B = Breakfast L = Lunch D = Dinner
Please note program is subject to changes
Day 1 Arrival Milan, Italy, 29 April 2023
Arrival in Milan, Italy, from your home destination, by your own arrangement. Check-in at Hotel Cavour, centrally located in Milan.
Day 2 Milan - Verona 30 April 2023 (B, L)
The group will meet with ARNE & CARLOS after breakfast at Hotel Cavour, before joining the bus which will take us to Verona. Around lunchtime, there will be a stop at the winery Selva Capuzza, with a visit to the cellars and wine tasting - before a lovely three-course lunch. The winery is set in the gentle hills at the southern end of Lake Garda, between Desenzano and Sirmione. From their 15th-century country house, the family runs a restaurant - Cascina Capuzza. The estate produces wines in three distinct DOC appellations: Lugana, San Martino della Battaglia, and Garda Classico.
After lunch, we continue to Verona. In a stretch of landscape following the bends and twists of the River Adige, we find Verona, a visually stunning city and one of the 53 Italian sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Verona is the site of a harmonious integration of fine artistic elements from several historical epochs. Check-in at Indigo Verona Grand Hotel des Arts, a charming boutique hotel located only a few steps from the historic center and Porta Nuova, Piazza Bra, and the Arena. Evening and dinner at own leisure.
Day 3 Verona 1 May 2023 (B, D)
After breakfast, we will have a short guided bus drive, which takes us to the lovely Giardino Giusti. This garden is one of the relatively undiscovered treasures of Verona. It dates to 1404 and features Roman ruins, fountains, and mythological statues. When the ‘Grand Tour’ became popular, Giardino Giusti became an obligatory stopping-off point for travelers visiting Verona, including poets, artists, and crowned heads of Europe. The garden’s emphasis is on architectural features, references to mythology, and links with the classical world. The garden features items that were in vogue in sixteenth-century gardens - pots with citrus plants, mythological statues, fountains, lemon houses, grottoes, grotesque masks, Roman ruins, and pavilions to sit and rest and enjoy the panoramic views of Verona. After the garden tour, the afternoon is free to explore Verona on your own, and maybe enjoy lunch in the historic center around the Arena. In the evening we meet in the lobby and walk to the nearby restaurant, especially chosen for this evening’s dinner.
Day 4 Verona – Franciacorta – Lago di Garda 2 May 2023 (B, L)
The drive today from Verona to Lago di Garda goes through the beautiful wine area of Franciacorta – Italy’s exclusive champagne-style wine. We will have a delightful stop at the Mosnel Winery with a tour of the estate, wine tastings, and lunch. During the journey from Al Rocol to Gardone Riviera, we stop at Frantoio Manestrini, for a lesson in the production of the wonderful and flavorsome Garda Bresciano extra virgin olive oil, with its characteristic taste. We visit the olive groves and production area followed by a tasting. In the early afternoon, we arrive in Gardone Riviera and check in to our hotel Grand Hotel Gardone, which dates to 1884, and is located right on the shores of Lago di Garda. After its construction in 1884, the hotel underwent several refurbishments and redecorations, maintaining standards of high-profile hospitality, though constantly mindful of its historical setting. Consequently, the hotel is still one of the most elegant destinations of the Garda Riviera. Enjoy the evening by the lake at your leisure.
Day 5 Lago di Garda 3 May 2023 (B, L)
Today we will have a lovely day exploring the lake, starting with a private boat trip, just across the lake to the enchanting Isola del Garda, still the private property of the Cavazza family, which today counts three sisters and four brothers, and they have been revealing its beauty to visitors since 2001. The neo -Gothic villa has richly planted terraced gardens with rare fruits like the jujube, as well as spontaneous vegetation around the island. Isola del Garda is a place of rare beauty, rich in history and fascinating landscapes. The tour takes us through magnificent English and Italian gardens, the neo-gothic Venetian-style villa, and the beautiful natural park. Back at the hotel, we will enjoy a lovely poolside dinner, facing the lake, at the Lemon Garden Restaurant in the hotel. The rest of the day is at your leisure, to relax by the pool or explore the quaint lakeside village of Gardone Riviera.
Day 6 Lago di Garda 4 May 2023 (B, L)
It is not only the Amalfi coast that is known for its lemons. Today we will discover one of Lake Garda’s ancient lemon houses, carefully restored and still productive, thanks to the hard work of the Ganossi family at Limonaia Malora in Gargnano. The guided visit will reveal the present and past cultivation methods, the irrigation system, the stark stone pillars, and the wooden slats that serve as roof and side-wall winter protection. These were the symbols of the waning agricultural ways and the dehumanization effects of modernity, the topic chosen by D.H. Lawrence in his book “Twilight in Italy”, which he wrote during his stay here in Gargnano. We will taste the local products - where naturally lemon is the main ingredient – jams and liqueurs. Gargnano is one of the most delightful little towns on the lake with many charming restaurants along the lakefront – and in one of them, we will enjoy a tasty lunch together. After lunch, we continue to Giardino Botanico Heller, owned by Andrè Heller, from Vienna. This small garden is rich in botanical species from all over the world, as well as art, with sculptures and water fountains, colored paving stones, jazzy stripes on trees, and works by artists like Keith Haring, Roy Lichtenstein, Auguste Rodin, and others. The works of art are positioned amidst water lilies, bamboo, alpine plants, cacti, ferns, trees, and seasonal flowers. After an adventurous day, the evening is at your leisure, to relax and enjoy the last evening at Lago di Garda.
Day 7 Lago di Garda - Lago di Como 5 May 2023 (B, D)
Today our tour continues to the idyllic Lake Como. Ever since the ancient Romans escaped the summer heat in villas overlooking Lake Como, travelers have loved this scenic Italian lake. With the craggy Alps for a backdrop, a unique microclimate where tropical plants thrive, and a long history of lavish summer estates, Lake Como is surrounded by some of Italy’s most beautiful gardens. Check-in at Hotel Due Corti, located in the town of Como. The hotel is the oldest in Como and has an interesting history, it used to be a convent once upon a time. The hotel has been completely renovated over the years by its charismatic owner Giovanni who is fiercely proud of the culture of Como and proclaims his restaurant to be the finest in Como - many of the guidebooks agree! After everyone has settled in the hotel, the bus will take us to maybe the most famous garden around Como, the Villa Carlotta. Despite its imposing appearance, Villa Carlotta is quite simple if compared with the standards of the time. The villa is positioned higher than the road, which allows an inspiring view of the lake and the surrounding hills. The villa is surrounded by a wide botanical garden that is full of ancient trees, palms, rhododendrons, azaleas, and many other plants. After the guided visit here, we return to Como, and the afternoon is at our leisure until we meet for dinner at a nearby local restaurant.
Day 8 Lago di Como 6 May 2023 (B,L)
The best way to explore the lake is by boat, and today we have a private boat for the entire day! The first port of call will be Villa Balbianello, which will leave you breathless, with its beautiful terraced gardens and picturesque structure. Located on the tip of a headland, the villa provides a stunning view of Isola Comacina and the western shores of the lake. The estate consists of two residential buildings, a church, and a portico overlooking a little dock. The main building of Villa Balbianello hosts some English and French furnishings, dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. The interiors are embellished with glass paintings and a rich collection of ethnic sculptures and artifacts. The upper floor of Villa Balbianello is dedicated to Guido Monzini, former owner of the villa and leader of the first Italian expedition to Mount Everest. The exhibition has pictures, flags, and awards belonging to the famous Italian explorer, in addition to one of the eight sleighs he used to reach the North Pole. Villa del Balbianello has been used as the setting for several movies, including 'A Month by the Lake', 'Casino Royale' and 'Star Wars II'.
The boat trip continues across the lake to another famous Como villa and garden, the Villa Melzi in Bellagio, which was created as the summer residence of Francesco Melzi d’Eril, vice president of the Italian Republic founded by Napoleon in the early 1800s. The villa was built in neoclassical style and hosts valuable artwork by famous Italian artists. The gardens are preserved with great care by the family of Gallarati Scotti, the current owners. A long avenue of plane trees begins at the boat dock and gardens of azaleas and gigantic rhododendrons surround the villa, enclosing small spaces such as the hidden cave or the artificial pond in Japanese style. From Villa Melzi it is a delightful walk into the charming town of Bellagio, where we will enjoy lunch together. The boat will pick us up after lunch and take us back to our hotel in Como, where the evening is at your leisure.
Day 9 Lago di Como – Stresa, Lago di Maggiore 7 May 2023 (B, D)
Our last stop on the garden tour is Stresa, where we will be heading after checkout. Winding majestically between the Piemonte and Lombardy regions reaching up to the Swiss Alps, Stresa is the most beautiful town around the lake, bursting with flowers and sprinkled with fine old villas and whose beauty has inspired many poets and used as a stage setting for films. The promenade overlooking the lake and the Borromean Islands is lined with fine hotels and the little triangular Piazza Cadorna is Stresa’s social pedestrian center with shops, bars, and restaurants – perfect for an apertivo in the early evening before dinner.
Our hotel in Stresa is the historic Hotel Grand Bristol, with a delightful ambiance of the past. A beautiful neo-classical building with landscaped grounds situated on the shores of Lake Maggiore. All rooms are decorated in traditional style, and the public areas are lavishly decorated with mahogany furniture, crystal chandeliers, and tapestries.
This is a day to relax and get to know Stresa, have a swim in the lake or the pool, and in the early evening, we meet for aperitivos Italian style, before we walk over to our lovely restaurant for dinner.
Day 10 Stresa, Lago di Maggiore 8 May 2023 (B, L)
“A beautiful garden does not need to be big, but it should be the realization of one’s dream, even though it is only a couple of square meters large, and it is situated on a balcony”.
These are the words of Captain Neil McEacharn, the man who created these marvelous gardens at Villa Taranto. Flourishing with rare botanical examples, the early 20th-century concept of a garden as both an aesthetic experience and a scientific adventure reaches its height of perfection on the grounds of Villa Taranto. In 1931, Captain Neil McEachern, a Scotsman from Galloway, bought the estate through an advertisement that appeared in the Times, to create an English-style garden where he could grow plants from all over the world, to delight the eye and satisfy the curiosity of the horticulturalists. Today we can appreciate a very important botanical collection with a wide range of plants. Captain McEachern is buried on the grounds which are a true testament to his dedication, continual work, and great love of nature. After the guided tour of Villa Taranto, there will be some time to explore and enjoy it on our own. Back in Stresa, we will have lunch together before the rest of the day is at your leisure.
Day 11 Stresa – Isola Bella 9 May 2023 (B, D)
The last morning in Stresa will be relaxing and for everyone to enjoy as they like, maybe by the pool, or some last-minute shopping in Stresa.
In the early evening, we will be picked up by boat for our special last evening of the tour, to be celebrated in beautiful surroundings at Isola Bella and Palazzo Borromeo which is like a baroque chest of wonders floating on the water. When the Palazzo closes for the daily visitors and evening starts to fall, the wonderful gardens are reserved ONLY for our group. The lights on the mainland and the flower-scented air are magnificent settings for our last evening. Touring these unique botanic gardens as the only guests, we will arrive at the towers - where aperitives are waiting, served in this corner of Eden. From the gardens, we will proceed through the narrow streets arriving at the restaurant Elvezia which has been owned by the same family – Marcacci Rossi – for five generations. The cuisine is typical local which means fresh fish from the lake and homemade pasta with a creative touch and we will enjoy a lovely three-course dinner with wines. After dinner, the boat takes us back to the hotel.
Day 12 Departures 10 May 2023 (B)
The transfer bus will depart early in the morning for the Malpensa Airport in Milan. Departure flights by own arrangements.