Day trips from Milan to Lake Como, Bergamo and more.

An Antipodean travel company serving World Travellers since 1983

Milan

Exploring Milan and surrounding areas of Bergamo, Lake Como, Verona and beyond

One of Odyssey Traveller’s most popular Italian tours starts in the bustling city of Milan with many travellers choosing to arrive a few days early and explore the city and take an easy day trip to the surrounding towns independently. Italy‘s extensive network of inter-city trains makes it is easy to travel further than the city limits and get to know more of the local way of life.

Regional Train at Milano centrale train station.

Milan

Now the banking, style and design centre of Europe, Milan is in the centre of the Lombardy region. It is the second largest city in Italy with approximately 1.3 million inhabitants. One of the most recognizable features of the city is its Duomo, the cathedral, with uncountable number of ornate statues, towers, spires and other carved features and is one of the most elaborate gothic monuments anywhere. The cathedral took almost 6 centuries to build, construction started in 1386 and the final details only completed in 1965.

The cathedral is located in the expansive Piazza del Duomo. From the piazza you can access many other attractions a important monuments like the Palazzo Reale and the Palazzo Arcivescoville. Also in close proximity is La Scala opera house (Teatro Alla Scala) and its own museum.

Milan, Doumo Cathedral
Duomo Cathedral, Milan

Milan is also home to the world’s most famous, and to arguably the world’s greatest work of art, ‘The Last Supper’ by Leonardo da Vinci, and in itself a reason to visit Milan for many art lovers. It is located in the Church of Santa Maria delle Grazie – a 15th-century renaissance-style church with its renowned cloisters would still be worth visiting even if it didn’t contain ‘The Last Supper’. The church is a UNESCO world heritage site (https://whc.unesco.org/en/list/93) Tickets are needed to view the ‘The Last Supper’ and we include it in our tour Lakes and Landscapes of Northern Italy tour.

Bergamo

Bergamo is also situated in the Lombardy region of northern Italy, just to the north-east of Milan, and an ideal distance for a day tour. The town is divided into two distinct, and separate parts. Bergamo Alta (Upper Bergamo) is the ancient centre, surrounded by walls and rich in beautiful monuments. Here you can find the historic Piazza Vecchia, which has acted as the heart of political power in the region for centuries. Bergamo Alta is modelled according to the medieval plan of the town, with narrow and winding roads, and is the focus of your day trip. Bergamo Bassa (Lower Bergamo) has evolved where already in the Middle Ages there were some villages outside the walls, and today the modern city is still growing.

In Upper Bergamo we come across four gates erected dating from the time when the region was dominated by Venice, towards the end of the 16th century. Going beyond the Fontana del Delfino (Fountain of the Dolphin) visitors come to the Church of St. Augustine, the walls built during the Venetian dominion. The Rocca (Fortress), built in the 14th century by King John of Bohemia, reminds us of the Hungarian influence on the area.

Bergamo Cathedral Inside
Inside view of Bergamo’s Cathedral

Turin

Turin, Torino in Italian, is an interesting and often overlooked city in the Piedmont region of Italy. It is famous for the Shroud of Turin and Fiat auto plants. From its baroque cafes and architecture to its arcaded shopping promenades and museums, Turin is a great city for a day trip spent wandering and exploring. It is in the north-west of Italy in the Piedmont region between the Po River and the foothills of the Alps. Turin hosted the 2006 Winter Olympics and established itself as the base for exploring nearby mountains and valleys.

Caravaggio tours
The Palazzo Madama (now the seat of the Senate of the Italian Republic but once home to Cardinal Del Monte and Caravaggio)

Lake Maggiore

In the heart of the Italian lake district, Lake Maggiore spans the border between Italy and Switzerland, lying beneath the striking sight of the Swiss Alps. It enjoys a typically Mediterranean climate of hot summers with plenty of sunshine and the occasional thunderstorm. The Borromean Islands are on the western side of the lake. Isola Madre is the largest of the islands and is home to some beautiful gardens that surround a 16th-century palace. Other notable islands include Isola Bella, known for its scenic palazzo, and the Isola dei Pescatori, all of which are popular locations for a boat trip.

The last Italian town on the west shore of the lake before reaching the Swiss border is Cannobio. This town is mostly visited by people staying in Lake Maggiore villas because of its famous painting of the Virgin Mary which is said to have bled from the canvas in 1522 shortly before an outbreak of the plague in the region. The town of Cannobio was relatively unharmed during this unfortunate time which is believed to be the result of the painting, which can now viewed in its own chapel. Another popular town on Lake Maggiore is Stresa with its luxury lakeside villas and classical music concerts during the summer, making it a popular destination for a day trip.

Lake of Garda aerial view in Italy

The lakeside towns around Lake Garda (Lago di Garda) have charmed foreign visitors for centuries. Even for the ancient Romans, the area was a luxury summer destination; in Sirmione and Desenzano you can visit ruins and mosaics that record their presence.

Lake Garda is located in the north-east of Italy, dividing the regions of Lombardy, the Veneto and Trentino Alto-Adige. The large lake is long and slim, stretching from north to south. The southern lakeshore is low, rolling land and fairly built-up. In contrast, the dramatic fiord-like northern end is surrounded by towering mountains and cliffs. Most of the lakeside towns are popular as holiday resorts; they differ in character but all are well-connected by boat services. More information on the various destinations can be read below.

Lake Como

Similar to Lake Maggiore, Lake Como is also set against the dramatic scenery of the foothills of the Swiss Alps. Lake Como is of glacial origin, being the third largest in the country, behind Lake Maggiore and Lake Garda. With a depth of nearly 410m Lake Como is also one of the deepest in Europe. Lake Como is a particularly popular destination for a day trip, sporting some of the most beautiful views and scenery in all of the Italian lakes.

Lake Como or Lario, as it is also known, is shaped like an inverted Y, with three slender branches that meet at the resort town of Bellagio. At the bottom of the southwest branch you will find the city of Como, home to Renaissance architecture and a funicular that travels up to the mountain town of Brunate. On the eastern short, you can visit Varenna, a beautiful lakeside town with plenty to explore and vantage points to appreciate the amazing views of the lake. Menaggio is also a popular destination, lying on Lake Como‘s western shore. The area also features a number of stunning villas you may wish to visit on your Lake Como day trip, such as the Villa Monastero, Villa Carlotta, or the Villa del Balbianello, which some may recognize from popular feature films such as Casino Royale, or Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.

Northern Italian lakes small group Lake Como
Bellagio is one of the pearls of the Lake Como in Italy

 Verona

This ancient city pre-dates Roman settlement – in fact, no-one knows how it came by its name. However, remains of its Roman heritage are still extant, seen in the layout of the old town centre with its division into four quarters laid out at right angles; its amphitheatre, theatre, arches, gates and bridges. Verona‘s geographic position was vital in its development, particularly as a hub for major Roman roads leading to and from it: the Via Augusta and the Via Postumia; indeed its importance as a strategic centre lasted for over a thousand years, beyond the time of Rome itself. The Roman arena, which dates back to the 1st century AD, can still accommodate up to 15,000 spectators.

Verona developed its own distinctive style of art and this enriched the city with Early Christian basilicas and pre-Romanesque churches. In the troubled times of the 12th century the Commune of Verona was formed and became engulfed in the bitter conflicts between the Papacy and the Holy Roman Empire. Notwithstanding involvement in numerous wars over the centuries, Verona is today a flourishing centre of trade, politics and the arts.

Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet was based on a tale written by Luigi da Porto of Vicenza in the 1520s. Juliet’s house at Via Cappello 27, with its small, cantilevered marble balcony, is in fact a restored 13th century inn. Romeo’s house, in Via Arche Scaligeri, is but a short distance away. A tomb attributed to Juliet is located in a crypt under the cloister of San Francesco al Corso.

The city was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage site in the year of 2000 due to its urban structure and architecture being an outstanding example of a town that has developed progressively and uninterruptedly over 2000 years, incorporating artistic elements of the highest quality from each succeeding period and as an exceptional representation of a fortified town at several seminal stages of European history.

Panorama Verona Italy
Morning haze over Verona

Parma

Parma is a prosperous, historic, and beautiful town in the Emilia-Romagna region of northern Italy. It is famous for its fine cheese (parmigiano or parmesan) and ham, with this area being renowned throughout Italy as one of the best places to eat.

The aesthetic heart of Parma is its cathedral square, Piazza Duomo. This attractive cobbled square is surrounded by historic buildings and is set a little apart from the main shopping streets so it is a peaceful as well as handsome spot during the day and becoming livelier in the evening as a popular place for the local teenagers to meet their friends. Three buildings dominate the open space: the Duomo, the adjoining Campanile (belltower) and the striking Battistero (baptistery).

The Duomo is an attractive and venerable cathedral, in the Lombard-Romanesque style. The dome is filled with a famous 16th-century fresco by local artist Antonio Allegri, known as Correggio, whose work will become a feature of any visit to Parma. Other highlights of the interior include a marble relief of the Deposition by sculptor/architect Benedetto Antelami, who also designed the baptistery next door and some lovely 15th-century frescoes in the left-hand side-chapels, packed with Biblical stories, devils and details both charming and gory.

The baptistery, or Battistero, is a striking and memorable building; an octagon constructed with pink Verona marble and decorated with fine medieval carvings by Antelami. Architecturally the style marks the transition between the Romanesque and Gothic. The building is considered among one of the most important medieval monuments in Europe.

 Piazza Duomo with Cathedral and Baptistery, Parma, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
Panorama of Piazza Duomo with Cathedral and Baptistery, Parma, Emilia-Romagna, Italy

 

Published October 2020

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