Expo 2015 will open the doors on May 1st and while the Universal Exhibition will be playing the lion’s share in the next six months, Milan is also a perfect gateway to explore enchanting spots a stone-throw from the city.
I picked up beautiful places that are easy to reach by train (read about how to save money on Italian trains), so forget the car, traffic and the stress to find a parking places.
5 day trips from Milan you should add on your list
If you’re passionate about classical music and violin, chances are that you’ve heard of Cremona, the city of Stradivarius and other famous luthiers. The tradition of violin making is well alive, and the city boasts over 200 workshops, many of which can be visited to get an overview on this fascinating art.
The heart of the city is the medieval Piazza del Comune, the main square showcasing some of the finest examples of Romanesque and Gothic architecture. Don’t miss the cathedral, with its exquisite facade, the bell tower (Torrazzo) built in bricks, and the octagonal baptistry. On the opposite side, the beautiful town hall with its decorated vaults, where an al fresco café is the perfect place for a drink with a magnificent views. Cremona also hosts the newly refurbished Violin Museum, a journey through the fascinating history of violin across the centuries, culminating in the Treasure Box, the room housing some of the best (and most expensive) masterpieces of all time.
Tip: Avoid Mondays if you plan to visit the Violin Museum.
Getting there: Direct regional trains connect Milano Centrale to Cremona every other hour (1h 6 min).
More Info: Turismo Cremona
Lake Garda might be internationally less known than Lake Como, but is every bit as beautiful. Sirmione is considered a gem of Lake Garda’s southern shore, whose beauty was appreciated by writers, poets and artists like Goethe, Stendhal, Lord Byron, D.H. Lawrence, Gustav Klimt, Maria Callas.
Picturesque and romantic, Sirmione seems faraway from the hustle-bustle of Milan. Visit the famous Scaliger Castle, dating back to the 13th Century, admire the Grottoes of Catullo, the remains of a Roman Villa overlooking the lake’s blue water, get lost in the alleys lined with colourful houses, indulge yourself at one of the al fresco cafés and simply chill out in this enchanting spot of Lombardy.
Tip: If possible, avoid the weekend when Sirmione is jam-packed with tourists.
Getting there: Frequent trains connect Milano Centrale to Desenzano-Sirmione (Frecciabianca 1h, Regional 1h 25min). From Desenzano, you can reach Sirmione either by bus or by boat (about 20 min for both).
More Info: Visit Garda, Sirmione
Colourful houses, magnificent monuments and delicious food: this is the essence of Parma, an elegant city that will immediately catch your heart.
There’s a lot to see and do, so here are my favourites: get lost in the alleys of the old town, lined with lovely pastel coloured houses, visit the Cathedral and the Baptistery, both medieval masterpieces, and the Teatro Farnese, a wonderful little theatre totally built in wood, dating back to the early 17th Century. Buy a souvenir or a gift made from violet, the flower which is the symbol of Parma and is used to produce perfumes, cosmetics and candies.
Parma has some of the most delicious and mouth-watering food specialties in Italy: Parmigiano-Reggiano (cheese), Prosciutto di Parma (ham), home-made pasta and stews.
Tip: You’ll find good food everywhere in Parma, but if you look for a typical Trattoria serving delicious dishes at fair prices don’t miss the Trattoria Corrieri.
Getting there: There are trains almost every half an hour connecting Milano Centrale to Parma (Frecciabianca 1h 10 min, Regional 1h 35 min).
More Info: Emilia-Romagna Turismo, Parma
More Read: The Colors of Parma: A Photo Tour
If you’re keen to breathe the sea, don’t miss an excursion to Genoa.
Stroll in the picturesque narrow alleys (caruggi) near the harbour (be careful with your belonging, though), take a tour of the Palazzi dei Rolli, the magnificent palaces showing the city’s past splendours and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, enjoy Boccadasse, the old fishermen’s’ neighbourhood with its typical coloured houses nested on a cove.
Don’t miss to taste the local food specialties like focaccia (a flat bread baked in the oven), trenette or trofie with pesto sauce, or cima alla genovese (veal meat filled with vegetables).
Tip: Genoa offers many attractions for families, including the Aquarium (the largest in Europe), the Città dei Bambini, an interactive museum for kids between 2 and 14.
Getting there: Frequent trains connect Milano Centrale to Genoa (Intercity/Frecciabianca 1h 30min, Regional 1h 50min).
More Info: Visit Genoa
More Read: Chasing Laundry in Genoa Boccadasse
Perched atop a hill, Bergamo old town is one of the most enchanting spots in the Lombardy region.
A cable car (or, if you like to walk, a pretty footpath) connects the lower city to the historical centre, a medieval town surrounded by walls built in the 16th Century. Cobblestone streets flanked by old buildings and elegant shops lead to the city’s main attractions: the old square (Piazza Vecchia), Palazzo della Ragione, the former town hall now a museum, the Colleoni chapel, a magnificent Renaissance building beautifully decorated, the Citadel square (Piazza della Cittadella), with the medieval tower and the Visconti Palace.
Tip: Bergamo is a popular spot for weekend excursions so better avoid Saturday and Sunday if you wish to beat the crowds.
Getting there: Regional trains connect Milano Centrale to Bergamo every hour (journey 50-55min).
More Info: Turismo Bergamo
More Read: An Afternoon Stroll in Bergamo Old Town: A Photo Tour