Art, culture, grand cities and the extraordinary beauty of majestic lakes highlight this trip through Northern Italy.
For the 2,500 years of its history Milan, has always been an important center of power, wealth and commerce. Today it is the second largest city in Italy and is the country’s capital of finance, industry, design and fashion. In 2015 it was home to the Milano World Expo. The Last Supper of Leonardo, the Duomo and the Teatro dalla Scala are just a few highlights of our two night stay here. Additional features of our inland journeys are Bergamo Alta, charming Brescia, the palaces of Renaissance Mantova and the wonderful violin music of Cremona.
Fabulous lakeview rooms in Bellagio with visits to Villas Melfi, Balbianello and Carlotta spotlight our time on Lake Como. Our visit to Lake Garda includes a boat tour around the Sirmione peninsula. We will explore the Borromeo islands on Lake Maggiore by boat and enjoy lakeview rooms at our Stresa hotel. Our Italian Lakes tour explorations will round out with a morning on Lake Orta and lunch at a small vintner’s farmhouse.
Read what our travelers say about our Italian Lakes Small Group Tour!
Afternoon arrivals to the Hotel Milano Scala, our lodging for the first two nights on tour. Your tour manager will be expecting you in the hotel lobby at 3:30 pm for a two hour guided visit of the historic district that includes La Scala Theater, the Piazza Mercanti and the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele.
At 6:45 pm we’ll depart for our first evening out on the town. Welcome meeting and aperitifs in the garden of a local restaurant that was originally part of a 17th century palazzo. An introduction to traditional Milanese cuisine will follow.
The Cenacolo Vinciano, the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci is housed in the refectory of the Santa Maria delle Grazie Church. Painted between 1494 and 1498 Leonardo abandoned the traditional al fresco method (painting on wet plaster) for an experimental al secco (painting on dry wall) that resulted in much deterioration and successive restorations, the latest in 1999. It remains one of the world’s most celebrated works of art. Our morning will conclude with a viewing of the fabulous frescoes of San Maurizio al Monastero Maggiore.
Our guided walking tour will continue in the afternoon with a visit to the fabulous Duomo, the symbol of Milan and the fifth largest church on this planet. Begun in 1386, it took most of six centuries to complete.
Evening on your own
The Città Alta of Bergamo, set against the Italian Alps and rising 85 meters off the valley floor, presents one of the most beautiful hill town settings in all of Italy. Narrow medieval lanes contrasted by Renaissance squares and built upon a layout of the ancient Roman municipality, Bergamo was part of Visconti territory prior to being taken by Venice in 1428. The Venetians ruled for more than three hundred years and left behind an impressive six kilometer surrounding wall with fourteen bastions and four gates.
Our local guide tour will include a panoramic drive up to the old town followed by visits to the Piazza Vecchia and the Palazzo della Ragione.
Cable car ride up to Colle San Vigilio to enjoy spectacular views, beautiful villas and lunch on your own at one of the panoramic ristoranti.
Retreating Pleistocene glaciers left behind deep fingerlike impressions that are known to us as the Italian Lakes. This afternoon we’ll have our first encounter, arriving to enchanting Bellagio on Lake Como. We’ll be staying three nights at the Hotel Belvedere Bellagio.
Lake Como is formed in the shape of an upside down “Y”, Bellagio occupying the vertex and the internal shores where the lake splits into two branches. The town of 3,000 inhabitants has an intact medieval center surrounded by noble villas.
Today we’ll explore the western coastline and visit two extraordinary villas. Villa del Balbianello was constructed in the early 1800s on a promontory near the town of Lenno. The beauty of the villa, its spectacular setting and vistas have made it the location of many famous films. The explorer and mountain climber Guido Monzino purchased La Balbianello in 1974 and was responsible for its final transformation. Monzino donated the villa and his “museum” to the FAI (Italian National Trust). His wonderful collections include primitive art, tapestries, paintings on glass and period furniture as well as photos and memories from his expeditions to the North Pole and Mt. Everest.
Lunch on your own at one of the lakeside cafes of Lenno.
Villa Carlotta was built in the late 17th century on 70,000 square meters of land between the lake and mountains at Tremezzo. The exquisite Italian gardens are decorated with sculptures and fountains but their beauty is owed to the incredible variety of flowering and tropical plants and century old trees. The villa itself is a museum of 19th century art with works by Canova and Hayez and was one of the more important destinations of the “Grand Tour”. Afternoon guided visit.
Included dinner in Bellagio
This morning we’ll have a guided tour of Bellagio’s historic center with visits to the Romanesque church of San Giacomo, the La Punta viewpoint and the magnificent gardens of Villa Melzi, an early 19th century neoclassical estate.
Our tour will continue with a short boat ride to the lovely village of Varenna on the eastern shore of the lake after which you’ll have lunch and the rest of the day for your own explorations.
Brescia, the second most populous city in Lombardy, has a long history, beginning with Ligurians and Gauls, then as a Roman colony and afterwards a Lombard dukedom; after tumultuous centuries of various rulers it passed, along with Bergamo, to Venice. The historic center comprises a vast pedestrian zone with welcoming squares, elegant shops, cafes and restaurants. The 11th century Duomo Vecchio is a wonderful medieval round church built over a fifth century Roman basilica. This morning you’ll have free time to explore, to wander and to lunch in the lovely Piazza Paolo Sesto.
The brilliant Museo di Santa Giulia, housed in an 8th century Benedictine monastery, recounts the story of Brescia from prehistoric times to the present and includes wonderful Roman mosaics and medieval frescoes. Mid afternoon guided tour of the museum. Our lodging for the night is the Hotel Vittoria, located in the heart of the historic district. Evening on your own.
Cremona is most famous for three things – its extraordinary 111 meter bell tower, the Torrazzo; a delicious Christmas sweet made from almonds, honey, sugar and egg whites – the torrone; and the best made violins in the world. It also boasts a beautiful Duomo complex and one of the best preserved medieval squares, the Piazza del Comune.
Here in 1530 Andrea Amati invented the violin, a passage from plucking the strings a pizzico (with the fingers) to using a bow. In the 17th and 18th centuries violin making was raised to greater heights with the master liutai Andrea Guarneri and Antonio Stradivari.
Morning visit to a lute maker’s workshop, a violin recital in the baptistery and guided tour of the historic center. After lunch we’ll spend a very pleasing and musical hour at the Museo del Violino.
Departure for Mantova. Our lodging for two nights is the Hotel Casa Poli located in a 19th century structure, a 10 minute walk from the historic center. Before arriving to our hotel we’ll have a guided stroll through the city.
Mantova was founded by Etruscan peoples around the 6th century BC and in 214 BC became a Roman colony. In the 12th century, as an independent commune, a system of defense was created by deviating the waters of the River Mincio to form four lakes around the city thereby transforming Mantova into an island. Two bridges, still existing, consented entrance or exit. Later the city was divided in two by the construction of a canal to connect two of the lakes. Today it is still surrounded on three sides giving the magical appearance of a town arisen from the waters.
In their four centuries of rule (1328- 1707) the Gonzaga family created a period of political and economic stability and changed Mantova into an artistic and architectural jewel, the city reaching its maximum splendor in the 15th and 16th centuries.
The enormous Palazzo Ducale, the abode of the Gonzagas, has some 500 rooms displaying frescoes by the most important artists of their day including Mantegna, Tintoretto, Rubens and Pisanello. The morning will also include a visit to the Teatro Scientifico Bibiena. The theater was opened in 1769 and officially inaugurated by the 14 year old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It is a unique masterpiece constructed in the shape of a bell with gorgeous arched box seats.
The construction of Palazzo Te began in 1527 as a guest palace for the duke’s mistress. The architect Giulio Romano created a Renaissance masterpiece blending incredible structures with marvelous frescoes.
Sirmione on Lake Garda has been inhabited since prehistoric times. Wealthy Romans constructed vacation villas here and enjoyed the thermal waters that bubble up from the lake bottom. Situated on a peninsula on the southern end of the lake it had a strategic military importance up through medieval times, as evidenced by the 12th century Scaliger Castle. Today it is a picturesque tourist town with a charming historic center and many restaurants offering al fresco dining around the main square.
Included boat trip around the peninsula.
Transfer to the shores of LakeMaggiore in the region of Piemonte where we’ll be staying our last three nights on tour at the Hotel La Palma in Stresa.
Stresa has been a prominent tourist destination since the early 19th century. The graceful and stylish lakefront is lined with Art Nouveau hotels and fine villas and is lush with beautiful gardens. It overlooks the Borromeo Islands that take their name from the family who has owned them since the 15th and 16th centuries. Isola Bella and Isola Madre were transformed by the introduction of lavish palaces and amazing landscaping.
Evening boat ride for an included dinner on Isola dei Pescatori, a picturesque fishing village of an earlier era.
Lake Orta is one of the smaller of the sub-alpine northern Italian lakes, just 8 miles long and a mile wide. Lesser known and quieter, though in no way lacking in charm nor a fascinating history, Orta has been a favorite of writers (Balzac), poets (Browning) and philosophers (Nietzsche).
Our mid morning departure will take us to OrtaSan Giulio, the most populated (1,161) of the few settlements around the lake. A boat will take us to the enchanting Isola San Giulio. A wander around this picturesque tiny island (900 feet long by 460 feet wide), ringed by lovely palaces and draping wisteria vines, will lead us to the beautiful and interesting 12th century Romanesque basilica.
Midday visit to a small award winning cantina for a taste of their Nebbiolo wines and “zero kilometer” local products.
Evening on your own in Stresa
Our final morning begins with a boat ride to visit the most beautiful and remarkable botanical gardens of Isola Madre, boasting rare plants from the world over. The palace has splendid Borromeo furnishings and 18th century marionette theaters.
At Isola Bella we’ll have a guided tour of the ornate palazzo that is full of surprises and includes the extensive Borromeo collection of precious art. Lunch on your own.
Late afternoon free prior to our included farewell dinner.
Morning transfers to Stresa train station and Milan Malpensa airport
Sirmione, Stresa, Isola Madre, Isola Bella, Orta San Giulio
11 nights' accommodations in charming hotels, lake view rooms Bellagio and Stresa
Tourist accommodation tax
All breakfasts, 6 dinners and 1 lunch, beverages included
All ground transportation and porterage Days 2 -11
All activities and admissions listed in Highlights
Full time professional tour manager
Drop off at Milan Malpensa airport or Stresa train station
Lake view rooms in Bellagio on Lake Como and Stresa on Lake Maggiore
City walking tours with local guides in Milan, Bergamo, Bellagio, Mantova and Cremona
Teatro alla Scala
Cenacolo (Last Supper) di Leonardo da Vinci
Villa Melzi, Bellagio
Villa del Balbianello, Lenno
Villa Carlotta, Tremezzo
Museo di Santa Giulia Brescia
Lutemaker's workshop visit Cremona
Museo del Violino Cremona
Palazzo Ducale and Palazzo Te Mantova
Teatro Bibiena Mantova
Private boat tour Sirmione
Isola Madre Gardens Lake Maggiore
Borromeo Palace Isola Bella guided tour
Lake Orta San Giulio Island visit
Nebbiolo cantina visit and wine tasting
Tour begins: Milan
Meeting point is at the Hotel Milano Scala The hotel can be reached from the Milan Malpensa Airport via the Malpensa Express train to Milano Cadorna train station in 30 minutes and then 5 minutes by taxi.
If you are flying into Milan Linate Airport a taxi to the hotel costs 30 euro and takes 30 minutes.
If you are arriving by train the hotel is just 15 minutes by taxi from the Milano Centrale station.
Check-in time is 2:00 pm but you are welcome to arrive earlier leaving your bags at reception. Your tour manager will be expecting you in the hotel lobby at 3:30 pm for a 2 hour guided tour of the historic center.
Tour ends: Stresa Day 12 morning transfers to Milan Malpensa airport and Stresa train station
How to get there: Book a round trip ticket into and out from Milan Malpensa airport
Day 1 — Milan, Metropolitan City of Milan, Italy
Day 3 — Bergamo, Province of Bergamo, Italy
Day 4 — Bellagio, Province of Como, Italy
Day 4 — Varenna, Province of Lecco, Italy
Day 5 — Tremezzo, Province of Como, Italy
Day 6 — Brescia, Province of Brescia, Italy
Day 7 — Cremona, Province of Cremona, Italy
Day 8 — Mantova, Province of Mantua, Italy
Day 9 — Sirmione, Province of Brescia, Italy
Day 9 — Stresa, Province of Verbano-Cusio-Ossola, Italy
Day 10 — Orta San Giulio, Province of Novara, Italy
Day 11 — Isola Bella, Province of Verbano-Cusio-Ossola, Italy
There is a lot of walking on this tour and you will be on your feet several hours each day. There are inclines and steps in Bellagio. This tour is not suited for anyone who has problems with knees, back, heart, obesity or those who cannot manage steps and moderate inclines. Age is not important as long as you are reasonably fit and a good walker. If you have mobility issues this is not the right tour for you. Please call us if you have questions.
1. PRICES, DEPOSITS, PAYMENTS, REFUNDS
Prices shown are per person, double occupancy, in euro.
The deposit is 400 euro per person.
Balance payments are due 70 days prior to tour start.
Deposits and balance payments are accepted by Visa and Master Card or by bank wire. After your deposit has been received we will send you an invoice with the due date and amount for the balance of payment. Should you fail to make final payment by the date specified on your invoice, we reserve the right to cancel your booking without refund.
Cancellations and refunds: in the unlikely event that we would cancel your tour, you would be entitled to a 100% refund within 2 weeks after the tour’s cancellation.
If you cancel your tour reservation:
1. are 50% refundable up until 180 days prior to tour start date.
2. are 100 % non-refundable less than 180 days prior to tour start date.
3. are 98% refundable 70 days or more prior to tour start date.
4. are 48% refundable 70 to 31 days prior to tour start date.
5. 30 days or less prior to tour start date: no refund.
Physician documented emergency medical reasons or police documented cases of accident, flood, fire or crime are required for refunds.
We do not provide refunds for: non-medical personal problems; air carrier delays or cancellations; inability to obtain passports; business problems or emergencies; etc.
2. TRAVEL PROTECTION
Covid-19 Policy: All tour members including tour managers and drivers must be fully vaccinated.
We strongly recommend that you purchase a travel protection plan to help protect you and your travel investment against the unexpected. Travel protection plans can include coverage for Trip Cancellation, Trip Interruption, Emergency Medical and Emergency Evacuation/Repatriation, Trip Delay, Baggage Delay and more.
It is not possible for Amber Road Tours to provide protection coverage of any sort and you agree to buy insurance or travel at your own risk.
All ground transportation Days 2 to 11. Transfers on Day 12 to Milan Malpensa airport or Stresa train station. 11 nights’ hotel accommodation with breakfast, 6 dinners and 1 lunch including beverages (wine or beer or soft drinks and water). Admissions to all sites visited as a group, as listed in bold on the tour itinerary.
4. NOT INCLUDED
Air transportation, Day 1 airport or train station transfers, all meals not listed above, room service, phone calls, etc.
Our hotel in Milan can be reached from the Malpensa airport via the Malpensa Express train to Milano Cadorna train station in 30 minutes and then 5 minutes by taxi. Check-in time is 2pm but you are welcome to arrive earlier leaving your bags at reception. Your tour manager will be expecting you in the hotel lobby at 3:30 pm for a guided introduction to the historic center.
If you are arriving by train the hotel is just 15 minutes by taxi from the Milano Centrale station.
Morning transfers will be to Milan Malpenso airport and Stresa train station.
You are allowed one suitcase and one carry-on bag. If you exceed this limit there may not be space in the coach to transport your excess luggage and it will be at your own expense to have it transported throughout the tour. We suggest that you bring a daypack for carrying water, guide books, jacket, rain gear, etc.
8. THE LAST SUPPER
Leonardo da Vinci’s the Last Supper at Santa Maria delle Grazie is included based on availability of tickets and is not guaranteed.
9. WALKING ON TOUR
Steps and inclines in Bellagio. The rest of the walking on this tour is not difficult. However you will be on your feet several hours each day. If you have mobility issues this is not your tour.
Days 2-10 air-conditioned coach. Day 11 we travel by boat on Lake Maggiore.
Are located within historic districts.
The rooms in Bellagio and Stresa are lake view rooms.
The hotel in Mantova has queen bed rooms and triple rooms (one queen and one single bed), no twins.
12. SINGLE TRAVELERS
We have space available for 2 singles on each of our tours. They are provided with single-use double rooms. The additional single supplement room cost can be found on the Calendar page of our website.
For our recommended tours and dates, as listed in our web site, are guaranteed. We do not sell optional excursions or take you on shopping expeditions. Your additional expenses will be for non-included meals, moderate tipping where appropriate, and personal sightseeing or shopping.
14. NO SMOKING / NO CELL PHONES
We have a no smoking policy on all tour buses, at group meals and at all sites visited. The same policy applies to the use of cellular phones.
15. EASY TRAVELERS
For the enjoyment of all our guests on tour we ask those who choose to travel with Amber Road Tours to be congenial, lighthearted and to take small issues in stride. Should you have any issues please address them to your tour manager – he or she is your Amber Road Tours’ representative during your time on tour. Once your tour is finished you will be emailed a link to our website where you can leave comments about your experiences and suggestions about how we can improve our services.
16. LIMIT OF LIABILITY
No responsibility is accepted for any loss, expense, accident, injury, or damage to any person or property due to the actions or omissions of any person, or any cause, including but not limited to acts of God, acts of terrorism, war, strikes, defects in machinery, breakdown of equipment, weather, quarantine, or other causes beyond our control.
17. MEMBERSHIP ON TOUR
Amber Road Tours reserves the right to accept, reject, or not retain any person as a tour participant whose condition or general deportment impedes the operation of the tour or, in the opinion of the tour manager, affects the rights and enjoyment of other guests. A guest not retained on tour shall have no cause for complaint or refund, and shall bear any and all extra expenses that ensue.