From soaring peaks to sapphire waters, modern marvels and scenic splendor, the Alpine countries of Italy, Switzerland and Austria all have something special. City slickers will love the fine art and high culture of timeless metropolises like Innsbruck and Vienna, and rugged outdoorsmen will enjoy their journeys through Chur and Lugano. Be you a hill climber or art critic, friend of nature or fan of fashion, this unforgettable vacation is made just for you.
Varenna - Arrival in the Alps
Your once-in-a-lifetime trek through the enchanting countries of the Alps begins on the outskirts of Milan, where a private driver will be waiting to transfer you to the shores of beautiful and serene Lake Como and the lakeside town of Varenna, where you’ll spend the next three nights in incomparable scenic splendor in luxurious accommodation. This family-run boutique hotel features eight chic and comfortable rooms with private balconies affording unmatched views of the breathtaking blue expanse of Lake Como, and the hotel’s restaurant is one of the best in the area, with traditional Varennese fare and the finest tables to revel in the glory of an Italian sunset.
The afternoon can be spent exploring the town of Varenna, where the narrow and winding streets are fringed with stirring 19th-century villas, offering a bustling foreground to the awesome rise of the towering Alps beyond. Walk the delightful promenade along the lakeside, where you’ll find charming cafes and boutiques as well as spectacular views of the surrounding countryside. Don’t be surprised if you spend most of your time at a local cafe, sipping an espresso or enjoying a cone of gelato while gazing upon the splendid scene.
Varenna - On the Shores of Northern Italy’s Best-Loved Lake
After a delicious breakfast, you’ll step aboard a ferry that will take you over the blue waters of Lake Como to the posh resort town of Bellagio, nestled on the edge of a dramatic peninsula that divides the lake and filled with multicolored shops, charming streets, and spectacular villas. You’ll begin your day at a local restaurant, where the owner will lead you on a tour of his own herb garden before giving you a fascinating lesson in the art of preparing Northern Italian cuisine. The real reward comes later, as lunch features the fine food you just learned how to prepare.
Following lunch, explore this opulent and engaging lakeside town, from the plunging serpentine streets that riddle Bellagio to the tranquil scene at the village’s waterfront, where shops and turn-of-the-century homes are illuminated in the afternoon sun, their light and airy hues shining in splendor. The evening sees you back in Varenna, ready to enjoy a delicious meal in this fascinating village.
Varenna - A Day of Cruising Lake Como
Today you leave the shores and hit the waters of Lake Como, set out to explore the most spectacular villas on the lake, captained by a knowledgeable, experienced and engaging guide. Cruise by the stunning English-style gardens that harmonize perfectly with the surrounding natural Italian landscape at the famous Villa Melzi d’Eril in Bellagio, and make your way past the jutting peninsula that the village so opulently crowns. Then gaze upon the elegant façade and the scintillating Italian gardens of the Villa Carlotta, home to an unbeatable view of the Bellagio Peninsula, meticulously planned gardens filled with enchanting flora and classic statuary, and an art gallery that features a number of remarkable works, from Acquisti’s Mars and Venus to a selection of pieces by Canova.
Your final stop is the fantastic Villa del Balbianello, perched on a tiny tree-filled peninsula on the lake’s southwest branch and the site of some of the finest terraced gardens in the country. Its stirring prominence on the shore of Lake Como and its iconic façade has made it the set for many movies, including A Month by the Lake and Casino Royale.
Lugano - Leaving Italy, Entering Switzerland
Enjoy your last morning in Italy at the charming town of Como, a settlement first founded during the Roman Empire and filled with reminders to its long, varied and thrilling history. You’ll find buildings from the Medieval ages like the Broletto, neoclassical mansions like the Villa Olmo, and soaring churches whose construction spanned centuries, from the Gothic façade of the Como Cathedral – reported to be the last Gothic cathedral built in the country – to the soaring bell towers and Romanesque stylings of the Basilica of Sant’Abbondio.
This afternoon, you board a train that will take you past the Italian border and into the scenic and spectacular country of Switzerland. You’ll ride all the way to the north shore of Lake Lugano to the up-and-coming town of Lugano, known by its tony nickname of the “Monte Carlo of Switzerland” and nestled in the midst of some of the country’s most inimitable scenery. The evening can be spent enjoying this delightful city and the phenomenal countryside that envelops you.
Lugano - Exploring Every Inch of Lake Lugano
Your day begins with a thrilling climb and breathtaking views as you board the Monte San Salvatore, a railway that ascends the steep face of this dramatic peak and gives its patrons the pleasure of a summit with a 360-degree panorama. From high above, you’ll be able to see all of the wonders of this sensational region, from the rippling waters of Lake Lugano to the green faces of Monte Generoso to the tiny Italian enclave of Campione d’Italia. It is sure to be a tram ride that you will always remember.
A delicious lunch awaits you at the base of the mountain, and then it’s on to the docks where you board the ship that will take you on a grand cruise of Lake Lugano. You’ll cross the daring Lavena Strait and ogle at the natural beauty that surrounds you while your tour guide regales you with the stories that tinge the shores of this resplendent reservoir, of the people that have made their homes here and the history that has occurred in this tiny yet august towns.
Chur - A Scenic Train Ride Through the Sensational Swiss Alps
A journey unlike any other awaits you today, as you’ll cross through the Alps on board a sleek and elegant train, offering spectacular glimpses of the mountainous landscape that fills the horizon. This serpentine railway links the major centers of Northern Europe to those in Southern Europe in truly inimitable fashion, as the Bernina Express roars along beryl blue glaciers, craggy cliffs, and soaring summit. The stretch of rail between Thusis and Tirano is so astounding, in fact, that is has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Your final destination is the Swiss town of Chur, where you’ll enjoy accommodations, perfectly located in the heart of the city and offering the very best amenities and finest service. The bar serves as a central meeting place and serves an excellent and varied menu of cocktails and apertifs.
Chur - Spending a Day in Switzerland’s Oldest City
Discover the extensive history and fascinating tales that lurk throughout the streets and fill the air of Chur. There are artifacts from pre-Romanic civilizations, from Frankish and Ostrogothic “barbarians” to the far-ranging Celts and more. There are a number of fascinating medieval antiquities in the sacristy of St. Luzius and simply strolling along the Poststrasse in the Old Town is a genuine delight, lined with canton flags and Swiss banners and home to scrumptious cafes and darling shops. Art lovers will be interested by the collection at the city’s Romano-Gothic cathedral, which houses works by Durer and Hans Holbein the Younger.
Innsbruck - Turning to Austria
You leave scenic Switzerland and turn east for arresting Austria, the home to musical prodigies and stirring culture. Cross through the ranging ridge of the mighty Alps before crossing the border and alighting in Innsbruck, the home to two Winter Olympic Games and one of the most charming and captivating cities in the country. You’ll simply adore the narrow streets and elaborate edifices which fill the city’s center, from the imposing yet elegant front of the Hofburg Palace to the delicate Rococo decorations that adorn the Helblinghaus.
Your accommodations while in Innsbruck are located within walking distance of the city’s best sights and renowned for its warm hospitality and friendly staff. The hotel’s quaint touches are sure to delight you, and its impeccable services and unbeatable location are sure to make it truly memorable.
Innsbruck - Hitting the Highlights in Innsbruck
Innsbruck is filled with the delightful mixture of the traditional and the modern, the timeless and the new, and it is on display at every street corner and proclaimed at every major building. You’ll certainly marvel at the more than 2,500 fire-gilded copper tiles that decorate the famed Goldenes Dachl (the Golden Roof) used by Holy Roman Emperor Maximilian I and his wife to observe the festivals and other civic events that took place in the streets below, and you’ll be astounded by the gorgeous and opulent palaces that can be found in the city.
Salzburg - Austrian Charm and Austrian Culture
Board the train to continue on to sensational Salzburg, whose Old Town was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997 and where the charming city environs meld perfectly into the gently sloping foothills of the ponderous Alps that frame the horizon. Stroll along Getreidegasse, one of the oldest streets in the city and a major shopping destination, where you’ll find the birthplace and childhood home of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one of the greatest composers in the history of Western music.
While in Salzburg, you’ll spend your evenings in truly high fashion at a traditional and cozy hotel in the heart of the city center that offers all of the best modern amenities and truly superb accommodations. The antiques that fill the nouveau halls are truly timeless, and the garden that gracefully abuts the hotel offers the perfect oasis from the rush of city streets.
Salzburg - Spending Some Time in the Birthplace of Mozart
There is a myriad of astounding marvels to see here in scintillating Salzburg, and today is dedicated to exploring all that this truly remarkable city has to offer. Witness the immense size and graceful façade of the Gothic Salzburg Cathedral, covered with sculptures of Christianity’s greatest saints and topped by a dome whose interior artwork truly cannot be missed. Then, gaze upon the magnificent Salzburg Residenz, whose crowning fountain in the center offers a dramatic point of interest in this immense and astounding complex, the former home of the archbishops of Salzburg.
In the afternoon, visit some of the city’s best-known landmarks, offering a dramatic glimpse into Salzburg’s long and varied history. Witness the Mozart Monument that dominates the scene at Mozartplatz Square and pays a beautiful homage to the great composer. And no visit to Salzburg would be complete without topping the dramatic perch of the Hohensalzburg Castle, the main fortress of Salzburg that tops the summit of the Festungsberg and which is one of the largest medieval castles in the continent.
Vienna - Entering Austria’s Cosmopolitan Capital
Make your triumphant way into the heart of Austria and its political, cultural and social center: marvelous Vienna. You’ll be picked up at the train station by a private driver, who will take you to your incredible hotel, right next to spectacular St. Stephen’s Cathedral and furnished with sumptuous furniture and incomparable amenities. You can enjoy the tasteful modern art that fills the common areas or get pampered at the spa, before enjoying a drink or quick bite at one of the hotel’s excellent restaurants.
This afternoon, begin your discovery of Vienna by stopping by local legend the Café Sacher at the Sacher Hotel, the original home of the Sachertorte, one of the best-known desserts on the planet. You’ll have the chance to live it up at this perennial hotspot for the Austrian elite and enjoy the hotel’s eponymous cake in true Viennese fashion – with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream and a delicious coffee concoction known as a “Wiener Melange.”
Vienna - Touring the Village of Vienna
You have today to reconnoiter this remarkable metropolis, taking in all of the best buildings and the most fascinating museums of what was once the largest German-speaking city on Earth. Start at St. Stephen’s Cathedral, whose incredible tiled roofs and dramatic spire display the pride and power of Imperial Austria like no other building in the country. Next, walk through the halls of the Hofburg Palace, a spectacular edifice that was once the winter residence of the powerful Habsburg Dynasty, one of the longest-ruling royal houses in European history. The marvelous galleries, gorgeous grounds and sumptuous interior are truly among the best examples of their types in Europe.
In the afternoon, explore the exhibits at the Kunsthistorisches Museum, which houses the immense art collection of the former Habsburg Emperors and Empresses, now on full display for the glory of the Austrian public. There are great works from Central Europe’s best-known names, paintings by Rubens and Raphael, Brueghel’s classic Tower of Babel, Velazquez’s entrancing portrait of the Infanta Margaret Theresa of Spain, and even a statue of the Egyptian pharaoh Thutmosis III.
Vienna - Departing Central Europe
Today, a private driver will take you from your hotel to the airport at Vienna, where you’ll have plenty of time before boarding the plane that will take you back home. From the shores of Lake Como to the darling streets of Vienna, this is sure to be one vacation that fills your heart with memories and leaves you aching to return before you even leave the tarmac.
- Hit the highlights of Alpine Italy as you take three days to enjoy the charms of Lake Como, from the elegant towns that line its shores to the awe-inspiring sunsets that light the land and turns the lake to fire
- Take a scenic train ride past the Italian border and into Switzerland, where you’ll explore the environs of Lake Lugano and its eponymous shore side town, the new Swiss hotspot for athletes and celebrities
- Ride through the mountains in truly high fashion on board the Albula and Bernina lines of the Rhaetian Railway, taking you through the most picturesque parts of the Swiss Alps
- Enter Austria at Innsbruck, one of the great cities in winter sports and site of some of the most impressive architecture and charming cultural traditions in the country
- Visit Salzburg, the birthplace of Mozart, the colossal Salzburg Cathedral, and the imposing ramparts of the Hohensalzburg Fortress
- End your adventure in Vienna, the cosmopolitan capital of Austria and one of the great cities of Central Europe, home to the soaring spire of St. Stephen’s Cathedral, the Gothic towers of the Rathaus, and one of the best classical music scenes in the world
The Alps are the literal highpoints of Europe, so majestic and memorable that they have become a byword for scenic mountain landscapes. This two week tour will show you the best of the Alps from three completely unique perspectives, as you’ll encounter these my peaks on Italian, Swiss and Austrian soil. If you’ve ever longed to discover the iconic backbone of Europe, this is the trip of your dreams.
Enjoy the more luxurious side of the mountains as you spend three days on the bucolic shores of Italy’s Lake Como, taking the spectacular scenery and the elegant lakeside villages like Bellagio and Varenna. Head north to Switzerland, where you’ll walk the streets of the country’s oldest city at Chur and revel in the untrammeled grandeur of nature that encircles the village of Lugano. And revel in the glories of the old Empire as you visit some of Austria’s greatest cities, from the Golden Roof of Innsbruck to the Town Hall of Vienna to the streets of Salzburg, filled with the tunes of Mozart, Austria’s favorite son.
This is an adventure for mountain climbers and art enthusiasts, a tour designed for everyone from gourmands to grizzled nature-goers. It’s filled with arresting culture and singular scenery, replete with breathtaking buildings and charming cafes, characterized by an easy-going charm and engaging spirit. This is the Alps at their very best, and it’s time for you to make their acquaintance.
$4,545 per person (excluding international flights)
Your Zicasso trip is fully customizable, and this sample itinerary is a starting place for your travel plans. Actual costs are dynamic, and your selection of accommodations and activities, your season of travel, and other such variables will bring this budget guideline up or down. Throughout your planning experience with your Zicasso specialist, your itinerary is designed around your budget. You can book your trip when you are satisfied with every detail. Planning your trip with a Zicasso travel specialist is a free service.
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Your final trip cost will vary based on your selected accommodations, activities, meals, and other trip elements that you opt to include.
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