Day 1 - Depart U.S./Fly overnight to Milan
Depart from the U.S.
The particulars of your arrival overseas are detailed with your flight
itinerary and airline tickets.
Day 2 - Arrive in Milan/Transfer to Como
Arrive at the Malpensa airport in Milan,
Italy, where a VBT
representative meets you and helps you transfer (approximately 1 hour) to your
centrally located hotel in Como.
The rest of the day is free to explore and dine on your own with your VBT City
Information as your guide.
Please note: If you arrive early, your hotel room may not be
available until 2 p.m. You may store your luggage with the Reception Desk.
Please note: VBT transfer times and departure points are
finalized in advance and cannot be modified for individual guests. If you fly
in earlier than the scheduled program dates, transportation from the airport
will be at your own expense.
Day 3 - Meet Trip Leaders in Como/Ferry ride to Bellagio on Lake Como/Walking
tour of Bellagio/Welcome reception
VBT No-Air Package guests:
Meet your VBT Trip Leaders at 9:00 am in the lobby of the Hotel Alberto
Le Due Corti, Piazza Vittoria 12 – Como - phone number +39 031 328111. Please
come to the meeting dressed in walking gear (walking shoes at least) and carry
your backpack. Transfer to the hotel is on
your own. A taxi from the railway station costs about 8 -10 euros/$12- 14 USD.
If your arrival at the hotel is scheduled for later than 9:00 am or if you are
delayed, please contact the hotel, and the hotel staff will pass your message
along to your VBT Trip Leaders. In the event of delays or other problems with
your arrival, please see page 3 of “For Travel-Related Emergencies.” VBT highly
recommends flying to Italy at least one day before the tour begins; this allows
you to rest and recover from jet lag before you begin sightseeing and walking.
VBT Air Package and Pre-Extension guests: Meet your VBT Trip
Leaders at 9:00 am in the main lobby; they will be wearing VBT staff garments.
Please come to the meeting dressed in walking gear (walking shoes at least) and
carry your backpack.
Our VBT Trip Leaders will hold an introductory and safety
talk before we begin with a walk through the city center of Como to the lake
waterfront (approx. 1 km – 0.6 miles) and board a panoramic boat to Bellagio.
Our two-hour ride approximately reveals the sumptuous private villas and small
villages along the shore, all the way to Bellagio. Our view of the surrounding
mountains is magnificent.
Once in Bellagio, you can pick up lunch at a café or
restaurant on your own; you'll have plenty of options. Later follow our leaders
on an orientation walk of Bellagio – the 12th-century basilica, cobblestone
streets and stone staircases. Our amble follows the waterfront up to Punta
Spartivento, where the two arms of Lake Como and Lecco meet, and ends at Villa
Melzi. Built in 1808 to honor Napoleon and to host one of his generals, the
villa is famous for its 19th-century romantic gardens, known to be the first
English-style gardens laid out at a lakes villa. In spring they welcome
visitors with a full array of azaleas and rhododendrons. At mid-afternoon a
short boat ride takes us to Varenna, our final destination today. The
picturesque tiny village welcomes us with its pastel-colored houses lined up
along the narrow shore between mountain and water. We walk the narrow gangway
suspended on the lake, below an arch of pine trees and oleander branches and a
flight of stairs before getting to the main square and our hotel. Settle in and maybe have a swim in the hotel
swimming pool before getting ready for our reception.
Dinner is at the hotel restaurant tonight.
Day 4 - Walk
the wayfarer trail from Vezio to Bellano / Discover Varenna
After breakfast, we discover Piazza San Giorgio and walk the
lanes of Varenna. Later in the morning
we shuttle up to the medieval hamlet of Vezio where we find the ruins of the
13th century castle. Our panoramic
stroll starts here and is part of an ancient footpath called the Sentiero del
Viandante, known as the Wayfarer Trail, that was once the only road. Along the
way we pass through sleepy villages like Regolo and by rustic wine caves, the crottos
that served once as taverns for
the pilgrims. We can peek into the many chapels scattered along the way before
walking down to the waterfall and dramatic Pioverna river gorge in Bellano. On
the way we find a shaded picnic area that is just perfect for our picnic lunch.
Later this afternoon, we take a train back to Varenna where
you can relax by the hotel pool or continue exploring on your own. You have the
option to visit Villa Cipressi or Villa Monastero, whose gorgeous gardens
extend down to the lake, or walk to the nearby Fiumelatte to admire the
shortest river in Italy, only 700 meters long.
Tonight's dinner is on your own in Varenna.
Day 5 - Villa Carlotta, the
Balbianello Gardens in Lenno, Stresa
Early this morning, we ferry to the opposite bank to
Tremezzo and Villa Carlotta. The 17th-century villa is named after the daughter
of the Princess Marianne of Nassau, who bought it in the mid-1800s and gave it
to her child as a wedding gift. Her botanist husband expanded with various
enhancements, including an exotic corner laid out according to the dictates of
English gardens. In spring, the place is bursting with azaleas and
rhododendrons that inspired the poets of the Grand Tour who used to pass here
just to lay eyes on them. Inside the villa, we admire a collection of fine
After our visit and time on your own to explore the gardens
or sip a café at the cafeteria, we return to the lake promenade to continue by
boat to Lenno, where a weekly market offers a colorful snapshot of local life. Here,
you can buy fresh fruit and fragrant bread and olives for your lunch. Or try
one of the cafes and gelato shops on the promenade.
In the afternoon, we walk with our guides to Villa del
Balbianello gardens, known as the most wonderful villa on Lake Como and the set
of famous movies like Casino Royal and Ocean Eleven
From here, we continue to walk of the Greenway path along the
lake shore to Sala Comacina, a stroll away form the green and mysterious Isola
Comacina, the only island in Lake Como. From here we later shuttle to Lake
Maggiore by private motor-coach and settle in our next hotel.
You are on your own tonight for dinner, there are plenty of options nearby. You may also choose to dine in our hotel restaurant.
Day 6 - Lake Maggiore, Isola Bella and Isola dei Pescatori
Start the day with a five-minute ride on a private motorboat
to Isola Bella. Take in the beauty of the gardens as we approach the little
island. Once there, our guide regales us with the history of the powerful
Famiglia Borromeo – one of the most eminent aristocratic families in Italy. They
still own the villa and use the upper floor as their summer residence. The
island has a shape of a Spanish galleon.
The opulent palace is a triumph of baroque and neoclassical
decoration. Room after room is adorned with paintings of Lombard
artists and sculptures by Antonio Canova. On the lower floor, you’ll find a
neoclassical theater and the famous grottoes of Florentine Renaissance style,
completely covered with studded river pebbles. We then visit the terraced, Italian
sculpted gardens, gently sloping down to the lake and covered with luxuriant
vegetation like cork tress, magnolias, lemon trees and also camellias and
oleanders. There’ll be time to stroll among this lovely setting.
Back in Stresa, enjoy a short city tour before picking a
pizzeria or café for lunch, there are many delicious options.
This afternoon, enjoy time on your own. Peruse the leather and
gourmand shops or follow the long lake promenade along flowery grass islands
and parks lush with plant life. Cool off and pamper at our hotel, perhaps
relaxing on the rooftop lounge, at the spa, or in the swimming pool.
We regroup at sunset to embark a private motorboat and land
at the most picturesque island of the Borromean archipelago: Isola Superiore or
Isola dei Pescatori (fishermen island). We explore with our guide after most tourists
have left. The sunsets are lovely from here, and we’ll enjoy it with a good
glass of local wine – maybe in one of the little cafes -- then enjoy dinner at
a local trattoria on the lake shore.
Day 7 - Mottarone mountain and Lake Orta
Today a 20-minute lift by cable car takes us to the top of Mottarone Mountain, at 3,500 feet. Our ride starts from the Lake Maggiore promenade, offering great views of the surroundings. From the top of Mottarone, right on the watershed of Lake Maggiore and Lake Orta, we take in the sights of the Lake District: Lake Maggiore, Lake Varese, Lake Orta, and other smaller lakes. We walk downhill on easy footpaths, mostly unpaved and covered with soft grass, crossing grasslands with 360-degree views and shade from fresh softwoods. The land here is well kept; some wild stretches seem almost manicured thanks to the efforts of cattle raisers to collect water in canals. Our destination is a small farm in Coiromonte producing cheese, where the owners prepare for us a delicious picnic lunch with organic vegetables from their garden, fresh cheese and local specialties. You can opt to walk all the way down to Coiromonte or mid-way, take a van shuttle.
Early this afternoon, we shuttle to our hotel to rest and enjoy some free time.
Our hotel – an ancient monastery turned into a modern hotel – is centrally located in one of the narrow cobblestone alleys of Orta and is right on the lake. From the swimming pool and sun terrace, we have fantastic views of the lake and mountains around. Dinner is on your own tonight. The options are many in Orta and you will be captured by the romantic atmosphere of this postcard-village.
Day 8 - Isola San Giulio, Monte Sacro
We've saved the best day of the week for last. We begin on
the paved and easy promenade along the lake shore, and then walk up a short
stretch to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Monte Sacro. This is a holy
devotional area dedicated to the life of San Francis. Its 20 religious chapels
are scattered along an easy path, high above the lake. We'll admire the pottery
sculptures from 1600 to 1740 as we walk in the shade of tall trees in a magical
We descend to Orta and enjoy a visit of the little village
with our tour leaders. Lunch is at a local enoteca,
where we taste Piedmont wines and local specialties like bagna cauda and crostini with truffles. Piedmont is one of the most
renowned Italian regions for wines, truffles, hazelnuts and chocolate.
After lunch, board a 5-minute private boat to the tiny
island of San Giulio. Visit its frescoed basilica, the “Number 100” church
founded by Saint Julius in the fourth century during his campaign that
introduced Christianity to the region. We have time to walk the “Meditation” or
“Silence” way that encircles the island. Then, opt to go back to your hotel to
rest or continue to the opposite shore for a walk to Pella, one of the
prettiest villages on the lake.
Our farewell dinner tonight is at a local restaurant on the
lake where we enjoy local Piedmont specialties.
Day 9 - Transfer to Milan / VBT No-Air Package ends
After breakfast, we transfer to Milan where our trip ends.
VBT No-Air Package guests: your trip concludes at our Milan hotel at approximately 10:00 am. The hotel is very central on Via Cusani and right next to the Cairoli metro station. From there you can pursue your own travel arrangements.
VBT Air Package and Post Trip Extension guests: You arrive at our Milan hotel at approximately 10:00 am and have the rest of the day at leisure. Our VBT representative will answer your questions and present his or her insider's options to help you discover the treasures of Milan and its surroundings on your own. They will offer an included orientation tour and offer more optional walking tours to fill your time in the city. The hotel is a short walk from the convent of St. Maria delle Grazie where the famous Leonardo fresco The Last Supper hangs. Please note that reservations well in advance are requested. For more information, visit www.cenacolovinciano.net. You can also walk to the pedestrian-only shopping district of Via Dante, right outside the door; the wonderful Duomo cathedral; the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, full of glamorous fashion shops; and the Real Palace. Shops, cafes, restaurants, and theatres abound in this area. In the evening you can safely walk to Brera, the artist and fashion district, to sit and marvel at life passing by in one of the many trendy cafes.
If you have chosen the independent Post-Trip Extension to Milan you remain at this hotel for three nights.
Day 10 - Depart for U.S.
After breakfast* this morning you will transfer to the Milan
Malpensa airport (approximately 60 minutes depending on traffic) for your
departing flight**. Please ensure you are ready in the hotel reception area at
the designated time.
*Please note: For guests with early-morning departures,
breakfast at the hotel may not be available. Please check with the Front Desk
to verify the times that breakfast is served.
**VBT recommends that you check your transfer time in your
“Transfer Reminder.” VBT transfer times and departure points are finalized in
advance and cannot be modified for individual guests. If you extend your stay
beyond the scheduled program dates, return transportation to the airport will
be at your own expense.