1 Week in Milan and The Lakes + Venice

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This week we are travelling back on a 1-week family trip to Milan in 2013. Why Milan, Italy? Simply because we found cheap tickets to Bergamo, which is approximately one hour from Milan. There were two flights per week so we would either spend four days there or one week. We chose the lengthier option! Destination: Solved!

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What’s next? Deciding how to spend one week in Milan. The answer would be simple if we had an unlimited amount of money to spend on shopping, because, don’t forget that Milan is the “Queen of Fashion”! A quick research online revealed us the beauty of the lakes that surround northern Italy, and that Venice is just a 2-hour 30-min train ride away. Activities: Solved!

After that, we had to decide about the accommodation. After hours of research, we found a very attractive deal at Hilton Milan [AD], a few minutes away from Central Station. Conclusion: our stay would have a hint of luxury, wouldn’t cost a fortune and would be in a convenient location. Accommodation: Solved!

Tip: If you are thinking of following this itinerary, consider booking a hotel close to the Central Station to save precious time in the morning. Enjoy! 🙂

Getting Ready for 1 Week in Milan

Length: 7 days

Time of the year: Summer – July

Suitable for: (Almost) Everyone

Difficulty: 1 | 1,5 | 2 | 2,5 | 3

Highlights: Santa Maria delle Grazie, Parco Sempione, Piazza del Duomo, Piazza del Duomo, La Scala, Mueseo Teatro alla Scala, Corso Buenos Aires, Navigli, Museuo Nationale della Scineza e della Tecnica | Piazza di San Marco, Basilica di San Marco, Campanile di San Marco, Ponte di Rialto | Lake Como, Brunate | Lake Maggiore, Palazzo Borromeo | Gardaland

What to book in advance?

  • Transportation to and from Milan: plane, bus, train, car; I’m sure you’ll find what’s best for you!
  • Transportation to and from the airport (if you are using it): if you are looking for something cheap, then most shuttle bus companies offer discounted online prices.
  • Train tickets (if you don’t have your own wheels) to avoid disappointment in the case that they are too expensive to buy on the day – I doubt that a regional train can be sold out, but you never know!
  • Accommodation, there is something for every budget in Milan from the 1-thousand-euro-per-night hotels to the more affordable hostels.
  • Gardaland tickets to avoid the summer queues, although when we visited there weren’t many.
  • Entry to Leonardo da Vinci’s “Last Supper” – don’t leave it last minute, spaces fill up quickly.

Day 1 – Milan

Piazza del Duomo, Milan
The view of the Duomo from the Piazza del Duomo in Milan, Sony DSC-TX10

The first day is all about getting to know Milan! It is easy to move around the city using the subway, the bus or the tram.

Find out more about Milan’s public transportation system here.

10:30 Santa Maria delle Grazie (Leonardo da Vinci – Last Supper)

Start your day with a visit to Santa Maria delle Grazie where the famous painting of Leonardo da Vinci “Last Supper” is located. Book your 15 minutes time slot well in advance (2-3 months). A limited number of people is allowed in so make sure to secure your place.

How to get there?

Take tram 16 to S. Maria delle Grazie or take the metro line 1 to Conciliazione. From there, it is a short 5-minute walk.

Find out more about the Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie and the Last Supper painting here.

12:00 Parco Sempione

Continue your day with a visit to Parco Sempione. There you can find the Arco della Pace and the Torre Branca. The tower has a height of 108.6 m and a small panoramic observation deck at the top. It may not be the tallest viewpoint in Milan, but from there you can get very good views of the city centre.

Alternative: In the same park you can also find the Castello Sforzesco and the Acquario Civico di Milano.  You can choose to visit one of them you prefer; however, you may need to plan a little bit more of time.

How to get there (from Santa Maria delle Grazie)?

You can walk there (15-20 minutes) or take the metro line 1 from Conciliazione to Cairoli Castello.

Find out more about Parco Sempione here, Torre Branca here, Castello Sforzesco here and Acquario Civico di Milano here.

13:00 Piazza del Duomo (Duomo + Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II)

The next stop is the Piazza del Duomo, where the famous Duomo (Milan Cathedral) is located and worth a visit. In the same area is the Galleria Vittorio Emanuel II, with many shops and restaurants. When inside, don’t forget to admire its glass roof. This is a good time to have a lunch break, before continuing the exploration of the city.

How to get there (from Parco Sempione)?

It is a 20-minute walk, or you can take the metro line 1 from Castello Sforzesco to Duomo, or you can take the tram 2, 12 or 14 from Arena (north-east of the park) and get off at Duomo.

Find out more about Duomo here and Galleria Vittorio Emanuel II here.

15:00 Piazza della Scala (Teatro alla Scala + Museo Theatrale alla Scala)

On the other side of the Galleria Vittorio Emanuel II is the Piazza della Scala, where one of the most famous opera theatres of the world is located, the Teatro alla Scala. You can enter the theatre in different ways, the best of them would be to book a performance. Other ways include a guided tour of the theatre; and a visit to the Museo Teatrale alla Scala, which is a museum about the history of opera and theatre and peaks into the main theatre at a point during the tour.

Personal note: When I was initially planning this trip, the Museo Teatrale alla Scala was located in a different address, but when we went to visit it (the morning of the first day) we were informed that it has recently relocated. When we were at the Piazza della Scala, we noticed a sign that said Museo Teatrale alla Scala. We didn’t lose the opportunity to visit it and learn more about the subject. We saw including other things, beautiful dresses and, surprisingly, we entered one of the balconies of the nearby opera house – no photos allowed, but still we could get a glimpse of the interior of La Scala.

How to get there (from Piazza del Duomo)?

Simply pass through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuel II. If you don’t stop anywhere, it should take about 5 minutes to reach the other side.

Find out more about the Teatro alla Scala here and the Museo Teatrale alla Scala here.

17:00 Walk in Milan

Finish your day with a walk in the back streets with many cute cafes and restaurants. That was when we visited for the first time a Magnum Store, where you get to customise your ice cream. Nothing was planned, the shop just appeared in front of us, so we decided to give it a go.

Magnum Ice Cream
Having an ice cream stop in a Magnum Store in Milan, Sony DSC-TX10

Day 2 – Venice

Canals in Venice
Wandering around in Venice, Sony DSC-TX10

The second day is dedicated to exploring the beauty of Venice! You can move around Venice using the public water bus service or the water taxis if you can afford them. Of course, Venice’s small streets are best explored on foot.

Find out more about public transport in Venice here.

8:00 Milano Centrale Railway Station

Take the morning train to Venice. Venice it’s a little bit more than two hours and a half from Milan, and this makes ideal for a day trip. Clearly, there is not enough time to explore every detail of Venice, but it is enough time to explore the most important sights and wander around the city’s numerous canals.

How to get there?

Take metro line 2 or 3 to the Central station. Alternatively, many buses and trams stop nearby the closest of which are: bus 60, 81 and N26 and tram 5 which stop at Stazione Centrale P.za Duca d’Aosta. Tram 9, 10, and 19 stop at Via Filzi Via Galvani, 3 minutes from the Central Station.

11:30 Basilica di San Marco

The first stop on this day trip is the Piazza San Marco or St Mark’s square as it is known in English. Walk the rectangular square and admire the Basilica di San Marco and its bell tower the Campanile di San Marco. 

How to get there (from Venice’s railway station)?

Take water bus 1 from Ferrovia or 2 from Ferrovia “B” to San Marco (Vallaresso) SX. It is a long ride since the water bus goes around the city. Alternatively, you can get off at Rialto or Rialto “C” and walk to Piazza San Marco.

Find out more about Basilica di San Marco here.

15:00 Gondola ride

No visit to Venice is complete without taking a gondola ride. They usually start from the Grand Canal and continue into the smaller canals.

Tip: The gondola ride can be quite expensive. If you mind the price and don’t mind privacy, then find somebody to share the ride (max six people). Back in 2013, the cost of a basic daytime ride for 40-minutes was €80, which we split with a Japanese couple. Just to note here that if you want any other services, such as live music or extra time, the price will go up.

Where to find them?

You can find gondolas in many locations around Venice. You can spot them both in the Grand Canal and in the smaller back streets.

17:30 Ponte di Rialto

Make your way towards Rialto Bridge, another famous point of interest in Venice and one more place that you won’t be able to breathe from the number of people that will be there.

How to get there (from Grand Canal)?

One option is walking across the river, or you can take the water bus 1/2 from Rialto/Rialto “C” stop to Ferrovia/Ferrovia “B”.

19:30 Venezia Santa Lucia Railway Station

Last stop of the day is the railway station to take the train back to Milan Central Station. It was a full day so make sure you rest because the next day will be as full as this one.

Day 3 – Lake Como

Lake Como, Italy
Grasping as much of the beauty of Lake Como as we can, iPhone 4

Lake Como is one of the most well-known lakes in northern Italy. Rich people are said to have fallen in love with the area and hence built themselves large mansions to be able to enjoy its beauty year round. Famous cities include Bellagio, Tremmezo and Mennagio.

Find out more the transportation in Como here.

8:30 Milano Centrale Railway Station

Take a morning train to Como San Giovanni railway station.

How to get there?

See the instructions from Day 2.

10:00 Como

Arrive in Como, the largest city around Lake Como. Take some time to walk and enjoy the beauty of your surroundings.

How to get there (from Como San Giovanni railway station)?

You can walk through the small streets of Como until you reach the lake.

Find out more about Como here.

11.00 Brunate

Walk in the picturesque streets of Brunate. This small village can be accessed via a funicular and is ideal for grasping great views over the lake.

How to get there (from Como)?

Take the Funicolare Como Brunate from Piazza Alcide de Gasperi. Once you finish exploring Brunate, go back to Como using the same mean.

Find out more about Brunate here.

14:00 Lake Como

After having lunch (and returning from Brunate), you can take the boat to explore the lake from the water. The boat makes various stops at different little villages across the lakes, where you can get off if you wish. If you choose to stay, you can still have amazing views of the nearby villas and mansions.

20:00 Como San Giovanni Railway Station

It’s time to return to Milan. More things are coming up!

How to get there (from Como)?

Walking is the best way to reach the station.

Day 4 – Shopping

Coming in Milan and not dedicating a day (or more) for shopping it’s not possible. Here it is a day to invest in a new wardrobe! 😉

10:00 Corso Buenos Aires

THE shopping street in Milan with over 350 shops and the highest amount you can find in any street in Europe (according to Wikipedia). If you’re visiting in early July, sales are around the corner too, so keep an eye on that.

How to get there?

It all depends on which height of the busy street you want to reach. Starting from north to south, metro line 1 makes stops to the following stations: Loreto, Lima and Porta Venezia. Many buses and trams also service the area.

Find out more about Corso Buenos Aires here.

19:00 Navigli

Navigli District
Walking in the Navigli district, Sony DSC-TX10

Spend the evening in this area of Milanese canals, where good food and company are always around. Blend with the locals and enjoy a good night out!

How to get there?

Many trams and buses stop nearby. Metro line 2 goes from Centrale to Porta Genova.

Find out more about Navigli district here.

Day 5 – Lake Maggiore

View of Lake Maggiore from Isola Bella, one of the Islas Borromeas, Sony DSC-TX10

Today you get to explore another beautiful lake, Lake Maggiore, the second largest lake in Italy.

8:00 Milano Centrale Railway Station

Go to the Central Station and get a train to Stresa, one of the cities that surround Lake Maggiore.

How to get there?

See the instructions from Day 2.

9:30 Stresa

The transportation hub of Lake Maggiore, as it connects the area with Milan, and the small villages around the Lake, including the small islands inside the Lake.

How to get there (from Stresa railway station)?

The railway station is a short walk from the city centre.

Find out more about Stresa here.

10:00 Isole Borromee

Take the boat to the three Borromean islands: Isola Bella, Isola Madre and Isola di Pescatori/Isola Superiore, and two islets: Isolino di San Giovanni and rock of Malghera. Isola Bella, Isola Madre and Isolino di San Giovanni belong to the Borromeo family. Both of the first two islands have their grounds (a palace in each island and beautiful gardens) open to the public during the summer. Isola di Pescatori (Fishermen island) is more tranquil than the other islands and the only one to be inhabited for the whole duration of the year.

How to get there (from Stresa)?

Take the ferry boat from Stresa.

Find out more about Isole Borromee here.

15:00 Stresa

Spend some time in Stresa. Find a lovely market, or walk around the Lake. I’m sure you will find something to spend your time until it is time to return.

Alternative: Take the boat to a nearby village, or if you prefer, cross the border to Switzerland (make sure you have your passport with you just in case it is needed).

20:00 Stresa Railway Station

Another day reached its end. Take the train back to Milan and rest. Only two days are left!

How to get there?

The easiest way to reach the station is to walk.

Day 6 – Gardaland

Gardaland, Italy
Spending the day in Gardaland, Sony DSC-TX10

Today is the day to entertain yourselves at Gardaland, one of the largest amusement parks in Italy.

Alternative: Not a fan of theme parks? Then, plan a trip to the nearby Lake Garda.

8:00 Milano Centrale Railway Station

Go early in the morning at the station to get a train that arrives at Gardaland when the park opens, so that you have plenty of time there.

How to get there?

See the instructions from Day 2.

10:30 Gardaland

Spend the day in the park’s many rides. There are 18 rides for little kids, 7 rides for all the family and 6 thrill rides. Apart from that, there are many shows to see and an aquarium to visit.

How to get there (from Peschiera del Garda)?

Get off at Peschiera del Garda, and from there, there are frequent free shuttle buses to the park.

19:00 Peschiera del Garda Railway Station

Once you are done with the park’s activities, head back to the nearby railway station to return to Milan.

How to get there (from Gardaland)?

Take the free shuttle from the park to the railway station.

Find out more about Gardaland here.

Buy your Gardaland tickets from AttractionTix [AD].

Day 7 – Milan

Leonardo da Vinci, Vitruvian Man
L’Uomo Vitruviano, one of the works of Leonardo da Vinci that are discussed in the Science and Technology Museum in Milan, Pixabay

This is the last day in Milan. Depending on how much time you have available I suggest a visit to the science and technology museum of the city. If you have more time, go for the last walk in Piazza Duomo.

10:00 Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia “Leonardo da Vinci”

Leonardo da Vinci was one of the greatest painters and scientists of his time. Hence, the naming of the largest science museum of the country to his name. Da Vinci spent an amount of his working life in Milan, hence the numerous referrals to his work. This museum is about exploring different aspects of sciences and the work of Leonardo da Vinci.

How to get there?

The closest metro station is the one of St. Ambrogio, where metro line 2 stops. The closest bus station is Via S. Vittore Via De Togni; bus 58 stops there.

Find out more about the Museo Nazionale della Scienza e della Tecnologia “Leonardo da Vinci” here.

Buon viaggio!

P.S. If you want you can move things a bit around and if your budget permits, you can arrange a-few-nights stay in one of the lakes. I’m sure you’ll relax and have an amazing time. Let me know! 😉

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Elina Michaelidou

Elina is a computer science graduate and a traveller enthusiastic. Read everything about her travel experiences here.

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