Guided Walking Tour: Venice & Italian Lakes (13 days)

special(Departure Fall)
Strung along the foot of the Alps, for millennia the lakes have been a gateway to the color and life of the Mediterranean world for the pilgrims, traders and armies who marched across the Alps on foot. The walks on the tour follow these same routes, ancient stone paths that wind above the lakes, passing through forests and isolated hamlets all with spectacular views across to the mountains and valleys on the other shores. This thirteen day walking tour to Venice and the Lakes takes you to the two most beautiful and interesting Italian lakes, Como and Maggiore, both forming part of the border between Italy and Switzerland, visiting the smaller lakes of Lugano and Orta along the way. The walking tour starts on the canals of Venice and finishes in the elegant arcades of Turin. In between, we spend time in a 17th century villa on the shores of Lake Como, before crossing the Swiss border into the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, and spending nights in a marvelous 400 year old hotel in the lush, green valleys above the northern reaches of Lake Maggiore. Guided Walking Tour Venice & Italian Lakes is for you travelers who want to experience Italy one step at a time.

Day 1 – Venice
The Venice and the Italian Lakes walking tour starts in Venice. We meet in our hotel (on a canal in a quiet residential area) on the first night for a short stroll around the neighbourhood and dinner in a nearby restaurant. (Dinner).

Day 2 – Venice
This morning we take a four hour walk along some of the smaller canals, through hidden lanes and squares, exploring some of the less visited parts of the city. After a traditional lunch on a quiet canal on Dorsduro, the afternoon is free. (Lunch).

Day 3 – Lake Como
This morning we leave Venice by water taxi, crossing the lagoon to be then taken by private bus to a gorgeous town on the shores of Lake Como opposite Bellagio our base for the next four days, staying in a 17th century villa, with famous gardens. On the way, we stop in the Franciacorta, one of the premier northern Italian wine producing districts, for lunch in a celebrated osteria that has been in the same family for four generations and is considered by the Slow Food Association to be the best of its kind in Italy. The evening is free. (Lunch).

Day 4 – Lake Como
For the first walk, we again cross the lake by ferry to follow a path that takes us up into the Sanagra Valley, passing through forests and exploring timeless villages, each rich with its own local history and stories. We follow a trail that was part of a smugglers’ run to and from neighboring Switzerland until the 1970s. Along the way, there are extraordinary views over Lake Lugano to the mountains of Switzerland (3.5hrs). At the end of the walk we have lunch of local specialties in an agriturismo overlooking the lake. After lunch, you will have the choice of taking a bus or walking (1.5 hrs) down to the lakeside. The rest of the day is free. (Lunch).

Day 5 – Lake Como
This morning we visit two of the finest villa’s on the shores of Lake Como. We take a short ferry ride across the lake to the first villa, which was built in the late 17th century and modified in the 19th century. It has an important collection of 19th century art but is best known for its extraordinary 14 acres of lakeside English gardens. The second villa is two ferry stops further on, sitting on the tip of of a forested peninsula and is one of the highlights of the tour (it has been the setting of a number of movies). At the end of a private guided tour we take the ferry back to our base, stopping at neighbouring Bellagio, one of the ‘most beautiful villages in Italy’ on the way. You’ll have the afternoon free in Bellagio. In the evening we’ll rejoin for a candle lit dinner overlooking the lake. (Dinner)

Day 6 – Lake Como
Today’s walk takes up to the castle above our town, and then along the face of the mountains following stone trading paths that have been used since Roman times,with breath-taking views over Lake Como and the mountains to Switzerland. We break for morning tea (coffee?) in the next village before continuing on to our destination, where we join local families for a robust Sunday lunch in a small osteria, or inn, that has been servicing walkers on the track for centuries and specializes in traditional ‘comasco’ cooking (3.5 hrs). After lunch we have a pleasant ferry back to our base where the evening is free. (Lunch)

Day 7 – Lake Maggiore
This morning we leave Lake Como, crossing the nearby Swiss border into the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino and driving through the mountains to the northern Swiss end of Lake Maggiore. Along the way we stop for a short lake side walk and lunch in the elegant financial city of Lugano. Our base for the next four nights is a charming 400 year old mountain hotel tucked away in the valleys above Locarno at the northern tip of Lake Maggiore. After settling into the hotel, you’ll be taken on a guided walk around this very interesting small town. We’ll have dinner on the terrace of the hotel’s restaurant. (Dinner)

Day 8 – Lake Maggiore
After breakfast, we catch the little single gauge electric train for a few stops up the valley and then take a cable car to the top of the mountains. After coffee in a mountain hut, we take a spectacular well marked trail, through forests, (car-free) hamlets with scenery that springs straight from the ‘Sound of Music’ to a small village above our base (3.5 hrs) having a picnic lunch on the way. From the village you can either take another small cable car directly down to the valley or walk down a winding stone path. The evening is free, There are a number of good restaurants in the town. (Lunch).

Day 9 – Lake Maggiore
Today is a free day, with a variety of options (your guide will be available to help with advice and to make the arrangements) including: take the electric train into Locarno (15 minutes) to shop and/or take a ferry ride on Lake Maggiore, visiting the botanical gardens on the Brissago islands; do an easy walk into Locarno, following the river (1.5 hours); or take the little train for the celebrated ride all the way through the very beautiful valley, back into Italy, where you can get off for lunch before catching the train back to our base (3 hour round trip); or chill out poolside at the hotel and read a good book. Dinner tonight is a treat – eating at the town’s most celebrated restaurant, a gourmet delight. (Dinner)

Day 10 – Lake Maggiore
Today’s walk takes us into a neighboring valley, known to the locals as the valley of the sun. Climbing up to a small chapel, we follow stone paths through a narrow gorge and into a valley, passing through chestnut and oak forests, past goat farms and a tiny hamlet before descending to the valley floor, finishing at a comfortable bar, overlooking a white stone river. We’ll will have a picnic lunch along the walk. (4 hrs). The evening is free. (Lunch)

Day 11 – Lake Orta/Turin
Today we leave Switzerland and drive down the shore of the lake, crossing the border into Italy and heading for Turin, a surprisingly gracious city of wide boulevards, elegant arcades and grand public buildings, looking its best since the 2006 Winter Olympics. On the way we visit arguably the most enchanting of all the Italian lakes, tiny Lake Orta. After a short walk around the shores of the lake (0.5 hrs) we’ll visit the gorgeous village of San Giulio d’Orta and have lunch before continuing on to Turin. After settling into the hotel, you’ll have the time to explore the city and do a little afternoon shopping. The evening is free. (Lunch)

Day 12 – Turin
This morning you will be taken on a guided walk through Turin’s centre visiting some of the city’s Baroque splendour, the legacy of the Savoy kings who ruled from here for nearly six centuries (4 hrs). The afternoon is free. In the evening we take a short walk through the heart of the city, have an aperitif and as a culinary finale we’ll have our farewell dinner at Del Cambio, a Torinese institution and one of the most famous restaurants in Italy. (Dinner)

Day 13 – Depart Turin
After breakfast, you will be able to continue your holiday – Turin has a local airport, a shuttle service to Malpensa international airport and is well connected by train to all major Italian cities and to the rest of Europe.

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NOTE: Month and route subject change