If you’re visiting Milan and have extra time to explore the surroundings, you won’t be short on options!
All around Milan, you can find beautiful cities filled with historical landmarks and museums, charming small towns, and stunning natural landscapes.
After all, there’s so much to discover within less than two hours from the center of Milan.
Most of these are easily accessible by train, though in some instances, renting a car will save you time and hassle.
Whether you prefer visiting big cities or you’d rather escape the chaos of Milan and wander around in nature, there’s something for every taste.
Hop on a train at Milano Centrale (or one of Milan’s other train stations, near some of the other neighborhoods of Milan) and discover a few of these gorgeous destinations across four different Italian regions: Lombardy, Piedmont, Emilia Romagna, and Liguria.
The Best Day Trips from Milan
Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy, located east of Milan, close to Brescia.
The lake is a popular holiday destination, especially during summer when you can take boat tours and try water sports.
It can get a little busy here as this is also a common day trip from Venice since it’s in between the two cities.
Visit some of the picturesque little towns around the lake, each offering gorgeous views of the lake and mountains around it.
The closest towns to Milan along Lake Garda are Desenzano del Garda, Peschiera del Garda, and the charming little town of Sirmione.
Further north, Salò is another charming town, though slightly farther from Milan.
The best way to explore Lake Garda is by taking a boat trip.
Sirmione is a popular departing spot for lake tours like this Lake Garda: Historic Castle Cruise with Wine Tasting.
You can combine a trip to Lake Garda with the charming city of Verona (the setting of Romeo and Juliet) on a guided tour like this one.
Alternately, if you’re looking for a fun day out with kids, visit the Gardaland Resort, the largest amusement park in Italy, just outside Peschiera del Garda.
Lago Maggiore is the second-largest lake in Italy after Lake Garda.
Located in the north of Italy, nestled along the Swiss border, the lake extends into Switzerland and is home to many picturesque towns all along its shores.
The easiest towns to reach from Milan are Luino and Angera, both less than two hours by train from Milan.
In Angera, wander around the little town and visit the medieval castle Rocca di Angera with its beautiful gardens and the Museum of Dolls and Toys.
In Luino, check out the alleys of the historical center with colorful houses and head to Terrazza Belvedere Pasqué for a panoramic view of the lake.
Another great way to explore Lago Maggiore is by taking a boat tour. Most tours depart from Stresa, another picturesque town on the Piedmont side of the lake.
Alternatively, join a half-day tour directly from Milan, like this Stresa, Alps, & Lake Maggiore Half Day Tour.
A beloved destination close to Milan and frequented by locals, tourists, and celebrities, Lake Como is lined with charming little villages and luxurious villas.
If you could only choose one day trip from Milan, this may be one of your best bets!
While Lake Como is worthy of a 2 or even 3 day itinerary, you can still do quite a lot in a day trip, especially if you take a guided tour that organizes everything for you.
Lake Como boasts a variety of charming little towns like Lugano (on the Swiss side), Bellagio, and Varenna and gorgeous villas like Villa Balbianello, Villa Melzi d’Eril, and Villa Monastero.
The main city of Como is less than one hour by train from Milan and features a toweringly beautiful Gothic cathedral, a lovely lakeside promenade, and a charming historic center.
If you’d rather join an organized tour directly from Milan that includes a boat cruise on the lake, try this Lake Como, Bellagio, and Varenna Day Tour.
The tour includes a visit to the city of Como, Villa Olmo, and the charming towns of Bellagio and Varenna.
It’s easy to overlook Bergamo in favor of larger and more renowned cities, but this smaller city in Lombardy has a lot to offer!
The old town of Bergamo, also known as Città Alta, is surrounded by beautiful 16th-century Venetian walls that became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2017.
The Upper Town is connected to the Lower Town via funicular, offering beautiful city views.
Walk along the walls, explore the historical center with the beautiful Piazza Vecchia, and climb to the top of the 12th-century Campanone for panoramic views.
For more stunning views, catch another funicular and check out Torre Castello San Vigilio.
You can easily reach Bergamo from Milan in just one hour. Trains depart regularly from Porta Garibaldi.
A small city not far from Milan, Brescia boasts beautiful medieval buildings, ancient Roman ruins, and many interesting museums.
The highlights of the city are the medieval Castle of Brescia, with views of the city, and the Brescia Museums Foundation.
Brescia’s complex of museums includes the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Santa Giulia Museum, housed in a monastic complex, and the Brixia Roman archeological area featuring well-preserved Roman ruins.
Another part of the complex is the Pinacoteca Tosio Martinengo, which houses masterpieces by Raphael, Hayez, and Canova, to mention a few.
For a day trip to Brescia from Milan, catch a train in the direction of Venice, and you’ll be there in less than one hour.
Best known for its Art Nouveau villas, Varese is a city northwest of Milan, only one hour away by train.
The most important villas worth visiting are Villa Panza, housing a modern and contemporary art collection, the historic Villa Toeplitz, with its beautiful gardens, and Villa Mirabello, which houses the Archaeologic and Civic Museum.
Just outside of Varese, visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site Sacro Monte di Varese to explore the picturesque little village and admire the panoramic view of Varese and its surroundings.
From the Sacro Monte village, you can descend into the Vellone Valley via funicular to explore the hiking area.
In less than two hours by train from Milan Central Station, you can reach the town of Asti, better known for the sparkling wine of the same name!
An Asti wine tasting is a must-do while in town, but it’s not the only reason to visit!
Cripta e Museo di Sant’Anastasio is an 11th-century crypt housing remains of a Romanesque church, which later became the location of a female monastery, and the ruins of an ancient Roman forum.
The nearby 15th-century Palazzo Mazzetti is a baroque palace housing a rich collection of Renaissance paintings and sculptures and hosting temporary exhibitions.
To complete your visit, explore the gothic Asti Cathedral and climb to the top of Torre Troyana to enjoy a panoramic view of the city.
In less than one hour from Milan, you can reach Piacenza, a small city known for its well-preserved Romanesque architecture.
One of the best examples of Romanesque architecture is the Piacenza Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta e Santa Giustina, built between the 12th and 13th centuries.
Piazza dei Cavalli is the central square of Piacenza, known for the equestrian statue of Alessandro Farnese, a member of the influential Farnese family that ruled the duchy of Parma and Piacenza between the 16th and 18th centuries.
The city is also home to Palazzo Farnese, which houses an important collection of medieval paintings and frescoes, including works by Botticelli and Boccaccino.
Less than two hours by train from Milan, Genoa is a beautiful port city and once an important maritime republic before Italy was unified into one nation.
The port is still one of the most important in Italy, and the area of the old port is a lively tourist spot.
Near the port, visit the maritime museum Galata Museo del Mare, the huge Aquarium of Genova, and the 17th-century Royal Palace Museum housing beautiful frescoes.
For the best restaurants to sample delicious pesto Genovese, head to the Caruggi di Genova, a cobweb of picturesque narrow alleys in the historical center.
The main square in the city is Piazza de Ferrari, with an impressive bronze fountain in the middle.
Other important attractions in Genova are the Doge’s Palace, Christopher Columbus’ House, and the Metropolitan Cathedral of Saint Lawrence.
For a gorgeous panoramic view of the city and bay, climb to the top of the Lighthouse of Genova.
You can also combine a trip to Genova with a trip to the colorful seaside town of Portofino on this guided day trip.
Just south of Genoa and two hours by train from Milan, Rapallo is a town on the Italian Riviera known for the hilltop Sanctuary of Our Lady of Montallegro and the picturesque seaside Rapallo Castle.
To reach the sanctuary, catch the Rapallo to Montallegro cable car and admire the wonderful views of the Riviera!
Explore the quaint historical center with its churches, squares, and elegant seaside promenade lined with restaurants and bars, then head to the nearby Santa Margherita Ligure to visit the sumptuous 17th-century Villa Durazzo.
If you have extra time, head to the picturesque village of Portofino to admire the charming little bay with its colorful houses and visit the beautiful Castello Brown, once the property of the British consul in Genoa Montague Yeats Brown.
Only one hour by train from Milan, Turin (Torino in Italian) is the capital of Piedmont and a refined city filled with museums and beautiful buildings.
Home to great cafes, delicious chocolate, baroque architecture, and wide squares, Turin makes for a great day trip from Milan.
Discover one of the world’s largest collections of Egyptian antiquities at the Egyptian Museum, visit the 18th-century Basilica of Superga, and admire the former royal residence La Venaria Reale.
One of the main squares in Turin is the baroque Piazza San Carlo, not far from other important landmarks like the Royal Palace of Turin and the Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist.
Other unique museums in Turin are the Museo Nazionale dell’Automobile, dedicated to the history of automobiles, and the National Museum of Cinema, housed in the iconic Mole Antonelliana towering over the rooftops of Turin and offering sweeping views of the city.
The second largest city in the Piedmont region after Turin, Novara is most known for the 13th-century Visconti-Sforza Castle that reopened to visitors only a few years ago after massive renovations.
The city is also home to several other beautiful historical buildings and churches worth a visit!
The Basilica of San Gaudenzio is the largest church in Novara, and its cupola is the highest point in the city.
Climb to the top for the best panoramic views of Novara and its surroundings!
The main church of the city is, however, the Romanesque Novara Cathedral (Duomo di Novara), built on the site of an ancient basilica from the 4th century.
Novara is very close to Milan, which makes it a perfect destination for a day trip. Trains depart regularly from Milano Porta Garibaldi and take roughly 40 minutes to get to Novara.
For a day trip in a lovely small city in the Emilia Romagna region, catch a train from Milano Centrale and head to Parma in just over one hour.
While it may be better known as the home of Parma ham (prosciutto di Parma), the city has much more to offer.
Wander around Parma’s historical center to discover landmarks such as the imposing Romanesque Parma Cathedral and the pink marble Baptistery with its beautiful frescoes.
If you’re looking for beautiful museums, visit the Pinacoteca Stuard for paintings and sculptures from the 14th to the 20th centuries or the Fondazione Museo Glauco Lombardi for art and artifacts that belonged to royal families.
Another must-see is the beautifully decorated Camera di San Paolo e Cella di Santa Caterina housed in a 16th-century Benedictine convent.
Parma is also home to the stunning Palazzo della Pilotta, a former residence of the Farnese noble family, now housing a theater (Teatro Farnese).
Other interesting sights to see on a day trip from Milan include the Galleria Nazionale di Parma with art from the 12th to the 18th centuries, the Archaeological Museum, and the Palatine Library.
The capital of the Emilia-Romagna region, Bologna is mainly known for being the home of the oldest university in the world and the world-famous Bolognese sauce!
The Bologna University dates to the late 11th century and has been in continuous operation ever since — the longest-running ongoing university in the world!
The university draws many students from all over Italy to the city, making Bologna the main university city in the country.
Bologna is also known for the many towers offering sweeping views of the city, like the iconic Two Towers and Torre dei Prendiparte.
The central square of Bologna is Piazza Maggiore, while the adjacent Piazza del Nettuno houses the iconic Fountain of Neptune.
When in Bologna, you must indulge in the delicious local cuisine. There’s a reason why the city is also known as La Grassa (the Fat One)!
Try the local Green Lasagna or Tagliatelle al Ragù, or have a simple but delicious sandwich with Mortadella Bologna.
Bologna is very easy to reach from Milan. Trains depart regularly from Milano Centrale and only take one hour and a half to get to the center of Bologna.
Much smaller than Bologna, Reggio Emilia is another lovely city in the Emilia Romagna region known for its great cuisine.
Home of the world-famous Parmigiano Reggiano (along with Parma, Modena, and other nearby provinces), Reggio Emilia is a perfect destination if you want to taste delicious dishes and discover more underrated museums!
Admire Renaissance art at Galleria Parmeggiani, discover contemporary art at Collezione Maramotti, and learn about the evolution of psychiatry at the Museum of History of Psychiatry.
Don’t miss the chance to try local parmesan with a glass of red wine and taste traditional dishes like the Erbazzone (puff pastry with spinach), focaccia, and cappelletti (fresh pasta filled with meat).
Reggio Emilia is north of Bologna, so it’s even closer to Milan for a day trip. You can reach the city in just over one hour by train from Milano Centrale.
The birthplace of balsamic vinegar, Modena is yet another destination where you can sample tasty Italian cuisine!
The city just south of Reggio Emilia (1.5 hours from Milan) is also known for being the birthplace of Enzo Ferrari, founder of the Ferrari cars brand.
The main landmark in Modena is the Enzo Ferrari Museum, housing historic and modern sports cars.
If you’d rather visit an art museum, Galleria Estense houses paintings and sculptures from the 14th to the 18th centuries, including masterpieces by Velázquez, Bernini, El Greco, and Cima da Conegliano.
The traditional cuisine of Modena includes heartwarming dishes like tortellini (fresh pasta stuffed with meat) in a meat broth and Zampone di Modena, a pig trotter filled with ground pork and usually served with lentils.
Where to Stay in Milan
A great option in downtown Milan is Antica Locanda Dei Mercanti, a quaint guest house located in an elegant 18th-century building with a terrace offering great views of downtown.
For a more quiet part of Milan than the center, San Marco Boutique Apartments features spacious studios in the Brera district with modern kitchenettes and A/C.
For a slice of local life in Milan, La Casa Colorata features beautiful modern units — with access to two saunas in the common relaxing area!
Roxana is a Romanian-born freelance travel writer who has lived in Italy for over 15 years. She has a Master’s in Journalism and a Bachelor’s in Film Studies, and she studied at Università degli Studi di Roma Tre. Besides her native Romania, Roxana has lived in Rome, Lisbon, and Berlin, and she has traveled through much of Europe in search of hidden gems, history, and culture.