We are tentatively planning to stay in Milan (October 2020) for approximately 2 weeks and use it as a base. Would then take day trips to various towns. Has anyone done this and if so, how did you like it? Grazie!
I haven't done that and, to tell the truth, I wouldn't. Milan is a big, bustling business city with not a lot of top-flight attractions for foreign visitors. It is not Rome or Florence or Venice. Nor is it positioned as well for side-trips as Bologna (for one example). I suspect, too, that lodging in Milan (Italy's business capital) is not particularly inexpensive.
Others may be able to respond better if they know what cities you've previously visited in Italy.
We spent about 4 days in Milan a couple of years ago, and loved it. We didn't make any day trips from there, though. We might have had we stayed longer.
We stayed at the Lancaster hotel for under €100 per night, with a good breakfast included. Many of the hotels recommended on this Forum were significantly more expensive. (Not all.) We were well pleased with the Lancaster. We did ask to change our room after the first night (very noise hvac system) and were accommodated quickly and cheerfully.
Milan is only a 2h (or less) train ride from: Florence, Lake Como (Varenna and Bellagio), Padua, Vicenza and Verona,
"We stayed at the Lancaster hotel for under €100 per night"
How long ago was that? I just checked their website and the rooms were significantly higher in cost.
I've stayed in Milan a few times for a few days each and done day trips. I didn't even "bother" to go to Milan until about my 7th trip to Italy but I actually now like it. No it's not Florence or Rome but it's "worth" a few days for it's own sites and I think it makes a pretty good base for several day trips including - Lake Como, Lake Lugano, Bergamo, Pavia, Brescia, Cremona. I even went to Genoa as a day trip and enjoyed the day, but at 2+ hours each way it's further than I usually do for day trips.
I'm not sure two entire weeks would make sense. I would consider the day trips you plan to do and see if a second base would make sense.
Here's the trip report from the trip I did a few years ago when I spent 5 days there with day trips. https://andiamo.zenfolio.com/blog/2017/5/march-in-northern-italy-milan-genoa-lake-como-lake-lugano-pavia
Bob, it was in the summer of 2017. The room was €69 for a Sunday night, and €99 for each of three weeknights. I went directly through the hotel, not their website. I don't remember what the rate was on the website.
We will be in Milano for 6 days (for the first time) a week from now.
We plan no day trips as Milano is for jet-lag recovery and sightseeing.
We stayed in Bologna last September for 5 days. Jet-lag recovery and sightseeing.
We did a day trip (28 minute train ride) to Modena and the Ferrari Museum.
We did sightseeing and eating in Bologna.
We did a day trip to FICO Eataly World. One million sqft of food porn.
We did a day trip to Ferrara.
Firenze is just 39 minutes away on the Frecciarossa.
I think Bologna is an ideal home base.
Bologna and Milan are only 1 hour away by high speed trains.
Bologna is perfect for day trips to Venice, Padua, Ferrara, Ravenna and Florence. Milan is better if you are interested in visiting the Lake Como, Verona, Turin and maybe Mantua.
I like Milan more than most do. It seems it doesn't conform to most visitors' expectations of "Italy." I like the Duomo, some of the museums, and the general urban vibe. Rick has a good Milan chapter in his Italy guidebook, outlining a few days' worth of sights.
But even I don't consider Milan a great base for many daytrips, and two weeks there is a lot.
Furthermore, hotels there can be very expensive, depending on your exact dates. Milan gets a lot of trade shows and conventions, some huge, and when one or more of these is in town, prices can skyrocket.
A tip: if you are staying outside the center, this can work as long as you're close to a metro station. But on my last trip, I stayed at a hotel that was a long walk from the metro, and won't make that mistake again - no matter how nice or inexpensive the hotel, it's not worth it.
What places were you thinking of seeing from Milan? Some can work, but I think others (such as Lake Como) are better seen as overnights rather than day trips.
I agree with Harold: If you're going to a lake, it's nice to have time to relax there. Lake ferries are not a very rapid means of transportation. I'd find a single day-trip to a Lake Como or Lake Maggiore very limiting. And if you're going to take two (or more) day-trips to the same place, you'd be better off spending a few nights there.