You’re about to experience to experience the scenic splendors that await you in the Italian lakes region. Northern Italy meets Switzerland in an enchanted region of azure lakes,soaring mountain peaks,and charming medieval towns. From the snowy slopes of the Alpine Milky Way region to villas framed by gazebos and mould-breaking art and architecture, Northern Italy is as action-packed as it is artful. The glacial lakes of Lombardy-where fishing boats bob in tiny harbors while palaces float in the Borromean Gulf-have been a popular spot since Roman times.Meanwhile, artists,celebrities and moneyed Mitteleuropeans have been lured here since the days of the Grand Tour,by world-class art, an embarrassment of culinary riches,cult wines and a slew of sophisticated cities.
Writers from Goethe to Hemingway have lavished praise on the Italian lakes,dramatically ringed by snow-powdered mountains and garlanded by grand villas and exotic, tropical flora.
You’ll experience the very best of this scenic corner of Europe on this unique travel program.
MAJESTY OF THE ITALIAN LAKES TRAVEL ITINERARY
NORTHERN ITALIAN LAKES SMALL GROUP TOUR
SMALL GROUP TOUR LIMITED TO 12/14 PARTICIPANTS ONLY
DAY 1: WELCOME TO MILAN & THE CAPTIVATING LAKE ORTA
You’re about to experience the scenic splendors that await you in the Italian Lakes region and the Swiss Alps. After breakfast, you’re off on a walking tour of fashion-forward MILAN, the style capital of Europe. You’ll see the Castello Sforzesco, a Visconti fortress redesigned by Leonardo da Vinci and now a remarkable art museum. You’ll also visit the Duomo, the fourth largest cathedral in the world, and the Madonna delle Grazie. Stop over for lunch at one of the cafes and then browse around Milan’s splendid 19th century shopping mall, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. After an included foodie experience, head for Piazza della Scala, which is flanked by the world-renowned Opera house. Depart Milan to the off the beaten path LAKE ORTA where you will spend the first two nights in the captivating medieval village of ORTA SAN GIULIO staying at the family run “HOTEL SAN ROCCO” or similar. This evening meet your local tour director and fellow travelers for a welcome drink followed by an included feast of flavors in a local tavern. Overnight stay in ORTA SAN GIULIO
DAY 2: THE TREASURES OF ORTA SAN GIULIO & THE ISLAND OF ST GIULIO
LAKE ORTA is the westernmost lake in the lower Alps region,characterized by soft hills and possibly the most charming of Italian lakes.Villages are dotted around the lake,along the shore or perched among green terracing. This morning our expert guide will introduce you to the history of tranquil ORTA SAN GIULIO, located on a promontory in the middle of the lake. There is a very northern Italian magic about Orta San Giulio,one of the prettiest old lakeside towns you’ll find anywhere. We will board a boat to take us to the tiny island of ST GIULIO, dominated by the 12th century BASILICA, full of vibrant frescoes mostly of saints. We will end the day visiting the UNESCO World Heritage site of SACRO MONTE, a sanctuary built in 1591 on the rise above Orta followed by an included light lunch in a wine bar.The remainder of the day is at leisure for more explorations.Overnight stay in ORTA SAN GIULIO
DAY 3: ARONA, NEBBIOLO WINERY,VILLA TARANTO IN VERBANIA & STRESA
Your transfer to STRESA and LAKE MAGGIORE features a stop to the village of ARONA to view the huge 17th-century statue of SAN CARLO BORROMEO which was placed there in honor of its illustrious citizen. A 35-m (115-ft) stairway leads to the top, from where there is a fine panoramic view. Continue to the heart of the GATTINARA countryside, famous for its NEBBIOLO WINE where we will visit a well-known winery for a tasting their local wines accompanied by local products. Next, you’ll see the stunning late 19th century VILLA TARANTO in the charming town of VERBANIA. With its rolling hillsides of purple rhododendrons and camellias, acres of tulip flowers and hothouses full of equatorial lilies it is considered one of Europe’s finest botanical gardens. After a non included lunch, you’ll have time to make your own discoveries. Continue to the delightful town of STRESA for your next three nights at the historical “HOTEL DES ILES BORROMEES” or similar. Your evening is capped off with an included dinner in a local tavern. Overnight stay in STRESA
DAY 4: AMAZING STRESA,BORROMEO ISLANDS & CABLE CAR TO MOUNT MOTTARONE
Explore Lake Maggiore’s jewel-like BORROMEOS ISLANDS by private boat today. First stop is ISOLA MADRE, where you can stroll among lush terraced gardens that tumble to the lake-shore. Next, enjoy time on your own for lunch in the tiny fishing village on ISOLA DEI PESCATORI followed by a visit to ISOLA BELLA, home of the grand 17th century PALAZZO BORROMEO. The remainder of the day is at leisure, or you can join an included cable car ascend to MOUNT MOTTARONE where you will reach 1491 meters in 20 mins. This mountain separates Lake Maggiore to Lake Orta. At 18.30 meet your tour guide and the rest of the group for an included Italian aperitif followed by a pizza dinner, like Italians do.Trust the locals!!!Overnight stay in STRESA
DAY 5: THE CENTOVALLI RAILWAY & LOCARNO IN SWITZERLAND
Today’s excursion takes you on one of Europe’s most scenic railways, the narrow-gauge CENTOVALLI RAILWAY, on a discovery trip to LOCARNO in Switzerland.A picturesque train clatters along the valley, over deep ravines and gushing waterfalls, alongside thick forests and through sleepy villages during the journey from DOMODOSSOLA to LOCARNO. On arrival in Locarno, you are free to have lunch and explore at your leisure the picturesque old town with its attractive subtropical gardens filled with palm trees, exotic flowers and lakeside promenades.Later we cruise back down Lake Maggiore to Stresa (weather permitting), a splendid way to take in your surroundings on the homeward journey.Overnight stay in STRESA
DAY 6: COMO,THE SILK MUSEUM & BOAT TOUR TO MENAGGIO
Leaving Stresa behind, your next sightseeing stop is COMO, on the gorgeous blue-green lake of the same name. Highlights of your tour include the marble-faced cathedral, the multi-hued town hall, and the “new “city walls, rebuilt in 1162. We will also visit the popular SILK MUSEUM where it is possible to see the whole silk manufacturing process, from silkworm breeding to finishing it. During your free time, you may consider taking a funicular from the harbor to the small hillside village of BRUNATE to take in stunning views over the lake. From here we continue by boat to the lake town of MENAGGIO, your base for the next three nights at the central “GRAND HOTEL MENAGGIO” or similar.Dinner is on your own this evening.Overnight stay in MENAGGIO
DAY 7: LAKE LUGANO & UNESCO CASTLES OF BELLINZONA IN SWITZERLAND
Leaving Lake Como behind, today’s adventure takes you across the Swiss border to LUGANO. Surrounded by mountains and fronting Lake Lugano, this lovely town enchants with natural beauty and architectural charm. Here we will enjoy together a sightseeing stroll where you’ll see the ornate Palazzo Civico and the main shopping street. Departing Lugano, you’ll visit the CASTLES OF BELLINZONA, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. These massive medieval fortifications loom above the town, guarding an alpine pass and are strikingly Italianate in feel. This evening enjoy free time to explore on your own. Overnight stay in MENAGGIO
DAY 8: LA DOLCE VITA IN BELLAGIO, VILLA BALBANIELLO & VILLA CARLOTTA
In the morning we explore the elegant and delightful resort of BELLAGIO which, with its idyllic location on a promontory on the lake, is often described as the most beautiful town in Italy.Once the haunt of European monarchs, today the attractive, pastel-colored buildings, faded by decades of sunshine, line the lake shore and narrow cobbled streets and lanes climb their way to the hilly center. Lake Como is famous for its extravagant villas. After lunch on your own, we tour the beautiful VILLA DEL BALBANIELLO, one of the finest villas surrounding the lake. Originally built for a cardinal, the statue-lined balustrades fringed with flowers that outline the gardens of this 1784 villa have caught the eye of many film directors.We will end the day with a visit to the stunning VILLA CARLOTTA at Tremezzo, with its exquisite landscaped gardens as well as the sumptuous late-Baroque villa.Your evening culminates with an included dinner in a traditional restaurant.Overnight stay in MENAGGIO
DAY 9: TAPESTRY OF CULTURES: BIBLICAL BERGAMO & ELEGANT SIRMIONE
Departing Lake Como this morning, you’ll head for the lovely LAKE GARDA, declared one of the most beautiful places on earth by many writers and poets. En route, you’ll visit the walled hill-top village of BERGAMO. After a sightseeing tour of this medieval charmer, you’ll continue to the splendid lake town of SIRMIONE for your last three nights at the central “HOTEL OLIVI” or similar. Overnight stay in SIRMIONE
DAY 10: HIGHLIGHTS OF VERONA & VALPOLICELLA WINERY
VERONA is a vibrant trading center, the largest city in the Veneto region and one of the most prosperous in northern Italy. Today we have a guided walking tour in order to appreciate it at its best, discovering its ancient center, with many magnificent Roman ruins and fine palazzi built of rosso di Verona, the local pink-tinged limestone.Explore VALPOLICELLA’s scenic vineyards and historic wineries followed by an included lunch.Overnight stay in SIRMIONE
DAY 11: DOLCE FAR NIENTE IN SIRMIONE
In the morning, meet your local expert guide for a visit of SIRMIONE charming historical area, where you’ll admire the town’s maze of narrow streets, attractive cafes, elegant shops, villas and churches. We end the day with a walk to the CATULLO CAVES, the ruins of a villa thought to be the residence of the Roman poet Catullus. In the evening celebrate your Italian Lakes adventure with an “Arrivederci dinner” sharing travel memories and toasting new friends.Overnight stay in SIRMIONE
DAY 12: ARRIVEDERCI NORTHERN ITALY
Morning transfers to Verona airport or train station.