You’ve done your research, consulted the travel guides, booked your flights, and planned your long weekend away in the beautiful capital of Lombardy. The only problem is, a few short hours after arriving, you’re bored. If you’re anything like me, you’ve been wowed by the Duomo (although also slightly suspicious that on this occasion, the Italians might have *slightly* overdone it), underwhelmed by the Castello Sforzesco, taken a tour of the world-famous La Scala opera house, and now you have a whole other day that you somehow have to fill. You could go shopping, but for every item of clothing you buy, you’ll have to mortgage one of your children. Fear not though, for I am here to help. Here are my Five Day Trips that Beat Staying in Milan:
Lombardy’s very convincing answer to Tuscany’s hill-top towns, the Città Alta of Bergamo is perfect for a day out, being just 45 minutes by train from Milan.
Panoramas are provided by the view over the Po Valley from the southern entrance to the town, as well as the Parco della Rocca to the north-east. Aside from the obvious Duomo and Basilica, the small church of San Michele al Pozzo Bianco is well worth a look in. Bergamo is packed with enough picturesque alleys, beautiful churches and scenic viewpoints to ensure you have a lovely day away from the crowds and noise of Milan.
Your first stop should be the Certosa di Pavia, before you go to Pavia itself. It has its own train station, less than 20 minutes away from Milan’s Rogoredo Station, and will be the highlight of your day. If you decide to skip it (seriously, don’t), Pavia itself is half an hour from Milano Centrale.
The church of San Pietro in Ciel d’Oro is particularly noteworthy – and indeed, it was noted by both Dante and Boccaccio in their works. Many of the churches in the city are plainer, Romanesque affairs, but for those like me who prefer small churches and renaissance art, Santa Maria di Canepanova is your port of call. Caffe Janko on the main Corso Strada Nuova is a great place to stop for coffee and/or chocolate.
Slightly left-field, but who said you had to stay in Italy? Take the train, travel documents permitting, and in just over an hour you’re in Ticino, in another country, but still hearing the same language.
If you want peace and quiet in nature, then walk or take the funicular from Lugano Paradiso (a regrettably misleading name, but you’re only passing through) up to Monte San Salvatore, enjoy some breath-taking views over Lake Lugano, then carry on towards Vico Morcote, which is one of the most gorgeous small villages I’ve ever visited, although that opinion may have been swayed by a beautiful jet-black classic Fiat Cinquecento I came across while there. Take a dip in the unexpectedly-warm lake, then wait for a ferry back to Lugano in time for your train. If you prefer an urban setting, carry on past Lugano to Bellinzona, the capital of Ticino whose name literally means “Beautiful Area”. Aside from being a cute market town, it is famous for boasting no less than 3 castles (which together are a UNESCO World Heritage Site).
The Italian lakes are no secret. Garda and Como especially attract many, many tourists every year between them. But physically between them is a third lake, Iseo, and it possesses the same clear water and mountain views of its more famous siblings, with extra-added (relative) peace and quiet.
For those who aren’t built to sit quietly by a lake with a book all day, you can also take a ferry to Monte Isola, the island in the middle of the lake.
Slightly further out, although still only about an hour and a half by train, Parma is one of the more attractive cities in Emilia-Romagna.
Far above and beyond its architecture, Parma’s most famous tradition is the culinary one. Being Jewish, I can’t report on the Parma ham, but Parmesan cheese is an obvious winner, as is lambrusco wine, as well as many of the lesser-known local specialty pastas. What I’m saying is; come here with space in your stomach.
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-The Wandering Jew-