Stride climate

Trip Type : Small Group Tour
Canva - Mansion, Lake Como, Italy, Villa, Architecture, Italian

The Beautiful Italian Lakes

Viaggio Italia
Not yet rated
Travel Style: You will have solid amounts of both free time and structured time with some activities and meals included. Mixed
Physical Level: Some walking over short or flat distances. Some trips may include cycling options. Some are wheelchair friendly (check for individual trips). Some cruises. Easy
Lodging Level: Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels. Value - 3 star
14 days
From: $ 3,150 $ 225 / day
Checking price



  • Personally-escorted 14-day tour with expert local guides in each location
  • Stays in Milan, Stresa, Varenna and Desenzano
  • Ride the scenic Centovalli Express rail to Locarno in Switzerland
  • Visit the fabulous Borromean Islands, including Isola Bella’s amazing tiered gardens
  • A day on Lake Como, including tours of Villa Carlotta and Villa Balbianello and a visit to belissimmo Bellagio
  • Enjoy an authentic cooking and dining experience in the little village of Gittana above Lake Como
  • Tour pretty little Isola Garda, still the home of the Borghese Cavazza family
  • Explore little towns around Lake Garda, including Sirmione, Limone and Malcesine
  • Search for Romeo and Juliette in romantic Verona
  • Take guided walking tours of Milan’s Duomo (including the rooftop walk), Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, Teatro alla Scala, Castello Sforza, and Da Vinci’s The Last Supper

Short Description

Italy's northern lakes are unique and magical. Come with Viaggio Italia Travel on this fully-escorted small group tour, that will take you Milan - the powerhouse city filled with fashion, vitality and history - to elegant Lake Maggiore, dreamy Lake Como and energetic Lake Garda.

Our 14 day small group tour is an excursion into a part of Italy that is a little off the radar for international tourists, but the Italians know and love it well.

We start our adventure in Milan: a really lovely city to explore; filled with history, great food and of course fashion.

We then travel to Stresa, an elegant and classical town on the western coast of Lake Maggiore, from where we will explore the lake and its surrounds, including a day trip to Switzerland on the Centovalli railway and a visit to the wonderful Borromean Islands.

Small groups are usually defined as between 10 and 24 travelers, often less. If you're the kind of person who enjoys more intimate experiences and personal service this is a good choice. All else being equal you will pay a premium for this style vs a larger group tour.
Trip Type Small Group Tour
Off the beaten track trips will stretch your comfort zone. They don't always feature tourist highlights, but dive deeper into local life and culture.
Itinerary Focus Off the Beaten Path
Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Lodging Level Value - 3 star
Flights & Transport Only ground transport
Start City Milan
End City Milan

Trip Includes

  • All tips and hotel taxes
  • Internal transfers

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Day 1: Milan: City of fashion and food

Meals: Dinner

Hotel: Hotel Galles or similar

Guests will be arriving at different times and we will be on hand to assist when you check into our hotel and to help orient you. You will then have free time until 5:00pm, when all our guests will join us for welcome drinks and a chance to talk about our time in Italy’s Lakes District. Later we will take a walk to familiarise ourselves with the local area which will finish at a lovely Italian restaurant for our first meal together, and an opportunity to get to know the other travellers who will be sharing this tour with you.

Inclusions: Welcome drinks, orientation walk

Day 2: Milan: The historical centre

Meals: Breakfast

Hotel: Hotel Galles or similar

Milan’s Duomo – or Cathedral – is the most iconic image of this great city and that’s where we’ll start our walking tour. To get there it’s a short ride on Milan’s excellent Metro system. You’ll also have full use of this system for the whole day, as we provide you with a day pass to use to explore the city once the formal tour is concluded. At the Duomo, you’ll take the elevator to the roof for a fantastic view of the city from the terraces, before skipping the lines with your local guide to take a tour inside this incredible and historic Gothic masterpiece. It’s a unique experience. Later we’ll walk across to see the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II – the famous shopping mall with its arched glass ceiling, before visiting the Piazza della Scala where we’ll take a guided tour of the famous Teatro alla Scala opera house.

Inclusions: Metro pass, guided tour of the historical centre, entry to the Duomo and Teatro alla Scala, elevator access to the Duomo terraces

Day 3: Our first view of the lakes!

Meals: Breakfast and Dinner

Hotel: Hotel Milan Speranza au Lac or similar

Today we’re off to Lake Maggiore! It’s only about an hour from Milan to Stresa by regional train, and we’ll transfer on arrival to our hotel right on the lake in the heart of the old town. It’s a great little town to wander, with lots of little shops up and down the streets and piazzas, as well as a wonderful panoramic walk along the lakeside. Once we’ve settled in, we’ll be taking a walk along the lake to ride the funicular to the top at Mottarone, where you will be able to take in fabulous views over the lake, including the Borromean Islands. It is a nice walk, but it is about a kilometre to the funicular, so we do offer this as an optional activity. Later we’ll take a short walk in the town to orient you, and we’ll end at a lovely ristorante in the main piazza for our dinner.

Inclusions: Metro pass, train ticket and transfer to hotel, funicular pass

Day 4: Borromean splendour

Meals: Breakfast

Hotel: Hotel Milan Speranza au Lac or similar

Last night you will have seen the Borromean Islands from the shore. Today we will get to visit these three islands that take their name from the aristocratic Borromean family, who - in the 16th and 17th centuries - transformed the islands of Bella and Madre into grand, luxurious residences, while the third island, named “dei Pescatori” (after its age-old fishing community) was left to continue its traditional way of life. Each offers a very different experience. Isola Bella’s palace and gardens are the epitome of opulence and luxury. In contrast, the Isola dei Pescatori, with its village unchanged by time, offers a fascinating simplicity. Finally, the exotic atmosphere of the lush and tranquil Isola Madre can be ascribed to the gardens that almost totally cover it. We will take the ferry to each island in turn, enjoying guided tours of Bella and Madre, with independent time to explore as well. Later you can use your ferry pass to explore other parts of the lake and we can give you plenty of ideas for that!

Inclusions: All day ferry pass, entry to all islands, guided tours of Isola Bella and Isola Madre

Day 5: Lago Maggiore Express

Meals: Breakfast

Hotel: Hotel Milan Speranza au Lac or similar

It’s a very full day today, as we are off to Switzerland (so remember to take your passport!). The Lake Maggiore Express is a great trip, that first takes us on a short trip by regional train to Domodossola: a quaint little town which is the starting point for the famous Centovalli narrow gauge train, which will give a scenic ride to Locarno – an interesting Swiss town on the shores of Lake Maggiore. After we take the funicular for a great view of the lake, you will have free time to explore Locarno, before we return to Stresa via the ferry, taking in the mountain scenery and pretty little towns as we make our way home.

Inclusions: Transfer to Domodossola, Centovalli train, Locarno funicular, ferry to Stresa

Day 6: Lake Como (looking for George!)

Meals: Breakfast and Dinner

Hotel: Hotel Olivedo or similar

It’s time to leave Lake Maggiore and head to Lake Como. We don’t think George Clooney still has a house there but keep an eye out just in case! We take the regional train back to Milan, then change for a similar journey to the pretty village of Varenna on Lake Como. Our lakefront hotel is in a perfect position; just a short walk from the station and with the ferry port right in front. There is a walk of about 25 minutes up to Castello Vestio, which offers (again) magnificent views. This is an optional activity, as the walk will test your legs and the paved path is uneven in areas. Those not wanting to come can rest, and on our return we will all take an orientation walk of the town; which is an absolute pearl of this area (and if you think I’m being too effusive, just wait till you get there). Later we’ll enjoy a meal together at our favourite little ristorante looking out over the lake…. belissimma….

Inclusions: Transfer to train, trains from Stresa to Varenna

Day 7: Exploring the lake

Meals: Breakfast

Hotel: Hotel Olivedo or similar

Lake Como has long been a retreat for wealthy Italians, especially the Milanese, and they’ve left behind some amazing villas and today we are going to take guided tours of two of these: Villa Carlotta and Villa Balbianello. Both will astound you with their architecture and gardens, with the tales of their past coming to life through our expert local guide. We’ll then take the ferry across to the famous little town of Bellagio, where you can enjoy the winding alleys that lead up and down the hills that sit beside the lake. You will have the rest of the day to explore this part of the lake, which is only a short trip back to Varenna.

Inclusions: All day ferry pass for the area, entry and guided tours of Villa Carlotta and Villa Balbianello, guided tour of Bellagio

Day 8: An authentic cooking and dining experience!

Meals: Breakfast  and Lunch

Hotel: Hotel Olivedo or similar

In the little village of Gittana, about a 10-minute drive by private van in the hills above Varenna, is a wonderful family-owned restaurant run by Moreno and his wife Rossella. We will enjoy a welcome cappuccino and Italian biscotti at their restaurant, before enjoying a private group cooking class. Moreno will lead and give us all the chance to join in and learn the tricks, like how to fold and shape tortelloni or roll gnocchi. We’ll break for spuntino (Italian snack time) and enjoy fresh bread, salame and cheese from the local valley, and a little of the local D.O.C. wine. Then it’s back to the cookery lesson, where fresh ingredients and passion for food will provide us with a great authentic lunch time at around 2.00 p.m. You’ll receive a certificate of attending signed by Moreno and Rossella and a glass of limoncello before we wish them ‘arrivederci e grazie mille’ around 4.00 pm when we will be transferred back to Varenna.

Inclusions: Transfers to and from the restaurant, cooking class plus food and drinks as indicated above

Day 9: Goodbye Como, hello Garda!

Meals: Breakfast and Dinner

Hotel: Hotel Vittorio or similar

The third lake we will visit is Lake Garda: the largest lake in Italy. The regional train will take us back to Milan, where we’ll take the Frecciarossa – Italy’s fast train – to Desenzano on the south-west shore of the lake. We think of Maggiore as ‘sophisticated’ and Como as ‘dreamy’. Garda is ‘energetic’. Many northern Europeans come for sailing and other water sports, and the towns are lively and fun throughout the year. If we’re lucky there may be markets or a festival on! In any case it’s a great place to stay. After checking in, we’ll provide an orientation walk of the town – it is another gem – before heading to a little portside restaurant for dinner together.

Inclusions: Train tickets from Varenna to Desenzano, transfers to the hotel.

Day 10: Isola Garda: jewel of the lake

Meals: Breakfast

Hotel: Hotel Vittorio or similar

The morning will be yours to relax and enjoy the town. After lunch we will take the ferry to Sirmione: a popular town with a Roman and medieval history from where we will take a boat over to Isola Garda. The Borghese Cavazza family open the island - which is still their home - for private guided tours. We’ll enjoy a welcome drink and get to taste some local olive oil, before getting the opportunity to visit a couple of rooms in the residence and explore the beautiful Italian and English gardens. Later, we will return to Sirmione for some free time before catching the ferry back to Desenzano.

Inclusions: Return ferry pass to Sirmione, guided tour of Isola Garda including boat transfers.

Day 11: Verona: wherefore art thou Romeo?

Meals: Breakfast

Hotel: Hotel Vittorio or similar

Verona is a lovely city less than half an hour by train from Desenzano. We’ll wander up to the train station for the short trip to Verona and be meet our local guide for a tour of the city to learn the history behind this great city – and the story behind Juliette’s balcony. Later, you’ll have free time to explore the town on your own before we return by train to Desenzano.

Inclusions: Return train tickets to Verona, guided tour of the city

Day 12: The little towns by the lake

Meals: Breakfast

Hotel: Hotel Vittorio or similar

The towns that sit along the shores of this long lake are picturesque and are great places to wander, take photos, look for a bargain or just sit and watch the world go by. We’ll be met at the ferry by our local guide, who will be with us all day as we hop on and off the ferry to see towns such as Malcesine, Riva, Limone and Garda itself. This will be a whole day adventure and one you will long remember.

Inclusions: Whole day pass for the entire lake, experienced local guide with us all day

Day 13: A Last Supper

Meals: Breakfast and Dinner

Hotel: Hotel Galles or similar

Today we leave the lakes and take the train back to Milan, where we’ll transfer to our hotel, before heading out to take a walking tour that will include a visit to see Da Vinci’s famous work: The Last Supper* and the imposing Castello Sforzesco - the medieval castle where we’ll hear tales of its historical importance to the Milanese and explore the expansive Parco Sempione in which the castle is set. Later we will head out for our final dinner together.

Inclusions: Guided walking tour of Castello Sforza and surrounds, skip the line entry to The Last Supper, day pass for Metro

Day 14: Farewell from Milan

Meals: Breakfast

This is our last morning in Milan. We will be available to assist in your transfers to the airport or the rail.


Checking price
Price From $ 3,150
Price Per Day: $ 225 per day
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Checking price
Start DateEnd DateDouble StandardDeparture GuaranteedAvailability 
May-03-2020May-16-2020$ 3,150Yes12 Reserve
Sep-20-2020Oct-03-2020$ 3,350Yes12 Reserve

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Prices may vary due to local taxes and trip seasonality. Click "Request Info" to inquire directly with the tour operator for the final trip price.

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Optional Activities

Easy - Trip generally requires some walking on multiple days of the trip over even terrain.

Flights & Transport

Only ground transport

Group Size:

Intimate Group - 12 max


  • Hotel: Hotel Galles, Piazza Lima, 2, 20124 Milan or similar
  • Hotel: Hotel Milan Speranza au Lac, Piazza Marconi, 6/9, 28838 Stresa or similar
  • Hotel: Hotel Olivedo, Piazza Martiri, 14, 23829 Varenna or similar
  • Hotel: Hotel Vittorio, Via Porto Vecchio, 4, 25015 Desenzano del Garda or similar

Trip ID#:


Trip Excludes

  • International airfares
  • Anything not listed in the tour itinerary

Meals Included:

13 Breakfasts, 1 Lunches and 4 Dinners

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