Escape from Milan: 6 ideas for neighborhood trips
Top 6 day trips from Milan

Escape from Milan: 6 ideas for neighborhood trips

Milan is always beautiful — the metropolis offers hundreds of ways to spend your time — and there’s never a dull moment. If you want a change of location and scenery, you can go to one of the lovely towns nearby and return to Milan for an overnight stay.
Where to go around Milan

Lake Como (Lago di Como)

Como is the pearl of the Lombardy region, just 40 km from Milan. It is beautiful at any time of year: in spring the azaleas and wisteria bloom, in autumn the trees burn gold, in the off-season there are few people and you can take a leisurely stroll.

It will be difficult to visit all the picturesque resort towns on the lake shore in one day, so you will have to choose. It is convenient to take a direct train from Milan to the city of Como, and from there, if you wish, you can get to other cities by ferry. Or you can rent a car to not depend on the schedule of public transportation and walk at your own pace.


Como is the largest town on the coast, from here most of the water routes of ferries and motorboats on the lake start.

In the central square of the town stands the Church of St. Andrew (Chiesa Sant' Andrea Apostolo), unique in that it has two facades. The first mention of the church dates back to the fourteenth century; at the beginning of the twentieth century, the church was enlarged, at which time the second facade appeared.

Como’s most outstanding structure is the Castel Baradello, which rises 400 meters above the town. There is a good viewing platform in front of the castle, overlooking the town.

A cable car ride up to the Brunate viewpoint is a must. From a height of 800 meters you can enjoy a dizzying view of the lake reflecting the snowy slopes of the Alps and not so distant Switzerland.

Two kilometers from Brunate is the Volta Lighthouse (Faro Voltiano di Brunate). The lighthouse was built in 1927 in memory of the physicist Alessandro Volta. The lighthouse is associated with a legend about a family with two small children who set off on a journey to the lighthouse. When they reached the foot of the lighthouse, they were already very exhausted and the youngest son could not climb the steps. The head of the family began to dream aloud that he would like to go to the lighthouse with his wife and eldest daughter on horseback, and to have the youngest son carried by a kangaroo in his bag. And then Kangucavallo — half horse, half kangaroo — appeared and took everyone to the lighthouse. The creature has since become a sacred symbol of the lighthouse — they say he still lives nearby, but will only appear to the pure of heart. You can try your luck, but be warned that Kangukavallo cannot be subdued and cannot be made to grant wishes.

  • Tickets for the cable car are 3 €, runs from 6:00 to 22:30, on Saturdays until 24:00, travel time is 7 minutes
  • Train to Como — 4,80 €


Perhaps the most famous and picturesque villa on Lake Como is Villa Balbianello in the town of Lenno.

Visitors to the garden are greeted by the inscription on the paving stones Fay ce que voudras («Do what you want»), while hedges, ficus-covered columns, plane tree avenues, magnolias and cypresses, azaleas and rhododendrons await visitors.

The villa has become a movie set of several blockbusters and a place of attraction for movie fans. The blossoming terrace of the villa turned into the planet Naboo in «Star Wars: Attack of the Clones» in the kissing scene between Princess Amidala and Anakin. The same promenade also appears in the James Bond movie Casino Royale.

The villa is available to the public from 10:00 to 18:00, except Monday and Wednesday. A visit to the garden is 10 €, entrance to the garden with a guided tour of the villa is 20 €.


Villa Melzi in Bellagio is famous for its English garden, which is more like a botanical garden and inspired the works of Franz Liszt and Stendhal.

Some parts of Villa Serbelloni
Some parts of Villa Serbelloni’s garden are like a real forest

You can stay overnight in the luxurious interiors of Villa Serbelloni. The villa has been a 5-star hotel since the 19th century, with room rates starting at 600 €. The interiors have preserved frescoed ceilings and Murano glass chandeliers. If an overnight stay isn’t part of your plan, you can stroll through the elegant park — it’s free.


This small cozy town is situated on the eastern shore of the lake. The main attraction of Varenna is the Gothic church of St. George (Chiesa di San Giorgio) in the central square. It is included in the Unesco heritage list — the unassuming facade of the cathedral hides frescoes of the XV–XVI centuries.

Villa Monastero was built by monks in the early 13th century and was originally a Cisterian monastery. In 1867 the monastery was closed and the complex of buildings was turned into a country mansion. The villa often changed owners, each of them made their own changes in its appearance. The mansion is surrounded by a terraced garden with cypresses, agaves and citrus trees.

  • Entrance — 6 € park visit, 9 € park and villa ticket. Open from 10:00.

The Castello di Vezio, which stands on a high promontory above the town, was built in the 11th century. The castle has been partially restored, with a suspension bridge leading up to the observation tower. The castle is home to a falconry, where falcons, pipits and long-eared owls are bred.

  • Open to the public from March to October from 10:00, entrance fee 4 €
On sunny days, locals take a leisurely promenade on the lake promenade
On sunny days, locals take a leisurely promenade on the lake promenade
In the off-season there are almost no tourists on Como
In the off-season there are almost no tourists on Como
Lonely swans on the lake
Lonely swans on the lake

Convent of Santa Caterina del Sasso (Eremo di Santa Caterina del Sasso)

The Monastery of Santa Caterina is located northwest of Milan near the town of Varese. The church is carved directly into the rock and overhangs Lago Maggiore.

There is a legend connected with the foundation of the monastery: a local merchant Alberto Besozzi miraculously escaped during a storm and made a vow to build a church in honor of St. Catherine. He kept his promise and lived until the end of his days in a grotto near the present monastery and is buried in the church.

The church contains frescoes dating back to the 15th century, and from the inner platform there is a view of the seemingly endless Lake Maggiore, which extends into Switzerland. The name «del Sasso» (del Sasso means «stone» in Italian) was added in the middle of the XVII century when a part of a rock collapsed on the roof of the monastery.

In 1989, the monastery was featured in Salvatore Nochita’s movie «Betrothed» (I promessi sposi), and in 1977 it was used to shoot scenes of Dino Risi’s «The Bishop’s Room» (La stanza del vescovo).

  • The church is open to the public daily from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., hours vary with the season; see website for current information.
  • Admission is 5 €.

There are 268 steps down to the monastery via a staircase through the park with panoramic views of the lake. There is a parking lot at the top, so this option is suitable for those arriving by car. You can use the elevator, which is located next to the parking lot.

  • Elevator — 1 € one way

There are ferries to the monastery from Stresa on the other side of the river. The pier is located right next to the church, up 80 steps.

  • train ticket from Milan to Stresa starts at €8.60 and takes about an hour to get from Milan to Stresa
  • The ferry runs every 30 minutes from about 8:00 am to 6:00 pm, current schedule depending on the season on the website. The ticket is 6,80 €. Travel time is 15 minutes.
The church of Santa Catarina del Sasso overhangs the lake
The church of Santa Catarina del Sasso overhangs the lake
View of Lake Maggiore
View of Lake Maggiore

Lake Lugano (Lago di Lugano)

Lugano is in Switzerland, but it’s only about two hours from Milan. Don’t be surprised by the Russian speech on the streets: Lugano has a large Russian-speaking diaspora.

You should come here for walks along the lake framed by snow-covered mountains. There are pleasure boats and huge hungry swans swimming on the lake, always ready to pose for a treat for a spectacular Instagram photo.

If you wish, you can take a cable car up Mount San Salvatore for views of the lake, the city and the Alps. A little farther away, at the foot of Monte Generoso, is the Swiss Miniature Park, where you can get to know the country and its sights without leaving Lugano.

  • The funicular operates from 9:00 am, during the winter season from November to March from 10:00 am. Departures are every half an hour and the trip takes 12 minutes. One way ticket is CHF 23, round trip is CHF 30. More exact information and discounts on the website.
  • The Museum of Miniatures is open daily from 9:00 to 18:00, closing for the winter on November 3. Tickets are CHF 19.50.

Lugano’s central square, piazza Riforma, is home to the neoclassical town hall . From the square, via Nassa is a street lined with historic arcaded buildings and many stores. Just above it is the white limestone and marble Cattedrale di San Lorenzo.

On the shore is the high-tech Museum of Contemporary Art (Lugano Arte e Cultura — LAC), with five floors of exhibitions and a concert and theater hall.

  • The Museum of Modern Art is open from 10:00, Monday is a day off. Entrance ticket — 20 CHF

The Parco Civico, a park with a congress palace and a natural history museum, stretches along the lake and overlooks the mountains. Here you can admire roses, magnolias and camellias of the most unusual varieties.

  • There are trains from Milan: tickets from 4 € (with a transfer) and 24 € for a direct flight, traveling 1.5—2 hours
  • Bus — 10 €, travel time approximately 1.5 hours
Walks on Lake Lugano
Walks on Lake Lugano
Museum of Modern Art
Museum of Modern Art
Lake Lugano waterfront
Lake Lugano waterfront
Lake Lugano
Lake Lugano


Bergamo is located northeast of Milan, with the airport of the same name nearby. The Russian airline Pobeda flies here. Almost all travelers immediately after arrival head to Milan and skip Bergamo. For nothing: the city deserves a whole day of leisurely strolls.

First of all, remember that the name of the city is pronounced with the stress on the first syllable — Bérgamo. But the inhabitants of Bergamo do not know about Truffaldino from Bergamo, so when talking to locals you will have to look for other information. For example, bergamot — this bitter orange was bred here, so for souvenirs from Bergamo, take tea with bergamot.

The old town (citta alta) is located on a mountain. The 249 meters can be reached by cable car or on foot by stairs. At the entrance to the old town there is an observation deck where you can see the whole of Bergamo, the airport in the distance and Milan on the horizon. The fortress walls were built for defense against enemies, but have never been used for their intended purpose.

  • The funicular runs from 7:00 to midnight, every 15 minutes. The ticket is 1.3 €.
The entrance to the old town
The entrance to the old town

In Piazzetta San Marco, the Collione Cathedral catches the eye. It costs 5 € to go under the dome and offers the best view of the city.

At the end of the main street in the old town, another funicular is hidden behind an archway that will take you to the highest point of the old town, San Vigilio.

In the lower town, take a stroll down via XX Settembre, where there are many stores and pleasant bars. Be sure to try one of the gelaterias for Strachatella, a vanilla ice cream with thin shavings of chocolate. This flavor comes from Bergamo.

At Le Cornelle Zoo, admire jacos, flamingos, peacocks and white tigers.

  • Tickets 15 €. Open from 9:00, in December and January the zoo is closed, all details here

There is no night entertainment in the form of discos and clubs here at all — they are forbidden by the church, so in the evening you can go back to Milan.

View of Bergamo from the observation deck
View of Bergamo from the observation deck

Production of Campari liqueur (Galleria Campari)

Very close to Milan is the Campari factory and gallery, the production of the world-famous drink. Nearby is the eponymous promenade garden.

Gaspare Campari invented the bitter, bright red liqueur in 1860 in Novare, but soon moved to Milan. Since 1904, production has been located in Sesto san Giovanni near Milan. In 2010 the Gallery opened to the public — the exhibition shows the history of the brand through posters, signs, commercials, books, glasses and bottles from the bars where the drink was served.

  • Travel time is 30 minutes by metro from Duomo station
  • Free tours are offered Tuesday through Friday and every second Saturday of the month — at 10:00 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 2:00 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.
  • Guided tours with the opportunity to make your own cocktail are available by reservation — 25 €.
  • For the gallery’s exact schedule and exhibition updates, visit the website.
Campari-based cocktail
Campari-based cocktail


This artificial body of water was built in 1926 as an airfield for seaplanes — but since the early '40s its eastern shore has become the «Sea of Milan» and a Sunday resort. Despite the proximity of the airport, the place is quiet, not even the ubiquitous traders. On the Idroscalo, native Milanese enjoy beach vacations.

There are two soccer fields, a climbing wall, tennis courts, children’s playgrounds and all opportunities for water sports — you can go water skiing, rowing, sailing.

The reservoir also hosts music festivals such as Gods of Metal, Evolution Festival, Rock In Idro and Mi Ami Festival.

  • The swimming season is open from June 1 to September 30, lifeguards are on duty every day from 08:00 to 21:00
  • Sun lounger and umbrella rental — approx. 10 € per day
  • Travel time — 1 hour from Duomo metro station
A day off at the beach
A day off at the beach