Discover and explore the picture-perfect Sirmione
Known as the 'Pearl of the Lake', picture-perfect Sirmione is perched on a peninsula on the southern shore of Lake Garda. On this exceptional tour we visit Mantova, the Sigurtá Gardens, and iconic Venice, for a guided tour of this incredible 'Floating City.'
We meet our group and Tour Manager at Great Rail Journeys' dedicated Departure Office in London St Pancras International today, where our adventure begins. Leaving on the Eurostar to Paris, we travel in Standard Premier Class. On arrival in the French capital, we continue by high-speed rail to Chambéry, where we overnight.
On Day 2 we continue by rail and coach to Lake Garda. We arrive at the southern end of Lake Garda, where the lakefront is almost sea-like and inviting beaches line the shores of the wide expanse of water. Our destination is the charming town of Sirmione, situated on a peninsula jutting into the lake. Surrounded on three sides by water, Sirmione is one of Lake Garda's most peaceful towns. We spend seven nights at the 4-Star Hotel Continental, overlooking the lake. Located close to Sirmione's center, the Hotel Continental offers a wonderful setting and superb service for our stay, and our host Giovanni will be on hand to make your stay as enjoyable as possible.
Today is yours to spend as you wish. Sirmione is a pleasure to discover; the town is bursting with history and charm, including the imposing Rocca Scaligera - a beautifully preserved 13th century castle surrounded by a large water-filled moat that dominates the Old Quarter of town. Built by the Scaligeri family of Verona, this enormous squarecut castle looms over the only footbridge into town.
From the top of the tower, you can enjoy impressive views of the harbour. One option for your day is to take advantage of Sirmione's thermal springs, which naturally pump out water at a blissful 99°F. On Day 4 our excursion takes us by coach to historical Verona - a city of Roman ruins, medieval buildings, Italian culture and romance - the setting for Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet. On our guided tour of the city which takes us into Verona's historic heart, we will see Juliet's balcony and Verona's great Roman Arena, which remains largely intact and is still used today as an open-air opera house, with performances taking place during the summer season.
There is some free time following our tour to explore Verona at your own pace. Perhaps stroll along the Piazza delle Erbe, a former Roman forum, now home to some of Verona's most elegant buildings.
Lined with al fresco eateries and typical Veronese cafés, this is a perfect spot from which to appreciate the buzz of the city. Leaving Verona, we continue to a local wine cooperative in Valpolicella, where we enjoy a wine tasting and a talk about the region's wine production. We have a dinner of homemade dishes in the idyllic setting of the rustic farmhouse.
This morning we drive to the wonderful Sigurta Gardens, an oasis of colourful plant life set in the foothills around Lake Garda. We have time to stroll around the grounds, and admire its different flora, follies and water gardens.
Later we drive to the beautifully preserved medieval city of Mantova, briefly stopping at the picturesque village of Il Borghetto en route, with time to explore. Mantova became one of the leading Renaissance cities under the guidance of the all-powerful Gonzaga family. On arrival we visit the sumptuous Ducal Palace where the family resided. During our guided tour we explore the formidable complex of buildings and some of its 500 rooms before returning to Sirmione.
Following a leisurely morning in Sirmione, we head to the incomparable, romantic city of Venice. The glorious city is set in its own shimmering lagoon - an incredible environment that has UNESCO World Heritage status.
On arrival a private boat transports us along the myriad of waterways to St Mark's Square, without a doubt one of the world's most beautiful city squares. Overlooked by St Mark's Basilica, the large open space is surrounded by the Doge's Palace, the famous Sansoviniana Bookshop and the iconic bell tower, as well as the waters of the lagoon.
Our guide greets us in St Mark's Square and takes us on a tour of the city, leading us around the narrow winding streets, and small squares to visit some of Venice's main sights. After the tour, you are free to explore this unique city. Perhaps visit the Peggy Guggenheim collection, located in the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni. After losing her father on the Titanic, the famous heiress became one of the greatest art collectors of the 20th century, amassing works from up to 200 artists.
Enjoy a free day to relax and unwind in the warm local climate. Bursting with history and charm, Sirmione has plenty to explore. The Grotte di Catullo, a ruined Roman villa, is well worth a visit; enveloped by established olive groves, the villa occupies an enviable position, with stunning views over Lake Garda. Perhaps explore the prehistoric pile-dwellings, or stilt houses, at Lugana Vecchia. These houses have, in some cases, stood since the Neolithic era. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, these ancient dwellings were the marshy homes of early Alpine agrarian societies and provide a wonderful window into human history in Europe.
Travelling by coach up Lake Garda's eastern shore, we make our way north to Malcesine, where the lake resembles the Norwegian fjords; a narrow stretch of Lake Garda where dramatic cliffs rise steeply from the very edge of the water. We enjoy time to explore Malcesine at leisure.
You may wish to take this opportunity to visit the 13th century Scaligeri Castle which dominates the town. The central town pre-dates back to a further time. Named after the della Scala family of Verona, who ruled this region in the 13th and 14th centuries, this ancient castle now houses a small museum on the Lake Garda area.
Or, you could travel by cable car up to the summit of Monte Baldo, Lake Garda's highest mountain. The modern Malcesine cable car is the simplest and most spectacular way to get to the summit. There is also the impressive Palazzo dei Capitani, another Scala construct, later remodelled by future owners in a traditional Venetian style. Later we cruise back to Sirmione, passing many small villages along the shore, on this delightfully scenic route. Tonight, we enjoy a farewell dinner together in our hotel.
We transfer to the local station by coach as we leave Sirmione and travel to Turin, where we overnight. On Day 10 we take the TGV service to Paris. Here we join the Eurostar service back to London, from where you are free to make your own way home.
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.
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 travel during your tour
Comfortable accommodation in your destination
Delicious meals included
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
of travellers would recommend this tour
based on 36 verified reviews
Your organisation of the tour was excellent. The food and staff in the Hotel Continentale in Sirmione were also excellent, as was it's location The room was adequate, offering nothing more that basic facilities - awkward shower, no long mirror, no waste paper basket, no drawers, no mat on the floor. The hotel seemed to be run for the convenience of the owner rather than for guests. i.e. not being able to pay for drinks until the day of departure at a time convenient for him not us, and not giving us a copy of our bills at time of ordering. I would recommend your end of the arrangements, pity about the running of a nearly good hotel.
lovely place, good hotel, lots to do and outstanding Tour Guide. Also had the extra help from Lorna, one of the Office Staff, who was delightful and really needed as it was a very large group - too many!
One of the most enjoyable tours we have ever taken!! All ran very smoothly with seamless organisation.
the entire trip was excellent and very accommodating for us as Australians
Travel & excellent hotels gave us a great tour
Well planned, excellent hotel, tour manager friendly and one of the best and able to cope with everything.
This was a superb trip. The hotel in Sirmione was the best we've experienced,even by GRJ's high standards. The excursions were varied in their interest and well organised, and the mainly excellent weather was the icing on the cake.
On the Saturday night when dinner was not being served we went to a restaurant recommended by previous holidaymakers but found it very disappointing. This in no way reflects on any aspect of Great Rail and was purely personal.
Excellent tour, great hotel with lovely food and attentive staff
Great itinerary, excellent tour leader. Organisation of the trips was flawless. Hotel choice good. Great balance between travelling and relaxing. We will definitely book another tour.
Discover and explore the picture-perfect Sirmione