We cross Lake Maggiore to explore the Borromean Islands, taste the wines of the Monferrato region, visit enchanting Lake Orta and travel into Switzerland on the scenic Centovalli Railway.
About the Tour
From our location overlooking beautiful Lake Maggiore in the picturesque town of Stresa, we explore this magnificent region of Italy. We visit the Borromean Islands, taste the wines of Monferrato, visit enchanting Lake Orta and travel into Switzerland on the scenic Centovalli Railroad.
Your vacation start or end can be tailored to meet your travel needs.
- First Class rail travel throughout (Standard Premier Class on Eurostar journeys with a light meal and drinks)
- 9 nights' hotel accommodation
- 16 meals, including 9 breakfasts, 1 lunch and 6 dinners, including a farewell dinner in Stresa
- Excursions to Isola Bella and Isola dei Pescatori
- Visit to a Monferrato vineyard, with wine tasting
- Explore the Borromeo Palace
- Lake Orta cruise
- Journey on the Centovalli Railroad
- Enjoy an authentic Italian Lunch at an 'agriturismo'
- The services of a professional Tour Manager from start to finish
Day 1 - London to Colmar
Meet at our St Pancras Departure Office and board the Eurostar to Paris, continuing to Colmar for the night. (Eurostar meal, D)
Day 2 - To Stresa
Leaving Colmar, we journey through the beautiful Italian countryside to the pretty town of Stresa, on the shores of Lake Maggiore. Our base here for 7 nights is the 4-Star Grand Hotel Bristol. One of the finest hotels in Stresa, the 4-Star Grand Hotel Bristol enjoys a stunning location on the shores of the lake. (B, D)
Day 3 - At leisure by Lake Maggiore
Today you have the chance to explore Stresa at your own pace. An ideal way to get your bearings is to enjoy a walk along the attractive, flower-filled promenade, lined with impressive villas and neatly terraced gardens. You may wish to take a boat to the colorful botanical gardens of Villa Taranto and the Sanctuary of Santa Caterina del Sasso, nestled in a rocky overhang on the lake. Alternatively, perhaps travel by cable car from Stresa up Mount Mottarone - the journey offers an amazing panorama, and on a clear day, your views from the snow-dusted peak include seven lakes as well as the Italian and Swiss Alps. (B)
Day 4 - The Borromean Islands
Today we discover two of the beautiful Borromean Islands, set in the shimmering waters of Lake Maggiore. We leave Stresa by boat and cruise to the Isola Bella for a guided visit to the sumptuous Borromeo Palace. The magnificent Baroque structure dominates the island, and after a tour of its lavish rooms, we explore the alluring Italian-style gardens. The spectacular gardens are on ten terraces and include an open-air theater with geometrically designed hedging, water-lilies and citrus trees, the Azalea Garden and the 'Piano della Canfora', which is named for the 150-year-old laurel tree growing there. In the English garden, there are lotus flowers, whilst at the highest point of the garden there is a great unicorn, the symbol of the Borromeo family. Our next stop is the tiny Isola dei Pescatori, a permanently-inhabited island - by fewer than a hundred people - of narrow cobbled alleyways and pretty buildings. It boasts a fine selection of restaurants in which to enjoy lunch, with many menus loyal to the island's rich fishing heritage. We enjoy an afternoon exploring the charming island before cruising back to Stresa. (B, D)
Day 5 - Market Day in Stresa
You have another opportunity to explore Stresa at your leisure. Today the town is transformed for Market Day, and the bustling, colorful stalls are well worth a visit. Should you wish to venture further afield, why not visit vibrant Milan, the capital of northern Italy? Perhaps visit the incredible Duomo - the largest Gothic cathedral in the world, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, a 19th-century glass-roofed shopping arcade, or Teatro alla Scala, the beautiful opera house. The stunning 2,800-seat opera theater welcomed its premier performance in August 1778, with Antonio Salieri's Europa Riconosciuta, having been built to replace another theater on the site, which was lost to a fire. Designed by Giuseppe Piermarini, the Teatro alla Scala is known for its sumptuous gilt and crimson interiors, as well as a rich history as the home of opera and ballet in Milan. For those feeling less energetic, you can make use of the excellent facilities at the hotel for a thoroughly relaxing day. (B)
Day 6 - Monferrato Vineyards and a wine
Our full-day excursion by coach takes us into the rolling countryside of the Monferrato wine region, famous for its vineyards stretching over hills interspersed with unspoiled villages. Monferrato is particularly important in the sparkling wine industry, and our day begins with a visit to a local wine producer where we have a tour of the vineyards, followed by a tasting of grappa, a regional grape brandy. We continue to an 'agriturismo' farm and enjoy a four-course farmhouse lunch of local specialties and a chance to sample some of the delicious locally-produced wine. (B, L)
Day 7 - The Centovalli Railroad
Today's full-day excursion takes us on one of Europe's most scenic railroads, the narrow-gauge Centovalli Railroad, on an excursion to Locarno in Switzerland. The line threads its way across 'a hundred valleys' that give the railroad its name, all the while passing through outstanding scenery of idyllic landscapes. We pass over deep ravines and gushing waterfalls, and alongside thick forests and through sleepy villages during the journey. On arrival in Locarno, you are free to have lunch and explore at your leisure. As well as a picturesque Old Town, Locarno has beautiful subtropical gardens filled with palm trees and exotic flowers, lakeside promenades and great shopping under the arcades of the Piazza Grande. Later we cruise back down Lake Maggiore to Stresa - a splendid way to take in your surroundings on the homeward journey. (B, D)
Day 8 - Lake Orta
After a leisurely morning, we set off for Lake Orta, Lake Maggiore's smaller but no less enchanting neighbor. We enjoy a private boat cruise to the stunning Isola San Giulio, a tiny island dominated by its impressive basilica, before returning to explore the delightful Orta San Giulio, the atmospheric town known as the 'Jewel of the Lake'. Situated on a tiny promontory against the dramatic backdrop of the Alps, this lovely town is truly a gem, with cobbled streets and a piazza overlooking the lake's sparkling waters. We return in good time for our dinner this evening. (B, D)
Days 9 & 10 - Stresa to Colmar in First Class rail
We depart Stresa in the morning by train, traveling through the Simplon Tunnel and beautiful Alpine scenery over the border into Switzerland. Skirting the shores of Lake Thun, we change trains at Basel and continue on into France and our overnight stop. We reach the pretty, half-timbered town of Colmar, where we overnight. Tonight we enjoy our final dinner together in the hotel. On Day 10 we return to London by rail. (Day 9 - B, D, Day 10 - B)
Grand Hotel Bristol, Stresa
The 4-Star Grand Hotel Bristol is located on Stresa's famous promenade, within walking distance of the town center. The hotel is set amidst beautiful gardens and enjoys terrific views across the lake. It has a restaurant, bar, winter garden and a large swimming pool which enjoys panoramic views of the lake and mountains. There is also an indoor pool with two jacuzzies, a sauna, and a small gym. An elegant, marbled reception leads to stylishly decorated rooms, which come equipped with air conditioning, a telephone, television, minibar, hairdryer. Some rooms at the Grand Hotel Bristol have a balcony.
The Centovalli Railroad was originally planned to connect Locarno in the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland with Domodossola in the very north of Italy. The line's opening was delayed considerably owing to the First World War, but construction was resumed almost immediately afterward and the first services began in 1923.
The high-speed Eurostar trains link St Pancras International in London with Paris and Lille in France as well as Brussels in Belgium. Eurostar's Standard Class coaches feature two seats on either side of the central aisle, most of which are arranged in an 'airline' seating configuration with drop down tray tables. There are two tables for four per carriage. Passengers traveling in Eurostar Standard Class coaches can take advantage of the Bar-Buffet which sells a range of snacks, meals, hot and cold drinks - including Champagne!
Introduced in 1981, France's TGV (Train à Grande Vitesse) was the original European high-speed train. Linking Paris with Lyon, the new service revolutionized train travel and meant that traveling by air over medium and short distances was no longer seen as the best option, even for business travel. The network has expanded rapidly and today these sleek, stylish trains offer links to over 60 destinations throughout France. Operated by SNCF, the French national rail operator, TGV trains travel over specially-constructed high-speed lines. The trains can achieve speeds of up to 186mph (300km/h) on most long-distance routes and 200mph (320km/h) on the new TGV Est line, which links Paris with Strasbourg, Luxembourg, and Basel. With the exception of shorter journeys, TGVs almost always have an on-board buffet car, serving a selection of drinks and light refreshments.
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