My secret-day trips.
I love day trips; there is no packing or repacking, no airports, visas, no fuss and Milan is just one of those locations that day trip travelers get excited about. It’s 1 hour from Switzerland, 3 hours from France, 1 hour from the Italian Alps, 3 hours from Venice, you get the picture. With all these amazing destinations basically outside my front door, it is impossible to press pause on wanderlust so I decided to start my close to home adventure with the picturesque and beautiful Milan’s lakes.
Said to be the traditional summer refuge for Europe’s aristocracy, Italy’s lakes are one of the country’s most beautiful regions. Today the legacy of chic and cultured living can be appreciated by visitors in the stately buildings, manicured gardens of deluxe villas, authentic cultural expressions and gastronomic delights.
My first visit was to fabulous Lake Como. Home to megastars like, George Clooney, Richard Branson, Helen Mirren, and Sting. Como’s allure to both celebrities and visitors is owed to its natural beauty, its rustic unspoiled villages that gaze reflectively into its waters, sprawling lavish villas with elegant gardens, and the dramatic cratered hinterland that forms the backdrop around the lake.
Arriving to Como, it is clear that the lake is the enchanting centerpiece of the town. Just looking out onto the water was enough to stir up my wild imagination, which was fully ignited once I had done my villa hopping boat trip. Without a doubt, this was my version of la vita bella; not to mention the possibility of sharing ann espresso with Mr. Clooney.
Touted as the jewel between Lake Como and the Italian Alps merits a visit all its own. To get to Bellagio by boat from Como takes about an hour and just over that is if you are coming in by car from Milan. This small village hugs the lake’s edge as its cobbled lanes wind upwards.
Elevated above it all, the town’s square opens up onto the beautiful mosaics Basilica of San Giacomo. It’s all absolutely charming. Here tightly packed buildings face off with each other along narrow streets, offering visitors samples of the many restaurants, gelaterias and chic shops. Another beautiful surprise is Villa Melzi perched on the lake front with beautifully manicured gardens.
While Lake Como is more famously popular, it is Lake Maggiore that I keep coming back to. This lake and its shoreline are divided between Italy and Switzerland. Maggiore, is known throughout Italy for its botanical gardens and stunning villas. This makes for one adventurous day trip. A short boat ride is all it takes to visit Maggiore’s three beautiful islands- Isola Bella, Isola Madre and Isola dei Pescatori.
Oh these islands are beautiful; majestic palaces fit for royalty, romantic gardens perfectly instagramable at every angle. Lake side restaurants serve up streaming polenta and frosty gelato. Should all this splendour not be enough to captivate you, feel free to skip borders, hop on the ferry and hop off in Switzerland — just make sure your passport is handy.
Also known as the home base for the Franciacorta wine region. For this reason the route to the lake is lined with neat rows of plaited vines. This beautiful region is all but unknown to tourist, but a favourite to locals. Waiting to be discovered are Iseo’s ancient ruins, romantic architecture, inspiring nature trails and medieval villages.
There is more- Mount Isola, voted as one of the most beautiful towns in all of Italy is located on the lake island of the same name. I challenge you to find a view more breath-taking as the one from Sanctuary of the Madonna della Ceriola. You’ll happily work up an appetite to enjoy the local dishes is a quaint trattorias, or a glass of excellent wine at a cosy lakeside cafés.