Italy's Lakes District Tour with Cinque Terre

A 12 day trip to Italy 
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This tour is for everyone who’s ever wished for two weeks of utter relaxation; for everyone who’s ever sought out the tiny towns and hamlets instead of the well-worn tourist trails; for everyone who’s ever longed for an authentic travel experience. This is the trip for everyone for whom Italy is so much more than Florence and Venice and Rome, and it’s the trip that you’re sure to remember for the rest of your life.

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General Information

A gondola transports tourists on the Venice canals in Italy.
Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Venice, Milan, Lake Como, Lake Orta, Stresa, Bellagio, Cinque Terre, Portovenere, Monterosso al Mare

Departure Dates 

Flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Landing Outside the Floating City

Once your plane touches down on the edges of Venice, you’ll leave all expectations behind and enter a city that is unlike any you’ve ever known, where cars are absent and everywhere boats glide through the canals with dash and verve. A private water taxi will take you to your darling Venetian hotel, located a stone’s throw away from the romantic Piazza San Marco, where you’ll have the chance to recover from your journey before enjoying a fabulous welcome dinner in the heart of magical Venice.

Day 2: Exploring the Queen of the Adriatic

Set out to wander the meandering waterways of romantic and resplendent Venice, led by local guide Cinzia, who will show you all of the city’s best-known attractions. Marvel at the opulence and exquisite detail that fills St. Mark’s Basilica, and learn about Venice’s glory days at the Doge’s Palace right next door. You’ll walk through the marble halls and up stern and elegant staircases, over the famous Bridge of Sighs and into the infamous Venetian prisons, which are now restored and filled with fascinating exhibits. Your tour concludes in fine fashion with a boat trip to the nearby island of Murano, where you’ll get a chance to see some of the best artisan glass blowers in the world at work.

This evening, dinner is on your own, guided by the suggestions of your friendly and knowledgeable tour manager. Should you wish to get a more in-depth sense of Italian life, however, you can always join your tour manager at an over-looked hotspot, far away from the crowds and far closer to authentic Italy.

Day 3: Across the Gorgeous Italian North

Today takes you through the phenomenal expanse of the inimitable north of Italy, past charming towns like Padua and Bologna and through stunning scenery, the rolling hills and farmlands giving way to the ponderous peaks of the mountains to the north. Your first-class passage comes with the best of amenities, making this morning’s train ride seem like a gentle rocking from one fairy world to another, from the canals of Venice to the busy streets of magnificent Milan. 

Once in Milan, you’ll alight from your train and join your fellow adventurers on a private transport to an elegant and charming hotel in Varenna, one of the beautiful communes that lie on the shore of spectacular Lake Como, a sapphire stretch of water that is the deepest lake in Italy. After setting your things down in your room, you can walk the streets and lanes of Varenna, or relax in the hotel before a delicious and enjoyable dinner.

Day 4: Captivating Lake Como

Hit the water and cruise the coast as you set your sights on some of the best resort towns in Italy, names that have since become synonymous with timeless class. Ferry to incredible Bellagio, the “Pearl of the Lake,” where you can find the most remarkable villas in the country, and stop by Como to do some shopping for fine home goods, artisan crafts and wares, and superb silks. Despite the amazing offerings at these delightful villages, you might find that your favorite part of the day was cutting through the azure waves of Lake Como, the wind in your hair and the light Italian sunshine on your face.

Day 5: A Sojourn to Switzerland

Pack your passport and head to the train station as today you turn north, through the scenic mountainous borderlands and into the realm of Switzerland, bound for St. Moritz, a hotspot for the international Jet Set for decades. You can meander the scenic streets, framed by some of the highest peaks in the Alps and lined with the boutiques of fine fashion houses and jewelers, before enjoying a delicious lunch in the heart of the city, where the offerings are always varied and always excellent. Board the train in the early afternoon, and return home to Varenna in plenty of time to enjoy a delicious dinner.

Alternatively, you might choose to remain in Varenna, enjoying the beautiful weather or discovering the breathtaking gardens at Villa Monastero, exploding in color and offering an incredible view over the lake. This incredible villa is sure to leave you gazing at its unspeakable elegance and enviable location.

Day 6: Discovering the History of Italy’s Lake District

You leave the shores of dashing Lake Como and turn to the scenic village of Orta San Giuliu on Lake Orta, one of the most gorgeous lakes in the area that is, sadly, often overlooked due to nearby Lake Maggiore. During your journey, you’ll make a brief detour in Stresa, a characteristic northwest Italian town where a young American named Ernest Hemingway recovered from wounds suffered World War I. He later wrote a book loosely based on the experience, and titled it A Farewell to Arms

You arrive on the shores of Lake Orta this afternoon, taking in Orta San Giulio’s appealing piazza right on the lake and the town’s incredible accommodations, offering sparkling amenities and inspiring views over this beautiful stretch of Italian countryside.

Day 7: Setting Out for San Giulio

Make for the center of Lake Orta to encounter the charm and romance of Isla San Giulio, a speck of land jutting scenically above the rolling waves of Orta. Here you’ll find the Basilica of Saint Giulio, a 12th-century masterpiece that looks over the enormous old seminary that was built in the 1840s, and the serene and stirring “path of silence.” Enjoy an afternoon of languid pursuits: sunning on the hotel’s terrace, shopping in the small town where you’ll find only pedestrians, or simply nursing a cappuccino and a view over the stunning scenery beyond.

Return to the shores in the late afternoon, and enjoy dinner on your own this evening. 

Day 8: The Intimacy and Romance of the Italian Riviera

Turn from the lake country to the Mediterranean coast as you head for the incomparable five villages of Cinque Terre, the Riviera resort communities that are among the most picturesque seaside towns on Earth. Enter at Monterosso al Mare or Porto Venere before setting out to explore the winding streets and plunging cliffs of these five miracles, still relatively untouched by corporate development – and tourists. This is an Italian resort town as it existed years ago, when life was slower and everyone took care to make sure they only offered the best. 

Day 9: The Wines of Northwest Italy

Today you explore the culinary side of the Mediterranean coast, as you’ll discover some of the best food and drink offerings from this part of Italy. Sample some of the white wine that Cinque Terre is famous for, chilled and crisp and fresh, or try a simple pasta and pesto, a sauce invented, refined and perfected in nearby Genoa.

You might also choose to take a boat ride to the town of Porto Venere, where you’ll find relics of the town’s medieval past – like the Gothic Church of St. Peter – and reminders of its more recent times, like the gorgeous Grotta dell’Arpaia, better known as Byron’s Grotto after the famous Romantic poet. Simply wandering the streets of this UNESCO World Heritage Site are sure to delight, and there are a number of excellent cafes and restaurants should you find yourself in need of refreshment.

Day 10: One Last Day by the Shores of the Med

Though you loathe to leave the splendid shores and hate to say goodbye to these captivating coasts, today is your final day in this little portion of paradise. Return to your favorite village for a perfect cappuccino or an aperitif, watching the people and enjoying the flow of life here. Hit the beach and spend your day in the peaceful pulse of the Monterosso sun. Snap some more pictures of this unforgettable landscape, the crashing shores of the sea giving way to the dramatic rises of the buttes and foothills beyond. Whatever you choose to do today, you can be sure that it’s sure to be special in Cinque Terre.

Day 11: Into the Heart of Northern Italy

Today you return inland, trekking toward the heart of Italy’s industrial north, the country’s second capital and the home to some of the most beautiful architecture – and best shopping – in the entire world: Milan. Make your way to the boutique hotel that is steps from the church that boasts Leonardo’s famous fresco The Last Supper on one of its walls, drop off your bags, and set out the soak up every bit of Milan that you can. 

No trip to Milan would be complete without a visit to its titanic cathedral that rises out of the city like a white fire, leaping to the sky in jagged flicks and licks. The Gothic Duomo is decorated on the outside with thousands of statues – tiny recreations of famous saints and popes, great figures in the history of the Roman Catholic Church – while the interior houses a stunning collection of stained glass windows. Make a quick stop by the famous La Scala, Milan’s opera house, that is one of the greatest music venues on the globe, before setting out for the scintillating Galleria Victoria Emanuel, Milan’s main shopping mall, filled with some of the finest fashion houses in the world, many of which come from Milan itself.

This evening, enjoy dinner at one of the city’s incredible restaurants, but be sure to save room for dessert: the gelato in Milan is among the best in Italy.

Day 12: Saying Goodbye in Milan

Today you end your unforgettable journey to Italy, taking you to some of the country’s largest cities and most remote towns, showing you the best of culture, the best of cuisine, and the best of nature. From the Venetian lagoon to the craggy cliffs of Cinque Terre, this is a northern Italian vacation that is sure to leave everyone in awe.


Starting Price 

This trip is customizable for your private travel.

What's Included 

  • Accommodations
  • In-country transportation
  • Some or all guided tours and activities (dependent on season)
  • Expert trip planning
  • 24x7 support during your trip
The starting price is based on travel during the low season for a minimum of two travelers staying in shared 3-star accommodations. Please inquire for a custom trip quote based on your travel preferences and travel dates.