Milan is known as a sophisticated fashion capital, bustling business city and home to cultural gems like The Last Supper, but did you know it’s also an excellent base for day trips around Lombardy? Leave the big city behind for a day to explore new parts of Lombardy for some quality nature time along one of the region’s many lakes, a delicious, traditional meal or a different feel of smaller Northern Italian cities.
These five destinations each have their own unique character and are gorgeous any time of year – from summer swims to fall foliage, sunny days in winter to vibrant spring flowers. And the best part? Our favorite day trips are budget friendly (€50 and under) and each destination can be reached around an hour or less by train.
When you think of Lake Como, more often than not one name pops up: George Clooney. Lake Como is indeed a glamorous destination that is beloved by the rich and famous, but there are lots of fabulous options for frugal travelers. After a visit to Como’s city center with its impressive Duomo (cathedral), take the public ferry (€3 for a one day pass) and enjoy the incredible views of the lush mountains. Hop off at Cernobbio to enjoy a stroll lungolago (by the lake) and head up the hills at sunset for one of the best views of this dreamy destination. €10 round trip train ride, one hour each way.
Bergamo is divided into two parts – città alta (high city, historic) and città bassa (low city, more modern). We suggest taking the funicular ( €3.50 for day pass) and sticking to the picturesque città alta with its undeniable charm, breathtaking views and fascinating history and architecture. The high part of the city offers many delicious options including polenta street food at PolentOne (From €4 to 6), gelato at Cafe Del Tasso (approx. €3) and artisanal beer at the funky Osteria della Birra, which also offers a nice menu at an affordable price. You’ll burn off your wonderful lunch getting lost up and down the cobblestone streets! €11 round trip train ride, 50 minutes each way.
Arona, Angera, Stresa: just some of the incredible towns along Lake Maggiore, each one more beautiful than the next. For an extraordinary visit to a place that seems suspended in time, take the ferry from Stresa to Santa Caterina del Sasso to explore the serene hermitage with amazing views of the lake. Afterwards, try a mix of local lake fish specialties including carpione (fried and marinated in vinegar) and trout with fresh herbs and vegetables. €17.20 round trip train ride, 1 hour 10 minutes each way.
For less tourists and a true Italian vibe, head to Lake Lecco for a gorgeous sunny day. What could be better than a refreshing swim surrounded by mountains, followed by a cool gelato by the water? (Check out Gelateria D’Autore as the locals do). Literature fans shouldn’t miss a step back in time to follow the footsteps of Alessandro Mazoni’s I Promessi Sposi, one of the most important books in Italian history that took place in Lecco. €9.60 round trip train ride, 1 hour each way.
The closest day trip to Milan, which makes it the perfect destination if you only have a few free hours to explore outside of Milan. Pavia is home to gorgeous architecture, cute bistros and an acclaimed university, but the real gem of the city lies 8km away at Certosa di Pavia. The gorgeous monastery boasts an incredible facade that may look a bit familiar – the same artists who worked on Milan’s Duomo helped create the masterpiece. Entrance price is on a donation basis and monks offer free tours to guide travelers in discovering the secrets of this magnificent location. €8 round trip train ride, 30 minutes each way.