Tour description

NORTHERN ITALIAN LAKES SMALL GROUP TOUR

You’re about 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.

TOUR HIGHLIGHTS & INCLUSIONS: 12 DAYS/11 NIGHTS
  • Guaranteed departures group travel: small, intimate group limited to 12/14 participants only!
  • More than 15 included sightseeing tours & cultural experiences
  • Tour of MILAN with its historical treasure,including the DUOMO
  • Visit to one of Italy’s most romantic lakes, charming LAKE ORTA and the delightful 14th century medieval village Orta San Giulio
  • Cruise to the enchanting islands visiting ISOLA MADRE and ISOLA BELLA, with a guided tour of its 17th century baroque villa
  • Evening boat ride with dinner to ISOLA DEI PESCATORI
  • From Como, take the cable car to BRUNATE and admire the city from above
  • Lake cruise to the enchanting VILLA DEL BALBANIELLO and its inspirational gardens
  • HANDS-ON-COOKING on LAKE MAGGIORE
  • Enchanting SIRMIONE & LAKE GARDA
  • Guided walking tour of medieval VERONA
  • The magic of LAKE MAGGIORE & the delightful town of STRESA
  • Tour of the hill town of BERGAMO, northern Italy’s most enchanting medieval town
  • Visit the enchanting lake towns of BELLAGIO and VARENNA
  • The evocative SANTA CATERINA HERMITAGE
  • Visit popular UNESCO World heritage sites
  • Enjoy ‘la dolce vita’ with ample leisure time for exploring local sights and delights
  • Dine at authentic and highly recommended local restaurants and trattorias that will leave lasting memories
  • Exceptional local tour director, experienced to accompany you throughout your journey
  • Entrances to main sites are included
  • Transportation on tour, via private air-conditioned 21 seats motorcoach
  • Included gratuity for city guides
  • Tour city guides as per itinerary in Milan, Orta San Giulio, Stresa, Bergamo, Como, Bellinzona Castles, Verona, Sirmione
  • City taxes and service charges at all hotels and restaurants
  • Baggage transfers and porters are included
  • Included regional meals: All breakfasts, 4 dinners, 3 lunches (main meals include regional wine, mineral water, local coffee or tea only)
  • Tour package does not include transfer from Milan airport to your hotel, airfare, or any other personal travel expenses.We suggest arriving a day or two before your tour begins to allow ample time to get over jet lag and be well-rested for the first few days of your tour
  • Activity level: Light/Moderate
  • Terms & conditions/Single supplement: (View here) & FAQ ( View here)
  • Trip Interruption and Cancellation Insurance is not included. We highly recommend Travelex-Insurance.com to protect your vacation.
  • Purchase of European Travel & Health Insurance is strongly recommended
OUR UNIQUE ACCOMMODATIONS
ITALIAN LAKES SMALL GROUP TOUR ITINERARY

 

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 & CAPTIVATING LAKE ORTA

You’re about to experience the scenic splendors that await you in the Italian Lakes region and the Swiss Alps. At 09.00 meet your guide and bus at Castello Sforzesco for a walking tour of fashion 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.Walk through the delightful Brera District with its small shops, cafés and old masters painting gallery which gives the district its name.You’ll also visit the Duomo, the fourth largest cathedral in the world and Piazza Mercanti.Head for Piazza della Scala, which is flanked by the world-renowned Opera house (museum interior included).Afterwards, stop over for lunch at one of the cafes and then browse around Milan’s splendid 19th century shopping mall, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. 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 charming “HOTEL SAN ROCCO“.This evening meet your local tour director and fellow travellers for an included dinner in a local tavern.Overnight stay in ORTA SAN GIULIO

DAY 2: PICTURE PERFECT ORTA SAN 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 then board a boat to take us to the tiny ISLAND OF SAINT GIULIO, dominated by the 12th century Basilica, full of vibrant frescoes mostly of saints.The remainder of the day is at leisure, maybe join your tour director for an optional visit to the SACRO MONTE, spectacularly set on wooded hillside above the lake,with views across to the Isola di San Giulio.This UNESCO World Heritage site is a devotional path comprising a series of frescoed chapels illustrating the life of St Francis of Assisi.In the evening,enjoy an included drink with the locals in the main square of Orta San Giulio before trying one of the several restaurants.Overnight stay in ORTA SAN GIULIO

DAY 3: BACKROAD GATTINARA,NEBBIOLO WINERY & MAGICAL SANTA CATERINA HERMITAGE

Your transfer to LAKE MAGGIORE features a stop to the heart of the GATTINARA countryside, famous for its NEBBIOLO WINE where we will visit a well-known winery for a tasting of their local wines accompanied by local products. Next, we discover the charming backroad village of Gattinara for an included lunch in a popular restaurant.Board a private boat in ARONA for a journey to the SANTA CATERINA HERMITAGE, one of the most evocative and fascinating places on Lake Maggiore.Spend the next three nights in the delightful town of STRESA staying at the historical “HOTEL DES ILES BORROMEES” or similar.Dinner is on your own this evening.Overnight stay in STRESA

DAY 4: AMAZING STRESA & THE BORROMEO ISLANDS 

Explore Lake Maggiore’s jewel-like BORROMEOS ISLANDS by private boat today.First stop we will visit ISOLA BELLA, where you’ll wander up the 10 terraces of the gardens,where peacocks roam among the scented shrubs,statues,and fountains,for a splendid view of the lake.This is also the home of the grand 17th century PALAZZO BORROMEO with its rooms where famous guests,including Napoleon and Mussolini, stayed in the 18th century splendor.Continue to ISOLA MADRE, where you can stroll among lush terraced gardens that tumble to the lake-shore.In the evening enjoy a boat ride to the ISOLA DEI PESCATORI for an included dinner in a local restaurant.Overnight stay in STRESA

DAY 5: COOKING EXPERIENCE & VILLA TARANTO BOTANICAL GARDENS

Today is a super fun-day where you will have the opportunity to take part in a special HANDS-ON-COOKING class by a local chef, as he shows you how to make some simple Italian recipes that you’ll enjoy for lunch.Afterwards,continue to the lake town of VERBANIA for a visit to the stunning late 19th century VILLA TARANTO.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.Return to Stresa for the rest of the day at  leisure.Overnight stay in STRESA

DAY 6: LAKE COMO & THE SILK MUSEUM 

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.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.After time on your own for lunch,visit the popular SILK MUSEUM where it is possible to see the whole silk manufacturing process, from silkworm breeding to finishing it.The lake town of MENAGGIO is your base for the next three nights at the central “GRAND HOTEL MENAGGIO” or similar.Overnight stay in MENAGGIO 

DAY 7: A CRUISE TO BELLAGIO & VILLA DEL BALBANIELLO

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 time on your own for lunch, 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.Dinner is included this evening in a local restaurant.Overnight stay in MENAGGIO

DAY 8: A TASTE OF SWITZERLAND: UNESCO CASTLES OF BELLINZONA & LAKE LUGANO

Today’s adventure takes you across the Swiss border to 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.Departing Bellinzona,you’ll visit 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.In the evening, you might consider to visit the nearby laketown of Varenna.Overnight stay in MENAGGIO

DAY 9: TAPESTRY OF CULTURES: BIBLICAL BERGAMO & THE MAGIC OF LAKE GARDA

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 town of BERGAMO. Our expert local guide will lead us on a walking tour of the old upper town of Bergamo known as Città Alta, a completely intact walled city with one of the most beautiful main squares in all of Italy, Piazza Vecchia, surrounded by a breathtaking collection of medieval and Renaissance architecture.Continue to the charming lake town of SIRMIONE for your last three nights staying at the central  “HOTEL SIRMIONE” or similar.Overnight stay in SIRMIONE

DAY 10: SWEET 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 during an included WINE TASTING accompanied by local products in a popular winery.Rest of the day is at leisure.Overnight stay in SIRMIONE

DAY 11: ELEGANT SIRMIONE

Your day begins with a discovery tour around the charming historical area of SIRMIONE .You’ll admire the town’s maze of narrow streets, attractive cafes, elegant shops, villas and churches.You will also visit the CATULLO CAVES, the ruins of a villa thought to be the residence of the Roman poet Catullus.End the morning experience with a boat ride of the peninsula.In the evening celebrate your Italian Lakes District 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 and train station.You might consider our new 8 Days Small Group Tour to discover TURIN,LE LANGHE & THE BAROLO REGION

NORTHERN ITALIAN LAKES SMALL GROUP TOUR DATES & PRICING

2024 TOUR PRICE: € 5,500    SINGLE SUPPLEMENT:  € 1,200    currency converter

Prices are per person based on double room occupancy

REVIEWS

Northern Italy Reviews Summary

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Recent Northern Italy Reviews

Ma Ma Mia - What a Fabulous Tour!

Rated 5 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 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 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)

Review Northern Italy