Explore the alluring Lake Como
Alluring Lake Como has been attracting visitors to its beautiful shores for more than 200 years. On our spectacular tour based around the lake, we take in pretty Italian towns, lake steamers, mountain scenery and historic mansions. We also enjoy an enthralling journey into Switzerland on the Bernina Express, a stunning railway line with UNESCO protection.
We meet our group and Tour Manager at Great Rail Journeys' dedicated Departure Office in London St Pancras International, where our Italian adventure begins. We then board the Eurostar to Paris, continuing by rail to the charming Italian city of Turin. Dinner is provided this evening at our hotel.
On Day 2 we continue our journey to Lake Como. After breakfast, we board a highspeed train to the fashion capital, Milan, where we change trains for Chiasso. We cross Italy, travelling through scenic landscapes before arriving into Chiasso station. We then transfer by coach to the town of Cernobbio, located on the shore of Lake Como. On arrival, we check in to the 4-Star Hotel Regina Olga, our base for the next seven nights. Cernobbio is one of Lake Como's prettiest resorts, dotted with elegant villas that have housed the rich and famous for centuries.
Amongst the better-known inhabitants of age-old villas are Caroline of Brunswick, otherwise known as the 16th century Princess of Wales, and the director Luchino Visconti. A stroll along the waterfront will allow you to appreciate many of these fine buildings, and you may recognise one or two from the 2004 heist movie, Ocean's Twelve - Cernobbio was used as a location for the film, and its star, George Clooney, lives within a few miles of the town.
Today we visit Villa del Balbianello, a sumptuous mansion built by Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini at the end of the 18th century. Famous for its role in the 2006 James Bond film, Casino Royale, this glorious villa was also used as a backdrop in Star Wars Episode II, owing to its reputation as one of the most dramatic locations on Lake Como. We enjoy a tour of the villa and its sculpted gardens before continuing by boat to Bellagio, where we can enjoy some free time.
Situated on the edge of a peninsula that juts into the lake, Bellagio has magnificent views across the crystal blue waters, and is one of the oldest tourist towns in Italy. We return to Cernobbio by boat and coach in time for dinner at the hotel.
Today is at leisure for you to explore around Cernobbio and beyond. Surrounded by picturesque, almost fjord-like, scenery - where towering mountains fall steeply to the water's edge - Lake Como is a wonderful place for a scenic stroll.
Today we board a coach to Bergamo, located in the foothills of the Alps. The town owes much of its artistic inspiration and architectural splendour to the influence of Venice, which ruled Bergamo from the 15th to the 18th century. On arrival we visit the 'Città Alta', or 'upper town', for a guided tour. Filled with glorious Renaissance buildings, the upper town is encircled by 17th century walls. Of particular interest here is the Piazza Vecchia, which contains one of the most appealing architectural ensembles in the region.
Highlights of this delightful square include the Palazzo Nuovo, Palazzo del Podestà, Palazzo della Ragione and the Torre del Campanone. Afterwards, we head to a local estate for a traditional meal, a tour of the cellars and a tasting of the wines of Lombardy and Franciacorta. Best known for the production of Italy's most refined sparkling wine, usually blending chardonnay and pinot noir or pinot blanc grapes, our wine tour is an especial treat for the tastebuds.
We take a spectacular journey aboard the Bernina Express today, climbing the Bernina Pass to more than 7,000ft. The superb Bernina Line is over 100 years old and has been awarded with UNESCO World Heritage status for its incredible engineering, as well as for the breathtaking scenery it passes through.
You have free time in St Moritz for lunch before returning by coach to Lake Como. Although famed for its winter sports, St Moritz also has a wonderful culinary tradition, influenced heavily by the nearby Italian border. Perhaps enjoy lunch with a view, at one of the many mountainside restaurants. Local cuisine is hearty, and often followed by traditional Engadine nut torte, which is made with honey and walnuts.
We travel to Varenna this morning, a quaint village, often referred to as the 'Pearl of Lake Como'. Dotted with pastel-coloured houses, this beautiful village is abundant with greenery and gardens, making it a perfect postcard resort.
Varenna also boasts one of the best-preserved medieval centres in the region, with winding cobblestone streets, charming porticos and historic churches dating as far back as the 10th century. To best experience Varenna's historic heart, simply stroll from the pier across the delightful 'Lover's Walk', an enchanting waterfront route, named for its romantic feel. Lined with hanging willows and cypress trees, this pretty promenade is considered one of Varenna's principal attractions, and provides a wonderful introduction to the town.
You have some free time to relax and arrange lunch here; perhaps enjoy traditional Italian cuisine at one of the many delicious lakefront restaurants lining the harbour. Later we continue to the unusual Villa Monastero, a Nordic style property just outside of Varenna that is home to a large botanical garden boasting a number of rare species.
We also explore the house, whose 14 rooms are furnished as they once were throughout the decades, dating right back to when the Villa was appropriated as a private residence in the 16th century.
On Day 8 we take a coach to Lake Lugano, in the Italian speaking region of Switzerland, for a full-day excursion. Lugano offers a taste of Switzerland with a distinctly laid-back Italian vibe, with its lush vegetation, scenic hiking routes and fantastic boutique shopping. Bordered by promenades and parks, the lakeside town of Lugano is picturesque and tranquil.
For the best views of the lake's crystal clear glacial waters, you may like to take the funicular railway up to Monte Bré (payable locally).
Providing breathtaking panoramic views of Lake Lugano, the Monte Generoso and the Italian enclave of Campione d'Italia, the café at the summit is a perfect place to soak in the stunning Alpine vistas. On our return to Lake Como, we enjoy a farewell dinner together, to celebrate the wonderful experiences we have shared during our time in Italy.
This morning we take the train to Strasbourg for the night, travelling via Basel. On Day 10 we continue by high-speed rail to Paris for the Eurostar back to London.
Please note that while every departure of this tour will feature the same excursions, the order may differ from that shown above.
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
Explore the alluring Lake Como