Italian Lakes Discovery - Overland Trip
1 week: to (IMT-PELD)
IntroFrom the beginning of time, the Italian lakes have inspired poets, artists and travellers with their majestic beauty
In the shadows of the Swiss and Italian Alps, the Lake Como region is home to lavish villas and their magnificent gardens – European nobility, seduced by its charm, have long flocked here for holidays. Elegant and luxurious villas line the shores of the Lario River and camellias, hydrangeas and azaleas are reflected in the quiet waters. Spectacular Lake Garda is bordered by impressive rocky cliffs and snow-capped mountains. Old cobblestone paths take us through the maze of villages and up through the hills, dominated by snowy peaks in the distance. We walk through vineyards and olive groves, fall upon Roman chapels and pass centuries old palaces all which are framed by the ever-present shadows of the mighty Italian Alps - there is so much to discover in this truly delightful region.
IncludedLocal tour leader, transport and sightseeing.
ItinerariesDay 1 - Milan
Your trip starts today with your arrival in Milan (Milano), Italy's second largest city and capital of Lombardy - the wealthiest province. Milan Central station (Milano Centrale) is also one of Italy's and Europe's main rail hubs for both domestic and international routes so it’s easy to arrive by train from other Italian cities or European destinations. Milan's Malpensa airport (45kms from central Milan) is a major international air gateway with frequent and comfortable bus and rail connections to the downtown area. Whilst at your discretion, we recommend arriving/ departing by train where possible within Europe due to this method of transports minimal carbon emissions. No activities are planned so you may arrive at any time. Please make your own way to the joining hotel (details are in your travel documents) that is centrally located and close to all the major sights. In the evening we meet our tour leader and our fellow travelling companions at a Welcome Meeting (this is usually at 6pm, but you will be advised as to the exact time and place in a notice, located near the reception at our hotel), where our leader will give us a briefing on what lies ahead on our tour. This evening is free so why not enjoy dinner in one of the nearby traditional restaurants.Day 2 - Lake Como - Menaggio foothills
We spend the morning enjoying a walking tour of Milan. Apart from being known as the fashion capital of the world, there is an overwhelming amount of history here, as we discover when we visit some of the must-see sights. The Duomo (cathedral) is the city's most famous artistic and religious edifice and is also the third largest Christian church in the world! Walking in between the Gothic sculptures on the roof is an amazing experience and the views from up high are very impressive. We then walk along to the Teatro alla Scala, arguably Italy’s most famous opera house and a stage that has been graced by many great performers. We also explore shops in the historic Galleria and the medieval castle. Lunch is optional, but we can dine in a local restaurant or pick up a ‘panino’ if we prefer. In the early afternoon we drive north to Lake Como (Largo di Como), an area of stunning beauty, full of unique and evocative landscapes. We stop and enjoy a stroll in beautiful Como, before driving around the western side of the lake to our base at Menaggio. In the evening we get together and savour some fine local fare at our hotel.
(Total walking time: approx.3 hours)
This morning we travel by boat on beautiful Lake Como. Our first stop is the lakeside village of Tremezzo, where we visit the splendid Villa Carlotta with its beautiful gardens overlooking the lake. We continue by boat and cross the lake to the 'postcard perfect' town of Bellagio, referred to as the ‘Pearl of the Lake’. It is situated on the Punta Spartivento (‘Point that divides the Wind’), where the two arms of Lake Como meet. Bellagio is a delightful place - incredibly scenic with inspiring views of the lake and the distant mountains, full of brightly painted houses adorned with flower-filled balconies, a bustling waterfront and a maze of meandering cobblestone streets. In the afternoon we travel to the east side of the lake, where we stop at the charming village of Bellano, here we take a short but very interesting walk into the Pioverna River Valley. Using our boat pass we can explore any number of the other villages on the lake. Varenna is deemed by some as the most romantic town in all of Italy and certainly worth a visit. Nearby is the Fiumelatte, the mysterious 'River of Milk', which is Italy’s shortest river (250m) and only flows six months a year. Not even Leonardo da Vinci, who explored the cavern from which the river emerges, could discover its source or explain why it only flows for half a year. At the end of our exploration we catch the ferry back to Menaggio, where we have time to grab a gelato or espresso, before returning to the hotel.Day 4 - Mount Grona Trek - Menaggio foothills
Today we take a walk up to the mountain hut (Rifugio Menaggio) at 1400m, situated on the southern slope of Mount Grona. The walk is challenging in sections but the visual rewards are spectacular with peerless views of Lake Como and the surrounding mountains. The pace set by the leader will be achievable for the whole group. The first portion of our walk goes through forest and pastoral land, before we trek up to the 'rifugio' itself. Ten minutes from the 'rifugio' there is a viewpoint called Pizza Coppa, from where we have a view not only of Lake Como, but also of the entire region with Lake Piano and Lake Lugano, between Italy and Switzerland. This is a great setting to enjoy our picnic lunch. An optional detour can take us even closer to the top of Monte Grona (1736m). After lunch we descend down to the lake again. Depending on our energy levels there are a number of different return routes back down to Menaggio, and there is also a possibility to catch the bus in several places. There will be alternate suggestions available from your Leader should you not wish to undertake this walk.
(Walking time: approx. 5-6 hours)
After a leisurely breakfast we depart for a day in the Alps - partly in Italy and partly in Switzerland. We drive to the northern edge of Lake Como and then enter Switzerland at Castasegna. Travelling along a wonderful panoramic road, we enjoy a stop at Passo Malora before we arrive in the famous ski resort of St Moritz. Not far from here, we take a spectacular but easy excursion to the glacier of Morteratsch. From here we return to Italy on a small local train direct from Morteratsch - a train ride considered to be one of the most spectacular in the world! Our vehicle awaits us in Tirano and, after a short coffee break, takes us on to Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake. Our base is at the northernmost point of the lake, in the charming small town of Riva del Garda. We stay in the medieval town centre, which is resplendent with colourful painted houses. After a long day, we enjoy a nice dinner in a local restaurant close to our hotel.
(Walking time: approx. 3 hours)
Our journey this morning begins with a boat tour across the northern side of Lake Garda to Limone, a village named after the many lemon groves that surround it. From here we walk up through the old cobbled streets to the edge of town, where the scenery changes from Mediterranean to alpine. After a rest we walk up a steep hill and then down into the Singol Valley, following a comfortable path and alternating between the woods and panoramic views of Lake Garda. After resting at a mountain stream, we descend back to Limone and walk amongst olive groves and citrus trees, down to the lake. The old centre of Limone is a great place for walking with its steep and narrow lanes. We travel back to Riva and for those wanting to do more walking, we can do a final stretch of a very scenic walk along an old 18th-Century road, which is now a beautiful walkway and bicycle path. It is possible to spend more free time in Limone, before jumping on the boat and travelling back to Riva del Garda.
(Walking time: approx. 3-4 hours)
Today we discover the best of Lake Garda. We travel by boat from the northern alpine side of the lake to the southern, 'Mediterranean' shore, and pass many picturesque villages along the way. We go ashore in the town of Garda, nicknamed the 'Pearl ,' which is dominated by its ‘Rocca’ (rock formation), complete with an abbey and the remains of a medieval castle. We take a short relaxing walking tour through the village before making a short but steep climb up to the abbey, where we are rewarded by beautiful views over the lake. For those not keen on the walk, there is a chance to wander around the medieval alleys or just relax on the beautiful lakefront. You can arrange your own lunch in Garda - either dine out or simply grab some ‘panini’ and an ice cream. An easy afternoon walk takes us to the peninsula of San Vigilio. There is a fairytale ambience in this small medieval hamlet. You may wish to spend some time here on the tranquil lake and simply relax and take in the views. In the late afternoon we travel back by bus to Riva del Garda, following a nice scenic route along the side of the lake. Tonight we can choose to dine together under the medieval arches of Riva del Garda and raise our glasses in a toast to the infinite charms of the Italian Lakes region.Day 8 - Riva del Garda - Verona
After breakfast this morning, a private minibus will take us from Riva to Verona. Our trip ends on arrival in Verona. From Verona you can travel easily by rail to other major destinations in Italy. Please do not book any onwards train or bus travel before midday. For train schedules see the national rail site www.trenitalia.com. Of course you may opt to stay in beautiful Verona and spend time exploring this romantic city of Romeo and Juliet dominated by its Roman Amphitheatre. If you wish to stay back in the Italian Lakes Region, additional accommodation can also be booked in Riva del Garda or in the town of Sirmione. Please enquire when booking your tour.