A fantastic lakeside hotel on Lake Maggiore
From our stunning location overlooking beautiful Lake Maggiore in the picturesque town of Stresa, we explore this magnificent region of Italy. We cross Lake Maggiore to explore the Borromean Islands, taste the wines of the Monferrato region, visit enchanting Lake Orta and travel into Switzerland on the scenic Centovalli Railway.
We meet our group and Tour Manager at the exclusive Departure Office in St Pancras International before boarding the Eurostar for Paris, travelling in Standard Premier Class. We arrive into Paris where we spend the night. Your evening is free to explore the wonderful French capital city and to dine out in one of the many restaurants close to the hotel.
Leaving Paris, we travel in First Class on the high-speed TGV service to Switzerland. Our route takes us along the verdant Rhône Valley and through the famous Simplon Pass, before heading across the border into Italy. After continuing across the beautiful Italian countryside, we arrive in the pretty lakeside town of Stresa. We stay here for seven nights at the elegant Hotel Regina Palace, where we enjoy a welcome drink on the terrace, a superb location to admire the wonderful views of sparkling Lake Maggiore.
Today you have the chance to explore Stresa at your own pace. An ideal way to get your bearings is to enjoy a walk along the attractive, flower-filled promenade, lined with impressive villas and neatly terraced gardens. You may wish to take a boat to the colourful botanical gardens of Villa Taranto and the Sanctuary of Santa Caterina del Sasso, nestled in a rocky overhang on the lake. Alternatively, perhaps travel by cable car from Stresa up Mount Mottarone - the journey offers an amazing panorama, and on a clear day, your views from the snow-dusted peak include seven lakes as well as the Italian and Swiss Alps.
Today we discover two of the beautiful Borromean Islands, set in the shimmering waters of Lake Maggiore. We leave Stresa by boat and cruise to the Isola Bella for a guided visit to the sumptuous Borromeo Palace. The magnificent Baroque structure dominates the island, and after a tour of its lavish rooms we explore the alluring Italian-style gardens.
The spectacular gardens are on ten terraces and include an open-air theatre with geometrically designed hedging, water-lilies and citrus trees, the Azalea Garden and the 'Piano della Canfora', which is named for the 150-year-old laurel tree growing there. In the English garden, there are lotus flowers, whilst at the highest point of the garden there is a great unicorn, the symbol of the Borromeo family.
Our next stop is the tiny Isola dei Pescatori, a permanently-inhabited island - by fewer than a hundred people - of narrow cobbled alleyways and pretty buildings. It boasts a fine selection of restaurants in which to enjoy lunch, with many menus loyal to the island's rich fishing heritage. We enjoy an afternoon exploring the charming island before cruising back to Stresa.
You have another opportunity to explore Stresa at your leisure. Today the town is transformed for Market Day, and the bustling, colourful stalls are well worth a visit. Should you wish to venture further afield, why not visit vibrant Milan, the capital of northern Italy? Perhaps visit the incredible Duomo - the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, a 19th century glass-roofed shopping arcade, or Teatro alla Scala, the beautiful opera house.
The stunning 2,800-seat opera theatre welcomed its premier performance in August 1778, with Antonio Salieri's Europa Riconosciuta, having been built to replace another theatre on the site, which was lost to a fire. Designed by Giuseppe Piermarini, the Teatro alla Scala is known for its sumptuous gilt and crimson interiors, as well as a rich history as the home of opera and ballet in Milan. For those feeling less energetic, you can make use of the excellent facilities at the hotel for a thoroughly relaxing day.
Our full-day excursion by coach takes us into the rolling countryside of the Monferrato wine region, famous for its vineyards stretching over hills interspersed with unspoilt villages. Monferrato is particularly important in the sparkling wine industry, and our day begins with a visit to a local wine producer where we have a tour of the vineyards, followed by a tasting of grappa, a regional grape brandy. We continue to an 'agriturismo' farm and enjoy a four-course farmhouse lunch of local specialities and a chance to sample some of the delicious locally produced wine.
Please Note: For departure STL1801 days 6 and 7 have swapped around.
Today's full-day excursion takes us on one of Europe's most scenic railways, the narrow-gauge Centovalli Railway, on an excursion to Locarno in Switzerland. The line threads its way across 'a hundred valleys' that give the railway its name, all the while passing through outstanding scenery of idyllic landscapes. We pass over deep ravines and gushing waterfalls, and alongside thick forests and through sleepy villages during the journey.
On arrival in Locarno, you are free to have lunch and explore at your leisure. As well as a picturesque Old Town, Locarno has beautiful subtropical gardens filled with palm trees and exotic flowers, lakeside promenades and great shopping under the arcades of the Piazza Grande. Later we cruise back down Lake Maggiore to Stresa - a splendid way to take in your surroundings on the homeward journey.
After a leisurely morning, we set off for Lake Orta, Lake Maggiore's smaller but no less enchanting neighbour. We enjoy a private boat cruise to the stunning Isola San Giulio, a tiny island dominated by its impressive basilica, before returning to explore the delightful Orta San Giulio, the atmospheric town known as the 'Jewel of the Lake'.
Situated on a tiny promontory against the dramatic backdrop of the Alps, this lovely town is truly a gem, with cobbled streets and a piazza overlooking the lake's sparkling waters. We return in good time for our dinner this evening.
We depart Stresa in the morning by train, travelling through the Simplon Tunnel and beautiful Alpine scenery over the border into Switzerland.
Skirting the shores of Lake Thun, we change trains at Basel and continue on into France and our overnight stop. We reach the pretty, half-timbered town of Colmar, where we overnight. Tonight we enjoy our final dinner together in the hotel.
Please Note: For departures STL1804 & STL1806 you will overnight in Mulhouse.
We leave Colmar by TGV for the journey to Paris. Here we cross the city by coach, then connect with Eurostar to London, where our tour concludes.
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 experience
A fantastic lakeside hotel on Lake Maggiore