Milan: How to Discover the Italian Lakes Region

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Milan might not be something everyone wants to see when they first visit Italy, but it is a great base for exploring the Italian lakes area in northern Italy. There are many options available, including day trips to Lake Como or multi-day excursions to multiple lakes.

Bellagio, a picturesque town on Lake Como, is located just 43 miles from Milan. Stresa is 55 miles from Milan and is one of the most popular towns on Lake Maggiore. These towns are easily reached by coach within an hour, if you take an organized day trip. Milan, on the other hand, can be used as the starting point for an excursion which includes Lake Maggiore and Lake Como, Lake Orta and Lake Iseo in a matter of days. You only need to decide how long you will be staying in the area.

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Milan Self-Guided Tours to the Italian Lakes


Isola dei Pescatori on Lake Maggiore || creative commons photo by kkmarais

You can visit some of the lakes on your own, even if you are only looking to see a few places in a day trip starting from Milan or those accessible by Italy’s extensive train network. Trenitalia links Milan’s Centrale station to the town of Como on the southern tip of Lake Como. From there, you can take boat trips to other cities.

It takes just over half an hour to get from Milan to Como by train. This is the same time it takes to drive there. Lecco can be found on the opposite branch of Lake Como’s upside-downY. It is approximately 40 minutes by train from Milan. To get to Bellagio, you will need to take a train to Varenna which takes about an hour. Then, there is a 15-minute ferry ride.

Milan is approximately an hour away from Stresa, a pretty little town on Lake Maggiore. It is more difficult to reach Lake Garda using public transport. The train takes approximately one hour from Milan to Desenzano del Garda, then buses take you to smaller communities along the lakeside.

Renting a car gives travelers more freedom to explore the region’s lakes at their own pace. They can also reach towns that are normally only accessible by boat or bus.

Italian Lakes Tours starting from Milan

You can select from a range of guided tours to the Italian lakes that take the hassle out of traveling. While I prefer to plan my own trips, I also enjoy the convenience of guided tours. This is especially true if I can get to places I wouldn’t be able to see otherwise without renting a vehicle.

These are just a few of the organized tours that you can choose from to get an idea of what is available. Some include additional stops before or after the lake stop – such as Verona or wine tasting. This may make them more appealing.

Day Trips to Lakes from Milan

The most popular day trip to Lake Como is from Milan, the fashion capital. It’s a short drive from Milan to Bellagio, and less to Como (the larger city on the lake).

Lake Maggiore, another day trip option from Milan, is also possible. Stresa, which is about an hour drive from Bellagio, is a great starting point. You can also explore the stunning Borromean Islands, including Isola Bella and its magnificent villa.

If you’re looking for a lake adventure that is a little further, consider taking a day trip from Milan to the Veneto area and visiting Lake Garda or Verona. Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake, is more popular than other European tourists. It’s also close to the historic city of Verona, which makes for an interesting combination of destinations on a day trip – see the natural beauty of a northern lake and a wonderfully-preserved Roman amphitheater in the city that served as the setting for “Romeo and Juliet.”

Combine a day trip from Milan to Bergamo, Franciacorta and Lake Iseo with visits to a historic town and wine tasting to explore a lesser-known lake.

With a trip that includes Lake Como as well as Lake Lugano, you can visit two countries and two lakes in one day. Lake Lugano is located on the border of Italy and Switzerland. This gives you an opportunity to add another country to your travel list.

Multi-day Lake Excursions starting from Milan

To make the most of your stay in northern Italy, take a 7 day tour of the Italian lakes & Dolomites starting from Milan. You can visit Lake Como, Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore as well as the less-visited Lake Orta or Lake Iseo. Next, explore the Dolomites, some of Italy’s most magnificent mountains.

You still have many great options even if you have a shorter time. To see Lake Maggiore and Lake Garda, take a 4-day tour to the Italian lakes, which includes Verona. You can also stick to the lakes by taking a 4-day Italian lake tour starting in Milan. This will take you to Lake Maggiore and Lake Garda as well as Lake Orta and Lake Iseo. Add a day to your 5-day Venice and Lake Como tour from Milan. If you are looking for something more than just a day trip, there is a 2-night trip from Milan to Lake Garda or Verona.

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2 Responses to “How to Explore Italy’s Lakes Region From Milan”

  • Robert Curley says:

    There is something wrong! :o). I read your email about the lake visit to Milan. The article on The Godfather Sites in Sicily, which was the topic of the post, was missing. Because my son, wife and I visited the Savoca church and Bar Vitelli in March, I found it interesting to read. We didn’t visit the other nearby sites. We spent five weeks in Italy, three of which were in Aci Trezza.

    If you haven’t already, you might tell your readers that it is possible to book a tour package for a low airfare and extend your stay in Italy. Our deal included roundtrip airfare from NY, Milan, five nights in a Tuscany hotel, and a rental car. It cost $520. We inquired if we could extend our stay to March 31st, keep the car and then return at the same rate. We were soon on our way when the answer came back “yes”. When the deal is made, we will likely do the same thing next time.

    • Jess has the following:

      Last week’s article was about Godfather filming locations on Sicily. It was linked correctly in the previous newsletter. You can find it by clicking “Blog” at any page, scroll down a bit and then click on “Blog”. It is also highlighted on the homepage. I hope you enjoy this article!

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