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, and hike high above the lakes for unforgettable top-of-the-world views of the Alps—é perfezione!
This was a great vacation. Just what the doctor ordered. Technically it was a hiking vacation but it really was an eating vacation—fantastic!
— Robert S.
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.
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.
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.
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. A hike atop the Mottarone Mountains grants us stunning balcony views of the Alps, including Monte Rosa and all seven lakes of the Lake District. 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.