Relax on the shores of Italy’s largest lake
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Picturesque, peaceful and perfectly placed for our visits to Verona and Venice, the lakeside town of Desenzano forms the ideal base for a wonderful holiday with a delightful setting on the shores of tranquil Lake Garda - one of Italy's best-loved lakes.
Our holiday begins at our St Pancras Departure Office, where we board the Eurostar to Paris. From here we continue by rail to Turin, where we overnight. We have dinner together this evening.
From Turin we travel by TGV on the wonderfully scenic route to Milan, a powerhouse of Italian fashion. On arrival in Milan, we transfer to a coach for our journey east towards Lake Garda, travelling past the Italian Alps to the north and the vast Lombardy Plain to the south.
We arrive in the bustling town of Desenzano, located on the wide, sea-like southern shores of Lake Garda, Italy's largest and most popular lake. We spend the next seven nights here at the friendly Hotel Desenzano, run by Gigliola and her family. Gigliola is well known to Great Rail Journeys' customers for her warm Italian welcome. We dine in the hotel this evening.
This morning, we take a short cruise across the lake by boat to picturesque Sirmione. The town occupies a peculiar position on a thin and craggy peninsula jutting 4km into the lake. Surrounded on three sides by water, Sirmione is one of Lake Garda's most delightful towns. The narrow winding lanes and pretty piazzas of Sirmione are mostly pedestrianised, which makes strolling through the town a pleasure. A panoramic walk leads out around the promontory, and on a clear day you can enjoy great views over the lake and towards the mountains in the north.
There is free time in Sirmione to explore the imposing Rocca Scaligera - a 13th century castle surrounded by a large water-filled moat that dominates the Old Quarter of town and offers beautiful views over Lake Garda from the ramparts.
Today is free to relax in Desenzano, enjoying the warm local climate and the hotel's facilities. Desenzano's town square is bordered with restaurants and cafés, where you can view the beautiful architecture and scenery while savouring the local cuisine. You could travel further afield to visit stylish Milan and explore the city's sights, including the incredible Duomo (the largest Gothic cathedral in the world) and the world's most famous opera house, the 'Teatro alla Scala'.
Today we board the high-speed train in Desenzano for a full-day excursion to the fabulous city of Venice. Arriving at the city's Santa Lucia station close to the Grand Canal, we are greeted by a truly glorious view of the shimmering Venice lagoon. A private boat transports us along the Giudecca Canal - our first chance to soak up the wonderful atmosphere of this unique city.
We arrive at St Mark's Square, one of the most beautiful city squares in the world. Overlooked by St Mark's Basilica, the large open space is surrounded by the Doge's Palace, the Procurator's residence, the famous Sansoviniana Bookshop and the iconic bell tower, as well as the waters of the lagoon. Our local guide greets us in St Mark's Square and takes us on a walking tour of the city, leading us around the narrow winding streets and small squares to visit some of Venice's main sights.
Your afternoon is free to explore at leisure - you could view the Bridge of Sighs, cross the famous Rialto Bridge, discover the historic Jewish Quarter or visit the magnificent domed 'Santa Maria della Salute' Church.
Your day is free to discover Desenzano, with its narrow streets, medieval castle and picturesque waterfront. Today is Desenzano's Market Day; make your way to the Old Town where you will find the main square filled with stalls selling locally produced food and crafts.
Today's excursion takes us on a wonderful cruise across the waters of Lake Garda to the wooded Isola del Garda, the biggest island in the lake. Dominated by an impressive neo-Gothic villa, the island can only be reached by private boat, and we travel out to see the elegant house and fl ower-filled gardens, scented with lemon and pine. Exotic plants jostle for position among verdant foliage, and beautifully manicured terraces run down to the water, as we enjoy a guided tour of the house and gardens. The Villa Borghese-Cavazza is a superb example of neo-Gothic architecture, designed by the architect Luigi Rovelli at the beginning of the 20th century, and still proving just as splendid to modern visitors. The island is still to this day home to the Cavazza family, and often the guided tours are run by the Countesses themselves.
After exploring the exquisite villa, and the extensive garden with its wide selection of fragrant roses, we enjoy an aperitif of local wine. A stroll around the island's picturesque shoreline offers fantastic vistas of the tranquil lake waters.
Our excursion today takes us by coach to beautiful Verona - a city of Roman ruins, medieval buildings, Italian culture and romance, and the setting for Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet.
On our guided tour of the city, which boasts UNESCO World Heritage status, we stroll into Verona's historic heart, to see Juliet's balcony and Verona's great Roman Arena. We end our tour at the imposing amphitheatre which is now an open air opera house. There is some free time following our tour to explore Verona at your own pace - you could take a tour of the Roman Arena itself.
You could also discover the remarkable Gothic architecture of the Scaligieri tombs, a series of Gothic monasteries where the remains of the Scaligieri family, former rulers of Verona, are interred. Alternatively you could peruse the designer shops on the fashionable Via Mazzini.
We travel via Milan and Basel to Strasbourg, where we overnight. If you have chosen our fly return option, you will transfer to Verona airport for your flight home today, and your tour will end on arrival in the UK. On Day 10 we board the TGV to Paris, where we connect with the Eurostar to London.
This tour also has a fly return option available. If you are returning by air your tour will end on Day 9, when you transfer to Verona airport for your flight to London.
Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with our dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We write to all booked customers approximately 10 weeks prior to the start of their tour to advise the exact departure and return time for their particular group.
An escorted experience and all travel arrangements
Comfortable accommodation in your destination
Delicious meals included
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
Enhancing your tour experience
of travellers would recommend this tour
based on 25 verified reviews
We thought the hotel was not a 4 star hotel as food was not very good & limited choice. We had upset tummy's twice after eating the food there. We missed one of the trips because we were ill from this food. We put a do not disturb on the door & the cleaner still came in & cleaned. Bathroom, sink, shower & toilet smelt of drains/sewers which got worse as the holiday progressed. We did ask the hotel staff to look into it but it did not get any better. Also pool was to small. We also felt & so did others that the Venice trip once we did the guided bit just left you in a maze of streets to fend for yourself. We could sort it but older people were panicking in case they got lost. The tour guide was very good & realised & took those with him so they felt comfortable & did not get lost. I think you should provide maps of Venice to help. In your brochure you should state how long the train journey is to get there as lots of us did not realise how long a day it would be. Coach driver was a terrible driver from Milan to hotel, very uncomfortable & when you suffer with travel sickness it made it feel worse. Last hotel in Strasburg the rooms overlook the bar & reception area & so until very late (after midnight) the sound into rooms disturbed your sleep. The last evening meal in Strasburg together was awful re very poor food & most of us left it. The last breakfast was also very very poor. There was not enough tables & seating, hardly any food & most of the time no staff to bring out more food or clear the table of dirty plates etc. Need to stress more to group about pick pockets as we nearly had a phone stolen. Could not fault Italy, views, trips included, locals were friendly & tour guide was excellent also first hotel in Paris was excellent but you really need to address points raised above.
The organisation from start to finish was very well done.
A well-balanced tour with the correct mix of organised tours and free time.
First holiday with GRJ very impressed
The whole trip was very good ,I had booked the trip in November 16 and was not disappointed with any part of the holiday.
wonderful holiday no complaints
Good guide, good views and friendly group.
Hotel and resort were both very good. Journeys were tiring. Tour manager was excellent.
Great experience but initial journey from Paris to Milan far too long. Good choice of hotel and while we appreciated it was very close to the railway station it was a little far from the town centre and up a very steep hill Walking around the sites in the July sun was at times almost unbearable and the free time given was perhaps too long.
Very enjoyable holiday overall. I have concern at the amount of coach journeys, particularly on this trip. The journey from Paris to the hotel in Desenzano was far too long in one day.
Relax on the shores of Italy’s largest lake