The section of northeastern Italy from Milan to Venice is packed with interesting cities; you'll spend less than two hours travel time between cities in our suggested itinerary. The distance between Milan and Venice is a mere 175 miles or so, less than three hours train time, and if you follow all the steps of the suggested itinerary, you'll stop and experience four fabulous cities between the two with an optional stop at a lake.
Check schedules and buy Italian train tickets from Select Italy online in US dollars.
The Travel Itinerary
You are most likely to fly into Milan Malpensa Airport, located northwest of Milan. It's actually closer to Lake Maggiore than central Milan. From Malpensa, you can take the shuttle to Milano Centrale train station (Malpensa Shuttle departs every twenty minutes from early morning to late at night) to start your journey or to find a hotel.
You may want to spend a couple of days visiting Milan before or after the train trip. Here are some good planning resources:
Cities to Visit Between Milan and Venice
Brescia: (1 day) Brescia is often overlooked, but it's worth a night. From its Roman ruins to a popular museum, the Monastery of Santa Giulia City Museum, you might be surprised at Brescia's charm.
Verona: (2 days) Known for Shakespeare's setting for Romeo and Giulietta, Verona has been called the Florence of the North for its art; the city has beautiful squares and medieval monuments. Get tickets for an outdoor performance at the 2000-year-old Arena (but get them in advance) and rub the right breast of bronze Juliet for luck before heading to Vicenza.
Vicenza: (1 Day) Famous architect Palladio is from here--you can see his work in town and out. Vicenza has a fairly small center and can easily be visited as a day trip from Verona or Padua.
Padua: (2 Days) One of the favorite travel towns on this route, Padua is one of the prettiest cities in Italy. It has the oldest botanical gardens in Europe, the biggest public square in Italy, an old university, and Giotto frescoes (one of Italy's sights that must be booked in advance). It can be used as a base to visit Venice on day trips.
Ferrara: (1 day) If you have more time, Ferrara is a small town with a castle, Romanesque cathedral, and historic city walls.
Visiting Venice and Travel Planning
You could spend a month here, but 4-5 days minimum are recommended. There are good day trips from Venice, including the pretty canal town of Treviso, too.
Planning Your Train Travel
You can buy train tickets from Select Italy online in US dollars and also check the schedules or go to Trenitalia, the Italian rail company. The private high-speed Italo trains also travel on the route from Milan to Venice.
Getting back to Milan
If possible, book your return flight from Venice, but if you have to return to Milan, the fastest and easiest way to return is by train (unless you have a connecting flight in Milan). The Frecciabianca (fast train) makes the journey from Venice Santa Lucia station to Milano Centrale in two hours and 35 minutes.