Want to plan perfect day excursions? Read our definitive guide to the best day tours in Italy with good solutions for nature lovers and foodies!
The weekend has always been considered sacred. It is the perfect time to unplug and enjoy some relaxation, perhaps with a nice day trip in Italy. No matter what city you’re in, Italy day trips are a great way to get to know the hidden sides of the Belpaese. What’s more, you can take a last-minute approach!
You may be wondering: is it possible to organise a good trip in one day? Especially considering the short time available? Don’t get down on yourself and listen carefully.
There are so many places you can visit in just one day. Discover new art forms, surprising flavours and breathtaking landscapes.
That’s why today I’m going to show you the best itineraries for a day trip to Lombardy and the surrounding area in Northern Italy. Our tour will start from the region’s capital, Milan, and then we will explore the nearby places that can be reached by car or with day excursions by coach.
Choose the best day tours in Italy!
1. Milan and Mortara
To begin our day excursions in Lombardy, we must start in Milan. The reference point is Piazza del Duomo, which contains a great historical and artistic heritage, housing the famous Duomo of Milan (Milan Cathedral). However, other monuments emerge in the square, such as the Royal Palace and the Museo del Novecento. I also recommend a visit to the 15th-century Castello Sforzesco (Sforza Castle). You can take advantage of this to have a nice picnic, as the Castle is inside Parco Sempione, a park that is a landmark for the inhabitants of the metropolis.
Moving to the west of the region, we find Mortara in the province of Pavia. It is rich in buildings of great artistic and architectural value, including the Basilica of San Lorenzo, the most representative edifice. In addition, Mortara has many green areas such as the gardens of Piazza Italia and the park of Piazza d’Istria, perfect for a walk. This city is perfect for day excursions by coach or train. Mortara is also well known for the production of the Salame d’oca PGI, a goose salami. This food is so famous that it is even used in sushi. Try it to believe it!
2. Italy day tours in Cremona and Mantua
Another place where you can spend your day tours in Italy is Cremona. The city is known as the city of the Torrazzo, the city’s symbolic bell tower. Cremona is also known as the city of violins, as it is the world capital of “liuteria”, the ancient art of violin making. So, if you are a music lover, you cannot miss a visit to the Violin Museum.
Moreover, your palate will be happy to know that Cremona is also the city of nougat (In Italian, “torrone”). Legend has it that the name of the sweet comes from the Torrazzo itself.
Let’s move further east to get to know the city of Mantua, a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2008. Indeed, the city is known for the Renaissance architecture of the buildings erected by the Gonzaga family, who made this city the pearl of the Italian Renaissance in the 15th century.
However, the peculiarity of this city is that it looks like an island, being surrounded by three artificial lakes. The Ocno Archipelago is open from May to October. This consists of 7 floating platforms in the shape of lotus flowers, hosting musical performances and events.
3. The valleys of Lombardy: Valchiavenna and Valtellina
Almost on the Swiss border, Chiavenna is a municipality in the Alpine valley, famous for its natural beauty. Not to be missed are the Acquafaggia waterfalls, considered the most important natural monument in Valchiavenna, and the Marmitte dei Giganti Park.
The Valchiavenna is characterised by the renowned “crotti“, special wine cellars with the “sorel“. This is a natural outlet from which a current of air blows, suitable to store wine, but also cold meats and cheeses. In addition, Valchiavenna is also known for its craft beer production.
Passing through Valtellina, you will encounter the Bernina Express. Since 2008, the Rhaetian Railway in the Bernina landscapes has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site and is considered the highest train in Europe. On its way to St. Moritz, the red train climbs the Alps to a height of about 2,000 metres. It is described as one of the most impressive railway routes in the world, even considering the fact that no cogwheel is used. In the Alta Valtellina area, you should not miss the thermal baths in Bormio, ranked among the most beautiful spas in Italy.
4. Italy day trips to Lake Como and Lake Garda
Where to go on Sunday if not to the lake? I have the solution for you. Lake Como is considered one of the most beautiful places in Lombardy, situated at the foot of the Pre-Alps. The natural beauty of Lake Como is enhanced by its elegant villas, such as Villa d’Este and Villa del Balbianello.
To admire its spectacular scenery, the ideal thing would be to organise a boat trip, immersing yourself in nature and flying over the water.
If you want to organise fabulous day tours Italy offers you the chance to visit another amazing lake: the Lake Garda. Nestled between the regions of Lombardy, Trentino Alto Adige and Veneto, Lake Garda is one of the most popular destinations for tourists. There are many attractions, places to see and towns to visit. Among the most popular are Riva del Garda, Desenzano and Peschiera del Garda. If you want to organise a leisure trip to Lombardy, you can make a stop at Gardaland, the largest amusement park in Italy.
5. Where to go on a day tour in Veneto
Just 2 hours from Milan, we arrive in Verona. There are many monuments to visit, but you should not miss the Verona Arena. The large 1st century Roman amphitheatre is the symbol of this city. Today it hosts concerts and operas. In addition, a visit to Juliet’s house – a 16th century building with the famous balcony from which Juliet looked out to talk to her beloved Romeo, the protagonist of Shakespeare’s opera – is a must.
A few kilometres from the city centre is Valpolicella, a hilly area that precedes the beginning of the Veronese Pre-Alps. It is famous for its vineyards and renowned wineries, where excellent wines such as the famous Amarone are produced. For this reason, an activity that I recommend is a tour with a private sommelier. And while you’re at it, I also recommend a visit to the olive oil mill in Illasi to taste the prized Veronese extra virgin olive oil.
6. Day trips in Piedmont
Our selection of the best day tours in Italy continue with Piedmont. Here we find Lake Orta, whose nature and history are worth discovering. The lake is located between the provinces of Novara and Verbano-Cusio-Ossola. Its peculiarity resides in the fact that it extends from north to south and is composed of two basins formed by glaciation. The lake is surrounded by many places to visit, but in my opinion the most interesting destination is San Giulio Island. Also known as the “Isle of Silence“, it is the perfect place to relax.
From Lake Orta, you can reach Vercelli in an hour’s drive. Its historic centre contains priceless treasures. Among them, the Duomo is definitely worth a visit. Dedicated to the first bishop of Piedmont and patron saint of the city, it is Vercelli’s main place of worship.
You should know that Vercelli is the European capital of rice. Surrounded by rice paddies, the city has always been an important commercial centre, especially for the rice trade throughout Europe. In this regard, I recommend you take advantage of the rice-themed experiences available near Vercelli and Novara, 20 minutes from the city.
The historical centre of Novara offers some must-see points of interest. The Duomo of Novara, the Broletto Complex and the Castello Sforzesco Visconteo are just some of the tourist attractions that best express the town’s history and art. And if during day trips in Italy your stomach starts grumbling, you’ve come to the right place! Don’t miss the famous Novara biscuits, made in the historic Camporelli factory since 1852.
7. Passing through the Langhe and Ivrea
The Langhe are a magnet for tourists. If you have already read our article on the giant benches of the Langhe, you will have discovered the countless number of benches that colour the Piedmontese landscape. But beware, visiting them all in one day is impossible, so I suggest you make a selection.
The Langhe landscape is covered in vineyards and fields. This suggests that Piedmontese food and wine is extremely rich. In fact, there are many wine-themed and truffle-themed experiences in the Langhe that I recommend you try.
Staying in Piedmont, we can visit Ivrea, a pleasant town with a great history that has led it to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2018. Ivrea is inextricably linked to the Olivetti, a factory where typewriters were produced. To find out more about the history of Olivetti’s production and culture, I recommend you visit the Laboratorio-Museo Tecnologic@mente.
Another unmissable stop is Borgofranco d’Ivrea. The village has a particular feature: it is full of “Balmetti“, i.e. caves where wine and cheese are stored because of a constant temperature air flow coming from the mountains.
8. We conclude our tour in Genoa and Modena
We started in Lombardy, passing through Veneto and Piedmont. Where better to go on a day trip than Liguria? We reach Genoa, just 2 hours from Milan, where we can visit the famous Aquarium. Containing some 15,000 marine species, it is a fascinating experience, especially for children. But if you choose this city for your day tours in Italy, also take in a bit of history as you wander through the narrow alleyways of the historic centre. Genoa is not only about attractions and art, but also about gastronomy. From pesto to focaccia genovese, discover the city’s typical foods!
We end our day excursions in Modena, Emilia Romagna. A perfect place for art holidays. In the town centre, Piazza Grande and the Duomo of Modena are the city’s landmarks. By the way, the entrance to the Cathedral is free. Modena is also perfect for Italy day tours to discover local flavours.
We are in the land of Parmigiano Reggiano, prosciutto di Parma and traditional balsamic vinegar of Modena. Thanks to food and wine experiences, you have the chance to savour these delicacies.
What can I say, there are so many destinations for day trips in Italy! And you can indulge yourself with the tour ideas offered by Italia Delight! In addition to food and wine experiences, Italia Delight gives you the opportunity to create multi-day tours, to customise with the Local Expert.
Valtellina among nature, food and wine, Verona and Lake Garda with nature & food, Short break on Lake Orta and Monferrato are just some of the many travel ideas. Run to see them and choose the best day tours in Italy! 😉
Cover photo from Pixabay: author Didgeman