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.
We continue on this morning by rail across Northern Italy to the shores of Lake Garda. 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.
Spend a day at leisure in Desenzano, which has been a popular tourist destination since around the 1st century BC, when wealthy families from Verona began to visit the lake for holidays. Today the town continues to delight visitors with its beautiful architecture and views of the Alps to the north. The compact centre is filled with pretty squares lined with charming pavement cafés and restaurants, offering the perfect opportunity to relax with a glass of wine and savour some delicious local cuisine.
Travel by rail to the glorious 'Floating City' of Venice, which sits on a shimmering lagoon and is famed for its gondola-filled waterways, twisting lanes and undeniable romantic atmosphere.
A private boat transports us along the Giudecca Canal, giving us our first chance to soak up the atmosphere of the unique city. Arrive at St Mark's Square, one of the most beautiful city squares in the world, overlooked by St Mark's Basilica. We are greeted by a local guide who introduces us to the city on a walking tour, leading us around the quaint streets and small squares to visit some of Venice's main sights. The afternoon is free to explore. 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. Or, perhaps indulge in a quintessentially Venetian activity with a gondola ride along the famous waterways.
Spend another day exploring the narrow streets, medieval castle and picturesque waterfront in Desenzano. As today is market day, why not make your way to the Old Town where you will find the main square filled with stalls selling locally produced food and crafts. You might prefer to explore further afield with a visit to stylish Milan. Here, you can visit wonderful sights, including the incredible Duomo - the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, and the famous 'Teatro alla Scala' opera house.
Cruise across the waters of Lake Garda today to the wooded Isola del Garda, the biggest island on the lake, which is dominated by an impressive neo-Gothic villa, the Villa Borghese-Cavazza. A superb example of neo-Gothic architecture, the villa was designed by the architect Luigi Rovelli at the beginning of the 20th century, and still proves just as splendid to modern visitors. The island is still to this day home to the Cavazza family, and often guided tours are run by the Countesses themselves. Explore the exquisite villa and extensive gardens with a guided tour, seeing exotic plants jostling for position amongst verdant foliage and beautifully manicured terraces which run down to the water. We end our visit with an aperitif of local wine in the stunning surrounds of the island.
Travel by rail today to beautiful Verona - a city of Roman ruins, medieval buildings and Italian romance, and the setting for Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet. On our guided tour of this UNESCO World Heritage city, we stroll into Verona's historic heart to see Juliet's balcony and the great Roman Arena. There is free time following our tour to explore at your own pace. You could take a tour of the Roman Arena itself, or 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 spend some time perusing the designer shops on the fashionable Via Mazzini.
After breakfast, travel by rail to Turin, where we spend the night. On Day 10 continue by rail to Paris for the Eurostar back to London.
For this tour, we recommend arriving to, and departing from, London Gatwick or London Heathrow airport (LGW or LHR). London Gatwick is approximately 30 miles from your start and end point, and London Heathrow is approximately 19 miles from your start and end point.
It is your responsibility to check and fulfil the passport, visa, health and immigration requirements applicable to your itinerary. We do not accept any responsibility if you cannot travel, or incur any other loss because you have not complied with any passport, visa, immigration requirements or health formalities. You agree to reimburse us in relation to any fines or other losses which we incur as a result of your failure to comply with any passport, visa, immigration requirements or health formalities.
All prices are per person and assume full occupancy of the room.
Please always refer to the website for up-to-date prices and availability.
The high speed Eurostar trains link St Pancras International in London with Paris and Lille in France as well as Brussels in Belgium.
Eurostar's Standard Class coaches feature two seats on either side of the central aisle, most of which is arranged in an 'airline' seating configuration with drop down tray tables. There are two tables for four per carriage. Passengers travelling in Eurostar Standard Class coaches can take advantage of the Bar-Buffet which sells a range of snacks, meals, hot and cold drinks - including Champagne!
The highest class of Eurostar travel available for leisure customers is Standard Premier Class. In your dedicated Standard Premier carriage you'll find a less dense seat configuration, meaning the seats are larger and you have ample space to relax and stretch out. As part of the service you'll enjoy complimentary drinks and refreshments, served at your seat by friendly, helpful waiting staff.
For the class of travel used on your chosen tour, please refer to the 'What's Included' section of the tour page.
Introduced in 1981, France's TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) was the original European high-speed train. Linking Paris with Lyon, the new service revolutionised train travel and meant that travelling by air over medium and short distances was no longer seen as the best option, even for business travel.
The network has expanded rapidly and today these sleek, stylish trains offer links to over 60 destinations throughout France. Operated by SNCF, the French national rail operator, TGV trains travel over specially-constructed high speed lines. The trains can achieve speeds of up to 186mph (300km/h) on most long distance routes and 200mph (320km/h) on the new TGV Est line, which links Paris with Strasbourg, Luxembourg and Basel. With the exception of shorter journeys, TGVs almost always have an on-board buffet car, serving a selection of drinks and light refreshments.
The 4-Star Hotel Desenzano is a family-run establishment, situated close to the centre of the town, within walking distance of the harbour and just 170 metres from the railway station, for superb convenience. The centre of Desenzano del Garda is nearby, allowing for an easy stroll into town on a free day.
Boasting immaculate furnishings and impeccable service, the hotel has its own outdoor swimming pool, a solarium, a roof terrace during the summer months, and a cocktail bar - the ideal place for guests to relax and sample a range of local wines the hotel keeps stocked. The bar is open throughout the day, so refreshments are always available.
Rooms are air conditioned with a telephone, a flat-screen television, a minibar, a safe and a hairdryer. Complimentary Wi-Fi is provided in each en-suite room, and each guest room includes a balcony.
We offer a selection of upgrades and 'add-ons' designed to help you make the most of your holiday - and make it even easier!