rub the boob without knowing what it means?
The Milan to Venice train trip takes a little over two hours. The one-way cost for one passenger from Milano Centrale to Venezia Santa Lucia is about 30-40 euro. It may seem expensive, but accommodation options in Milan cost less than good hotels and guest houses in Venice, especially in high season. Besides, Venice is a sort of tourist trap, with gondola rides that cost about 80 Euros and with overpriced pizza, coffee and gelato. If you aren’t keen on having your coffee in Piaza San Marco, you can find foods and drinks at reasonable prices. Nonetheless, a one day trip would let you take the pulse of the place. If you decide you like it, you can always come back for a romantic weekend or, why not, for your honeymoon. Should you want to spend a couple of nights here, you can choose to visit Venice in December, because there are fewer tourists and much better prices.
This is what I would do in Lombardy for one week, my 6 best day trips from Milan. Where else would you go? Would you rather stay in Brescia in order to be in the middle of the region?