The train journey from Milan to Lake Garda is so picturesque, it almost justifies a day trip in itself. However, when you spend the day at Lake Garda, you'll see that the journey is only part of the attraction. This sparkling lake, surrounded by eye-catching mountains, is one of northern Italy's best destinations for outdoor adventures and family activities.
Lake Garda is also full of history, with ancient sites, castles, and ruins to explore, alongside quaint villages and charming towns. Plus, you'll never be at a loss for beautiful beaches, great swimming, and some of Europe's best sailing and windsurfing.
How to get to Lake Garda
Getting to Lake Garda by train from Milan
The train trip from Milan to Lake Garda is easy thanks to Trenord, Frecciarossa and Italo regular services from Milan Central station to both of Lake Garda's main terminuses – Peschiera del Garda station and Desenzano del Garda-Sirmione station, located at the southern end of the lake. A direct train from Milan to Peschiera del Garda takes 57 minutes and runs 25 times per day, operating between 06:15 and 23:30. The direct service from Milan to Desenzano del Garda is even quicker, taking just 51 minutes and running 25 times a day.
To reach the northern end of Lake Garda, you'll need to travel to Rovereto station. Trains from Milan to Rovereto take as little as 2h 9m and run up to 24 times a day. They depart from Milano Centrale and are operated by Trenitalia. From Rovereto station, it's only 35 minutes by bus to Torbole or 45 minutes by bus to Riva del Garda.
On Frecciarossa trains you'll get to enjoy high-quality onboard services, including free WiFi, large leather armchairs, at-seat power sockets and a welcome service with complimentary drinks and snacks if you travel in Premium, Business and Executive Class. What's more, if you buy a Frecciarossa Executive ticket, you can get free access to FrecciaLounge at Milan Central Station and have free WiFi, snacks and drinks, newspapers and customer service – waiting for your train has never been so relaxing!
Station information for Lake Garda
Peschiera and Desenzano del Garda are no more than 20 minutes by local bus to popular southern lakeside towns like Maraschina, Santa Maria di Lugana, Pacengo, Rivoltella del Garda, and Lido di Lonato. The Sirmione Peninsula is in the middle of these two stations, dividing Lake Garda's southern shore. It's also the location of two pretty lakeside villages, Sirmione and Colombare.
If you're looking for an outdoor adventure on your day trip from Milan, the northern end of the lake might be your first port of call. From Rovereto, regular buses run to smaller towns that service northern Garda's renowned outdoor activity destinations. These include Arco (famous for free climbing), Malcesine (skiing), and Monte Baldo (skiing and paragliding). A ferry service also runs across the lake from Maderno to Torri del Benaco, both of which are less than one hour by bus from Desenzano or Peschiera del Garda stations.
Things to do in Lake Garda
Lake Garda's many amusement parks make it great for family day trips from Milan. Bomb down tube and chute rides, cool off in the lazy river and relaxation pool or try one of the water rides at Caneva Aquapark. Movieland Park has movie-themed rides, experiences, and attractions aimed at all ages. Jungle Adventure Park lets you zoom through Lake Garda's beautiful forests on zip line or treetop adventures. And Gardaland, one of northern Italy's biggest theme parks, has over thirty rides, seven roller coasters, and plenty of family-friendly restaurants and event venues to keep everybody satisfied.
Historical Lake Garda
Lake Garda has seen continuous human habitation for thousands of years. So it's no surprise that there are scores of fascinating historical sites to visit. At the top of the bunch is the Roman Grottoes of Catullus, the remains of an ancient Roman villa on the tip of the Sirmione peninsula looking out onto the lake. Lake Garda has long inspired poets, writers, and artists, and Vittoriale degli Italiani, the former home of Italian writer Gabriele d'Annunzio, is a testament to that. Also near Sirmione is the 13th-century Scaligero Castle, one of Italy's best-preserved, not to mention most picturesque, medieval fortresses.
Riva del Garda
Charming Riva del Garda has been a famous holiday destination for centuries, and its historical architecture and quaint village vibe reflect this. Among the town's many attractions are the Apponale Tower and the MAG Old Garda Museum. This is also the perfect starting point for walks or bike rides into the hills. Several cycling and hiking loop trails, of varying difficulty and length, lead from Riva del Garda into the mountains and back to the lake. You can easily fit one or two into a day trip. You'll be rewarded with fantastic views and serenity.
Located right next to Riva del Garda, Torbole sul Garda is known for sailing and windsurfing. But it's also another fantastic base for hiking, located at the start of the Busatte Tempesta trail. This 3-mile walk connects two hamlets through a stunning rocky gorge. Further from the lake but a must for expert climbers, Arco is a beautiful town on the Sarca River surrounded by hills. It’s most famous for being Italy's top rock-climbing destination. There are hundreds of natural climbing routes through the rocky crags surrounding Arco. You can even climb at the famous Rock Master stadium, which hosts rock-climbing world championships.
Swimming and relaxing at the beach
Lake Garda has plenty of natural beauty to enjoy on a day trip from Milan. Wherever you arrive, you won't be far from great swimming, sailing, and windsurfing. Spiaggia Tifu at Limone sul Garda, the Bay of the Sirens, and Lazise are some of the best beach areas along Lake Garda. For something a bit different, head up to nearby Tenno or Ledro lakes. Both of these higher-altitude lakes are great for swimming. Ledro is known as one of Italy's cleanest lakes, while Tenno is famous for its striking turquoise colour.
So what are you waiting for? The train links between the city and the lake make it so accessible on a day trip from Milan to Lake Garda. And whatever destinations or activities you choose to fill in your day, you'll be back in Milan by bedtime. Have a look at train times and routes on our website, and start planning your trip now!