Fly to Milan: a gateway to stunning countryside and pretty villages.

Despite being renowned for fashion, style and chic, Milan may not be high on your list of must-visit European cities. Its Gothic Duomo (Cathedral) is one of the largest in the world yet for the tourist, it struggles to match up to Rome’s plethora of spectacular monuments. Don’t forget, however, that after a short visit and a little shopping, Milan is a springboard to some stunning countryside and great sightseeing for all the family.

Head north to Lago Maggiore and take the cable car to the top of nearby Monte Mottarone (www.stresamottarone.it) to really appreciate the breathtaking views. To the east of Lake Maggiore lies the area’s prettiest mountain village, Arcumeggia, reports BBC Travel, with its cobbled streets and houses with bright murals painted by a group of artists in the 1950s.

A visit to Lago d’Orta, to the west of Lago Maggiore, is a must. One of the smallest and least-known of the Italian lakes it’s also considered the most romantic and has attracted numerous intellectual heavyweights such as Browning, Balzac and Nietzsche. The star of Lago d’Orta is the 12th-century Basilica di San Giulio on San Giulio island, with its fabulous vibrant frescos.

And if you’re travelling with the kids, word has it that Italy’s best, biggest and wildest theme park, Gardaland (www.gardaland.it), is to be found on the azure waters of Lake Garda. It has truly amazing rides and attractions for all ages, from giant fantasy trees to jungle rafting. There’s also an onsite hotel if you’re having so much fun you don’t want to leave.

Easy Jet (www.easyJet.com) flies to both Milan’s Malpensa and Linate airports, from Edinburgh and London, and Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) to Bergamo from Bristol, Cork, Dublin, East Midlands, Liverpool and London Stansted. Alitalia and British Airways also serve Milan’s Malpensa airport from London Heathrow and Manchester.

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