Milan is a bustling metropolitan city with plenty to see and do. However, if you’re looking to escape the city for a day or two, there are plenty of great towns around Milan, and many of them are easily accessible even without a car.
In fact, Milan is very interconnected with its surrounding areas, making it easy to get around by public transportation, especially train.
Here are the top picks for the best tows to visit near Milan in a day, without a car:
Towns Near Milan, Less Than 2 Hours Away
Bergamo old town (Città Alta)
If you’re looking to escape the hustle and bustle of Milan for a day, Bergamo is the perfect place to go. This charming town is close to Milan, just a short train ride away. It is home to plenty of great things to see and do.
Bergamo’s old town is the city’s crowning glory, and its charming atmosphere is perfect for a leisurely stroll.
What to see in Bergamo
The old town is a walled-off portion of the city that sits on a hill and is home to winding alleyways and medieval-style structures. From there, you can enjoy breathtaking views of the city.
The buildings of Bergamo’s old town are made of stone and are very close together, two features typical of medieval towns. The streets were intentionally made more difficult to navigate, both in terms of their layout and their size, in order to discourage invaders.
In 1427, Bergamo was taken over by Venice, and this had a big impact on the area. Like its façade, the town’s interior is filled with architectural details that hint at its connection to Venice.
Gothic trilobate windows, the most recognizable trademark of Venetian architecture, and the San Marco Lions that adorn many of the city’s gates are just some of the enduring symbols of Venice’s legacy.
Some of the best things to do in the old town of Bergamo include visiting the San Michele al Pozzo Bianco church, exploring the Citta Alta gardens, and taking the cable car up to the San Vigilio castle for panoramic views of the city.
Bergamo is also home to a number of great museums, including the Accademia Carrara, which houses an impressive collection of Renaissance art, and the Museo Civico di Scienze Naturali, which is perfect for kids and adults alike.
What to eat in Bergamo
No trip to Bergamo would be complete without trying some of the city’s delicious food. The town is known for its Polenta e Ossobuco, a dish made of cornmeal porridge and veal shanks, as well as its traditional Cassoeula, a stew made with cabbage, pork, and sausage.
Where to eat polenta e ossobuco in Bergamo:
- Polentone – Piazza Mercato delle Scarpe, 1, Bergamo
- Circolino Città Alta – Vicolo Sant’Agata, 19, Bergamo
- Da Franco Restaurant – Via Bartolomeo Colleoni, 8, Bergamo
How to get to Bergamo from Milan
The easiest way to get to Bergamo from Milan is by taking the train. The journey takes about 50 minutes, and trains depart twice per hour from Milan’s central station. The ticket costs less than 6€ per person.
How to get to Bergamo old town from Bergamo train station
Bergamo’s old town is perched up on a hill, so getting there will need either a cable car ride or a good old-fashioned stroll.
From the train station, a 20-minute walk will take you to the entrance of the cable car. Buy your cable car tickets at the coffee shop or one of the many tobacconist stores along the road leading up to the station. Each ride will cost you around 1.50 euros.
If you’re feeling energetic, you can also walk up to the Old Town through a suggestive green landscape, which takes about 10 minutes. The walk is (obviously) uphill, so be prepared for a bit of a workout.
It just takes two hours to go from Milan by rail to reach the lovely town of Mantova.
This town is ideal for a weekend getaway or day trip due to being so close to Milan.
Mantova is famous for its well-preserved medieval architecture and its picturesque location on the shores of a lake.
What to see in Mantova
Mantova is home to a number of great sights and attractions; for example, Palazzo Ducale is a particularly impressive sight, and its vast size and intricate detailing are a testament to the wealth and power of the Gonzaga family which once ruled the city.
The magnificent frescoes of Palazzo Ducale are what makes this building so famous.
This magnificent building opened as a museum over 100 years ago. Its collection includes works by notable artists including Pisanello, and Mantegna’s signature on the “Camera degli Sposi”.
The Basilica di Sant’Andrea is another notable sight in Mantova, and its Romanesque architecture is sure to impress.
The interior of the church is just as magnificent as the exterior.
Go inside and take a look at the beautiful gold altarpiece and the stunning painted ceiling.
If you’re looking to get out and explore the great outdoors, Mantova is the perfect place to do it.
The town is situated on the shores of artificial lakes, and there are plenty of companies organizing boat trips daily.
You can spend a day on the water exploring the city and the stunning landscape that surrounds it. Take a day trip on Lower Lake and see Gonzaga’s most famous landmarks reflected in the lake’s peaceful waters.
In the spring, the boat ride also allows you to see the landscape beyond the lagoon. From there, you’ll spot the gorgeous water lilies, water chestnut trees, and lotus blossoms that are native to this humid region.
What to eat in Mantova
Mantova is also known for its food, and there are plenty of great authentic restaurants to eat in town.
Tortelli di zucca
One of the most popular dishes in Mantova is the tortelli di zucca, a type of stuffed pasta. Its filling is made with pumpkin, the “mantovana” variety popular here, and served with butter and sage sauce.
- Osteria Piazza Sordello 26 – Piazza Sordello 26, Mantova
- Bice La Gallina Felice – Via Antonio Carbonati, 4, Mantova
- Osteria dell’Oca – Via Trieste, 10, Mantova
Besides, in Mantova city center you’ll find many pasta stores. They sell delicious raw pumpkin tortelli that you can prepare any way you want, or give as gifts. It will be an excellent souvenir for your loved ones back home.
Riso alla pilota
Another popular dish is the “riso alla pilota”, a creamy rice dish made with sausage.
It was not only served at the lavish Gonzaga court, but it also had widespread popularity among the common people.
The traditional recipe calls for pork ground meat and parmesan cheese to flavor the rice. But there are many other, equally flavorful variants.
- Osteria della Fragoletta – Piazza Arche, 5a, Mantova
- Antica Osteria Ai Ranari – Via Trieste, 11, Mantova
- Osteria delle Quattro Tette – Vicolo Nazione, 4, Mantova
How to get to Mantova from Milan
Mantova is well-connected and quite close to Milan, so the fastest way to get there is by train.
The journey by takes less than two hours, and there are several trains departing every day from Milan central train station. Tickets start at around 12€.
Torino is the biggest and richest city near Milan and in the north of Italy.
It’s capital of the Piedmont region, and unfortunately often overlooked by tourists.
This magnificent city deserves at least a weekend. However, if time is tight, you can very easily explore Turin as a day trip from Milan.
Regardless of its duration, a visit to Turin will reveal the city’s many sides. The entire downtown has an exquisite sense of royal splendor. And this reflects its role as the ancient capital of the Savoy kingdom.
Turin was also the epicenter of the Italian Renaissance and later began an important industrial hub. Today it’s a place where arts and culture are constantly being explored and nurtured.
What to see in Torino
Mole Antonelliana and the Museum of Cinema
One of the most notable sights in Torino is the Mole Antonelliana, a 157-meter-high tower that’s one of the symbols of the city, and is the tallest unreinforced brick building in the world.
The tower is home to the National Museum of Cinema, which is well worth a visit for film lovers. The museum tells the story of cinema, from its origins to the present day, and it also has a number of interactive exhibits.
Piazza Castello and the Royal Palace
Turin’s regional council (Palazzo Madama), the royal palace (Palazzo Reale), and the government palace are all located on Piazza Castello, the city’s central square. Time has stood still in Turin since it was constructed in 1584, and it is now like an unchanged time capsule.
The square is framed by beautiful porticos, and local lore has it that exchanging a kiss under one of them before venturing into the square will bring you luck!
In the square, the Royal Palace stands out because of its scenic beauty: a guided visit to this building will reveal ornate Royal Apartments, the vast Royal Armory in the Beaumont Gallery, the sacred Chapel of the Shroud, and the Leonardo da Vinci painting located in the Royal Library.
The Egyptian Museum
Another must is the Egyptian museum, home to the second largest collection of Egyptian artifacts in the world, after the Cairo museum.
The museum displays over 6500 interesting exhibits, including mummies, sarcophagi, and statues.
What to eat in Turin
Patisserie masterpieces at historical cafés
When you are in Turin, you should not miss the opportunity to sample local delicacies in one of Turin’s historical cafés, some of which date back to the nineteenth century.
Inside, you’ll find antique mirrors, boiserie, satin tapestries, gorgeous chandeliers, and porcelain dinnerware, all of which will transport you to another era as you savor some of Turin’s finest specialties in these opulent settings.
These are some of the fanciest historical cafés in Turin:
You haven’t experienced Turin until you’ve visited the café where “Il Bicerin”, the city’s signature hot beverage which takes its name from its birthplace, was first created.
The classic recipe calls for espresso, chocolate, and milk cream.
To this day, this historical café in Turin maintains the original drink recipe, right down to the exact proportions. It can’t be argued that it’s mouth-wateringly good.
Baratti & Milano
Yummy chocolates made in Turin are well-known all over the country.
In particular the cremino, a sublime three-layered praline, was created here. It has achieved widespread appreciation because of its delicate creaminess from which it takes its name.
The filling is made of gianduja chocolate, and the topping is hazelnut cream made with Piedmontese hazelnuts; the only other ingredients are cocoa and cacao butter.
When you’re visiting, you can’t miss them – or at least buy some to take home!
Founded in 1915 by Bavarian-born master Gustavo Pfatisch, this patisserie shop was a favorite of the Savoy royal family, as well as the Duke of Aosta and other notable figures.
The building’s basement still preserves the old chocolate-making lab, which dates back to the late 19th and early 20th centuries, now turned into a museum.
Today, Pfatish is most known for its gianduiotti, bars, creams, and pralines.
But its signature creation is the Festivo, a cake made of cocoa meringue discs stuffed with chocolate chantilly cream, topped with chocolate chips.
One of Turin’s culinary symbols is the gianduiotto – a chocolate bar filled with chocolate and hazelnut paste, wrapped in thin gold paper. It may seem like a regular chocolate bar from the outside, but as you take a bite, you’ll discover its creamy, and luscious melt-in-your-mouth inside.
Delicious gianduiotti, which are among Torino’s most popular pralines, can be purchased at this shop.
Antonio Giordano was founded in 1897, and since its beginning, this shop has relied only on original recipes and handcrafted production techniques. Expert chocolatiers use recipes that have been passed down from generation to generation.
How to get to Turin from Milan
Trains run on a regular basis, and the two-hour journey can cost as little as 20€, while express trains can get you there in less than one hour, but tickets are generally more expensive (unless you book in advance).
Both cities have large train stations, and there are a variety of options and routes from one city to the next all day every day.
Bologna is a medieval city in the north of Italy, and the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region.
Despite being in a different region and quite far away, it is possible to reach it from Milan in less than an hour on a high-speed rail, making it a great option for a day trip or weekend getaway.
What to see in Bologna
The city is well known for its porticoes, which are a distinguishing feature of its historical center.
Bologna is also known for its universities, which date back to the 11th century. The University of Bologna, founded in 1088, is the oldest university in the world, and it has a long tradition of academic excellence. Around 20% of its population is made of students, making this city very diverse, dynamic and vibrant.
The medieval city center
Piazza Maggiore is the city’s main square, and it’s home to many of the most important historical and cultural landmarks in Bologna. The square is surrounded by porticoes, and at its center is the Neptune Fountain, which was designed by Giambologna.
With over 38 kilometers of porticoes, Bologna has more than any other city in the world. The porticoes were originally built as a way to protect pedestrians from the rain, but now they are one of the city’s main tourist attractions.
At the start of the Middle Ages, Bologna had around a hundred towers. Today, just twenty-two remain, and only two of them are particularly significant: the Asinelli and Garisenda Towers.
The Garisenda tower was supposed to be considerably taller than the Asinelli tower (97.2 m), but as work progressed, the terrain began to slope, and the final height was only 47.5 meters.
These two towers have become icons for locals and visitors alike. This is a popular hotspot for university students, so there are several bars, pubs, and pizza shops along the street.
What to eat in Bologna
When in Italy, you just must indulge in authentic Italian cuisine.
Traditional Bolognese dishes include tortellini or cappelletti in broth (two types of stuffed pasta), tagliatelle with bolognese sauce, lasagne, mortadella, and much more.
Even though people all around Italy enjoy these treats frequently, tasting them in the place where they were first created is an experience you should not miss. Just like pizza from Naples, this is the real deal.
The “Tortellino” is a symbol of Bologna, both in Italy and abroad. It’s a small ring-shaped pasta, filled with a mix of meat (prosciutto, mortadella), Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and egg. Traditionally, it’s served with a light homemade meat broth.
The original recipe probably dates back to the Middle Ages, and it’s still made using the same methods today.
The best restaurants in Bologna to eat tortellini
- Trattoria di Via Serra – Via Luigi Serra, 9b, Bologna
- Trattoria Nonna Gigia – Via dell’Orso, 9a, Bologna
- Trattoria del Tempo Buono – Piazza S. Martino, 4a, Bologna
Of course, all around the city, you can find handmade pasta shops where you can buy freshly made pasta to take home with you.
Some of the best places to buy fresh pasta in Bologna
Lasagne are a type of wide, flat sheet of pasta, and the dish that is made with them is one of the most popular and well-known Italian foods in the world.
The dish consists of alternate layers of lasagne, meat (usually beef) sauce, cheese, and bechamel sauce.
The best restaurants in Bologna to eat lasagne:
- Sfoglia Rina – Via Castiglione, 5/b, Bologna
- Trattoria dal Biassanot – Via Piella, 16, Bologna
- Trattoria Pizzeria La Mela – Via de’ Fusari, 5, Bologna
How to get to Bologna from Milano
The cost of a train ticket from Milano to Bologna depends on the type of train you take, but it is usually around 15€ for a standard ticket, and around 30€ for a high-speed train ticket.
Milano and Bologna are both well-connected cities, and there
Lake Como and its gorgeous tows
Lake Como is a glacial lake located in Lombardy, north of Milan, at the foot of the Alps. It is the third largest lake in the country, after Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore.
The lake is bordered by many beautiful towns of which Como is definitely the more famous.
However, other gems deserve attention as well, such as Bellagio, Varenna, and Bellano.
And the best part is that all of them can be very conveniently and quickly reached by train, and this makes them the perfect destination for day trips from Milan.
Bellagio is located on the tip of the peninsula separating Lake Como’s two southern branches and has stunning views of both the upper and the lower lake.
This gorgeous town is also known as “The Pearl of Lake Como”, and it is one of the most popular destinations on the lake.
Villa Melzi and Serbelloni
The beautiful mansions and well-kept gardens are two of this town’s best features.
Villa Serbelloni, which is a symbol of Bellagio, is one of the most famous. In the 1600s, the mansion was built on the ruins of an old castle; today, it’s a popular hotel and place for conferences.
However, the outside part is open to visitors. It has beautiful, well-kept gardens where you can see plants of all kinds as you walk quietly through its maze of pathways.
Villa Melzi is another beautiful villa in Bellagio. It is on the western shore of Lake Como. The villa is now occupied, so you can only see parts of it. But the green, outside area is the real stunning masterpiece.
Egyptian sculptures and Etruscan urns, among other things, are displayed in the Villa Melzi’s large green space. Napoleon gave a neoclassical chapel and a Venetian gondola to the outdoor area. The sculptures, busts, and other works from different time periods in the park blend with the gardens and plants to contribute to creating a magical atmosphere.
How to get to Bellagio from Milano
You can reach Bellagio by taking the train from Milano Centrale to Varenna, which will take around an hour and cost about 7€.
Once there, take the ferry across to Bellagio, where you can relax and enjoy the scenery.
Varenna is a picturesque fishing village that is sometimes referred to as the “Diamond of Lake Como” (pearls and diamonds, how original!)
This adorable village is located on Lake Como’s eastern shore, around 20 kilometers from Lecco. While the railway from Milan will bring you there quickly, the water routes from the surrounding towns will give you a more vivid picture of the town as you arrive.
Varenna has a population of just more than 700 people and is very small.
Yet on weekends and during the summer it becomes flooded with visitors. It’s best to visit during the week, but if you can’t, Saturday could be a better day to go than Sunday.
Behind the little cluster of colorful houses that are swept by the lake, there is a promontory where Vezio Castle is located.
The Vezio Castle
Located in the middle of Lake Como on a peninsula overlooking Varenna, The Vezio castle is a stunning example of the area’s architecture, landscape, and culture.
The views from the castle are phenomenal – on one side, the green mountains of Grigna, and on the other the blue waters of Lake Como.
The castle was once a fortification, but its current structure dates back to the 12th century. In the past, it has been owned by many famous people, such as the Visconti family and Galeazzo Maria Sforza.
The scenery is already very evocative, but a few unexpected figures just add to the atmosphere. In fact, ghosts stand still as guardians at numerous points across the gardens and terraces, keeping a watch on the lake below.
These convincing representations made of gauze and plaster draw a lot of tourists to the Castle.
The Vezio castle is now open to visits, and since it’s a very popular destination, weekdays are always preferable.
The Botanical Garden
Varenna also has a beautiful botanical garden, the Villa Monastero, which is open to the public. The garden is located on the shore of Lake Como and has an area of about 7 hectares.
The garden is home to about 750 species of plants, including some rare and endangered species. It is also involved in research and preservation activities for some of these species.
How to get to Varenna from Milan by train
A Trenitalia regional train runs between Milano Centrale and Varenna once every hour. A little more than an hour is all it takes to make the trip.
Costing 7.20€, each one-way ticket is super affordable.
Bellano is located just a few kilometers away from Varenna and is known for the famous “Orrido”. This deep valley, carved out by the eroding waters of the Pioverna River, is the main attraction of the area.
It’s a very popular destination for tourists and locals alike, and a great place to take some stunning photos.
A network of walkways linked to the granite cliffs above the river allows visitors access to this natural canyon.
When you walk through this place, it feels as though you are crossing the inside of a mountain.
Down in the canyon’s depths is where the stream is flowing, yet around every turn are more roaring waterfalls.
The water crashing against the rocks creates a thunderous roar. This fierce noise is further amplified by the closed space of the valley.
The Orrido is open all year round, but the best time to visit is definitely in spring. That’s when the waters are fuller and the vegetation is lusher.
The path is short, generally flat, and easy for most people.
However, mind that it’s not accessible, and strollers aren’t recommended because there are some steps in the way.
There is a fee for the entrance of 5€ for adults and 3€ for children.
How to get to Bellano from Milan
From the Milano Centrale train station, there is a Trenitalia regional train departing every hour to Bellano. The journey takes just a little over an hour.
The one-way ticket price is 7.20€ per person.