As we were staying in Milan for five days, it was no question that we wanted to do at least one day trip to another place. In the end we decided to go to Lago Maggiore for one day, and to Lugano on another day.
At Lago Maggiore, we went to Stresa and then visited the three Isole Borromee. These islands - Isola Bella, Isola Pescatori and Isola Madre - can easily be reached by boat from Stresa and are very beautiful. On Isola Bella and Isola Madre, there are large palaces and splendid gardens. Isola Pescatori is substantially different, having the atmosphere of a small fishing village, with hidden alleys and corners and local people still living there and going about their daily business, although the business is now tourism. The other two islands belong to the House of Borromee (Isola Bella in parts, Isola Madre in total), the Borromee family once built the fancy palaces there and still own them today.
We spent two hours in the town of Stresa itself before we set off to the Isole Borromee by boat. Stresa is popular because it is the main gateway to these islands, but it is also a travel destination in its own right. It was particularly famous in the 19th century, when many authors and artists visited here, for example Charles Dickens and Stendhal. In the 20th century, Ernest Hemingway was a frequent visitor. When you walk along the lakefront and enjoy the views of Lago Maggiore and the mountains, it is easy to imagine why these people loved Stresa: It is simply beautiful.
Lugano is located in Switzerland, but it is easy to go there by train from Milan. You can either take a fast EC train which only takes an hour, but costs more, or a regional train, which costs less, but takes two hours with one change in Chiasso.
Lugano is a beautiful place at Lago di Lugano, with beautiful flowerbeds and parks by the lakeside, and fantastic mountain scenery. There are some pretty churches and other buildings, and it is just nice to stroll around the town and take everything in.
Lugano and Lago Maggiore are only two options, though! There are so many more day trips possible. Some places I took into consideration were Como, Monza, Bergamo, Lago d'Iseo and Pavia. And I am sure there are many more. I suggest you get a good guidebook, and of course check the travel guides on VT, to choose what you want to see and where you want to go!
Picture 1: At the lakeside in Lugano
Picture 2: Isola Bella
Picture 3: Isola Pescatori
Picture 4: View from Stresa
Picture 5: Piazza Cioccaro in Lugano
One thing that I've always thought is missing in Milan is any decent body of water. The Navigli River is hardly what I would consider a decent river, and the man-made Idroscalo is a bit too out of the way to be enjoyed properly. So it is nice to know that we are spoilt for choice of lakes to go to, just a short train ride away.
Taking the train from Cadorna station, you could go to Como. The train takes about an hour to get there. Otherwise another good option might be Lecco (trains leave from the Stazione Centrale). Spend the day walking around the little villages or taking a lake cruise.
For those who have time to spare, a side trip to Lake Como is worth the time.
I took a half-day tour (60 Euro) organised through the Milan Tourist Centre at Duomo Square. The departure is from 9am, and drop-off back at the city is about 2pm.
Lake Como is gorgeous - postcard perfect. Viewed from the bus route (they aren't allowed to stop for photo-taking opps), Como is what you would imagine a little village in the mountains to be. Except that it's not a little village - it's a slice of 'Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous'!
The pace in Como is relaxed and serene. Many little shops to browse around in, and many cafes to sit and people-watch. The hustle and bustle is brought by the tourists, and definitely not the locals. Most of the villas can only be seen from the lake, so it's well-worth taking a ferry/boat trip across the lake. Try to get on a tour, as the guide will provide all the bits of information that makes the trip that much more interesting.
The tour I took was rather rushed, there was hardly any time given for exploring and photo-taking. Part of the tour includes a trip to a nearby silk factory/showroom - I guess that's why we were hustled along, so that our 'time' could be better spent in the showroom. Having said that, the quality of products in the silk factory is very high. And if you take the time to browse, there are good bargains to be found.
For those interested in taking this tour, pack sandwiches and drinks. The tour doesn't include them, and there is not enough time to take photos, as well as make a stop to grab a drink/food.
For those who find the buzzing traffic and urban rituals of the city too hectic, take my tip: head to the Nord Stazione(North station), buy a ticket for Lake Como and spend the rest of the day there(or a couple of days if you have the time!).
Situated in the north towards the Swiss border, Lake Como is a tranquil getaway from Milan. And what's more, it is just a mere 45 mins train ride away. While you are there, don't forget to take the funicolare (an ascending/descending tram) that brings you to the top of one of the many scenic mountains for a panoramic view of Lake Como (left). Splendid!!
30min travel from Milano Central station takes you to peaceful and calm town Como. This place seems like the place where busy Milano people take a precious rest in the weekend. Obviously, Lake Como makes this city famous. You can also see the magnificent duomo in the centre of the town and enjoy the shopping around the duomo.
I would suggest a full day. Depending on which train you get, but the Central station goes straight to Como in about 3/4 hour to 1 hour (depending) If you go on a Thursday there is a market in the morning in Como city or if on a Saturday, then its all day, around the city walls. Take the Funicular up to Brunate for fantastic views or take an Aliscafo (fast boat) along the lake to Bellagio, or a slow boat along the lake to anywhere as its like a mini lake cruise calling in at all the towns along the way. Lots of other things but depends on what time you have. Top of the lake and along the western shore are super lakeside and mountain walks. Cable car at Argengo up to Pigra for more views. Whatever you do, enjoy the lake and your holiday.
There was an open air market on the Sunday we went. Not sure if they have it every Sunday but it was cool and they sold a little bit of everything. It was right beside this old tower on the walk to Lake Como.
Less than an hour away from Milan, you are in the Alps. Lake Como and Lake Maggiore are surrounded by villas and palaces. Between the two lakes you'll find Lake Lugano although most italian guide books don't mention it as it's mostly in Switzerland.
Lake Como is truly a splendid sight even on a rainy day! We go here by train from Milan Central Station after more than an hour and it was at first cold and miserable for us! however, one look at the lake and its surrounds made us warm up! We enjoyed looking at the wonderful scenery before us. It was s shame the rains stopped us from takign a ride to explore the waters around it. However, around the lake are more attractive sceneries and structures- water features,architectural delights to see and enjoy!
The people are also friendly and speak good English so we didn't have a hard time communicating here. We got some souvenirs and even asked a local to take our family photo who obliged willingly and said he was a student there. He was Italian, but very friendly, a refreshing change from the rather stiff and uninteresting "old" Italians in the ships we sailed on,LOL!
It was a Sunday when we got there but there were lots of shops open too unlike in places like the ports in Spain or in Italy where shops open late or closed on Sundays. It is also near the Swiss border so you could get good views of the Swiss Alps too. I don't blame George Clooney for getting a villa here. The homes along the lake are indeed beautiful and classy!
When ever you are in Milan, You must make an effort to visit all the morthen lakes (LAGOs).
The Temperate climate and, for the tourist, the spectacular lakes of Como, Garda, Maggiore (shared with Piedmont) and Lugano. As in Piedmont, the Po Valley is the site of much heavy industry.
High mountains in the north, marking Italy's frontier with Switzerland, provide excellent skiing and climbing.
Photos taken in Lago Maggiore,
All these lakes, Check out the lakes of Como, Garda, Maggiore.
Another great getaway is the Lago di Como, just on the border to Switzerland. Take the highway until Como and enjoy the view by using the 'funicolare'. But be aware, when walking downhill, the way can be adventurous.
Visit Laveno! There's a cable car that goes up the side of the mountain where you'll get a beautiful view of Lago Maggiore. Cable looked like nothing more than just a metal bucket that can fit two people but it was quite safe.
Going to Lake Como or Lago de Como was easy though we worried about the actual time we were told it would take to go there by train!
After more than hour, we were so glad we did go as despite the rains, it still gave us lots of enjoyment just viweing it and the surrounding area! Of course it is well-known holiday destination of many rich aristocrats, both foreign and local, one of whom is American actor George Clooney. I can easily understand why he got a house there, it is so tranquil and people surprisingly are so friendly here!
We walked along the front side of the lake at the part where lots of shops congregate and also the jump-off point for exploring the other areas around it. However, the weather wasn;t so good so we decided not to take a boat ride after all! But the sights around were enough for us to enjoy a day out here, away from the chaos of Milan!
Easily reached by train from Milan, Stresa is a nice village located on the banks of Lago Maggiore. It was a bit damp when we visited but still beautiful. From Stresa, get a boat to Isola Bella, literally means Beautiful Island and it is. There's a palace on the island to gaze at and not much else but nothing else is needed. Great day trip from Milan.
In my opinion, Milano is best visited as a daytrip from Como, which is about an hour north of the city. You can find hostels in Como itself or in Menaggio, farther up the lake. This area provides truly stunning scenery, and many of the towns that cluster around the lake - especially Varenna - are wonderfully charming.