Soak up the splendour of the Italian lakes
Soak up the splendour of the Italian lakes and surrounding Swiss mountains on an escorted rail vacation that centres on scenic beauty. Travel along the stunning route of the Centovalli Railroad, relax by the sublime shores of lakes Orta, Maggiore, and Como, and take a guided tour through the fashionable city of Milan.
Our tour begins today at our dedicated Departure Office in London St Pancras, where you meet your group and Tour Manager. From here, we travel by Eurostar to Paris. On arrival in Paris, we change trains and continue to Turin by rail, where we overnight. We enjoy our first dinner together in the hotel this evening.
After breakfast today, we continue to Novara by rail, transferring to nearby Pettenasco, a delightful town on the shores of Lake Orta, and our home for 7 nights. With its quiet charm, Lake Orta is one of Italy's lesser-known treasures, and unspoilt Pettenasco is a tranquil and historic destination. The Alps provide a fine backdrop for the town, while the sparkling waters of the lake add to its attractive appeal. We stay at the 4-Star Hotel L'Approdo, which has stunning waterfront views.
Today we take our first excursion to one of the blissful Italian lakes, the shimmering waters of Lake Maggiore. Having welcome visitors since the 19th century, Lake Maggiore and its surrounding villages have a 'Belle Epoque' feel in their design, with pretty promenades and sunbaked villas adding to the charm of already alluring lakeside resorts.
Our time here includes a visit to the stunning Borromean Islands, which are only accessible by boat. Starting at Stresa, we first explore Isola Bella, home of the exquisite Borromeo Palace. Here, we have a guided tour of the sumptuous palace and its immaculate grounds, soaking up the splendour of its Baroque architecture and lavish interior design, all set within magnificent Italian-style gardens. Our next stop is the tiny Isola dei Pescatori, a permanently-inhabited island - of narrow cobbled alleyways and pretty buildings. It is thought to have been first inhabited in the 10th century, and today there are approximately 50 permanent residents on the island. 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 at leisure, before cruising back to Stresa, from where we return to Pettenasco.
Our excursion today is to nearby Isola San Giulio. Topped with a peaceful wood and an enchanting 12th-century chapel that dominates the island, Isola San Giulio is home to a small enclave of Benedictine nuns. After free time to discover the wonders of the island under your own steam, we continue by boat to Orta San Guillo, for further time to explore.
We venture to the ever fashionable city of Milan this morning, Italy's second largest city. A guided tour introduces us to the city's rich artistic, cultural and architectural heritage, as we discover the outstanding Castel Sforzesco, La Scala Opera House, Vittorio Emmanuele Galleries and see the stunning exterior of Milan's cathedral. After, you are free to explore this modern city at leisure.
Our excursion on Day 6 takes us to another of Italy's best-loved lakes, the incredible Lake Como. Located in the foothills of the Italian and Swiss Alps, Como is Italy's deepest lake. Set within picturesque, almost fjord-like, scenery, Lake Como has, for centuries, been a popular destination for Italians escaping the heat of the cities, and as a result there are many historic and beautiful villas lining the shores, such as the Villa Carlotta and the Villa D'Este. The area's beauty has made it hugely popular with celebrities, who have chosen to make Como their second or third home, while Lake Como has featured as a location for the James Bond film, Casino Royale.
We first transfer by coach to Cadenabbia, a village on the shores of the lake, where we join a boat to Bellagio, a charming peninsula town that juts out into the lake. Bellagio has magnificent views across the crystal blue waters, and is one of the oldest tourist towns in Italy. Though the entire of Lake Como area is renowned for its intrinsic ambiance, Bellagio in particular has always stood out due to its unique location. You are free to explore Bellagio at your own pace before continuing to attractive Menaggio whose main square is the perfect place to enjoy a gelato and watch the world go by!
Today's full-day excursion takes us on one of Europe's most scenic railroads, the narrow-gauge Centovalli Railroad, on an excursion to Locarno in Switzerland. We start with a coach transfer from our hotel to Domodossola, where we board this wonderful train for a delightfully scenic Standard Class journey across the border to the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland. The line threads its way across 'a hundred valleys' that give the railroad 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. We then return to Pettenasco by coach, in time for dinner at our hotel this evening.
Your final day by Lake Orta is free to relax. Nicknamed by some in-the-know Italians 'La Cenerentola' ('Cinderella'), the lake has the reputation of an overlooked, yet far more beautiful sister to some of the better-known bodies of water in the Italian lake district. This evening, we enjoy a farewell dinner together at our hotel, providing the opportunity to share our favourite experiences from a delightful lakeside vacation.
We bid a fond farewell to Italy today, as we transfer to Stresa by coach. From here, we travel by rail to Dijon, where we overnight. On Day 10, we complete our journey by rail, traveling to Paris, where we board the Eurostar to London. On arrival, our tour concludes.
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.
You may check in at the first hotel on your itinerary anytime after 14:00; your Tour Manager will be available between 16:00 and 18:00. However, if you are arriving later, you can meet your Tour Manager before dinner from 19:00.
An escorted experience and travel during your tour
Comfortable accommodation in your destination
Delicious meals included
Exciting excursions and free time to explore
Soak up the splendour of the Italian lakes