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Lake Maggiore: Day Trips and Tours from Milan

If you're on vacation in Milan, a Lake Maggiore day trip is the perfect way to get out of the city and see some of the stunning natural beauty that Italy has to offer. Lake Maggiore straddles the border between Italy and Switzerland, and its shores are dotted with picturesque villages, lush gardens, and majestic mountains.

A Lake Maggiore day tour from Milan is the perfect way to experience all that this beautiful region has to offer. You'll get to enjoy a cruise on the lake, visit the quaint villages along its shores and explore the Borromean Islands.

How to get to Lake Maggiore from Milan?

Lake Maggiore is situated roughly 90 kilometers northwest of Milan. The most convenient ways to travel between the two are via car, train or as part of a Lake Maggiore day tour.

From Milan to Lake Maggiore by car

It takes around 1.5 hours to drive from Milan to Lake Maggiore. The fastest route is via the A8 motorway towards Malpensa airport. As you get closer to the lake, you will see signs for Lago Maggiore.

From Milan to Lake Maggiore by train

It takes roughly an hour to travel from Milan to one of the villages on the western side of the lake. You can catch a direct Trenitalia regional train from Milano Centrale or Porta Garibaldi station to either Arona, Stresa or Verbania-Pallanza. Tickets start from €6.20 each way.

If you want to reach the eastern side of the lake, you can take a train from the Porta Garidabli station to Laveno, Calde or Porto Valtravaglia. This should take around 1.5 hours and tickets start from €6.70.

Guided tour to Lake Maggiore from Milan

If you don't want to worry about the logistics of planning your own Lake Maggiore jaunt, you can book a guided tour from Milan. This is a great option if you're short on time or if you want to make sure you see all the highlights of the lake.

On a Lake Maggiore day tour from Milan, you'll typically visit the western side of the lake. Highlights include a cruise on the lake, a stop in the village of Stresa and a visit to one of the Borromean Islands. Most tours also include round-trip transportation from Milan.

What is the typical itinerary of a day tour to Lake Maggiore from Milan?

Many Lake Maggiore excursions meet at the Milan visitor center in the morning. However, some tours include hotel pickup and drop-off.

From your starting point, you'll board a comfortable air-conditioned vehicle bound for the countryside. The journey to Lake Maggiore should take around 1.5 hours.

You'll usually begin your Lake Maggiore day trip by exploring the village of Stresa, which is located on the western shore of the lake. Stresa is a quaint lakeside town with many public villas and gardens to discover. There's also a cable car that you can take up to Monte Mottarone, where you'll enjoy panoramic views of the lake and the surrounding Alps.

After some free time to explore Stresa, you'll board a boat cruise of Lake Maggiore. You'll enjoy views of the waterfront before heading to the Isola Bella, one of the Borromean Islands. The island is home to a Baroque palace and an elaborate Italian garden, which you'll have plenty of time to enjoy.

Depending on timing and group size, your Lake Maggiore day tour may also include a stop at the Eremo di Santa Caterina, a 14th-century hermitage located on a small island in the lake.

At the end of your Lake Maggiore tour, you'll head back to Milan and be dropped off back at your starting point in the city.

What kinds of tours are available to go to Lake Maggiore?

Half-day trip to Lake Maggiore from Milan

These tours typically last around four hours and include a visit to Stresa, a cruise on the lake and free time on Isola Bella. You will be able to enjoy all of the highlights of Lake Maggiore without having to spend the entire day away from Milan.

Full-day trip to Lake Maggiore from Milan

On a full-day tour, you'll have more time to explore the lake and its villages. These tours typically last eight hours or more and may also include stops at Fishermen Island, the Eremo di Santa Caterina or Isola Madre, another one of the Borromean Islands.

Truly immerse yourself in this unique part of Italy and make the most of your excursion to Lake Maggiore.

Private day trip to Lake Maggiore from Milan

If you're looking for a more personalized experience, you can book a private tour to Lake Maggiore. These tours offer a more flexible experience and give you the ability to customize your itinerary to better suit your interests.

Day trip to Lake Maggiore plus Arona from Milan in a Ferrari

For a truly unique experience, you can book a tour that includes transportation to Lake Maggiore in a Ferrari. This tour also includes a stop in Arona, a lakeside town located on the southern shore of Lake Maggiore.

You will also receive a private photoshoot with your luxury vehicle so that you can remember your experience forever.

How much does a tour to Lake Maggiore from Milan cost?

The cost of your Lake Maggiore day trip from Milan will vary depending on the type of tour you book. Group tours typically start at around €70 per person and do not usually include the entrance fee to the Isola Bella palace, which costs €18 for adults and €9 for children.

Private tours, meanwhile, vary between €330 to €480 for two adults. These tours accept up to six travelers in total and often include the entrance fee to Isola Bella, as well as other activities.

What will you see and do in Lake Maggiore?

Stresa

Stresa is a small town located on the western shore of Lake Maggiore. It's known for its public villas and gardens, as well as its cable car, which takes passengers up to Monte Mottarone.

Stresa is also home to a zoo and the Grand Hotel des Iles Borromees. The latter is a 5-star hotel that was once frequented by celebrities, such as Clark Gable and Ernest Hemmingway.

The lake

A highlight of any Lake Maggiore journey is a cruise on the lake itself. You'll be able to enjoy views of the waterfront, as well as the Borromean Islands. The cool breeze will be a welcome change especially if you’re visiting during the summer months.

Isola Bella

Isola Bella is one of the Borromean Islands and is home to the Palazzo Borromeo, a Baroque palace built in the 17th century. The palace features an extensive Italian garden and is home to a wealth of Baroque art and architecture. No Lake Maggiore excursion is complete without a trip to the Isola Bella.

Eremo di Santa Caterina

The Eremo di Santa Caterina is a 14th-century hermitage located on a small island in the lake. It's known for its tranquil setting and is a popular spot for visitors to relax. Enjoy some peace and quiet as you marvel at the panoramic lake views.

Rocca di Angera

Some private Lake Maggiore excursions also include the chance to visit Rocca di Angera, a medieval castle located on a hilltop overlooking the lake. The castle features a museum with exhibitions on the history of the region, as well as expansive gardens with excellent views of the lake.

When is Lake Maggiore open over the year?

Lake Maggiore is open all year round, but the Isola Bella only welcomes visitors from mid-March until Nov. 1. The Rocca di Angera has a similar open season. For this reason, many Lake Maggiore day tours are not available during the winter months.

When is the best time to visit Lake Maggiore?

Spring and autumn are the best times for a Lake Maggiore excursion, as the weather is milder than in summer and there are fewer crowds. October is an especially good time to visit, as the leaves on the trees are changing color, making for some beautiful scenery and opportunities for photography.

Many of Lake Maggiore's top attractions close during the winter months. The summer months are a popular time to visit but can be hot and crowded. The shoulder seasons of spring and autumn are generally the most comfortable times to visit.

Travel tips

  • Book your tour in advance to secure your spot and avoid disappointment. The lake is a very popular spot among tourists, so tours can sell out quickly on weekends.
  • Wear comfortable shoes, as you will be doing a lot of walking during your Lake Maggiore jaunt. Avoid heels, especially if you’re going to be enjoying a boat cruise.
  • Bring a hat and sunscreen if you are visiting in summer. There is little shade in some places around the lake.
  • Pack a light jacket or sweater, as the weather can be cooler near the water. Sometimes during the shoulder season, it can be windy in this area.
  • If you're visiting Isola Bella, remember to bring cash for the entrance fee which is not included in the price of most day trips to Lake Maggiore.
  • Lunch is not usually included in Lake Maggiore tours from Milan, so be sure to bring some snacks or money to buy food during your free time in Stresa.
  • Gratuities are not mandatory but are always appreciated if you had a good experience. Don’t forget to tip your guides at the end of your trip.
  • Bring your camera to capture the views. You’ll have some fantastic photo opportunities during your time at the lake.