Tour description

NORTHERN ITALIAN LAKES SMALL GROUP TOUR

Unlock the wonders of Northern Italy on our small group Italian Lakes tour. Imagine having two vacations in one! In this region of Italy, you’ll experience natural wonders akin to those found in Switzerland without leaving that Italian charm behind. This enchanted region is home to soaring mountains, azure lakes, and quaint small towns to explore. This action-packed region is full of wonderful surprises. From snowy alpine slopes to beautifully framed villas and fabulous art and architecture, it has it all. In this small group tour, we will visit the best of the best in Northern Italy, including the glacial lakes of Lombardy, cultural landmarks like Duomo, and sophisticated cities like Verona and Milan.

You’re sure to experience the charm and beauty of Northern Italian culture and nature on this tour. 

Read what our friends have to say about this fantastic tour over on Tripadvisor.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS & INCLUSIONS: 12 DAYS/11 NIGHTS

Highlights 

  • Walking tours of Milan, Orta, San Giulio, Stresa, Bergamo, Como, Bellinzona Castles, and Verona
  • Visits to cultural sites like Duomo and popular UNESCO World Heritage sites
  • A visit to one of Italy’s most romantic lakes, Lake Orta
  • Day cruise to visit the enchanting Isola Madre, Isola Bella, and Villa Del Balbaniello
  • Evocative Santa Caterina Hermitage and Villa Taranto Botanical gardens
  • Scenic cable car journey from Como to Brunate
  • Hands-on cooking lesson on Lake Maggiore
  • A visit to enchanting small towns like Sirmione, Lake Garda, Stresa, Bellagio and more
  • Enjoy ‘la dolce vita’ with ample leisure time for exploring local sights and delights

Included

  • Small group tour of 12-14 participants
  • Knowledgeable English-speaking tour director
  • Entrance fees for all sites
  • Tour transportation in a private air-conditioned motor coach
  • Local guides in the outlined cities and towns
  • Hotel city and service taxes at all accommodations and restaurants are included
  • Transfers to Verona airport or train station 
  • Baggage transfers and porters are included
  • All breakfasts, three lunches, and five dinners are covered. Main meals include wine, mineral water, espresso, or tea
  • Activity level: Light/Moderate.
  • Terms & Conditions/single supplement and FAQ

Not Included

  • Airport transfers from Milan Linate or Malpensa Airport
  • Travel insurance and visa fees/Trip Interruption & Cancellation Insurance
  • Any charges for extras not listed in the itinerary
  • Room services, telephone charges, laundry fees
  • Gratuities for the tour director and local driver
  • Single room supplement
OUR ACCOMMODATIONS
DAY-BY-DAY ITINERARY

 

Day 1: FASHIONABLE MILAN & LAKE ORTA

We’ll begin our tour at 09.00 outside the Una Hotel Cusani Milano for a walking tour of the world-famous fashion city of MILAN. Learn all about the history and unique fashion that is born in this dynamic city. We’ll also pay a visit to the exterior of Castello Sforzesco, which was redesigned by Leonardo da Vinci and is now a museum. We’ll walk through the Brera District, full of small shops, cafes, and painting galleries that give this district its name. Afterward, we will visit the fourth largest cathedral in the world: Duomo. We’ll continue walking along to the world-renowned Opera and Piazza Della Scala before stopping for shopping and lunch on your own. After lunch, we will browse around Milan’s famous 19th-century shopping mall, Galleria Vitoria Emanuele II. In the early afternoon, we will depart Milan for an off-the-beaten-path tour of the lakeside Medieval village of Orta San Giulio. We will stay here in this charming village at the Hotel San Rocco (or equivalent) for two nights. In the evening, we will meet again for dinner at a local tavern.

Meals: Breakfast & lunch on your own, dinner included

Accommodations: Overnight in Orta San Giulio

Day 2: PICTURE ORTA SAN GIULIO

You’ll want to grab your camera for this one! LAKE ORTA is one of the westernmost lakes in the Lower Alps and is characterised by soft rolling hills and mediaeval charm. The villages that dot the lake are full of historic architecture and are perched among the green terraces. We will begin with an expert-guided tour of the history of ORTA SAN GIULIO, one of the most prominent villages in the region, filled with charm and mystery. Afterward, we’ll board a private boat to take us to the tiny island of Saint Giulio, which is well known for its 12th-century Basilica. You’ll want to capture the vibrant and well-preserved frescoes as a nice memory! You’ll have the rest of the day to explore on your own. We recommend checking out the historic city centre or a scenic spot like Anello Orta San Giulio. You can also join an optional walking tour of the Sacro Monte, a series of chapels and frescoes with stunning views of the Isola di San Giulio.

Meals: Breakfast & evening aperitif with appetizers included

Accommodations: Overnight in Orta San Giulio

Day 3: NEBBIOLO WINERY & SCENIC SANTA CATERINA HERMITAGE

Today, we will continue on to Lake Maggiore, making a few stops along the way. We’ll start by passing through the GATTINARA countryside, whose soil and rolling hills are famous for growing grapes and wine production. We’ll stop at a well-known winery for a tasting of their local wines and products. This is an excellent opportunity to refine your palate and explore new wines! For lunch, we’ll visit a local restaurant in the hidden gem village of Gattinara. Afterward, we’ll board a private boat in Arona to journey to the SANTA CATERINA HERMITAGE, home to one of the most evocative places on Lake Maggiore. This stunning catholic monastery is precariously perched on the side of the cliff and is home to beautiful stained glass pieces and historic artworks. We’ll spend the next three nights in the delightful town of STRESA at the Hotel Regina Palace (or similar).

Meals: Breakfast & lunch included, dinner on your own

Accommodations: Overnight in Stresa

Day 4: BORROMEO ISLANDS

Today, we will explore the jewel-like Borromeo’s Islands, home to some truly spectacular and inspiring gardens. Here in these magical gardens of ISOLA BELLA, you’ll find peacocks roaming the shrubs, ornate statues, and lovely flowers blooming. You’ll also find Isola Bella is home to the grand 17th century Palazzo Borromeo, which once upon a time housed famous guests like Napoleon and Mussolini. We will continue on to the ISOLA MADRE, where you’re free to stroll among the lush terraced gardens. In the evening, enjoy a private boat ride to the ISOLA DEI PESCATORI for a delicious dinner at a local restaurant.

Meals: Breakfast & dinner included, lunch on your own

Accommodations: Overnight in Stresa

Day 5: HANDS-ON COOKING & LUXURIOUS BOTANICAL GARDENS 

Today, we will have the opportunity to take part in a hands-on cooking class curated by a local Italian chef.He will guide you through making some simple Italian recipes that make the perfect takeaway from your trip. We will enjoy our creations for lunch before travelling to the charming lake town of VERBANIA. Here, we’ll visit the stunning late 19th century VILLA TARANTO, one of Europe’s finest botanical gardens filled with lush flowers and plants, as well as beautiful sculptures and water features. In the late afternoon, we will return to Stresa, and the rest of the day is yours to explore.

Meals: Breakfast & lunch included, dinner on your own

Accommodations: Overnight in Stresa

Day 6: LAKE COMO & THE SILK MUSEUM 

Today, we’ll say goodbye to Stresa and visit the stunning lakeside city of COMO. You’ll have plenty of opportunities to take in the sparkling turquoise blue waters that line the shore and take in the city sights. We suggest visiting the stunning Cathedral, the historic city walls, and the harbour. After lunch, we’ll visit the popular SILK MUSEUM, where we can observe the silk manufacturing process from start to finish.In the late afternoon, we will head to the small lakeside town of MENAGGIO, where we’ll stay for three nights at the Gran Hotel Menaggio (or similar). This colourful and vibrant town is sure to capture your heart. 

Meals: Breakfast included, lunch & dinner on your own

Accommodations: Overnight in Menaggio

Day 7: LAKESIDE CRUISE & ELEGANT BELLAGIO

This morning, we’ll set sail for our tour of the beautiful VILLA DEL BALBANIELLO, one of the finest villas on Lake Como. Enjoy the misty water as we cruise the lake before arriving at the villa. Once we arrive, we will explore the buildings and gardens that catch the eye of many film directors for their splendor.Afterward, we will explore the town of BELLAGIO and its pastel-coloured houses and cobblestone streets. With its idyllic location on the lake, it’s often referred to as one of the most beautiful towns in Italy. In the afternoon, we will return to Menaggio for an evening at your leisure. We recommend visiting La Crocetta observation deck for a bird’s eye view of this magnificent town. We’ll meet again in the evening for dinner at a local restaurant.

Meals: Breakfast & dinner included, lunch on your own

Accommodations: Overnight in Menaggio

Day 8: A TASTE OF SWITZERLAND & THE GLACIAL LAKE LUGANO

Today’s adventure brings us across the border into Switzerland to visit the Castles of Bellinzona, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This mediaeval fortification has guarded an alpine mountain pass for centuries before becoming a popular tourist destination. We’ll have some time to thoroughly explore the castles before heading to the distinctly Swiss border town of Lugano. This enchanting town is surrounded by lush green mountains and is full of charming architecture and historical buildings. You’ll definitely want your camera to capture the magic of this town.We’ll enjoy a guided sightseeing stroll to see the Palazzo Civico and the main shopping street, a perfect opportunity to find a lovely memento of the trip. You’ll have the evening on your own to relax and explore. We highly recommend a trip to the nearby town of Varenna.

Meals: Breakfast included, lunch & dinner on your own

Accommodations: Overnight in Menaggio

Day 9: BIBLICAL BERGAMO & THE MAGIC LAKE GARDA

Today, we will depart Lake Como and head for the charming area surrounding LAKE GARDA. This region is declared one of the most beautiful places on earth by many writers and poets. You’ll find this title is rightfully earned as its orange terracotta-coloured buildings stand out against the turquoise blue waters, reminiscent of cities like Split or Dubrovnik. En route, we’ll make a stop in the walled town of BERGAMO and join in on a tour with an expert guide of the old upper town known as Città Alta.You’ll have the chance to visit one of the most beautiful main squares in all of Italy, Piazza Vecchia, and soak in the beautiful mediaeval and Renaissance architecture. We will continue to the picturesque town of SIRMIONE for our last three nights in the Hotel Sirmione (or similar). 

Meals: Breakfast included, lunch & dinner on your own

Accommodations: Overnight stay in Sirmione

DAY 10: SWEET VERONA & VALPOLICELLA WINERY 

VERONA is a vibrant centre of trade and the largest city in the region. We will take a guided walking tour of the city to appreciate it at its best. We’ll see beautiful architectural sites like their pink limestone palazzos and ancient Roman ruins. Afterward, we’ll drive to VALPOLICELLA wine region, for a tasting and tour. This is an excellent opportunity to bring out your knowledge of wines and add to it! You’ll have the rest of the day to explore Sirmione.We recommend checking out some local restaurant to add to your evening!

Meals: Breakfast & lunch included, dinner on your own

Accommodations: Overnight in Sirmione

DAY 11: LA DOLCE VITA IN SIRMIONE & BARDOLINO

This morning in Sirmione, you’ll have at your leisure to shop, enjoy a slow morning coffee, or stroll the narrow streets. We recommend visiting Catullo Caves, the nearby ruins of a historical villa, or Scaligero Castle. At 16:00, we’ll depart for the elegant town of BARDOLINO for a visit and a farewell dinner in a local restaurant.

Meals: Breakfast & dinner included, lunch on your own

Accommodations: Overnight in Sirmione

DAY 12: ARRIVEDERCI NORTHERN ITALY

Today, there are morning transfers to Verona airport and train station. If you haven’t had enough of Italy just yet, you can check out some of our other magnificent small-group tours to Tuscany & Umbria or Turin, Le Langhe & the Barolo Region.

TOUR DATES & PRICING

2024 TOUR PRICE: € 5,300    SINGLE SUPPLEMENT:  € 1,200    currency converter

Prices are per person based on double room occupancy

REVIEWS
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Ma Ma Mia - What a Fabulous Tour!

Rated 5.0 out of 5
03/11/2022

Wow – Secret Italia tour of the Italian Lakes was one of our all time favorite tours. The itinerary was very well thought through making the trip very memorable. The central location of the accommodations and the selection of dining options all enhanced trip.The quality of the tour was only made better by our guide Antonia.We appreciated her vast knowledge and enthusiasm as she pointed out things of interest as we traveled.She had the unique ability to connect with every member of our tour. She always made herself available for assistance to the point that she met us at 3:00 in the morning to make sure our departure went smoothly.What a gem!You can’t go wrong selecting this tour of the Italian Lakes.Thanks Aldo. Another home run!

Marv Bultman & Tom Heath

Fantastic Northern Italian Lakes

Rated 5.0 out of 5
02/11/2022

Our Secret Italia tour of the Northern Italian Lakes was a resounding success. Once again Aldo and company planned a great itinerary that included a good balance of organized group activities with adequate time reserved for individuals to explore on their own. The hotels were all wonderful and in good locations for walking to nearby shopping, restaurants, etc. The included meals were excellent and, once again, we learned that nobody walks away hungry from Aldo’s idea of a light lunch! The planned activities were varied in nature from tours of the Milan Duomo and other historic sites, to several boat tours on the lakes, to a fun cooking class where we all had a hand at making gnocchi and tiramisu for our lunch. I especially enjoyed the tours of two exceptional wineries where we tasted the wines along with ample portions of local charcuterie and cheeses. Our tour guide Antonia was an absolute delight. She was always very attentive and worked hard to ensure that we were all having a great trip. She is very knowledgeable about the history of the region as well as the impact of current events on the places we were visiting. She went well beyond the scope of the planned itinerary to spend time going for a walk or just sitting for a conversation with members of the group. I believe that everyone benefitted from this special “off duty” attention. The tour was another great experience with Secret Italia. We will certainly book additional tours in the future.

Dick Thomas (USA)

5stars Lakes Tour

Rated 5.0 out of 5
30/10/2022

Clara and I enjoyed the Northern Italian Lakes Tour tremendously. My maternal grandparents were from Lake Como so the area holds a special place in my heart along with a familiarity of the food , wine and customs in Lombardia and neighboring Piedmonte. { My paternal grandparents were from Abruzzo, also a great place to visit.}. Antonia the tour guide did a great job. She was an excellent tour guide and we hope one day to tour with her again. The coach bus and driver were also excellent. The hotel in Stresa was stunning and all of the Suite Accommodations were very much appreciated. Thank you. I trust you to pick the best places. Good job.Overall the itinerary was very well laid out and all of the day tours were very memorable and the local guides were also excellent.I enjoyed our trip to Switzerland. I would not have wanted to miss it. I would highly recommend this tour and Secret Italia Tours to anyone who would ask. Thank you for another great tour and we look forward to touring with Secret Italia Tours again in 2023.

John Luciani (USA)