Load the family into the car and hit the road for this trip through lovely Northern Italy, ideal for school-age children and families who want to manage their own budget and schedule. You'll start in fashionable Milan for a culture and history lesson before cruising around the glittering shores and garden villas of Lake Como. Then head to the park-filled shores of Lake Garda, Italy's most family-friendly lake, before heading back to Milan for your departure.

Highlights

  • Learn to make pasta like an Italian in a Milanese cooking class
  • Cruise past the luxurious gardens and villas of Lake Como
  • Play in the water and theme parks of Lake Garda
  • Bike through the Valle del Mincio for a garden picnic

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrival in Milan, Milan Highlights Private Tour Milan
Day 2 Milanese Cooking Class, Transfer to Lake Como, Bellagio & Villas Boat Tour Lake Como
Day 3 Free Day in Lake Como Villages Lake Como
Day 4 Lake Como to Lake Garda, West Lake Garda & Sirmione Boat Tour Lake Garda
Day 5 Free Day on Lake Garda Lake Garda
Day 6 Sigurtà Park Bike Rental & Picnic Lake Garda
Day 7 Depart Milan  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrival in Milan, Milan Highlights Private Tour

Milan Duomo
Milan Duomo
Welcome to Italy!
Upon arrival, your driver will meet you at the airport and whisk you off to your accommodation in Milan. On the way to the hotel, you will have the chance for a short driving orientation in Italy's most fashionable city, since you'll be doing the driving after today.
Once you've settled in, set off on a private walking tour of the highlights of Milan. Follow a local guide through the city’s rich history, art, and architecture, and visit sites from the Roman, Gothic, and Renaissance periods. 

You'll start at the Piazza del Duomo to visit the iconic Milan Cathedral. It took almost 600 years to complete the Duomo's shiny marble facade and striking late Gothic architecture, and today it is the symbolic monument of Milan. Head up to the roof to enjoy panoramic views across the city that are worth the climb.

As you exit the Duomo, you'll continue towards the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a 19th-century shopping mall. Take a stroll through the airy halls and admire the ornate architecture and skylights. Be sure to look up at the beautiful glass ceiling as you pass by the historic restaurants, bars, and trendy shops, home to famous Italian designers and brands housed in Italy's fashion capital.

Your next stop is La Scala Opera House, one of the most renowned in Europe. It was first built in the late 18th century and was beautifully restored in 1943 after it suffered great damage during World War II. Today it is an emblem representing the history of art in Milan, and is still at the heart of the city's artistic scene.

End the walk with a chance to see da Vinci's "The Last Supper". The renowned work is highly regulated, and the painting can only be viewed by appointment. The masterpiece is located in the refectory of the Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, and was painted in Milan by Leonardo da Vinci between 1495 and 1498. Marvel at the painting and admire the architecture of the convent until you're ready to return to the 21st century.

Day 2: Milanese Cooking Class, Transfer to Lake Como, and Bellagio & Villas Boat Tour

Making pasta the old-fashioned way
A trip to Italy wouldn't be complete without learning to make and taste at least one homemade pasta dish. Start your day with a private three-hour pasta- and risotto-making class where you will learn to cook like an Italian. You'll be in expert hands, with a professional chef teaching you the secrets of how to cook traditional pasta. 
Follow the recipe in a kitchen and discover the secrets of some of the most well-known dishes of the Italian tradition. You'll learn step-by-step how to make different shapes of pasta, such as lasagne, tailored based on your requests and accompanied with homemade sauces. Your meal will be accompanied by selected Italian wines, and a tiramisu for dessert. You're sure to leave satisfied with your dish and armed with several new skills for your next dinner party.
Spend some time digesting on the road from Milan to Lake Como, roughly a one-hour drive. Northern Italy is full of fascinating cities, beautiful towns and villages as well as stunning landscapes, making it an ideal location for a road trip. Some interesting stops along the way include the Alfa Romeo Museum and the famous Spina Verde Regional Park.
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Once you've arrived, you'll head out on a walking tour starting from Piazza Cavour, in Como’s historical center, before boarding a semi-private cruise. On your walking tour, see why Lake Como has been attracting nobility since Roman times, when Julius Caesar founded Novum Comum (Como city). Your guide will lead you through tales of fortresses and castles, furious naval battles, and crowned monarchs who built villas with large Baroque or Romantic gardens. Take in the views of these villas, such as Villa Olmo, Villa D’Este, Villa Versace, Villa del Balbianello, and Villa Carlotta, as well as the towns of Cernobbio and Tremezzo before you commence your cruise around Lake Como for a look into the lake's secret corners. Enjoy breathtaking views over the lake as well as its architectural wonders and villas.

Disembark in famous Bellagio, the area's most-visited town, where you'll learn from your guide about key sights like Punta Spartiviento, the Romanesque Basilica of San Giacomo, and Via Roma. The town has been drawing visitors since the Renaissance, when it was a center of industries—particularly silk—thanks to its ideal location. Stop at a hidden 18th-century cellar for a local wine, cheese, and ham tasting, then take a stroll through the boutiques to see how it still excels in silk products today.
Get lost in the colorful streets of the old town and enjoy the views over the lake. Then pay a visit to the gardens of Villa Melzi, where you'll be greeted by Moorish architecture, water lilies, and even more lake views before your tour ends.

Day 3: Free Day in Lake Como Villages

Villa Balbianello
Take your journey into your own hands with a free day to explore Lake Como, known for its upscale resorts, villas owned by celebrities, dramatic landscapes, and views of the Alps. In Como town center, you'll find the Gothic 14th-century Cathedral of Como and 12th-century Basilica di San Fedele. Overlooking the lake are Piazza Cavour square and the sprawling Villa Olmo park. 

You can extend out to the other villages by ferry or car. The resort town of Bellagio is north of Como, sitting on a promontory that juts into the lake. Lake Como splits three ways at this spot, offering spectacular scenic views. Varenna is another picturesque village a short ferry ride to the east of Bellagio, where you can follow the town's promenade along the lake to Villa Monastero and the botanical gardens. If you have the time and flexibility with a rental car, you can also consider visiting Lecco and Menaggio.
Other options include getting an aerial view of the landscape with a flight on a seaplane with aeroclub Como, rock climbing on the granite and limestone cliffs that surround Lake Como, or paragliding at Monte Cornizzolo to see the lake's beauty from above.

Day 4: Lake Como to Lake Garda, West Lake Garda & Sirmione Boat Tour

Isola del Garda
Isola del Garda
After you leave Lake Como, you'll drive for about 2.5 hours to Lake Garda, passing famous cities like Milan and Bergamo, beautiful villages, castles, churches, and museums. You're free to make as many stops as appeal to you along the way.
Once you arrive at Lake Garda, you'll embark on a three-hour boat tour of the western lake and Sirmione, with stops for Salò, Garda Island, Gardone, and some swimming from the boat.
After admiring the Sirmione peninsula and its many spots of interest, you will head towards the impressive outcropping of Rocca di Manerba. Pass the island of San Biagio and the enchanting Isola del Garda, the private residence of the counts of Borghese-Cavazza, and head to the magnificent Costa Romantica, which boasts spectacular villas overlooking the lake and surrounded by lush vegetation.
The Costa Romantica is the lakeshore between Toscolano Maderno and the Gulf of Salò. This area still bears traces of the Republic of Salò, declared during the Fascist period, and the architecture is a perfect reflection of its style, with the occasional Liberty touch to enhance its vintage charm. After the tour, you will return to Sirmione and pass under the two bridges of the Scaligero Castle.

Day 5: Free Day on Lake Garda

Lake Garda at sunset
Spend a day exploring Lake Garda on your own schedule. Garda is known as the most family-friendly Italian lake, with plenty of activities both in nature and at the many water and theme parks. Hike easy, fun paths, visit different villages, or learn about science and local crafts in the museums. Theme parks like Gardaland and outdoor activities such as the Monte Baldo cable car await.

Day 6: Sigurtà Park Bike Rental & Picnic

Cycle through Sigurtà Park
Bike through the wonderful land of Valle del Mincio, coasting amid glacier-formed hills, up to the Sigurtà Garden Park. In the park, you'll picnic amid English-inspired fields and rose gardens. You'll receive a guide to the park along with your rental bike so that you can determine your own route and points of interest.
Stop in Borghetto on your return, a Medieval village famous for its watermills and scenic glimpses between colored houses and stretches of water.

Day 7: Depart Milan

Streets of Milan

Head back to Milan to return home or continue on to your next adventure.

Map

Map of Northern Italy Family Road Trip: Milan, Lake Como & Lake Garda  - 7 Days
Map of Northern Italy Family Road Trip: Milan, Lake Como & Lake Garda - 7 Days