The Italians themselves regard the mountains and lakes of the north as their country's greatest natural treasures. So how about a boat trip on the rippling waters past elegant villas and serene villages, with snow-capped mountain peaks in the background.
During this experience trip, you will have plenty of time to stroll past elegant villas or palazzos, unique English- or Italian-style botanical gardens, and historic buildings. It is not without good reason that the 19th-century European aristocracy had their summer residence here.
Garda, Como or Maggiore? On this trip, you will have a chance to get to know your favourite lake. Plus, follow Romeo and Juliet's footsteps in Verona, one of Italy's richest cities. Romance guaranteed.
Day 1 : Departure to Milan
Your holiday starts at the airport where you willl catch the plane to Milan. You will collect your rental car and start your drive (40 or 60 km) to Lake Maggiore, where you will stay in a stately 'Grand Hotel' on the western shore or in a modern furnished hotel on the eastern shore. Both hotels are right on the lake.
Day 2 : Pallanza and Stresa or Lake Orta
Pallanza's historic centre is a maze of ancient streets lined with pretty villas and 'palazzi'. Stroll past coloured houses and pavement cafes along the beautiful promenade overlooking the Borromeo Islands. A little further on is Villa Taranto with its simply stunning botanical gardens. You continue to lively Stresa, popular with bathers but also with artists and writers. Here you can take a cable lift to the top of Monte Mottarone. On a clear day, you will have a view of 7 lakes from here! Those who wish can also go to the small Lake Orta. In picturesque Orta San Giulio, take a boat to San Giulio Island with its Romanesque basilica and bishop's palace. Here you will find the largest Benedictine monastery in the world, where the nuns live in silence.
Day 3 : The Borromeo Islands
Today you will get to know the three islands of the Borromeo family, one of the richest and most famous Italian families of the past. You will take the boat to Isola Bella, with the imposing baroque palace of Carlo Borromeo and its magnificent terraced gardens, where graceful white peacocks roam in a fabulous setting. Furthermore, you will also discover the authentic Isola Madre, the mother island, almost entirely occupied by gardens and Isola Pescatori, which features seafood restaurants.
Day 4 : Lake Como
You are expected at Lake Como, the most varied of the great lakes. Here you will stay in one of our Caractère hotels. Make sure to make a stop in Como, with its lively centre and beautiful 'Duomo' or in lovely Cernobbio.
Day 5 and Day 6 : Bellagio and the western shore
Enjoy two days of fantastic scenery here. The charming and lively Bellagio has a spectacular location. Count Francesco Melzi had a villa with beautiful gardens built here in the 19th century, attracting the Milanese nobility to the town. One of the most beautiful places on the lake is Menaggio, with its panoramic promenade. In Tremezzina (formerly Tremezzo), the 18th-century Villa Carlotta boasts terrace gardens filled with rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and exotic trees.
Day 7 : Lake Garda
On the way to Lake Garda, you can visit Bergamo. Numerous medieval and Renaissance monuments, the particularly beautiful 'Piazza Vecchia' and the 'Cappella Coleoni' colour the fascinating old upper town. If you want to explore one of the smaller lakes, stop at Lake Iseo, with Monte Isola, Europe's largest lake island. You can stay in a small-scale romantic hotel, an elegant and historic hotel or a contemporary resort.
Day 8 : Gardone Riviera and Monte Baldo
A must-see is Gabriele d'Annunzio's 'Il Vittoriale' in Gardone Riviera. The famous poet and writer bought the estate in 1922 and, after his death and full of valuables, left it to the Italian people. The estate includes D'Annunzio's home, an amphitheatre, a museum and the mausoleum where the poet is buried. From Toscolano-Maderno you can take a ferry boat to Torri del Benaco and continue by car to Malcesine: a cable lift takes you to the top of Monte Baldo and treats you to dazzling panoramas. You can also visit Limone sul Garda, one of the most picturesque towns on the lake.
Day 9 : Sirmione - Verona
The picturesque spa town of Sirmione sits on a peninsula and is built around the 'Rocca Scaligera', a sturdy 13th-century castle. A must-see is Verona, one of the richest cities in the country and the romantic city of Romeo and Juliet. The imposing 'Arena' shows off in the bustling Piazza Brà. This Roman amphitheatre, the most preserved in Italy, hosts the opera festival in summer. Otherwise, go for a stroll past elegant boutiques, small restaurants and delightful squares, including the cosy 'Piazza delle Erbe'.
Day 10 : Going home
Your holiday is over. You drive back to Venice airport with great memories and return your rental car.
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