Taking a road trip from Milan to Venice is a great way to see the beautiful Italian landscapes, and experience cultural and regional diversity along the way. You have the freedom to create your own itinerary and explore the many beautiful towns, cities, and attractions throughout Italy. Driving through Italy is easy–with a number of expressways and large roads connecting cities and towns, driving is far and away the most efficient means of transportation. It’s also possible to take a train from Milan to Venice, or fly across, however, the train ride takes over six hours to make the journey, and you don’t get to stop at any of the enchanting destinations along the way. If you want to fly from airports in Milan, Milan Linate Airport is the main domestic airport of choice, and the trip usually takes about two hours and 40 minutes with domestic airlines such as Air Dolomiti.
For driving, there are two main routes you can take from Milan to Venice.
MILAN TO VENICE: DRIVING ROUTE ONE
Approximate Drive Time: 3 Hrs
This route is probably the most direct route, take the E64 north out of Milan, through Monza. You can take your first pit stop at the Lombard city of Bergamo. A city full of baroque and Renaissance architecture, Bergamo has some of the best views in northern Italy. Take a stroll through its labyrinth of narrow medieval streets, climb the hilltop upper town, and eat a delicious meal in one of the city’s fine dining establishments.
Next, take the A4 highway east towards Venice. Drive for about 50 minutes until you reach the borders of Lake Garda, and the town of Desenzano del Garda. Along the shoreline of the popular Lake Garda you can also visit the picturesque peninsula in Sirmione, a historic town with geothermal springs, beaches, and a variety of relaxing spa hotels. Spend some time exploring the town’s thirteenth-century castle, Rocca Scaligera, and ruined Roman villa.
Drive another 30-40 minutes onto the large city of Verona, just off the A4. Famous for its 1st-century Roman amphitheater, which is now an opera venue, and being the setting for William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’, the city is full of history ready to explore. Be sure to soak up the sites in this thriving Italian city, as it’s a World Heritage Site, and full to the brim with exploratory potential.
The A4 continues east through another Italian city steeped in history, Padua, which is now the modern communications hub of the area, but still has a number of untouched ancient sites that are worth a visit, such as the Scrovegni Chapel. The wealthy town has a number of options for a nice dinner, just before your arrival in Venice.
On this route, it’s just another 45 minute drive into Venice.
MILAN TO VENICE: DRIVING ROUTE TWO
Approximate Drive Time: 5 Hrs
Head south out of Milan on the A1 and merge onto the A14/E45, then drive for about an hour towards the city of Piacenza. Take a stop off in this ‘Pleasant Place’, as it was called by the Romans, and visit the Ricci Oddi Galleria d’Arte Moderna and its collection of modern art, the restored 13th Century town hall, and wander around the exquisite historic center Palazzo Farnese.
Continue just 50 minutes southeast on the A1 into the city of Parma. One of Italy’s most prosperous cities, here you can sip on Sangiovese wine, watch impressive classical music shows, and enjoy the cobbled streets of the glamorous city of Parma. A city that is famous for Lamborghinis, Verdi, and ham and cheese, it’s imperative that you eat, drink and soak in the cultural atmosphere of Parma for at least a few hours on this route.
Drive for one hour onto the quaint city of Bologna. Filled with cafes, museums, and medieval and Renaissance structures, Bologna is home to the world’s oldest university, some of the nation’s finest restaurants, and serves as a hub for start-up tech companies in Italy.
Just under an hour from Bologna, the city of Ferrara is a commonly overlooked tourist attraction in Italy that is definitely worth a visit. The city still maintains its medieval city walls, and was once home to the powerful Este clan–the arch enemies of Florence’s Medici family. Take time to visit the Jewish ghetto here dating back to World War II, which is the largest and oldest in the region.
The final leg of the journey is a two-hour drive to Venice, but you can stop off at the city of Padua (from Route One) on the way if you prefer an additional destination detour.
THE BEST PLACES TO STAY IN VENICE
After your drive from Milan to Venice you will be looking for somewhere incredible to stay for the night. One of the best hotels in Venice has to be the Ca’vendramin Di Santa Fosca, with incredible canal views and a unique roof terrace. The five star hotel is in a prime location–close to the Rialto–and is set in a 16th century palazzo with its own private jetty out onto Venice’s famous canals.