Lakes Como, Lugano, Maggiore, and Orta


One of Italy’s most exquisite landscapes is the enchanting Lake District, beloved by poets, writers, and artists since the days of the Roman Empire. Our journey in this unimaginably scenic setting brings us to verdant mountains sheltering gleaming deep blue lakes, captivating towns like Varenna spilling down the hillsides, and to Bellagio’s opulent villas and gardens with rose-laden promenades. We explore four of these magical lakes—Como, Lugano, Maggiore, and serene Orta—as we hike age-old paths to hidden stone villages with tiny chapels, boat to Isola Bella, an island with a magnificent palatial villa (with an overnight at neighboring Isola dei Pescatori), and hike high above the lakes for unforgettable top-of-the-world views of the Alps—é perfezione!

Itinerary at a Glance

Days 1-2
Varenna / Bellagio

In Varenna, a beguiling town of pastel-colored houses hugging the shores of Lake Como, we explore the medieval Castle of Vezio, once a Roman fortress, and the lovely gardens of the Villa Monastero, a spiritual retreat for Cistercian nuns. The next day, we hike up Monte San Primo (5,528') to a mountain rifugio for spectacular lake views and a lunch of local delicacies that often include miascia, a cake made with fresh mint and walnuts.

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Days 3-4
Bellagio / Villa Balbianello / Lago di Piano

Ferrying across Lake Como, we visit Bellagio, a storybook town of gracious villas and terraced gardens. After lunch and a wine tasting in San Giovanni, we explore the Villa Balbianello, with its exquisite gardens, views, and fascinating collections. At Lago di Piano, we walk in a natural reserve abounding with birds, plants, and animals including roe deer and chamois.

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Days 5-6
San Salvatore / Luino

Our hike on San Salvatore reveals fantastic views of the Swiss and Savoy Alps. From Luino, on Lake Maggiore, we enjoy a hike to the tiny medieval walled village of Carmine Superiore.

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Days 7-9
Isola Bella and Isola dei Pescatori / Orta San Giulio

We visit the splendid Villa Borromeo on Isola Bella, and walk the cobbled alleys and seaside promenade of Isola dei Pescatori. From Orta San Giulio, a jewel of a town set on tranquil Lake Orta, we hike on an ancient footpath through hill villages on the slopes of Monte Alto, passing farmhouses, a 13th century tower, and the impressive Villa Broglio, with a picnic lunch in the gardens of the 17th century convent of Monte Mesma. Depart on Day 9.

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Undiscovered Varenna, magnificent Bellagio
Orta San Giulio, with its cobbled streets and lakeside views
Romantic villas with elaborate classical gardens
The delights of northern Italian cuisine, including trailside picnics in idyllic locations


Length: 9 days
Cost From: $5295  
Arrive: Varenna, Italy
Depart: Milan, Italy
Lodging: 8 nights charming hotels
Meals: All meals included except 2 dinners
Activity: Hiking / Trekking, Cultural Adventures
Trip Level:

A mix of moderate walks and hikes, 2-5 hours a day, van support

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