Best known for being a hub for high fashion, Milan is also a good base from which visitors can travel to a lake and other parts of Italy's Lombardy region. Many of the spots on the list below can be easily reached by public transportation, and make fine one- or two-day trips for tourists staying in Milan.
Most of these places can be reached by train from Milan's central train station.
The towns of Como, on the southwest shore of Lake Como, and Lecco, on the southeast shore, are easily reached by train from Milan in less than an hour.
Como is a walled town with a historic center, lively squares, good restaurants and a funicular that goes up above Como for hiking trails and beautiful views. If you want to visit other towns on the lake, there are buses and ferries from both Como and Lecco.
Cremona is home to the famous handmade Stradivarius violins and it has a beautiful, compact center that's pleasant for walking and easily reached on foot from the train station. Trains from Milan take a little over an hour.
Most of the sights are centered around the main square including the Romanesque cathedral, baptistery, and the Torrazzo, the 13th-century bell tower with the world's largest astronomical clock. Climb up the tower for fantastic views of the city and countryside.
The old city, Bergamo Alta, sits on a hill above Bergamo Bassa, the modern city. It's about an hour by train from Milan. Bergamo Alta is a medieval walled hill town with old squares, beautiful monuments, and buildings and great views.
Book a Guided Tour of Bergamo, Franciacorta and Lake Iseo with transportation from Milan from Select Italy. In addition to the city of Bergamo, you'll visit a small, charming lake and the Franciacorta sparkling wine region.
Pavia is a university city on the Ticino River 35 km south of Milan. It's about half an hour by train from Milan's central station. Pavia is known as the city of 100 towers but only a few remain intact today. Its interesting historic center has good examples of Romanesque and Medieval architecture. Nearby is the impressive Certosa di Pavia that can be reached by bus from Pavia.
Brescia is a city often overlooked by tourists but it's well worth a visit, for its Roman remains, its castle, its Renaissance squares, and its interesting medieval city center. Be sure to check out the City Museum in the Monastery of Santa Julia if you make the trip. Trains from Milan take 45 to 90 minutes and a local bus connects the station with the city center.
Lake Garda, Peschiera del Garda
Peschiera del Garda, on the southern shore of Lake Garda, can be reached in a little over an hour from Milan. The train station is within walking distance of the town center and the lake. Peschiera has a small historic center with shops and restaurants inside 16th-century walls built in the shape of a pentagon.
There are small pebble beaches and walks along the lake. Desenzano del Garda, a little closer to Milan, also has a train station. From either town, there are ferries and buses to other Lake Garda towns.
Lake Maggiore, Stresa and Arona
Stresa has a small walking center with tourist shops and restaurants, a lakeside promenade, gardens, villas and a harbor where you can get a ferry to Isola Bella and other places on the lake.
Arona is a little closer to Milan and a little larger than Stresa. It has very good restaurants and shops but fewer tourist facilities. By train, Arona is under an hour and Stresa is just over an hour from Milan. Both stations are right by the towns.
Parma, in the Emilia-Romagna region, has a compact historical center with several good attractions. Its Romanesque cathedral is covered with beautiful frescoes and the 12th-century Baptistery is one of Italy's most interesting buildings.
As it's the home of the famous Parma ham and Parmesan cheese, Parma has great cuisine and excellent restaurants. Trains take between 60 and 90 minutes from Milan and the center is about a 10-minute walk from the station.
While it's a little farther from Milan than most of the other places on this list, the high-speed train takes just over an hour (and costs about twice what the slower two-hour train does).
Bologna, also in the Emilia-Romagna region, is a beautiful old university city with lavish porticoed walkways and squares, fine historic buildings and a medieval center. It's also known for its excellent cuisine.
Turin or Torino
Turin, or Torino, is the largest city in the Piedmont region. Turin has Baroque cafes and architecture, arcaded shopping promenades, large squares and museums including a large Egyptian museum.
The Mole Antonelliana is a tall tower that houses the cinema museum and has a lift you can take for views of the city. Trains from Milan take close to two hours. Turin's Porta Nuova station is in central Turin but some trains only stop at Porta Susa, from where you can take a bus into the city.
Mantua or Mantova
Mantua is a Renaissance city with pretty squares, a good historic center and a huge Ducal Palace with more than 500 rooms, making it the largest residence after the Vatican.
Although it takes almost two hours to get there by train, you can take the Mantua: Lombardy's Sleeping Beauty guided tour that includes transportation from Milan, lunch, and guided tours of the Ducal Palace and other parts of the town.