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Lake Como & Switzerland

 
Lake Como & Switzerland
Grade
Comfort level
7 days walking tour with 3 different bases in great hotels
 


Overview
….

Beautiful villa’s, tranquil lake atmosphere, alpine scenery & the world’s most amazing train rides

Lake Como, Lake Lugano, St. Moritz, Bernina glaciers, Monte Generoso, Menaggio & Bellagio, Villa Carlotta & Villa Melzi, , Tirano, Varenna

From the beginning of time, the Italian lakes have inspired poets, artists and travellers with their majestic beauty, since the days of Julius Caesar. The tranquil lakes offered a relaxed pace to unwind and breath some mountain air.  In the shadow of the towering Italian & Swiss Alps the Como Lake region is home to lavish villas surrounded by magnificent gardens – European nobility, seduced by its charm, have long flocked here for holidays. Adorning the banks of this glacially sculpted lake, these dazzling estates invite us for a visit. But also the forested slopes and colourful villages promise spectacular exploring, from alpine hikes to garden strolls. Hidden in the mountains that surround the lakes are some wonderfully secluded valleys, alpine meadows and woodland forests. Our journey provides us with opportunities to sample the best of both worlds.  Lazy days cruising on the Lake surrounded by the very mountains we will be trekking through on alternate days.

Lake Como is close to Switzerland, and we do of course visit some of the highlights here: the amazing Mount Generoso, towering high above Lake Lugano and Lake Como, and St. Moritz, once (and perhaps still) playground for the European elite, in which surroundings we’ll discover beautiful Alpine Lakes and the incredible glaciers coming down from the Bernina peaks. And we’ll travel on what perhaps is the real highlight of the area: the red trains of the Bernina Express. We spend the nights in great hotels, which guarantee charm and a link to the area’s opulent past.

We start our tour from the beautiful town of Como, on the southern shore of the Lake, still very Mediterranean, a good start for our first explorations. Then we travel up into the mountains of Brunate for our first day walk. Follows a daytrip into Switzerland, where we travel up Monte Generoso, with the world’s oldest tourist train. From here we descend towards Lake Como again, now to discover the area around Menaggio on the western shore. Another day in Switzerland brings us to St. Moritz, in an amazingly beautiful landscape of Alpine lakes & glaciers. We hike along a well-marked path to the tongue of the Morteratsch glacier, before travelling down into Italy on the red trains of the Bernina Express [The Railway], arguably the world’s most beautiful train ride. The last two days we spend in Varenna, deemed to be the most romantic town on the Lake, from where we discover some other highlights: beautiful Bellagio and some of the most spectacular villas of the area, Villa Balbaniello, Carlotta and Villa Melzi. Our trip ends in Varenna, from where we make our own way.

The premises where we will stay are all very special, full of historical interest. The standard of the tour is 3/4 stars.

Please note: this is a moderately easy tour which is suitable for those who have some experience with walking and a good general physical condition. Most of the walks are on good paths, some of them just recently restored by the local authorities. Average walking times:  approx 4-5 hours each day.

Day-to-Day
….

Day 0 (Milan) Como
Arrival in Como, either by train or bus, in case you arrive one day earlier. You can already pay a short visit to the very interesting historic town centre and maybe stroll along the lake to soak up the tranquil old world atmosphere.
Options for an extra day in Como: Around Como there are many villa’s and estates to visit. Go and see Villa Olmo, and try to see Villa D’Este as well. Travelling by boat to some other lake side villages in this southern part of the lake is also a worthwhile experience. Cernobbio for example, surrounded by beautiful villa’s, has a wonderful relaxed atmosphere.
Como can be reached easily from Milan or Milano Malpensa Airport. There are regular trains and buses. Several hotels can be booked for you in Como, according to your wish (either ‘downtown’ centrally located, or near the train station, ranging from 3 to 5-star).
In alternative: Arrival in Milan. You are met by a taxi and brought to your hotel. Hotel **** – Como.

Day 1 : Como – the Capital of the Lake
The starting point of our tour is the beautiful city of Como, known of course for its beautiful Lake, but as well for its silk products, and it’s great architecture. Here, at 3 PM in the afternoon, we will meet our tour leader and then make a short stroll towards the Lake shore. Here we have our ‘aperitivo’ and a short introduction on what lies ahead for the next week, followed by a relaxed afternoon walk through the old town. Como is renowned for its Romanesque churches, its wonderful Duomo and medieval town walls and wonderful silk products. But also for its impressive villa’s, its fine ‘fin-de-siècle’ hotels, its and its rationalist architecture along the lake shore. Stroll through the alleys and along the lake to get the real feel of the city. You then may wish to spend some time here on the tranquil lake, have a drink, or relax in the park. In the evening we go out for dinner together in a nice restaurant which offers the typical regional cuisine.
Total walking: approx. 1,5 hours. Meals included: 1 dinner

Day 2 : Como – Brunate & the southern lake shore
After a leisurely breakfast we make a short walk to the cable car that links Como to Brunate, one of Europe’s oldest. From Brunate we make a wonderful panoramic walk along a well kept path along the ridge, high above the lake, with views to both sides. It is possible to have a panoramic lunch in Brunate, but there are also many panoramic spots for a good picnic lunch. Along the ruins of a medieval castle we descend towards the lake again. Towards the end of the afternoon we reach the charming lakeshore village of Torno. After a drink here we take the boat back to Como. In the evening you can enjoy a good meal in a nice restaurant in the historic city centre.
Hotel **** – Como.
Total walking: approx. 4-5 hours. Meals included: 1 breakfast, 1 lunch

Day 3 : Into Switzerland, high above the Lake of Lugano
Today we travel into Switzerland. A short drive by private minibus brings us from Como to Capolago, on the southern, ‘Mediterranean’ shore of Lake Lugano. From here we travel up by Europe’s first ‘tourist train’ to the amazing Mt. Generoso, overlooking both Lake Lugano and Lake Como. Here we make a beautiful roundwalk, with great views ranging from Switzerland to Italy. We’ll then walk all the way down into the beautiful Val d’Intelvi. Here our minibus picks us up and then travel on to our next base, on the western shore of Lake Como.
Total walking time: around 4-5 hours. Total driving: around 1 hour. Meals included: 1 breakfast, 1 dinner.

Day 4 : Mountains of Menaggio (or ‘Via Regina’)
Depending on the weather condition and our interest today we either take a great walk up to the mountain hut above Menaggio, situated on the southern slope of Mount Grona, or a leisurely and pleasant walk along the lake on the ancient cobbled road ‘Via Regina’ from Colonno to Lenno. The first walk is challenging in sections but the visual rewards are spectacular with peerless views of Lake Como and the surrounding mountains. The first portion of our walk goes through forest and pastoral land, before we trek up to the ‘Rifugio’ itself. This is a great scenic setting to enjoy our picnic lunch. Ten minutes from the ‘Rifugio’ there is a viewpoint called Pizzo Coppa, from where we have a view not only of Lake Como, but also of the entire region with Lake Piano and Lake Lugano, between Italy and Switzerland. After lunch we have time for a rest and then descend down to the Lake again. According to our energy levels there are a number of different return routes back down to Breglia and from there to Menaggio, and there is also a possibility to catch the bus in several places.
If we opt for a more relaxed day along the ‘Via Regina’, we take our time to discover ancient villages, villas and gardens, Roman findings, wonderful examples of architecture and charming natural views. We start our walk in historic centre of Colonno, continue towards Sala Comacina, Ossuccio and finally arrive at the pier of Lenno. We’ll be crossing terraces and small olive groves, with generous views of the lake and of Comacina Island. In Lenno we can enjoy our lunch in a great location on the lakeshore in a local restaurant or just grab a sandwich. After lunch we go to visit Villa Balbianello, which stands on a romantic promontory overlooking Lake Como and is considered one of the most striking villas in the world. In the late afternoon we travel back to Menaggio by boat. There we have free time to wander around through the historic centre and have a drink and some relax on the lake shore, before returning to our hotel. In the evening we are free to choose our own dinner options.
Total walking time: around 4-5 hours. Total driving: around 30 minutes. Meals included: 1 breakfast

Day 5 : St. Moritz, glaciers & Bernina Express
After an early breakfast this morning, we travel by private minibus to the northern edge of Lake Como. We do some shopping and have a drink in the last Italian town, Chiavenna, before entering Switzerland through amazing mountain scenery. We drive to Passo Maloja along a wonderful panoramic road and then we arrive in the famous St. Moritz area, with its beautiful lakes. Close to here we make a spectacular -but easy- excursion to the glacier of Morteratsch. After our walk here we enjoy a good lunch with local specialties. We return to Italy with the Bernina Express, a small local train, directly from Morteratsch. This amazing train ride, along mountain peaks and glacier lakes, descending steeply towards the valley, is among the most spectacular in the world. Our bus waits for us down in Tirano. From here – after a short break for an aperitivo – , we return to Lake Como. Our next base is a beautiful hotel in Varenna, on the eastern shore of the Lake. We stay in the old town centre, with its colourful painted houses. After this long day, we enjoy a good dinner in the restaurant next to our hotel.
Total walking time: around 3 hours. Total driving: around 2 hours. Meals included: 1 breakfast, 1 lunch, 1 dinner.

Day 6 : Boating on Lake Como – Varenna, Villa Carlotta, Bellagio & Villa Melzi,
Today is an easy day, with a few relaxed sightseeing walks. By boat – the most beautiful way to travel!- we’ll discover the central section of Lake di Como. Our first stop is the postcard-perfect town of Bellagio, ”the pearl of the lake”, situated on the Punta Spartivento (“Point that divides the Wind”), where the two arms of Lake Como meet. Incredibly scenic – with inspiring views of the lake and the distant mountains, brightly painted houses adorned with flower-filled balconies, a bustling waterfront and a maze of meandering cobblestone streets, Bellagio is a delightful place to explore. We make a short walk through the delightful countryside and eat a panino to enjoy en route, on the beach or just along the lake shore. Or perhaps you’ll want just to relax and eat in a trattoria somewhere in the village.
In the afternoon, we travel to the lakeside village of Tremezzo, where we visit the splendid Villa Carlotta, with its beautiful gardens overlooking the lake. We continue by boat, and cross the lake back to the East side of the Lake, where we now take our time to discover the charming village of Varenna, deemed by some as the most romantic town in all of Italy is certainly worth a visit.  Nearby is the Fiumelatte, the curious “river of milk,” which flows only six months a year and is Italy’s shortest river (800 feet long). Not even Leonardo da Vinci, who explored the cavern from which the river emerges, could discover its source or why it flows for only half the year. There is time for a drink in Varenna, before returning to our hotel.
Total walking time: around 3 hours. Total boating time: around 1,5 hour.
Meals included: 1 breakfast, 1 dinner.

Day 7 : Varenna (Bergamo/Milano)
This morning after breakfast, our journey ends. You can opt to spend some more time on Lake Como, or travel down to Milano or Bergamo, which can both easily be reached by train. Also can you opt to travel back to Como by boat. A taxi transfer to any destination can be arranged at any time. Meals included: 1 breakfast

Tour details
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ACCOMMODATION & MEALS

All nights are spent in beautiful, characteristic hotels, mostly historical buildings (generally 4-star or 3-star superior; 5-star on special departure dates – possible on request). All rooms have en-suite facilities.

Accommodation is on B&B basis, in all accommodations. Most evening meals are included, for which we have selected the best available restaurants. On two nights you are free to choose from the wide choice of restaurants in the area. Your guide can give you good tips for these evening dinners.

Almost all (picnic) lunches are included in the tour price. On other days you are free to have your own lunch. Here you have the option to have your lunch in a nice restaurant, or purchase your supplies for a picnic lunch.

Nights 1 & 2: The first two nights are spent at Como, the capital of the Lake. Our base is a beautiful and comfortable 4-star hotel, in the heart of the historical centre at walking distance from all the main monuments of the medieval town centre and the Lake shore.

Nights 3 & 4: These nights are spent in beautiful and comfortable 4-star hotel at Menaggio.

Nights 5 & 6: The last nights are spent in a very good 3-star hotel in the wonderful little village of Varenna, the ‘most romantic village of Italy’, located in the central part of the Lake.

INCLUSIONS

On our GUIDED WALKING TOURS we include almost everything :

•    Private English speaking tour leader for 8 days
•    Accommodation: 2 nights Como,  2 nights Menaggio, 2 nights Varenna, all  in good ***S/**** hotels
•    Meals: all breakfasts, 4 dinners (good restaurants!), two lunches
•    All private & public transfers as indicated throughout the entire itinerary
•    Entrance fees of all sites along the itinerary
•    All special activities as outlined in the day by day itinerary
•    24/24 h local assistance
•    Luggage transport
•    All gratuities for baggage, porters & hotel service

Not Included
•    Departure taxes
•    Visas
•    Travel Insurance
•    Drinks and meals not mentioned in the itinerary
•    Optional additional tours or activities
•    Tips
•    Items of a personal nature

LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY

Moderately easy (2/3): Mostly moderately easy walks, along well maintained footpaths, with nonetheless rough surfaces. On some days some stretches are more difficult but on these days alternative options are available. Extensions or shortcuts are also possible on most days.

Fitness: High standard of fitness is not necessary but you should be able to walk for up to 5 hours a day in hot sun on dusty or stony tracks.

ARRIVAL & DEPARTURE

Arrival:The tour starts in COMO, a city well connected with Milan by a frequent train service. From the Milan/Malpensa international airport there are regular shuttle buses to Como.

Departure:The tour ends after breakfast on day 7 in VARENNA. A short transfer brings you to the train station (included), from where you travel back to either Milan or Bergamo. Several taxi services are available to bring you directly to your next destination.

EXTRA NIGHTS

It is possible to include extra nights at the beginning or the end of the tour.

The tour can easily be combined with our Lago Maggiore tour or our Lake Garda tour! Another good suggestion is to add a few days in Milan or Bellagio(see below). Several good accommodations are available.

Dates & Prices

AVAILABILITY & CONDITIONS

There are no scheduled departures for this tour in 2013, but on request a tour can be planned at any date for private groups. Just contact us!

We can then also personalise the tour with respect to duration and lodging. We can offer you a large selection of ‘Premiere Inns’, very good hotels, many among the world’s best hotels, as acclaimed from Condé Nast Traveler, Travel+Leisure and many others. Genius Loci Travel, as the leading adventure travel company in Italy, can book your room in any hotel you could dream of!

N.B. For this tour tailor-made private departures (for groups of minimum 4 persons) can be planned on any date. Availability & prices on request. Prices start from 1290 euro p.p., depending on the season, accomodation and number of persons in your private group.

AVAILABILITY & CONDITIONS
AvailablePlaces available. You can book this tour with a minimum of 1 person.
GuaranteedGuaranteed Departure. Still some places available.
LimitedThere are a very limited number of available places on these dates. Immediate booking is recommended.
On RequestAvailability and prices on request.
Fully bookedFully booked. Departure closed.
  • Prices are per person and based on 2 people sharing double or twin accommodation.
  • Single rooms (mostly double rooms - single use) are available on all trips. The supplements listed apply.
  • Prices are expressed in Euro's. There will never be a currency surcharge.
  • Actual exchange rates: GB £ - US $ - CAN $ - CHF - DKK - SEK - NOK - Other currencies.
  • A 5 % early booking discount applies for several trips.

Tour variations
….

It is possible to include some extra nights before or after your tour, in any of the accommodations ‘en route’. For those who have never been in Milano an extra day here is strongly recommended.

The tour can easily be extended with a few days here. Details & prices on request.

SHORTER & LONGER VERSIONS

A longer, 8/9-day version of this tour is also available. See also our other tours !

 

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