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Villas & Gardens of the Italian Lakes

(Tour code: VGS6)Discover the natural joys of Italy

The warm climes and natural resources of Lake Garda and Lake Maggiore make them the perfect area for an array of beautiful and historic gardens. Discover the natural joys of Italy with visits to stunning gardens, a guided talk with a horticultural expert and a visit to the oldest botanical garden in the world.

Tour Highlights
  • Sirmione on Lake Garda
  • Tour of the Sigurtà Gardens
  • Mantova & Isola del Garda
  • Padua’s botanical gardens
  • The Valsanzibio Gardens
  • Villa Cicogna Mozzoni
  • Stresa on Lake Maggiore
  • The Borromean Islands
  • Villa Taranto
What’s Included (Full details)
  • First Class Rail
  • 4* Hotel Accommodation
    Breakfast Every Day
  • Optional Bag Concierge

Itinerary & Map

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Departure Times

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.

Eurostar
Day 1

London to Chambéry via Paris

We meet our group this morning at Great Rail Journeys' dedicated departure office at St Pancras International. We then board the Eurostar service straight to Paris, enjoying a light meal and drinks on our journey. From the French capital we continue by rail to Chambéry where we spend the night, enjoying dinner on arrival.

Includes:
  • Dinner
  • Eurostar Meal
Sirmione
Day 2

Onwards to Lake Garda

After breakfast this morning we continue our journey southwards, travelling by train over the Italian border and arriving into Peschiera. We transfer to delightful Sirmione on Lake Garda this afternoon. Located at the southern end of the lake, where inviting beaches line the shores of the wide expanse of water, this picturesque town occupies a beautiful position jutting out into the lake. Surrounded by water on three sides, Sirmione is one of the most peaceful towns on Lake Garda and here we check in to our hotel for the next four nights, the Hotel Flaminia.

Includes:
  • Breakfast, Dinner
The Sigurtà Gardens
Day 3

The Sigurtà Gardens & Mantova

We set out by coach this morning for our first full-day excursion exploring the natural beauty that blooms in this part of the world. Our first stop is the wonderful Sigurtà Gardens, an oasis of colourful plant life set in the foothills around Lake Garda, and one of Italy's most historic gardens. Here we are lucky enough to partake in an included guided talk with a garden expert, who will be able to give a fascinating insight into the flora and fauna that grow here and the special care and attention needed to help them flourish. Explore the water garden, medicinal herb garden, grotto, lakes and woodland. Later we continue to the beautifully preserved medieval city of Mantova, which became one of the area's leading Renaissance cities. We enjoy a walking tour through the attractive cobbled piazzas and are immersed into a fabulous world of Italian architecture, including the distinctive Rotonda di San Lorenzo and the striking Basilica di Sant'Andrea. We also make a visit to the sumptuous Ducal Palace, the former home of the allpowerful Gonzaga family. During our tour we explore this formidable complex of buildings with its 500 plus rooms, including the renowned Bridal Chamber. This opulent room is filled with gorgeous frescoes depicting the chronological story of the family.

Includes:
  • Breakfast
  • Excursions
Padua
Day 4

Padua and its gardens

Today we transfer by coach to the city of Padua, known for its historic university as well as for being the setting for some of Shakespeare's most well-known plays. Our destination here is the city's UNESCO World Heritage listed Orto Botanico, or Botanical Gardens. There has been a botanical garden on this site since 1545 when this, the first ever of its kind in the world, was created. It still preserves its original layout - with its central focus representing the world, surrounded by water. Though it has been added to over the years, it still continues its 'working' role as a garden that helps with scientific research. We are able to discover the gardens on a guided tour which takes in its large collection of trees from around the world, the greenhouses housing plant varieties from five continents and the impressive water features. From here we continue to the Valsanzibio Gardens, a 16th-century rural villa stretching out over 40 acres just south of Padua. Built by the Venetian Barbarigo family in the 1600s, we take a tour of its most impressive features including the Baroque garden, with its statue of aged and winged time, the 17th century Boxwood Labyrinth and the array of waterfalls and fountains.

Includes:
  • Breakfast, Dinner
  • Excursions
Isola Del Garda
Day 5

Isola del Garda

We enjoy one of the highlights of our tour today as we head out to visit Isola del Garda, the biggest island in Lake Garda. We make the journey by boat, stepping off into an idyllic natural retreat that also boasts a fascinating history dating back to Roman times. We are treated to a guided tour of the gardens and the house, an impressive neo-Gothic villa which is still owned by the Cavazza family, and is home to gardens which are rich in local and exotic plants and unique flowers. There is also a small wood of pines and cypresses, acacias and lemon trees, magnolias and agaves that can be explored.

Includes:
  • Breakfast
  • Isola del Garda
Stresa
Day 6

Stresa

After checking out of the hotel this morning, we begin our journey by coach to Lake Maggiore, stopping en route at the Renaissance Villa Cicogna Mozzoni which has been the home of the noble Mozzoni family since the 15th century. Inspired by the classical architecture of Rome and Florence, the gardens and villa are a delight to explore. We enjoy lunch here with one of the members of the family before continuing to Stresa on Lake Maggiore, for four nights at the Grand Hotel Bristol.

Includes:
  • Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
The Borromean Islands
Days 7-8

The Borromean Islands

Today we discover two of the beautiful Borromean Islands, set in the shimmering waters of Lake Maggiore. We cruise firstly to Isola Bella for a guided visit to the sumptuous Borromeo Palace. This magnificent Baroque structure dominates the island, and after a tour of its lavish rooms we explore the alluring Italian-style gardens. Our next stop is the tiny Isola dei Pescatori, inhabited by a population of just a hundred people, and made up of narrow cobbled alleyways and pretty buildings. It boasts a fine selection of restaurants in which you can relax and savour the local delicacies whilst soaking up the laid-back atmosphere, before making our return to Stresa. Day 8 is at leisure for you to explore at your own pace. Why not take a stroll down the flower-filled promenade or realx by the pool?

Includes:
  • Day 7-8 - Breakfast
Villa Taranto
Day 9

Villa Taranto

We make our way by boat to the colourful botanical gardens of Villa Taranto this morning. Created by Scotsman Captain Neil McEarcharn in the 1930s to remind him of home, the Villa Taranto is a great example of a traditional English garden in the middle of an Italian setting. Open to the public since 1952, you are free to discover the Valetta, 'little valley', the terraced gardens and waterfalls, the water lily and lotus pools, as well as the ornamental fountains. On our return to Stresa, we enjoy a farewell dinner at the hotel.

Includes:
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Homeward Bound
Days 10-11

Homeward bound

We say goodbye to Stresa today, travelling by rail to Basel where we spend the night. On Day 11 we continue our journey home by taking the train to Paris where we connect with the Eurostar service back to London.

Includes:
  • Day 10 - Breakfast, Dinner
  • Day 11 - Breakfast, Eurostar Meal
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