~ NORTHERN ITALY TOUR ~

Ben arrivati! Welcome to Italy, welcome to Milan!

After settling down at the hotel, we will gather for our first dinner, served at a nearby restaurant - a time to sample the local food, meet your fellow travelers and talk about the next day’s program.
For those arriving early in the day, there will be time to explore Milan.

Bellagio, the Beautiful, Pearl of the Lake

Our first destination today, after breakfast, is Como.
After visiting the town we will take the funicular to reach Brunate, a small town overlooking the lake. Here we will have the first lunch of the tour.
The rest of day will proceed at a gentle pace, driving along the shore of the lake until we reach the apex of the peninsula where Bellagio is located.
After arriving at the hotel, and once you've unpacked and settled in, you can take a stroll through the picturesque and lovely stepped cobbled streets of Bellagio and along its lakeside promenade.
Dinner will be served at a nearby restaurant.

BRUNATE

Known as "the balcony of the Alps" on account of its strategic location and breathtaking views, is a town that overlooks Como some 500 metres (1,600 ft) below, linked by a steep, narrow, winding road, and by the Como to Brunate funicular opened in 1894.
The hill is home to splendid Art Nouveau villas, with floral motifs and eclectic elements, built from the end of the nineteenth century into the early years of the twentieth century. Brunate

BELLAGIO

Although there are many villas throughout Lake Como, we chose to stay in Bellagio since the most beautiful ones are located in this area.  Bellagio also offers an abundance of trees and flowers, and a superbly mild climate, which is why Bellagio in the local dialect means beautiful and is called the Pearl of the Lake. Bellagio aereal view One of the many treasures we will find close by is the Basilica di San Giacomo, (Basilica of Saint James), a fine example of Roman - Lombard architecture. Inside we will view mosaics from the early 10th century, a Deposition of Christ by the Perugino School, an archaic cross from the 12th century, a beautiful triptych by the 15th century Italian painter Foppa, and the Buried Christ, a polychrome wooden sculpture of the Spanish-Baroque school.

Visiting Villa del Balbianello

After breakfast we will walk to the pier and board a ferry that will bring us to the west side of the lake.
Upon landing, we will take a 30-minute walk along the lakeside to arrive at Villa del Balbianello.
Lunch will be served at a local restaurant overlooking the lake. Enjoy the breeze of the lake while sailing back to Bellagio for a leisurely afternoon.
You’ll have time for shopping, exploring the village, visiting the Basilica of San Giacomo, or simply relaxing in front of the lake.
Dinner will be served in a restaurant owned by a family who are fishermen by day and creative cooks by night.

VILLA DEL BALBIANELLO

Villa del Balbianello is located on a small peninsula overlooking Lake Como. It was built in 1787 on the site of a Franciscan monastery. In 1796, Giuseppe Visconti bought the villa and made improvements to the panoramic terraced garden, which is dominated by the elegant loggia, the true gem and masterpiece of the Villa. By the first part of the 20th century, the Villa had fallen into a state of neglect. After some time, an American businessman bought it, bringing the gardens back to life and renovating the buildings. Villa Balbianello In 1974, it was purchased by Guido Monzino, an explorer and entrepreneur who decorated the Villa with a collection of artifacts from his expeditions. The villa was used as a location for several movies, including  A Month by the Lake (1995) and Casino Royale (2006).

Day of Beautiful Views

We will enjoy breakfast at the cozy breakfast room, then sail by ferry to the small village of Varenna. From the ferry station, we will stroll the scenic and romantic “Lovers’ Walk” that runs along the edge of the lake leading to the historic center.
For lunch we will go to the top of the hill that overlooks Varenna where we will find the remains of Vezio Castle with its breathtaking panoramic views of Lake Como.
The afternoon will begin with a visit to a winery in Valchiavenna, a valley in the Alps, north of Lake Como.
Later on you'll enjoy some free time in the town of Chiavenna.
Afterwards, for dinner, we will taste some of the traditional local food, like bresaola, gnocchetti, pizzoccheri (buckwheat pasta) and enjoy local wines.
A ferry in Cadenabbia will take us back to our hotel in Bellagio.

VARENNA

Varenna, founded in 769 by fishermen, is a picturesque village located in the center of the eastern shore of the lake, overlooking Bellagio. The narrow alleys paved with stone and the old fishermen’s houses make Varenna another of the Lake’s gems. Varenna

CASTELLO DI VEZIO

This castle was built in the late 11th century and then restored several times in the following centuries. In the late 19th century, remains of tombs from the Iron Age, as well as weapons and armor, were found in the area. It currently houses gardens and is a bird-of-prey breeding, nursing and training center. Vezio Castle

VALCHIAVENNA

Chiavenna, the center of the Alpine Valchiavenna region, is famous for its beautiful historical center and the characteristic crotti, also called grottos, typical natural cavities of the mountainous regions of the Alps. Valchiavenna Inside the crotti, between the cracks of the rocks, blows a cold air current, locally called Sorèl. Because of these natural features, grottos have been and are still commonly used to preserve foods, bresaola and cheese in particular, but also wines. In many cases, taverns offering local delicacies have been added to these crotti.

Visiting Villa Carlotta

The first destination of today is Villa Carlotta, the ferry will bring us right at its entrance. We will visit the delightful botanical garden and art museum, and enjoy lunch at the Villa’s cafeteria.
After returning to Bellagio, before dinner, you will have time to relax, enjoy some free time, do your laundry and pack for the next day departure or visit the beautiful garden of Villa Melzi.

VILLA CARLOTTA

Villa Carlotta, located in Tremezzo facing the Bellagio peninsula, was built at the end of the 17th century. It is famous for its magnificent 20-acre botanical garden, sculptures and fountains. In 1801, Giovanni Battista Sommariva bought the villa and, thanks to his efforts, the villa attained its highest point of splendor, becoming a museum filled with works of art. The Last Kiss of Romeo and Juliet and Eros and Psyche are two of the many masterpieces that are part of its extraordinary collection.Villa Carlotta The villa was eventually sold to the Princess of Nassau who gave it as a wedding present to her daughter, Carlotta, after whom the villa is named.

Travel to Langhe

Enjoy your last early breakfast in Bellagio and get ready to depart for Langhe at 8:30 a.m.
The first stop will be Vigevano where, before lunch, you can enjoy the beautiful Piazza Ducale and visit the museum dedicated to Leonardo's life and work during his stay in Vigevano.
Our next stop will be the Certosa di Pavia, where we will visit the monastery, and then continue our trip to Piedmont.
We will check into our hotel where we will settle in for the next five nights. During dinner we will review the next day’s schedule.

VIGEVANO

The charming little town of Vigevano is a favorite of Italians living in the surrounding area. Its Piazza Ducale is considered the model Renaissance piazza, and conductor Arturo Toscanini said that it is “a symphony with four walls.” The grand piazza is surrounded by magnificent arcades with intricate frescoes on its façades, a 17th century cathedral, a famous Bramante tower, and also the Royal Palace of the Sforza. Vigevano is also renowned for shoemaking.Vigevano

CERTOSA DI PAVIA

One of Italy’s largest monasteries, the Certosa di Pavia was built from 1396-1495 and is a masterpiece of the Lombard Renaissance. The best architects, sculptors and painters of the time worked on the monastery for a span of almost two centuries. A portion of the paneled painting, Madonna and Saints by Perugino, and other famous painted masterpieces by Bergognone, Guercino and Giovanni Battista Crespi can be viewed here. Equally important is its collection of stained glass windows, decorative sculptures, the marble altar frontals, the wooden choir stalls, and the notable high altar from the late 16th century.Certosa di Pavia

The WWF Oasis

Today will start with a wonderful buffet breakfast. Afterwards we will take a 30-minute drive to get to Gianni and Cristina's farm, a WWF oasis.
Gianni will show us his small cellar where he makes wine still following the methods of his grandfather, using "la madre" (the live bacteria starter) to begin the wine fermentation process. We will taste the wines paired with local cheese and salami.
On the way back to the hotel we will make a stop at the Castello di Grinzane to enjoy the view with the beautiful surrounding vineyards.
Our day will end with a dinner at Stefano's favorite restaurant.

LA FATTORIA DI GIANNI E CRISTINA

The family farm is a designated WWF oasis. It contains 21 species of wild orchids and several types of native butterflies. It also has a vineyard and wine cellar. Forteto della Luja The Loazzolo Passito di Moscato, an excellent sweet wine, is produced here with grapes from a handful of small vineyards surrounded by the woods of the Langa Astigiana. For many years the efforts of this family farm have been aimed at achieving and enhancing a quality wine-growing tradition that fully respects the great cultural and naturalistic patrimony that the country seeks to preserve.

CASTELLO DI GRINZANE CAVOUR

Grinzane Castle Another World Heritage Site, the castle of Grinzane Cavour was built in the 13th century. It is famous for being the 19th century residence of Italy’s first Prime Minister, Camillo Benso, Count of Cavour, who was a central figure in the unification of Italy. Today the castle houses an ethnological museum, which also displays original furniture from the 19th century.

The Hazelnut Farm

Today a new adventure awaits us starting with a visit to the Castle of Serralunga where our guide will explain the interesting history of this manor.
A half hour drive through the gentle hills of the Alta Langa will take us to the farm of Elisabetta and Stefano who will show us their hazelnut plantation and explain how their passion for this crop have translated into their wonderful products.
We will taste some dishes made with hazelnut as the main ingredient, of course.
The next destination is the town of Canelli, for a wine tasting in the magnificent and impressive Underground Wine Cathedrals.
A full day of activities, it is time to go back to the hotel, have a rest and get ready for dinner.

CASTELLO DI SERRALUNGA D'ALBA

Castello di Serralunga D'AlbaThe Serralunga d’Alba Castle was originally a fortified tower overlooking the village of Serralunga in the 12th century. This castle, one of the best preserved, is unique in Italy for its architectural structure, which resembles a castle keep, and was used more to control local crop production than as a military castle. The manor, purchased by the state in 1949 and deemed a cultural heritage site, is the perfect place to admire the spectacular view.

CASCINA BARROERO

Hazelnuts in Cascina Barroero are not only grown but also transformed into confectionery products. The scrap parts, the inedible shells are used as fuel for stoves and the skins covering the fruit, as bedding for chicken coops. Cascina Barroero The Barroeros define themselves as a farming family of confectioners and produce cakes, biscuits, jams, flour and hazelnut paste for ice cream, all with superb flavors.

CANELLI

Canelli Underground Wine Cathedral Canelli, a town settled among vineyards, is a UNESCO World Heritage and truly remarkable for its “underground cathedrals”, which extend for 8 miles below the city and are dug out from several levels in the hills, creating a striking masterpiece of engineering and architecture.

The Land of the Barolo Wine

After breakfast we will start our tour visiting the town of La Morra for a view of the magical Barolo valley.
Lunch will be served at Fontanafredda Winery after a visit to their cellar and a wine tasting.
In the afternoon we will visit Barolo where we decide the activities for the rest of the day. You could participate in all or choose some of the following options:

  • Visit the Wine Museum at the Falletti castle.
  • Tour the Corkscrew Museum.
  • Stroll through the streets and shop in the local stores.
  • Rest on a bench at the piazza, sipping a glass of wine or enjoying a gelato.

Back to the Hotel for a rest before a wine tasting lead by Elisa Brero, followed by a dinner in the beautiful wine cellar.

LA MORRA

La MorraLocated in the Barolo wine production area, La Morra is an ancient town founded at the end of the 12th century. The origin of its name is controversial, some say that it comes from “murra”, a benedictine name meaning a “closed place”, surrounded by stone walls, where animals were gathered; for others it comes from “mora”, blackberry, or from “mola”, mill.
La Morra is known for its Nebbiolo grapes from which is produced the famous Barolo, “the wine of the Kings and the King of the wines.”
From the Castello square it is possible to see one of the best views over the Langhe and the starting point for many paths that wind through the vineyards and the neighboring villages.

FONTANAFREDDA

Fontanafredda Winery The Fontanafredda was part of the private estate of the King of Sardinia in 1858. The story goes that the king had fallen hopelessly in love with a commoner and daughter of a drum major in the king’s service and gave the land to her, making her Countess a year later. Today it serves as a hunting lodge, vineyard and wine cellar.

BAROLO

Barolo Barolo is a scenic small town surrounded by spectacular countryside, known mainly for its wine. It is part of the largest Nebbiolo grape-growing region in Langhe, the grapes from the region are used to make Barolo wine. It is the namesake city for the “king of wines and the wine of kings.” One of its main sites is the Falletti castle, which houses a wine museum and an enoteca. The castle was built in the 10th century as a protection against Huns.

The Unforgettable Dinner

We will enjoy breakfast at the hotel and then head off to the pretty town of Alba where you can take advantage of the excellent shopping options, explore the San Lorenzo Cathedral, or simply stroll among the beautiful buildings and enjoy the sights.
For lunch we will visit Silvio's farm where he breeds his sheep, whose milk produces excellent cheeses. He will explain to us how cheese is made and how it is aged. Of course we will not miss the cheese tasting, with 7 different types and accompanied by wine and seasonal vegetables.
Lunch is over and it's time to try the most popular northern Italian digestive, the “grappa”. We will do this by visiting a local distillery that produces the liqueur since 1885.
It's time to come back to the hotel, rest a little, pack for the next day departure and get ready for a guided tour and our memorable dinner at the Castello di Guarene.

ALBA

Alba is considered the capital of the UNESCO World Heritage region of Langhe. There are few destinations more enticing for gourmet travelers than Alba, a picturesque town that is renowned world-wide for its succulent white truffles, and the well-known Dolcetto d’Alba wine. Alba The International White Truffle Fair in Alba is one of the main Langhe events held in Autumn that draw many people interested in unique culinary experiences. Worth seeing are the Alba Cathedral, which is dedicated to Saint Lawrence, and the Church of St. Dominic, one of the few examples of Primitive Gothic architecture in Piedmont and just recently restored.

LA FATTORIA DI SILVIO

SilvioSilvio and his family live on a farm where they raise sheep to produce a cheese typical of the area, the "Tuma di Langa". The processing is done with raw milk: only in this way is it possible to maintain and transfer all the organic and energetic properties of the whole milk into the cheese, as well as the aromatic richness of the high Langa pastures. This type of processing, particularly linked to tradition, determines, over the year, significant variations in taste depending on the pasture, the milk and the climate, making this cheese a live product, never standardized.

GRAPPA

GrappaGrappa is an alcoholic beverage, a fragrant distillation of skins, pulp, seeds, and stems left over from winemaking after pressing the grapes. It was originally made to prevent waste by using these leftovers. Given the different qualities of grapes, it is possible to produce many types of grappa, which can in turn take on different qualities if it is aged in barrel.
Grappa is mainly served as a digestive or also added to the espresso, creating the "caffè correto" meaning corrected coffee.

CASTELLO DI GUARENE

Guarene Castle Guarene Castle was built in the 18th century. This castle was the fantastically ambitious project of a local nobleman who was an accomplished, although amateur, architect and high profile aristocrat. Preserved as it was in its heyday, with all its works of art intact, it is now also home to a top-class hotel and restaurant.

Traveling Through the Padana Valley

After our last breakfast in Langhe and with the luggage loaded in the van, we will travel to Borghetto sul Mincio, the new location for the third phase of our tour.
On the way to Borghetto, we will break the three-hour drive with a lunch in a typical restaurant of the Piacenza area followed by a visit to Cremona with a walk in the historic center and a visit to the workshop of a luthier.
Dinner will be served at the hotel.

CREMONA

Cremona is the birthplace of the Stradivarius and other string instruments. To this day, the art of violin-making that follows the Cremonese method which takes longer and is more difficult than other methods, hasn’t changed for centuries and artisans can still make a living from it. Cremona is a center of excellence for tasty cuisine in Northern Italy, with a strong influence from Lombardy and Emilia-Romagna, and is famous for Mostarda di Cremona, a spiced fruit preserve and the torrone (nougat). Cremona

BORGHETTO SUL MINCIO

This lovely small town is among the most beautiful in Italy. Buildings with water mills are characteristic in Borghetto. The town church is flanked by its bell tower that contains a bell dating from the year 1381, one of the oldest in the area.Borghetto sul Mincio

The Jewel Nestled in the Mountain

After breakfast we will drive to Lazise in the Lake Garda area, followed by a visit and lunch at a local winery.
In the afternoon we will drive half an hour north of the lake to reach the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Corona, a surprisingly special place, a testimony of the beautiful things that humans are able to create.
Back to the hotel we will have time to visit Borghetto before having dinner in a scenic riverfront restaurant.

LAZISE

Lazise is a charming town located on the east shore of Lake Garda and is one of its most important touristic centers, thanks to its natural sites, nice shops and restaurants, the Castello Scaligero (not visitable), the medieval walls, the old town center - with picturesque squares and narrow alleys, and the harbor that is set in the city center.Lazise

MADONNA DELLA CORONA

The Sanctuary is located in a rocky promontory at 774 meters above sea level, overlooking the valley of the Adige river. In the 13th century there was a monastery with a chapel accessible only by a dangerous narrow path in the rock, which during the following four centuries was radically transformed into a real spacious and accessible shrine where a Pietà, made in stone, is venerated as Our Lady of the Corona since the 15th century. Madonna della Corona The 16th century saw the creation of two sets of access steps: a wider one, composed of 556 steps and a narrower one, 234 steps, cut from the rock along the original very narrow path that went from the bridge to the church.

A Day of Abundance

We will begin our day with a walk to the nearby Parco Giardino Sigurtá (Sigurtà Garden Park) in Valeggio sul Mincio. Later we will visit a family farm, that since 1908 has produced cheeses, like the Grana Padano, following traditional methods and using the best milk of the territory. We will end the visit with a tasting accompanied with other local products.
In the afternoon we will drive to Mantua where we will meet with our private guide for a walking tour to explore the historic center and its surroundings.
Dinner tonight will be served at the hotel.

PARCO GIARDINO SIGURTÁ

The Parco Giardino Sigurtá (Sigurtà Garden Park) dates back to 1407 and it extends over 22 hectares. Well known for its tulips and roses, the park is regarded as one of the most beautiful in Italy. In 2015 it received an award for being the second most beautiful park in Europe.Parco Giardino Sigurtá

GRANA PADANO

The Grana Padano is a hard cheese, slow-ripened for at least nine months, semi-fat, cow's-milk comparable to Parmesan cheese. Grana Padano has had protected designation of origin status since 1996. The name comes from the Italian word grana, a reference to the characteristically grainy texture, and the demonym padano, referring to the Po Valley area of northern Italy.Grana Padano

MANTUA

The locals refer to Mantua as La Bella Addormentata, a sleeping beauty that hasn't changed since the Middle Ages. The keys to this metaphor are the lakes surrounding the city on three sides, and a remarkable artificial fortification created nearly 1,000 years ago that effectively closed Mantua from the world. Rich in historical significance, Mantua was designated in 2007 to be a UNESCO World Heritage.Mantova In 2016, Mantua became the Italian Capital of Culture, and in 2017 the European Capital of Gastronomy. It's an award that's well deserved, given Mantua’s history and reputation for producing some of the most acclaimed cuisine not just in Italy, but in the world.

The Romantic Verona

After breakfast we will drive to Lake Garda and meet our tour guide to learn about the history of Sirmione and then continue to the apex of the peninsula where are located the ruins of the Roman villa, known as Grotte di Catullo.
In the afternoon, after a tour in the historic center of Verona, we will take some time off for shopping, followed by our grand farewell dinner in a deconsecrated church of the Romanesque period.

GROTTE DI CATULLO

The Grottoes of Catullus is an archeological site with ruins of a Roman villa, built at the beginning of the Christian era on the peninsula of Sirmione. In the 15th century the villa was ascribed to the poet Catullus but after some scholarly research, at present, there are no safe elements to locate the house of Catullus. The term, however, remained and even today is used to identify the archaeological site. Grottoes of Catullus

SIRMIONE

Sirmione is a city built along a narrow peninsula extending into Lake Garda, making it feel like an island. From the 1st century BC, Sirmione became a holiday destination for rich families, due in part to the natural thermal springs and spas. The main historical landmarks are the Grottoes of Catullus and the beautiful 13th century Scaliger Castle (Rocca Scaligera) that sits grandly in the center of town, which is one of the best surviving examples of medieval port fortifications in the world. Sirmione

VERONA

Verona was an important Roman town and for over 2000 years, an affluent commerce location. It is rich in well-preserved Roman buildings and architectural sites, the grandest of which is the Roman amphitheater known as the Arena, built around AD 30, now famous for its open air summer opera series and extraordinary acoustics. The historic center is comprised of narrow streets lined with handsome palazzi. There are plenty of churches, many of them rivaling the beauty of the churches in Venice.VeronaThe largest and most famous piazza is Piazza delle Erbe, home to fresh produce markets and lined with some exquisite buildings. The smaller and quieter Piazza dei Signori is known as Piazza Dante by locals because it contains a statue of Dante Alighieri.

"Cittá Alta"

Our tour has arrived at the final stages and today on the way back to Milan we will stop in Bergamo to visit this jewel in Northern Italy.
Our guide will show us "Città Alta", the ancient medieval town and then we will take the funicular to San Vigilio.
Lunch will be served in a restaurant overlooking the Padana Valley specialized in local dishes.
It is time to leave Bergamo and take you to your hotel for your last night before departure.

BERGAMO

Bergamo, located 25 miles from Milano is the second most visited city in Lombardy. We will focus our visit on the upper part of the city in the historic center also known as Cittá Alta, surrounded by Venetian walls built in the 16th century. Some of the sites we will visit are the Piazza Vecchia (Old Square), the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore (Church of Saint Mary Major), the Cappella Colleoni (Colleoni Chapel), and the Torre Civica (the Civic Tower). Bergamo

Arrivederci! See you soon!

The day of departure has arrived, some of you ready to fly back home and others to continue their holiday to new destinations.
For those who are going to the airport a shuttle will come to pick you up at the hotel.

We wish you a good return or a good continuation and we hope to see you soon and remember that following your first tour, you will receive a $200 credit for future trips with Tour With Us!

TWU, Tour With Us, Travel With Us, The Way To Travel.