Best day trips to do from Mantua in northern Italian

EVERY FEW YEARS WE CHOOSE A PLACE IN ITALY TO BASE OURSELVES FOR A WEEK OR SO AND DO DAILY SIDE TRIPS FROM THERE. IN JUNE IT WILL BE MANTUA IN LOMBARDIA. WHAT DAY TRIPS DO YOU RECOMMEND? P. LIPSCHITZ, DARLING POINT NSW

A cruise on Lake Garda would be my No. 1 choice. Pick a sunny day and take a ferry from Desenzano all the way to Torbole at the northern end of the lake and stop off for a meal at one of the lakefront restaurants. La Terazza in Torbole gets good reviews but there are many more in the Michelin Guide. Ferrara is within easy reach and the city is packed with medieval and renaissance treasures. Highlights include the Palazzo Estenese, home of the ruling Este family and the Monastery of Sant'Antonio in Polesine, a convent of Benedictine nuns with an inner chapel with frescoes attributed to the school of Giotto, open on weekdays after 3pm. The Monastery of Corpus Domini of cloistered Clarissa nuns is another must-see for its ceiling fresco by Giuseppe Ghedini, open weekdays 3.30pm to 5.30pm.

Perhaps the most famous of all the cities in the surroundings is Modena, a gastronomic stronghold and home of the celebrated restaurant Osteria Francescana. The Romanesque Duomo and the Palazzo dei Musei are both essentials while the city's Enzo Ferrari Museum is a high temple of car culture.