lake como italy hiking tour

Lake Como, Italy

One of Italy’s most sublime settings, Lake Como is ringed with rose-laden belvederes and villas. Our hikes bring us to beautiful vistas on Lake Como and sublime Lake Orta as well as Lake Lugano at the base of the Swiss Alps.

Photo by Ripani Massimo / Fototeca 9x12

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Italy's Lake District route-map

Trip Details at-a-Glance

Cost From: $5695  
Length: 9 days
Arrive: Varenna, Italy
Depart: Milan, Italy
Lodging: 8 nights charming hotels
Meals: All meals included except 1 dinner
Activity: Hiking / Trekking, Cultural Adventures
Trip Level: A mix of moderate walks and hikes, 2-5 hours a day, van support


  • 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

I loved the trip. It was everything I wanted and then some!Janna S.—San Diego, CA

Choosing the Right Trip

We work hard to help you choose the right trip for you, paying attention to your individual interests, abilities, and needs. If you have questions about the level of comfort or any of the activities described in this itinerary, please contact us.


We are proud to have an exceptionally high rate of repeat travelers. For more information, we would be happy to put you in touch with a client who has traveled with us.

Departure Notes

Once you have signed up on the trip, we send a complete packing list, relevant health information, and required travel documents.

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!

Itinerary at a Glance

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

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.

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.

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.

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. 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.

For a more complete description, Download Full Detailed Itinerary

What the Trip is Like

This trip is Level 3, Moderate. We enjoy day walks and hikes of 2-5 hours over variable hill and mountain trails, with occasional short, steep sections. We will carry just a daypack. Sturdy, well broken-in hiking boots are necessary for the rural trails of this area. The meals included in the itinerary will be taken at the hotels where we are staying or at restaurants in the towns. For dinners “on your own,” the Trip Leader will be happy to advise you on, or accompany you, to local restaurants and trattorias. Please note that in Europe, the dinner hour is considerably later than what it is in the US. We do our best to secure early reservations for our groups, but most often the evening meal will be at 7:30 pm.

For maximum enjoyment of the trip (and the wonderful scenery, food, wine, art, and history that are a part of it), you must be in fit shape and ready to walk. We strongly urge you to train for the trip with regular hiking, especially over hills or rough terrain, running, swimming, bicycling or other sports exercise.

After continental breakfast in our hotel, we’re generally off on the day’s walk by 9 am. Each day is a bit different. Some days encompass a full five hours of country walking; others involve a half day or more exploring, for example, one of the lake towns on foot. On many days, we drive to a starting point for our walk, and get picked up at the end of the walk and driven to our night’s lodging. Some days will combine a half-day of sightseeing in a town with a half-day walk.

Lunches on our hiking days will be either in local trattorias or picnic-style repasts of local cheeses, breads, cold meats, assorted salads, fresh vegetables, fruits of the season, famous regional wines, and mineral water. Those not up to the afternoon’s walk can often continue with the van back to our hotel. Tap water throughout Italy will be safe to drink, but avoid drinking from streams in the hills.

We travel by ferry boat across several lakes in the region. If you have a tendency to motion sickness, bring anti-seasickness medications such as Bonine or Dramamine. Accupressure-based wrist bands are also effective for some people.

Our overnights are in picturesque inns and hotels full of Italian charm and ambience and are chosen for their local history and central location. Since some are historic buildings, the rooms may not conform to the international standards you may be accustomed to in more cosmopolitan areas. Our leaders try their best to assign rooms in a fair way so that all participants experience an equal advantage throughout the trip as a whole. We hope that you will be able to enjoy them for their charm and local color. Single rooms can be requested, but are not always available, due to the limited space in some of our hotels. If you require a single room, please make the request as early as possible. European single rooms are often smaller than US singles.

Explanation of Trip Levels


Departures & Leaders

Sep 14-22, 2015  Amy Barnes

Trip Cost

Prices are for 2015
$5695 (13-15 members)
$5995 (10-12 members)
$6295 (6-9 members)
Single supplement: $720
Forced single supplement: $520
more on pricing

Trip Cost Includes:

  • Expert leadership of a Wilderness Travel Trip Leader
  • Accommodations in comfortable 3- and 4-star hotels
  • All meals included except 1 dinner
  • Entrances to all sites, museums, and ferries
  • Transfers to Milan-Malpensa airport at designated times at the end of the trip

Trip Cost Does Not Include:

International airfare, any meals not specified after each itinerary day in the Full Trip Brochure, wine at dinner (except at welcome and farewell dinners), arrival transportation to Varenna, airport departure taxes, optional tipping or gratuities to leaders or staff, additional hotel nights that may be necessary due to airline schedule changes or other factors; pre-trip expense of medical immunizations (if any), travel insurance or passports, and other expenses of a personal nature (alcoholic beverages, laundry, etc.).

Trip Payment Schedule

At time of reservation: $500
120 days prior to departure: 20% of trip cost
60 days prior to departure: Balance

Cancellation and Transfer Fee Schedule

More than 90 days prior to departure: No charge!
90-46 days prior to departure: 25% of trip cost
45 days or less: 100% of trip cost

Hotel Royal Victoria

Hotel Royal Victoria

Days 1 to 2 (2 nights), Varenna, Italy

Set right at the edge of Lake Como on the traffic-free main square of Varenna, the 43-room Hotel Royal Victoria offers 19th century old world charm ...
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Hotel Parco San Marco

Hotel Parco San Marco

Days 3 to 4 (2 nights), Porlezza, Italy

This lovely hotel, on the eastern point of Lake Lugano, is set on a seven-acre garden estate with breathtaking views of the lake and mountains. ...
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Camin Hotel Colmegna

Camin Hotel Colmegna

Days 5 to 6 (2 nights), Luino, Italy

Set on the shores of Lake Maggiore, the family-run Camin Hotel Colmegna is a late eighteenth-century villa originally built as a hunting lodge. With ...
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Hotel San Rocco

Hotel San Rocco

Days 7 to 8 (2 nights), Orta San Giulio, Italy

The Hotel San Rocco, superbly set right on the edge of magical Lake Orta, is within walking distance of just about everything in this picturesque ...
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Note: Listed above are our signature accommodations for this trip. Although it is highly unlikely, we may make substitutions when necessary.

Amy Barnes

Amy Barnes was raised in France, Germany,and Turkey until the age of seven. While working on a Liberal Arts major at the University of South Florida she traveled to Italy in 1978. Visiting a friend in Florence she met the fellow next door, an Italian documentary film maker. The encounter was decisive and by 1979 she was back in Florence for good. Initially she worked as a camera assistant to her husband before moving on to location/production work for documentaries. She has worked for numerous international productions including BBC One, BBC Two, The Discovery Channel, The History Channel, National Geographic, A&E Biographies, Channel 4, Granada, PBS and others. In a parallel career Amy has worked as a Trip Leader with Wilderness Travel for many years and has designed itineraries in many regions including the Italian Lake District, Umbria, Liguria, and Tuscany. "There is a certain sort of density peculiar to this country. Italy's spectacular geography had a heavy hand in determining its history. For me there is no more beautiful or extraordinary country on the planet!" Amy enjoys Tai Chi, but everything is second to traveling!

Upcoming Trips:

Italy's Lake District, September 14-22, 2015

Client Testimonials:

She worked very hard to provide us with an exceptional experience, but she made the "work" look effortless. Ann G., Portland OR
Tuscany to the Sea
Amy Barnes is not only knowledgeable about Italy, her planning was exquisite. Each connection was made so smoothly we had no sense, really, of the effort, foresight, and commitment that such connections entailed. Amy Barnes is also a person of singular grace and charm. She made everyone feel welcome, supported, appreciated. Harriet T., Lincoln, NB
Italian Lake District
Not only is Amy a super trip leader, she is also a wonderful person who is truly interested her work and the people in her care. Made the trip itineraries interesting and enjoyable. Ruth C., Sicklerville, NJ
Italian Lake District
Amy was a real delight. Her love of Italy showed through and greatly added to our enjoyment of the trip. Cynthia E., Walnut Creek, CA
Cinqueterre Extension
Amy has tremendous historical knowledge and really made every place come to life. Jill W., Calgary, Canada
Hiking in Italy's Lake District
Amy was very professional, yet friendly and concerned for the participants. Kathleen F., Lake Oswego OR
Hiking in Italy's Lake District
I enjoy Amy's calm leadership, dedication, and professionalism. She always made sure we got the most possible out of the cultural experiences in each area. I learned a lot! Gillian B., Calgary, Canada
Hiking in Italy's Lake District
Amy is one of the most fascinating and knowledgeable people I have ever met. Perfect for leading such a fantastic journey. Patient, friendly, fun, the best! Diane S., Carlsbad CA
Italy’s Lake District
Amy was fantastic. We so enjoyed her knowledge and enthusiasm for Italy’s northern regions. Teri C., Laguna Beach CA
Italy’s Lake District
Amy was great! Kind and good spirited. Judy D., San Clemente CA
Italy’s Lake District

Client Comments

I loved the trip. It was everything I wanted and then some! Janna S., San Diego, CA Magical, magnificent, a must-do. Nancy S., San Diego CA Hands down the best trip I’ve ever taken. The three Trip Leaders are real assets to Wilderness Travel! Teri C., Laguna Beach, CA
This was a great vacation. Just what the doctor ordered. Technically it was a hiking vacation but it really was an eating vacation—fantastic! Mary R., New York, NY I was delighted in the quality. The guide was great and the itinerary was fabulous! Nancy K., Saint Louis, MO