I absolutely love city breaks, and Milan is right up there among my all-time favourite destinations. But, I’m always looking for ways to make my trips that little bit more exciting – and to fit more things in! – so I recommend visiting a few other cities while you’re touring Milan.
At first, this might sound a bit ambitious, but there are actually several great cities perfect for either day trips or overnight stays within easy driving distance of Milan. So, provided you hire a car, exploring several places in one trip needn’t be a hassle.
So, that begs the question, just where should you go?
Drive time: One to two hours
First on my list is Parma. No doubt the first thing that springs to mind is the world-famous delicacy Parma ham, but there’s far more to this city than gastronomic attractions – though there’s certainly plenty of those!
This lovely metropolis is part of the Emilia-Romagna region and, like many of Italy’s best-loved cities, it has a charming historic centre. The crowning glory of this is the cathedral in the Piazza del Duomo.
This should definitely be high on your list of places to visit, especially as it has such remarkable Po Valley Romanesque architecture. You shouldn’t only admire it from the outside, though; head inside and you can see some absolutely beautiful frescoes by the likes of Correggio.
Other highlights include a trip to the Palazzo della Pilotta – a vast complex that’s home to a host of important buildings, including the National Gallery. Step inside to see works by Canova, da Vinci and more.
Drive time: One and a quarter hours
Next on my list is Brescia, which is one of the most historic cities in Italy. And, as if that wasn’t reason enough to visit, it’s also one of the most beautiful.
As a result of its long and interesting history, Brescia has ended up with some beautiful architecture. One of the best ways to discover it is to visit a few of its glorious town squares, which include the Piazza della Vittoria and the Piazza del Foro – though there are many others.
If you want to experience the city at its lively best, then it’s worth visiting when one or two of its markets are on. For instance, in Piazza della Loggia there’s a fabulous food market on Saturday mornings (it sells other products too, by the way). Over in Piazza della Vittoria, meanwhile, there’s an antiques fair on the second Sunday of the month. That said, if you’re travelling in July or August you won’t be able to see it, since it’s not held during these months.
Drive time: Two to two and a half hours
Last on my list is Modena, another exceptionally beautiful city. This destination is particularly well known for its numerous museums and monuments, but it’s definitely most famous for the Ghirlandina Tower.
Originally built back in the 12th century, this tower can be seen from pretty much everywhere in the city and has become the symbol of the destination. This tower, along with the Romanesque cathedral and the Piazza Grande, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Another great thing about Modena is that, owing to its long history (it’s believed to have Etruscan origins) it has glorious, characterful winding streets. So, taking an aimless stroll along these is a real joy – though if you’d like to have a clear goal in mind, the Corso Canal Grande street is a good one to aim for, known for having bags of character.