When I worked in Milan I took advantage of weekends to travel. Below I’ve made a list of my favorite places to visit from Milan in 1, 2, 3 or 4 days. I’ve put cities in a list based on the minimum amount of time I recommend spending there. Unless otherwise specified, all travel times are by train.
If you have just 1 day…
- Visit the Carthusian Monastery of Pavia, only 20 minutes away.
- The town and beautiful park of Monza are just 10 minutes away.
- The ancient town of Bergamo is under an hour away.
- The Roman town of Como, on the lake with the same name, is just an hour away.
- The Lake Maggiore is also one hour away. Take the train to the beautiful town of Stresa and go from there.
- Go to Switzerland! In 1 hour you are in the pretty lakeside town of Lugano.
- Gawk at the the picturesque alpine scenery of the Aosta Valley.
- In just over an hour, you’re in the atmospheric university city of Bologna.
- Visit the gastronomically and architecturally significant Parma, less than 90 minutes away. Arrive hungry.
- At 90 minutes away, Turin is somewhat of a long day trip but one of my favorite people lives there so I’ve done it many times.
- The port city of Genoa is also about 90 minutes away. It’s a long day trip but if that’s all you have, then go, and at the end of the day you’ll be promising to return as soon as you can.
Shopaholics, take note – there are a couple of my favorite outlet stores in Italy not far from Milan (one is actually in Switzerland!).
If you have 2 days, consider any of the above, and in addition….
- The spa town of Sirmione, on Lake Garda is a couple hours away.
- Visit the town or see an outdoor opera in the small city of Verona, under 2 hours away.
- Get a little off the beaten track in the town of Vicenza about 2 hours away – and don’t miss Palladio’s Villa Rotonda.
- Go to Florence, just under 2 hours away.
- Enjoy art, architecture and food in the gorgeous city of Padua, just over 2 hours away.
- Spend time in Venice, about 2.5 hours away. Two days in Venice is a little rushed but if that’s all you have, then go.
- Hike the Cinque Terre, which is about 3 hours away by train.
- Sure why not – go to Pisa and climb the leaning tower.
If you have 3 days, consider any of the above, and in addition…
- From Florence, visit the towns of Lucca, Siena, San Gimignano – or if you have a car, Monteriggioni or Volterra.
- Spend a couple days on the island of Elba. Allow about 4 hours for the train plus 1 hour for the ferry. (Though this trip is easier by car when starting from Milan.)
- See the spectacular Byzantine mosaics in the city of Ravenna, and while you’re in the area, stop in and visit the town of Brisighella.
- In 4 hours you’re in the gorgeous Umbrian city of Perugia. From there visit Assisi as well.
If you have 4 days, consider any of the above, and in addition…
- Venture further into Tuscany, visiting the towns of Pienza and Montepulciano.
- Go to Rome.
- Explore more of Umbria from your base in Perugia. Visit the towns of Gubbio, Spoleto, Todi, and Orvieto.
- Explore more of the Veneto, going up to Bassano del Grappa, Asolo, and the countryside – red and Prosecco wineries! – north of Verona.
- Go skiing at Cortina D’Ampezzo in the Dolomites. Or if it’s summertime, go hiking near Ortisei in the Val Gardena.
I don’t recommend going south of Rome if you have only 4 days total, nor do I recommend trying to go to Sardinia or Sicily. You just need more time that that (even though, I know, Italy does look misleadingly small on the map!)
Photos from top to bottom: Parma, Sirmione, Lucca, the Dolomites near Ortisei. All photos by Sanjay
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