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Grand Tour of Lake Como, Milan & the Bernina Express

11days from
£2,549*per person

Overview

11 Days - Signature Tours

Combining the beautiful Lake Como and Lake Maggiore with chic Milan, this Grand Tour explores some of the highlights of northern Italy and Switzerland, including a jaw-dropping journey on the Bernina Express.  Explore Italy's most fashionable city, Milan, along with two of its most famous lakes on a Grand Tour.     Starting in Milan, the perfect blend of old and new, the city offers a unique window into Italian culture - a complete contrast to the more traditional cities further south. And yet it holds something to interest everyone, from world-class art galleries and theatres to incredible architecture and amazing restaurants serving everything from international cuisine to traditional Italian classics with a modern twist. Then it's on to Lake Como, known for its dramatic natural scenery, it's a chance to breathe the fresh air. While we're so close to the border, we'll take the opportunity to visit Switzerland aboard one of the world’s most iconic railways, as well as explore another of Italy's famous lakes, Lake Maggiore. This Grand Tour is perfect for travellers who want the best of both worlds: a break in an historic city with a modern edge and time to explore the quaint towns and villages along the edge of Lake Como.

Itinerary

  • Arrive at one of the Milan airports and transfer to your hotel, where you will stay for three nights with breakfast. Settle into your hotel and get a good night’s sleep as tomorrow our adventure begins in earnest. 
  • Guided tour of Milan  Welcome - or should we say "Benvenuto" - to one of the fashion capitals of the world! Milan offers the perfect introduction to this artistic and eclectic country. It's a buzzing, forward-thinking city where global trends are born and new ideas thrive, gleaming skyscrapers and sustainable ‘Bosco Verticale’ buildings redefine the historic city's skyline. We'll begin with a guided tour of the city to take in the main sights of Milan, starting with the mammoth cathedral - the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. This icon of the city took nearly six centuries to complete (and looking at its incredibly intricate spires, it's not hard to see why!). Next door is the beautiful Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II - another iconic masterpiece. Built in the 19th century as a shopping arcade, it houses a selection of opulent restaurants, shops and cafes, with a vibrant mosaic floor and a glass dome in its centre. Other highlights include the La Scala Theatre - one of the world's most prestigious opera houses, having hosted some of the very best opera singers in the world since its opening in 1778 - as well as the 15th-century Sforzesco Castle located within the open green spaces of Sempione Park.    + Included Experience – A guided tour of Milan  Signature Experience - A highlight for any lover of art, history or religion, with a timed entrance ticket to admire one of the most famous artworks in the world, Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper. Although almost destroyed during the French Revolutionary War, this incredible masterpiece has survived in situ since it was completed in 1498. Located in the atmospheric refectory of the Dominican Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, it's now a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, offering a glimpse into Da Vinci's multifaceted genius.
  • Free day in Milan  Today, you can explore Italy's second city as you wish. While Rome may be Italy’s political capital, Milan punches above its weight. Located in Italy’s industrious north with excellent links to neighbouring European countries like Switzerland and France, it is at the centre of Italy’s economic engine and its undisputed business centre, as well as its fashion capital, and it shows. Take a wander past the luxurious boutiques in the city's Quadrilatero della Moda - an upscale shopping district lined with designer boutiques and antique shops - or stop for a spot of people-watching (and a cup of rich, dark espresso the city is famous for) and you'll see just how stylish Milan is. If fashion isn't your thing, perhaps head to the buzzing Navigli canal district - the perfect place for informal drinking, dining or simply strolling by the water. Alternatively, you could explore the elegant Brera area, with its countless alfresco restaurants and cafes, also famous for the Pinacoteca di Brera Gallery, a collection of Italian art spanning centuries.
  • Monza  This morning, we'll travel to Monza, a hidden gem north of Milan. The town, nestled within Europe’s largest walled park, may be best known for its racetrack but it has a lot more to offer. The Gothic cathedral is a highlight, with the beautifully frescoed Teodolinda Chapel - housing a priceless Medieval iron crown - believed to have been made from one of the nails used on Christ's cross. Monza Park, commissioned in 1805 to exceed Versailles in size, includes several distinct areas: landscaped gardens and wild meadows surrounding the imposing Royal Villa in the south, a wooded area in the north, and the home of the Italian Grand Prix, the legendary Monza Circuit. Here, we’ll enjoy time at leisure. You could explore the town and park or perhaps just experience this typically Italian town like a local would, by enjoying a pleasant stroll, followed by a coffee in one of the pavement cafes dotted around its pedestrianised centre. Lake Como  We'll continue to Lake Como, arriving late afternoon to check into our hotel.   + Included Experience - A visit to Monza 
  • Villa del Balbianello Lake Como, one of the deepest lakes in Europe, has been beloved by romantics since the famous Roman chronicler Pliny wrote of its luxuriant beauty. It has since inspired some of the best works by greats such as Verdi and Rossini. A favourite of Shelley and Wordsworth, the delights of Lake Como are many and varied. This morning, you can enjoy one of its many highlights on a private boat ride and tour of the beautiful 18th-century Villa del Balbianello, one of the finest villas surrounding the lake. Originally built for a cardinal, it features a renowned collection of art and historic furniture, ironically much of it English, including an oak bureau from Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory. The gardens are equally impressive: a series of manicured terraces full of roses and colourful borders, dominated by a classic three-arched loggia, and all creatively planted using the rugged topography to great effect. Bellagio  The boat will then take us to the elegant resort of Bellagio which, with its idyllic location on a promontory on the lake, is often described as the most beautiful town in Italy, and when you see it, you will almost certainly agree! Once the haunt of European monarchs, today the attractive, pastel-coloured buildings, faded by decades of sunshine, line the lake shore and narrow cobbled streets and lanes climb their way to the hilly centre. Awash with colourful flowers, Bellagio cannot be bettered for a long lazy lunch in one of the many lakeside restaurants. You could follow it up with a stroll, perhaps amongst the many typically formal Italian gardens so beloved of romantics over the centuries, sprinkled as they are with fine, 18th century sculptures. Free time in Bellagio  Spend the afternoon exploring at your own pace before returning to your resort by boat when you wish. (Subject to available boat timetable).   + Included experience – A private boat trip and guided tour of Villa Balbianello and a visit to Bellagio 
  • The Bernina Express  Today, we'll enjoy a contrasting day of spectacular scenery and extraordinary Swiss engineering. Firstly, we'll ascend the Valtellina, a classic alpine valley with soaring peaks rising steeply on both sides to Tirano, where we board the famous Bernina Express. One of the slowest ‘express’ trains in the world, this remarkable Swiss train twists upwards in an amazing sequence of spirals, loops and tunnels to the summit at Ospizio Bernina, the highest through station in Europe. Here, you'll be surrounded by stunning vistas over snow-clad peaks and glacial lakes which mark the watershed between Mediterranean and Black Sea River systems. St Moritz  We'll then descend through pretty pastures and dense pine forests to the ostentatious resort of St Moritz, home of the infamous Cresta Run toboggan track, where there’s time for a spot of window shopping or perhaps afternoon tea and cake. Listen carefully and you may notice a rather unusual tongue: here, in this tiny corner of Switzerland, the locals speak Romansch, an ancient and little-known Latin language. Returning through yet more spectacular scenery, we'll arrive back at Lake Como in time for dinner.   + Included experiences - A journey on the Bernina Express and a visit to St Moritz  Signature experience - From Tirano settle into your upgraded first-class seat in a spacious carriage, sit back and soak up the dazzling mountain views as you ride the legendary Bernina Express in style and comfort. This world-famous journey will be something special so stretch out and relax whilst admiring the landscapes through the train’s panoramic windows. 
  • Free day in Lake Como  Today you’re free to explore Lake Como at leisure. Perhaps enjoy a boat trip to one of the picturesque villages dotted around the lake, or simply relax at the hotel and enjoy the stunning scenery.
  • Lake Maggiore & Stresa  Today we'll visit nearby Lake Maggiore and its most attractive lakeside town, Stresa. The resort town owes its origin to the days of the ‘Grand Tour’ when Europe’s 19th-century aristocracy, having crossed the border from Switzerland, experienced their first taste of Italy. Unmistakably Mediterranean in character, its shores, lined with oleanders and palms, backed by classic belle époque hotels create an ambience of classic gentility. Here you can explore as you wish, perhaps you'll take a stroll along its impressive palm-lined promenade and enjoy the fine views across the shimmering lake to the Borromean Islands just offshore. Literary enthusiasts could relax at the bar of the Grand Hotel, featured in Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms and frequented by the likes of George Bernard Shaw and Charlie Chaplin.  Isola Bella   We'll also enjoy a guided tour of the Baroque Palazzo on Isola Bella. Its resplendent rooms feature refined furniture, sculptures and paintings while outside exquisite terraces are planted with citrus trees and magnolias. The Island’s gardens were transformed by a 17th century count, from a barren rock into an amazing, terraced garden. This stunning display has long been visited by the famous, amongst them Queen Caroline of England, wife of George IV, plus Napoleon and Josephine. (B, D)    + Included experience – A visit to Stresa on Lake Maggiore and a guided tour of Isola Bella
  • Lugano  This morning we'll travel to Lugano, the capital of the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino which was seized by the Swiss in 1512 and has steadfastly refused any opportunity to revert to Italy ever since! It is absolutely fascinating, an eclectic mix of traditional Swiss values and the more laid-back Latin influences from across the border. The trains run on time and shops are just as chic, but there’s a distinctive Mediterranean feel unlike anything you’ll experience elsewhere in Switzerland. Tiny alleyways lead to unmistakably Italian piazzas, where you can relax over a typically Italian lunch, but like everywhere else in Switzerland, the traffic laws are obeyed without question - it really is a quirky blend! The town is a delight to explore. Centred around the café-lined main square, it’s the ideal spot for people-watching whilst enjoying a coffee. Alternatively, you can explore the myriad of twisting lanes of the old town or the dense network of shops with their displays probably unmatched anywhere in the world.  Lugano is a lovely place to idly wander before enjoying yet more outstanding scenery on the return journey to our hotel for dinner.   + Included experience – A visit to Lugano
  • Villa Carlotta  Enjoy a full day of Ssignature experiences. First expereince - Discover a true Italian treasure with a visit to the 17th-century Villa Carlotta with its majestic views over the lake. From world-famous azaleas, heavenly camellias and exotic orchids, you can wander its magnificent gardens, enjoying the displays of colourful and fragrant plants from around the world. You'll feel like you've stepped back in time as you explore the villa’s impressive interior and view its superb artwork, sculptures and antique furniture collected over three centuries. Second expereince - As we soak up the spectacular views enjoy a refreshing local aperitivo and nibbles at Villa Carlotta's panoramic terrace. 
  • As our Grand Tour of Lake Como, Milan and the Bernina Express draws to a close, we'll return to the airport and fly home arriving back in the UK on the same day.

What's Included

Holiday Highlights

  • Highlights:
  • Take a boat ride to visit the beautiful Villa del Balbianello and idyllic Bellagio on Lake Como
  • Enjoy a journey on the Bernina Express, one of the world’s most picturesque alpine railway journeys
  • Explore Stresa on Lake Maggiore and enjoy a guided tour of Isola Bella
  • Take a guided tour of Milan, Italy’s chic second city, seeing the city’s highlights
  • Visit the Swiss lakeside town of Lugano
  • Signature Highlights:
  • Admire one of Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpieces, The Last Supper, with timed ticket entry into Santa Maria delle Grazie
  • Against a stunning backdrop if iconic Lake Como, sip a refreshing local aperitif in the charming ambience of Villa Carlotta and drink in the views
  • Stroll amongst the sensational colours and scents of Villa Carlotta’s beautiful gardens, with included entrance to view its magnificent private art collection
  • From the exceptional comfort of your upgraded first-class seat, marvel at the jaw-dropping vistas as you ride the Bernina Express
  • Enjoy the more exclusive atmosphere of travelling in a small group with an average of 22 guests

Our Price Includes

  • The price of this holiday is per person based on two people sharing a twin or double room. Single rooms and Lake View rooms are subject to availability at the relevant supplement.
  • The price includes:
  • Direct return flights 
  • 10 nights’ accommodation  
  • Daily breakfast and 7 dinners 
  • All local taxes and transfers 
  • All tours as mentioned 
  • Services of an expert Riviera Travel Tour Manager 
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Dates and Prices

 
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Accommodation

3* Hotel Bazzoni – Tremezzo -

★★★

This functional 3-star hotel is situated in the small village of Tremezzo, overlooking Lake Como from the main road. The hotel has a modern appearance and an interesting history. Originally a spa hotel, it was unfortunately damaged during World War 2 - you can still see some of the original features. Each room is simply furnished with a private bathroom, air-conditioning, TV, safe, USB ports and complimentary Wi-Fi. Guests can enjoy an outdoor pool in the terraced garden and a lively ground-floor bar. Riviera guests have a choice of several restaurants in which to dine, all located with the hotel itself - the main restaurant for Riviera guests is the No. 26 Bistro (subject to availability). This restaurant offers a la carte menu and waiter service, while the first-floor restaurant is perfect for a quick bite. During peak season, the hotel provides other dining options - such as a pizza or BBQ evening - subject to availability.

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Other Information

Holiday code

R678

Holiday provided by Riviera Travel

BOOK WITH CONFIDENCE: change your booking for free, Covid-19 cancellation protection included as standard and 100% protection with ABTA & ATOL. This holiday is sold and operated by Riviera Travel (ABTA V4744, ATOL 3430). These ABTA and ATOL bonds mean that, when you book a Riviera Travel holiday, you can be 100% sure that your money is safe.

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