Milan is one of many beautiful Italian cities that tourists often include in their itineraries. This Northern Italian destination is a global city with thriving industries in fashion, art, finance, and tourism, just to name a few.
But if you have more time, you can also visit any of its surrounding cities and towns. Other beautiful destinations in Italy and neighboring Switzerland can be easily accessed from Milan. If you have limited time to explore the country, you can visit any of these on a day tour.
All of these are easily accessible by train or bus, so you can easily pull a DIY. If you are going to take the train, the cheaper option is the regional train; the fastest but more expensive is, of course, the high-speed train. But if you’re more interested in joining a guided tour, we also included a link to Klook, where you can book them.
WHAT'S COVERED IN THIS GUIDE?
1. Lake Como
A cruise down Lake Como paints a picture of affluence and beauty. The picturesque view of the villas with striking architecture and the lush mountains draw tourists to the lake, which is also located in Lombardy. The scenery might be familiar, especially to Star Wars fans, as you might have seen it from Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones.
Another popular destination in the area is the town of Bellagio, a resort town with cobblestone streets and old structures. The cruise around Lake Como usually leads to Bellagio.
From Milan, it will take about 1.5 hours to reach Lake Como. For those who plan to pull a D-I-Y trip, the most convenient public transportation is the train. The usual jump-off points from Milan are Milano Centrale Station and Milano Cadorna Station. The fare range is €4.80 – €15, depending on the train type and class.
Nearest Train Station: Como S. Giovanni Station (if coming from Milano Centrale) and Como Nord Lago Station (if coming from Milano Cadorna)
If you prefer to join a guided tour, you can book via Klook.
2. Cinque Terre
Cinque Terre is a famous attraction in the Province of La Spezia. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the national park encompasses a cluster of five colorful towns — Monterosso Al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore — perched on rocky cliffs. All of the five towns’ western borders face the Ligurian Sea, blessing each town with breathtaking views of the coast.
Because of the proximity to the sea, Cinque Terre is known for its seafood offerings. From Milano Centrale, the travel time is 3-4 hours, depending on the type of train. The fare range is €18.85 – €44, depending on the train type and class.
Nearest Train Station: Monterosso Station
Genoa, the shining gem of the Italian Riviera. This port city is integral not only to the Italian but also the Mediterranean trade routes. Playing a major role in the region, it serves as the capital of Liguria. Walk around the heritage city of Genoa where you can see the San Lorenzo Cathedral, Piazza de Ferrari, and Teatro Carlo Felice. Then go on a cruise to the villages of Santa Margherita and Portofino!
From Milano Centrale, there are direct trains to Genoa. The travel time is 1.5-3 hours, depending on the type of train. The fare is €13.45 – €30, depending on the train type and class.
Nearest Train Station: Genova Piazza Principe Station
Bologna, Italy’s red city and culinary capital. With its flourishing industries like agriculture, finance, publishing, education, and transportation, it is one of the richest cities in Italy. It serves as the regional capital of Emilia-Romagna in Northern Italy.
The city is a delight for those who love marveling at historic sites, especially the medieval and Renaissance-era structures. Some of the noteworthy places are Piazza Maggiore, the Two Towers, and the University of Bologna, said to be the oldest university in Europe. It is also home to many ancient towers and churches.
After the cultural and historical tour, go on a gastronomic tour and sample tagliatelle alla Bolognese (ragù), tortellini, and mortadella di Bologna in between the historic spots! From Milano Centrale, there are direct routes to Bologna. Travel time is 1.5-3 hours and the fare is €16.80 – €48, depending on the train type and class.
Nearest Train Station: Bologna Centrale Station
More info here: Bologna Travel Guide!
Venice, the floating city! The city comprises over a hundred small islands in the Venetian Lagoon. Instead of roads, the city is navigable by its canals and hundreds of bridges. Trade and export are some of the economic drivers of Venice, which is the capital of the Veneto region in Northern Italy. But the main contributor to the city’s income is the tourism industry.
Explore the island’s narrow alleys and bridges on foot, then ride a gondola and see the city from its famous canals. Don’t miss St Mark’s Basilica and its square. From Milano Centrale, there are trains that travel directly to Venice, but these are usually high-speed trains. If you are taking the regional train, you will need to transfer to another train at Verona Porta Nuova Station. The whole duration of the trip is 3-4 hours and the fare is between €20.70 – €64, depending on the train type and class.
Nearest Train Station: Venezia Santa Lucia Station
Florence is one of the famous cities in Italy in terms of fashion, arts, and history. Its economy thrives mostly on tourism, which focuses on cultural exploration. The city is home to many museums and galleries. Architectural structures with significant cultural and historical backgrounds abound and attract millions of tourists yearly.
It’s not only the administrative capital of Tuscany but also the region’s historic capital. The most prominent landmark is the Duomo, while the masterpieces at the Accademia Gallery including Michelangelo’s David sculpture are equally noteworthy. From Milano Centrale, There are direct trains to Florence. The travel time is 2-5 hours and the fare is €25.50 – €77, depending on the train type and ticket class.
Nearest Train Station: Santa Maria Novella Station
More info here: Florence Travel Guide!
7. Lake Garda
Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy, spans three provinces in Northern Italy — Verona, Brescia, and Trento. Verona on the southeast is known for its namesake capital city, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Verona City’s fame is amplified by William Shakespeare when he used it as the setting for his novels Romeo and Juliet and The Two Gentlemen of Verona.
Brescia on the southwest boasts the resort town of Sirmione and its hot baths, Grotte di Catullo, and Rocca Scaligera. Trento’s capital city is also a popular tourist destination with various resorts and architectural wonders like Trento Cathedral and Piazza Duomo.
From Milano Centrale, there are direct train routes to Lake Garda’s main gateways in Verona and Brescia. The travel time is 1-2 hours.
Nearest Train Station: Peschiera del Garda Station (Verona) and Desenzano del Garda Station (Brescia/Sirmione)
Klook is offering a day trip to Verona and Sirmione. If you are interested, you may book a guided tour here!
8. Interlaken, Switzerland
Interlaken is a town situated between two lakes, Lake Thun and Lake Brienz, in Bernese Oberland region of Central Switzerland. The area is known for its mountain and ski resorts, as well as hiking trails and the lakes. Interlaken is the jump-off point to the Swiss Alps’ outdoor and adventure spots.
From Milano Centrale, the journey to Interlaken by train involves one train transfer at Spiez. The travel time is 3-4 hours, depending on the type of train. From Spiez to Interlaken the travel time is about 15 minutes by train. The fare may reach as much as €68.
Nearest Train Station: Spiez Station
Marvel at the scenery when you cross Simplon Pass, one of the most stunning views in Switzerland. Book a guided tour here!
9. St. Moritz, Switzerland
St. Moritz is a popular ski resort town in the Engadine region in Southern Switzerland. A number of major sporting events have taken place here; Winter Olympics was held here twice already. It also features an Olympic-size outdoor ice rink and the Cresta Run. Because of its high-altitude location, most of the activities here are snow-based.
From Milano Centrale, getting to St. Moritz requires a train transfer at Tirano. The travel time is 3-4 hours, depending on the type of train.
Nearest Train Station: Tirano Station (Transfer) and St. Moritz Station
Get on Bernina Express and enjoy the scenic Bernina Pass on the way to St. Moritz. To board the Bernina Express, you have to cross the plaza from Tirano Station to get to the other station. Book a guided tour here!
Bergamo is the second most popular city in Lombardy, next to Milan. The city is a combination of old and new, with quite an apparent distinction — the lower portion, called the Citta Bassa, is more on the modern side where commerce happens and where most of the population resides, while the upper portion, called Citta Alta, is where the heritage and cultural sites are concentrated.
From Citta Bassa, you can get to Citta Alta via a funicular, a cable railroad. The historical walled upper city is where tourists flock to when they visit Bergamo. One of the notable landmarks is the Duomo di Bergamo.
From Milano Centrale or Milano Lambrate, there are direct train routes to Bergamo. The travel time is about an hour. The fare is €5.50.
Nearest Train Station: Bergamo Station
Located in the Emilia-Romagna region, along the major road and railway between Milan and Bologna, Parma is easily accessed from either city and a possible day trip destination. It’s known contribution to the culinary world are the (drumroll) Parmesan cheese and Parma ham (prosciutto di Parma)!
It’s also where you’ll find Parma University, one of the oldest universities in Europe, gaining the title “university city”. Other remarkable structures are the Parma Cathedral, Palazzo della Pilotta, and the National Museum of Antiquities among others.
From Milano Centrale, there are direct train routes to Parma. The travel time is 1-2.5 hours and the fare is €11.10 – €27.50, depending on the type of train.
Nearest Train Station: Parma Station
Also situated in the Emilia-Romagna region is the city of Modena. The city has a lot to boast — the home of balsamic vinegar, the birthplace of some of the world’s luxury sports car brands (Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati), and renowned opera singer Luciano Pavarotti to name a few. It also houses cultural landmarks that are listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site: Piazza Grande, Torre della Ghirlandina, and Modena Cathedral.
From Milano Centrale, there are direct routes to Modena by train. The travel time is 1.5-3 hours, depending on the type of train and route (direct or with transfers). The fare range is €15.55 – €35.
Nearest Train Station: Modena Station
Turin is the capital of the Piedmont region in Northern Italy. Four rivers flow through the city; one of them is Po River where most part of the city lies on its western bank. As the city used to be the capital of the Kingdom of Sardinia, the Baroque-style architecture flourished during this rule.
Today, the traces of that bygone era could still be seen around some streets. Other notable structures are located within the vicinity of Piazza Castello and Piazza San Carlo. The city also has numerous churches, museums, parks, villas, palaces, and gardens.
From Milano Centrale, there are frequent train services that run directly to Turin. The travel time is 1-2 hours. The fare is €12.45 – €36, depending on the train type and ticket class.
Nearest Train Station: Torino Porta Nuova Station
14. Parco Nazionale Gran Paradiso
Italy’s premier national park. Situated between the two regions in Northern Italy — Piedmont and Aosta Valley, Gran Paradiso National Park beckons those who love the wild and the outdoors. The park lies in the Gaian Alps where many hiking trails snake through the rich flora and different landscapes of the area.
One of the highlights is the mountain the park was named after, the Gran Paradiso Mountain, which rises up over 4000 meters. There are many jump-off points, depending on which part you want to explore, but the most accessible is the one located in Cogne Valley.
From Milano Centrale, getting to Aosta (Cogne jump-off point) requires two train transfers at Turin and then Ivrea. The total travel time by train from Milan to Aosta, including the transfers, is 3-4 hours. From Aosta, take the bus (SVAP) to Cogne or your preferred jump-off point. There are also direct bus routes (SAVDA) from Milan to Aosta. If you are taking the bus, make sure to book in advance as the route is popular among travelers.
Nearest Train Station: Turin Porta Nuova Station (Transfer 1) and Ivrea Train Station (Transfer 2)
15. Lugano, Switzerland
Lugano has a peculiar mix of Swiss-Italian culture, thanks to its location, the Ticino region, which shares the border with Italy. It’s not surprising that the majority of the population is fluent in Italian.
The city features natural and cultural tourist spots that make it one of the most visited in Switzerland. Museums and historic sites, like the Piazza della Riforma, dot the city’s map and the surrounding mountains appeal to the adventure-seekers. Lake Lugano is one of the highlights in the region.
From Milano Centrale, there are trains that travel directly to Lugano in 1.5-2 hours and the fare may reach as much as €24, depending on the type of train.
Nearest Train Station: Lugano Station
Edited by Asta Alvarez
2020 • 8 • 28