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5 Easy Ways to Travel from Milan to Lake Garda in Italy

5 Easy Ways to Travel from Milan to Lake Garda in Italy

Travelling from Milan to Lake Garda is easy and there are five ways to do it.

Italy’s largest lake is a great destination for a day trip, a weekend break or a longer holiday.

The famous Italian city Milan is less than an hour away by high-speed train from two of the most important towns on Lake Garda. It also has excellent connections by road, railway, and ferry to many of the other lakefront towns.

Garda Town seen from above - Rocca di Garda, Lake Garda, Italy - rossiwrites.com

If you have ever asked yourself ‘How to get from Milan to Lake Garda?’, fear not. In this blog post today, I will give you extensive and first-hand tried and tested information on reaching Italy’s largest lake from Italy’s fashion capital Milan. It’s easy, straightforward, doesn’t have to cost the earth, and will give you a chance to see two of Italy’s most famous destinations during the same Italian holiday.

First, I will cover how to travel from Milan to the towns on Lake Garda by train and by car. Then, I will tell you about getting there by train and bus, train and ferry, and car and ferry. Finally, I will provide information on organised day and multi-day trips from Milan to Lake Garda. I will also give you useful details about the airports and the train stations serving Milan, so that you can plan your trip depending on your specific point of departure in this sprawling city. There is a short section on accommodation, too, in case you decide to spend several days on Lake Garda.

Everything is structured in a way to make your travel planning as easy and enjoyable as possible. Once you have all the details, it is then much easier to decide if you want to head from Milan to Lake Garda by yourself or prefer to book a tour, if you want to spend there a day or would rather stay longer.

The harbour with pedalos and the Hydroelectric station - Riva del Garda, Italy - rossiwrites.com

There are many beautiful and wonderful things to see around Lake Garda in a day or two or over a longer period. Knowing how to reach Italy’s largest lake from Milan and how to smoothly navigate around it will make your trip so much more enjoyable. It will also free up more time for sightseeing, exciting activities, and relaxation.  

Lake Garda has a perimeter of almost 160 km and dozens of picturesque towns and exciting sights dot its shores. If you are wondering which one(s) of them to visit from Milan for a day trip or a longer stay, have a look at these two blog posts:

They will give you lots of ideas as to how to structure your time at Lake Garda and what to see and do there. And this blog post will tell you how to get there specifically from Milan.

Have a look!

Five Easy Ways to Travel from Milan to Lake Garda, Italy - rossiwrites.com

5 Easy Ways to Travel from Milan to Lake Garda in Italy

I. Milan to Lake Garda by Train

View of the defensive walls - Peschiera del Garda, Lake Garda, Italy - rossiwrites.com

Travelling from Milan to Lake Garda by train is very easy and quick. In many ways, this is the most convenient way to get from Italy’s fashion capital to Italy’s largest lake. Especially, if you are going to Lake Garda just for the day.

Two of the towns on Lake Garda have train stations. These are:

  • Desenzano del Garda – this is the largest town on Lake Garda. It has a cute historic centre, a Roman villa with well-preserved beautiful mosaics, a medieval castle, and a rich programme of events. It also provides easy access to many more lakefront towns, most notably the absolutely beautiful and very popular town of Sirmione.
  • Peschiera del Garda – this is a fortified town built on five small islands which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It provides easy access to many lakefront towns. For example, Lazise, Bardolino, and Garda Town. It’s also next door to many of the large amusement parks on the shores of Lake Garda. Most notably, GardalandCaneva Waterpark, and Movieland Park.

Desenzano del Garda and Peschiera del Garda are only about 15 km away from each other. Both are on the southern shore of the lake.

Milan’s main train station – Milano Centrale – enjoys excellent connections by high-speed and regional trains to the train stations in Desenzano del Garda and Peschiera del Garda. Here are the relevant travel times:

  • Milano Centrale to Desenzano del Garda – about 51 mins by high-speed train; about 1 h 23 mins by regional train.
  • Milano Centrale to Peschiera del Garda – about 57 mins by high-speed train; about 1 h 32 mins by regional train.

You can also catch a regional train to Lake Garda from the Milano Lambrate train station. This will shave about eight minutes off the average travelling time.

Helpful Tips:

Italian high-speed trains are wonderful, however, they cost on average two and a half to three times more than the slower regional trains. Keep in mind that the prices for the high-speed trains increase the closer it gets to the day of travel. So, it really pays to buy your tickets in advance. The prices for the regional trains don’t fluctuate and you can easily buy a ticket on the day of travel.

In any case, make sure that you arrive at your chosen train station in Milan with plenty of time to spare. Milano Centrale, especially, gets very busy and navigating to your platform through the throngs of people can be surprisingly time-consuming.

If you travel by train from Milan to Lake Garda in Italy, then I suggest that you check train times and ticket prices in advance on Omio. This is my favourite search engine to research and book tickets for trains in Italy. Omio pulls up a page with results from several different railway companies in Italy. This way, you can see immediately who offers the cheapest prices and the shortest times and you can book your tickets on the spot. It really makes travel planning so much quicker and easier.

II. Milan to Lake Garda by Car

Colourful boats in the small harbour - Castelletto sul Garda, Veneto, Italy - rossiwrites.com

Travelling from Milan to Lake Garda by car is very easy and convenient. Unless you hit rush hour, travelling times are also very manageable. Most of your driving time will be spent on a modern, high-speed toll highway.

Toll highway A4 (known as La Serenissima) connects Milan to Lake Garda. This helpful website will give you an estimate of how much the tolls are going to cost. Alternatively, you can use the network of provincial and regional roads which are free to drive on. They are convenient, too. However, travel times on them tend to be (significantly) longer.

The quickest lakefront towns to reach by toll road from Milan are:

  • Milan to Desenzano del Garda – 119 km and depending on traffic it should take about 1 h 10 mins to 1 h 25 mins;
  • Milan to Salo’ – 125 km and depending on traffic it should take about 1 h 20 mins to 2 h; and
  • Milan to Peschiera del Garda – 130 km and depending on traffic it should take about 1 h 20 mins to 2 h 10 mins.

These travelling times are calculated starting from Milan’s main train station – Milano Centrale. You will need to adjust them depending on where in Milan you will begin your car journey. Italy’s fashion capital is quite a large, sprawling city, so your travelling time may get longer or shorter depending on your specific point of departure.

Once at Lake Garda, you can then circumvent the whole lake by following the two branches of the lakefront ring road:

  • Gardesana Orientale – which follows the western shores; and
  • Gardesana Ocidentale – which follows the eastern shores.   

In general, you can reach any point around Lake Garda from Milan in about 1 h 10 mins to 3 h 30 mins. More often than not, you can expect to travel between 1 h 20 mins (to the nearest to Milan lakefront towns like Desenzano de Garda, Salo’, and Peschiera del Garda) and 2 h 30 mins (to the farthest from Milan lakefront towns like Riva del Garda and Malcesine).

For your interest, here are some more average distances from Milan to the most beautiful and interesting towns on Lake Garda:

  • Milan to Toscolano-Maderno – 133 km (western shore);
  • Milan to Gargnano – 140 km (western shore);
  • Milan to Lazise – 141 km (southern shore);
  • Milan to Bardolino – 147 km (southeastern shore);
  • Milan to Garda Town – 150 km (southeastern shore);
  • Milan to Torri del Benaco – 157 km (eastern shore);
  • Milan to Limone sul Garda – 158 km (western shore);
  • Milan to Riva del Garda – from around 170 km to 208 km depending on which side of the lake the GPS will guide you to drive on (northern shore); 
  • Milan to Torbole – from around 175 km to 206 km depending on which side of the lake the GPS will guide you to drive on (northern shore);
  • Milan to Malcesine – 177 km (eastern shore).

Helpful Tips:

If you need to hire a car for your trip from Milan to Lake Garda, click here to check car rental prices.

Having a car at your disposal for your trip to Lake Garda is very convenient. It will give you a chance to access hidden gems, less busy beaches, and many other corners off the beaten path here. At the same time, during the high season it may be difficult to find a parking space in the more popular lakefront towns.

Also, bear in mind that the travelling times from Milan to Lake Garda may vary widely depending on the day and the season. As there is only one road which circumnavigates the whole lake, traffic jams can happen, especially during the high season and on weekends. For advice about dealing with parking, rush hours, traffic jams, and driving styles at Italy’s largest lake, have a look at point 1 in this blog post:

III. Milan to Lake Garda by Train and Bus

Waterside view of the town of Castelletto sul Garda on Lake Garda - Veneto, Italy - rossiwrites.com

Travelling all the way from Milan to Lake Garda by bus is possible but often it’s rather inconvenient. The journey may take hours, you may need to change at least once, some bus lines may be operational only during the high season, and the price is not really that much cheaper than simply travelling by train.

So, a better way to do it is to make sure that you travel by train from Milan as close to Lake Garda as possible and then continue your journey on the local bus. In a nutshell, there are four ways to do it, depending of your final destination on the shores of Italy’s largest lake. Here they are:

1. Train to Brescia and then bus onwards
2. Train to either Desenzano del Garda or Peschiera del Garda and then bus onwards
3. Train to Verona and then bus onwards
4. Train to Rovereto and then bus onwards

Let’s look into them in detail!

1. Train to Brescia and then bus onwards 

This is a very convenient option if you want to reach the towns on the western shores of Lake Garda from Milan. 

Take the train from Milano Centrale or Milano Lambrate to Brescia – a very interesting city in the Italian region of Lombardy. Travel times start from 36 mins by high-speed train and from 1 h 6 mins by regional train. Once in Brescia, you can get bus S202 to many lakefront towns. Click here to consult the timetable of bus line S202 for specific times of departure and arrival.

2. Train to either Desenzano del Garda or Peschiera del Garda and then bus onwards

Proceed as per section I above. Simply take the train from either Milano Centrale or Milano Lambrate and travel to one of the two towns on Lake Garda with a train station.

Once you reach Desenzano del Garda or Peschiera del Garda by train from Milan, you can then quickly and easily travel by bus to many of the other towns on the southern, northern, western, and eastern shores of Lake Garda.

Click here to consult the current timetables of the bus lines that you can use in your explorations of Lake Garda.

3. Train to Verona and then bus onwards

The train journey from Milano Centrale to Verona Porta Nuova (the main train station of the city of Verona) lasts 1 h 13 mins by high-speed train and 1 h 50 mins by regional train. Once you arrive in Verona, there are many direct bus lines that connect the City of Romeo and Juliet to many towns on the shores of Lake Garda.

Here are a couple for your interest: 

The buses for Lake Garda stop right opposite the Verona Porta Nuova train station. This way, you won’t lose any time in transfer.

Once at Lake Garda, you can then take a different bus line to a different lakefront town. For example, bus line 484 can take you from Garda Town to Torri del Benaco, Malcesine, and Riva del Garda.

4. Train to Rovereto and then bus onwards

This is the perfect travel option if you want to reach the northern extremity of Lake Garda from Milan.

Take a train from Milano Centrale to Rovereto – a charming city in the Autonomous Italian province of Trentino. You will have to change trains at Verona Porta Nuova (the main train station of the city of Verona). Travel times start from 2 h 16 mins if you travel by high-speed train. Once in Rovereto, you can get bus 332 to Riva del Garda and other northern lakefront towns. Click here to consult the timetable of bus line 332 for specific times of departure and arrival.

Helpful Tip:

No matter which of the above options you choose, always make sure that you check the bus timetables for Lake Garda carefully. These may vary according to the season and the day of the week. 

IV. Milan to Lake Garda by Train and Ferry or Car and Ferry

Ferry boat - Peschiera del Garda, Lake Garda, Italy - rossiwrites.com

Ferries crisscross the waters of Lake Garda and connect the many lakefront towns all throughout the day. Seeing the shores of Italy’s largest lake from the water is a very scenic experience. No matter if you are spending only a day at Lake Garda or have multiple days to spare for it, make sure that you catch a ferry to enjoy its beauty.

Here is how it works:

1. Train to Desenzano del Garda or Peschiera del Garda and then ferry onwards

Arriving by train at Desenzano del Garda or Peschiera del Garda, you can then continue your exploration of Italy’s largest lake by ferry. The easiest way to do it is to catch the ferry from Desenzano del Garda across to the strikingly beautiful town of Sirmione which is famous for its Roman ruins, medieval castle, and spa facilities. The crossing lasts only 20 mins or so.

Alternatively, you can catch the ferry from Peschiera del Garda to Lazise, Bardolino, and Garda Town. This will give you a chance to admire the beauty of the whole southern shore of Lake Garda from the water.

Click here to check the different ferry routes on Lake Garda and their respective stops, travel times, and ticket prices. Bear in mind that some of the ferry routes are only operational during the high season.

2. Car to Any Town on Lake Garda and Then Ferry Onwards

Having a car at your disposal gives you a chance to reach any and all towns on Lake Garda as and when you want. Still, don’t miss the chance to experience the beauty of Italy’s largest lake from the water. You can simply park your car in one of the lakefront towns and then explore a number of other picturesque towns by ferry. This will save you driving up and down the lake and searching for a place to park time and time again. At the same time, it will allow you to enjoy some truly unforgettable panoramic views taking in Lake Garda and the proud mountains that surround it.

Use the official website of Navigazione Laghi to check current timetables and ticket prices. Alternatively, here are some more options to consider:

  • Ferry across Upper Garda – this is a one day free circulation ticket allowing you to travel between and visit several towns on the shores of the upper half of Lake Garda.
  • Ferry across Lower Garda – again, this is a one day free circulation ticket allowing you to travel between and visit several towns on the shores of the lower half of Lake Garda.
  • Ferry your car across Lake Garda – the ferry line from Torri del Benaco to Toscolano-Maderno takes both pedestrians and cars across Italy’s largest lake year round. You can check the current timetable here.
  • Private boat tour – many tour operators offer different boat tours on Lake Garda. Catering to many different tastes and expectations, have a look here to get an idea what to expect. In a nutshell, there are mini cruises, sunset cruises, romantic tours, sailing ship cruises, and sightseeing tours. The choice is yours!

V. Milan to Lake Garda by Organised Day Trip or Multi-Day Trip

The view from the Scaliger Castle - Sirmione, Garda Lake, Italy - rossiwrites.com

In the above sections, I gave you lots of details on how to travel from Milan to Lake Garda in Italy by organising your own transport. In case you prefer to have it all organised for you, in this section I have included information about day trips and multi-day trips from Italy’s fashion capital to Italy’s largest lake coordinated by professional tour operators. Some of them come with the added plus of also including a visit to a nearby large Italian city for maximum sightseeing opportunities.

Organised tours are a great way to travel if you enjoy a more structured approach and would like to see the maximum in a short amount of time. Professional guides will introduce to the culture and history of this corner of Italy and will show you hidden corners that are not always easy to discover by yourself. Often, the price of an organised tour may exceed what you would pay if you book it all by yourself. Still, it is very reasonable if you want to have it all done for you and if you enjoy a knowledgeable service and a personal approach.

Here are some of the best options:

Practical Tips about Travelling from Milan to Lake Garda in Italy

Milan Airports

Limone sul Garda, Italy - rossiwrites.com

Milan has three international airports – Malpensa, Linate, and Bergamo Orio al Serio.

To find out how to travel from one of these three airports directly to Lake Garda, please, have a look at this detailed blog post: 

  The points that will be of interest to you are:

2. Bergamo Airport
6. Milan Malpensa Airport
7. Milan Linate Airport

Milan Train Stations

Lakefront view of the historic centre of Riva del Garda - Trentino, Italy - rossiwrites.com

Milan has several train stations. The two that are of interest to you if you are planning to travel by train to Lake Garda are:

  • Milano Centrale – easy to reach from anywhere in the city, Milan’s main train station is a busy transport hub with monumental architecture.
  • Milano Lambrate – Milan’s third-largest train station can be an option to travel to Lake Garda if you don’t mind taking a regional train. 

You can use Omio to check train times and prices and to book in advance train tickets from Milan to Lake Garda.

Accommodation at Lake Garda

Punta di San Vigilio seen from the water - Lake Garda, Italy - rossiwrites.com

You can find all sorts and types of accommodation on Lake Garda, Italy to suit any budget. From fabulous hotels with spa facilities and swimming pools to cozy B&B’s in historic buildings and campsites surrounded by olive groves, there is something for everyone.

For ideas about the types of accommodation available around Lake Garda in particular and Italy in general, have a look at this blog post:

I usually prefer to book all my accommodation through Booking.com. It gives me many different options in terms of budget and location and I can also read and compare reviews left by real people. Click to see all available places to stay around Lake Garda, Italy.

If you need some visual help in terms of precise location and price range, have a look at this map. It gives you a quick idea of the prices and whereabouts of the many hotels and other forms of accommodation you can book for your stay at Lake Garda, Italy. You can zoom in and out in order to search for a place. You can also click on the option that interests you to find out more details or to make a booking directly.

In addition, if you click on ‘Accommodation’ in the top right corner of the map and select ‘Experiences’ from the drop-down menu, then you can see some truly exciting experiences at Lake Garda, Italy that you can book directly:

In Conclusion

The harbour with boats and colourful houses - Malcesine, Veneto, Italy - rossiwrites.com

Travelling from Milan to Lake Garda for a day trip, a weekend break or a longer holiday is easy. In general, there are five ways to do it: by train, by car, by train and bus, by train/car and ferry, and by organised tour.

In the above blog post, I give you detailed and first-hand tried and tested information about how to reach Italy’s largest lake from Italy’s fashion capital.

Packed with useful tips, I hope that my blog post will come in handy during the planning stages of your Italian holiday.

Enjoy your trip from Milan to Lake Garda!

Now, get ready quick for your visit to Lake Garda, Italy!

 

 

More Helpful Lake Garda Info for You

Lake Garda Towns and Villages: Best TownsRiva del GardaMalcesineTorri del BenacoPunta di San VigilioCampo di Brenzone
Lake Garda Hiking: Tibetan BridgeRocca di GardaPark of the Waterfalls
Visiting Lake Garda: 
Lake Garda with Kids8 Best AirportsTravel Around Lake Garda, Venice to Lake GardaVerona to Lake Garda
Lake Garda Beaches: 16 Top Tips3 Unmissable Beaches
Lake Garda Sights: Best Theme Parks, Best CastlesShortest River in Italy, Sanctuary of Madonna della Corona

More Helpful Italy Info for You

Best of Italy: Italian PiazzasItalian FoodItalian MarketsItalian Coffee CultureRules of Italian BreakfastItalian Breakfast Foods
Northern Italy: 18 Best Cities to Visit11 Major Airports
Day Trips in Italy: 
Bologna to Venice, Venice to MilanVerona to MilanMilan to VeronaVenice to VeronaMilan to VeniceFlorence to VeniceVerona to VeniceVenice to Padua
Lake Como: Things to SeeNesso
Veneto: Best Cities to VisitPrettiest Small TownsMost Beautiful VillagesTop 15 Places30 Adventures15 Most Colourful PlacesBeautiful Lakes
Lombardy: Best Cities and Towns
Friuli Venezia Giulia: VenzoneMost Beautiful Villages
Emilia Romagna: BolognaRavennaComacchioMost Beautiful Villages
Marche: 6 Reasons to VisitGradaraFrasassi CavesTemple of Valadier
Trentino: Best Cities and TownsBeautiful LakesLake CaldonazzoViolins’ Forest
Venice: Major LandmarksEssential TipsHidden GemsOne Day Itinerary for Art LoversBest AirportsBoats in VeniceHaunted VeniceDay Trips from Venice
Verona: Things to Do in One DayVerona Opera FestivalDay Trips from VeronaRomeo and Juliet Itinerary
Padua: Things to Do in One Day101 Facts About Padua10 Reasons to Visit PaduaDay Trips from Padua
Vicenza: Things to DoDay Trips from VicenzaBest Museums

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