Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake, is a traveller’s dream destination where one can explore the area or just simply relax. Hugged by mountains, yet in a temperate climate, the Lake Garda area is known for its beautiful lakefront villas, manicured gardens and spectacular panoramic views. Spend your time exploring the lake and its unique towns and villages and also experience the charm of the northern Italian cities of Verona, Mantova and magical Venice.
Departure from the United States on your overnight flight to begin your tour of Enchanting Lake Garda & Venice.
Upon arrival at Milan’s Malpensa airport you will be met by your English speaking tour escort. Your private motorcoach driver will transfer you east through the Italian region of Lombardy to arrive at Lake Garda, Italy’s largest lake. The lake’s southern area is wide and surrounded by hills that were left behind after Paleolithic glaciers had receded. The lake’s northern area is narrow and surrounded by mountains that create its fjord-shape configuration and provide a very mild Mediterranean climate. Lake Garda is 34 miles in length, 11 miles at its widest point and 2 miles at its narrowest point. With its temperate climate, majestic landscapes and flourishing vegetation – mainly olive and lemon groves, palms, cypresses, oleanders and orange trees – the Lake Garda area is one of the most charming in Italy. Learn about its unique history and culture as you explore the region and discover new places. Relax and make yourself comfortable for the remainder of the day at your 4* hotel in the Lake Garda area. Tonight, you’ll have a Welcome dinner at your hotel (including ½ liter water and ¼ liter wine per person).
Breakfast included at your hotel. Depart from your hotel with your private motorcoach for a tour of the Sirmione peninsula. Your English speaking local guide will share the history of Sirmione, once called “the pearl of the islands and peninsulas” by Latin poet Catullus. Located on the southern shore of Lake Garda, Sirmione is famous for its thermal water with its healing properties. Made popular by writers such as Stendahl, Lawrence and Goethe, the city center is characterized by its narrow alleys and stone walls. Your guided walking tour will highlight the town’s main attractions for you. During your free time, you can return to any of the sites on your own to further explore. Your tour will include the beautifully impressive Scaligeri Castle – a unique medieval fortress built by the ruling Scaligeri family in the 13th century to protect the port. Check out the area of the thermal baths which still draw people to this medieval village. See the house that famous opera singer Maria Callas lived in for 9 years in the 1950s. You’ll see the Santa Maria Maggiore Church built in the 15th century on the site of an earlier built 8th century church. See the ruins of the original church dedicated to San Salvatore which was built in the 8th century by the Lombard queen. Also see where the San Pietro in Mavino Church is located – Sirmione’s oldest church has frescoes dating back from the 12th through the 16th centuries. Enjoy some free time to have lunch on your own. After lunch, go on a 30 minute boat excursion that will give you panoramic views of the peninsula. Depart from the dock located on Lungolago Diaz (left before the port and 300 m from the bus parking). Sail around the peninsula and view the castle, the thermal spa, the villa of Callas, the caves of Catullo (the warehouses of the Villa Romana di Catullo), the sulfur spring source “boiola” and then return by passing under the drawbridge inside the walls of Sirmione. Depart by motorcoach for a wine tasting at a local winery. The small Lugana wine region, just south of Lake Garda, has just over 100 producers of mostly white wine made from the Turbiana grape. Return back to your hotel and enjoy the remainder of the day and dinner tonight at your leisure.
Breakfast included at hotel. Depart with your motorcoach for a transfer to the nearest port on the southern shore of Lake Garda for a boat excursion on the public ferry to Riva del Garda. Marvel at the breathtaking landscapes as you sail north and enjoy a 3 course lunch onboard (including ½ liter water and ¼ liter wine per person). Disembark upon arrival in Riva del Garda – the northernmost town on Lake Garda and located in the Trentino Alto Adige region of Italy. Riva’s marvelous location is exactly where Lake Garda ends and the Brenta Dolomite mountains, part of the Southern Alps, begin. The 2nd largest city on Lake Garda, Riva has historically been a strategic point for invading foreigners from the north and has been ruled by many, including the Venetian Republic. It became part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1815 for 100 years and still retains a very calm and Germanic feel, if compared to other parts of Italy. After some time in Riva del Garda, your motorcoach will meet you for a drive down the eastern shore of Lake Garda. You’ll make a few short stops in some of the lakeside towns in the Veneto region such as Malcesine and Bardolino. Malcesine is in the foreground of the Monte Baldo mountain range and is known for its stunning lakeside 13th century castle. Bardolino is another charming lakefront town, but is uniquely known for its winegrowing and for the variety of red wine named after the town. Continue your drive back to your hotel and enjoy dinner tonight at your hotel (including ½ liter water and ¼ liter wine per person).
Breakfast included at hotel. Depart with your private motorcoach for a tour of the city of Verona – named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and made famous by Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Meet with your English speaking local guide to discover Verona’s Roman, Medieval and Renaissance history. The first part of your tour will be on your motorcoach as you drive along the Adige River and the city walls. Drive to see the most important church in the city – the Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore. Built in the Romanesque style with its famous rose window on the facade, this specific basilica was featured in both Romeo and Juliet and Dante’s The Divine Comedy. Continue your drive to the Victory Bridge which was built to commemorate the defeat of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I. Your walking tour will begin here near the Porta Borsari, the 1st century Roman gate that was the city’s main entrance. Walk to the Piazza Erbe which was once a forum during Roman times, but is now a vibrant square with a daily market. Go to nearby Piazza dei Signori – famous for its magnificent palazzos that line the square and its imposing statue of Dante. Next, walk over to Juliet’s House. Entrance included to the restored 14th century house that has Juliet’s famous stone balcony. This house is thought to have once belonged to the Capulet family – on whom Shakespeare based his story. Finally, the focal point of the city of Verona is the spectacular Arena located at the Piazza Bra. This Roman amphitheater was built in the first century and still serves as the city’s open-air opera house and also holds other musical concerts. Enter the Arena and see where gladiators fought during Roman times and where games and tournaments were regularly held during medieval times. You’ll have some free time for lunch on your own and to further explore the historical city center. After departing from Verona, stop in another town such as Desenzano along Lake Garda. Desenzano is next to Sirmione and has the largest population on the lake. It has a rich Roman history and was an important location in the various Italian Wars of Independence. Return to your hotel where you’ll enjoy dinner together (including ½ liter water and ¼ liter wine per person).
Breakfast included at hotel. Depart with your private motorcoach for a tour to the city of Mantova whose historical center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Famous for its artistic and cultural heritage, Mantova is known for its Renaissance architecture and influence on opera. Under the rule of the Gonzaga family, it had one of the most important courts of the Renaissance and is surrounded by three artificial lakes – created in the 12th century as part of the city’s defense system. You’ll start with an entrance to the Ducal Palace – the seat of the Gonzaga court for more than 4 centuries. This palace complex of buildings, courtyards and gardens is one of the largest residences in Europe with over 950 total rooms. The magnificent St. George’s Castle, built in the late 14th century, is one of the many structures within the palace complex. The highlight of the palace is the “Bridal Chamber” room, painted entirely with 15th century frescoes by Mantegna. They depict Ludovic Gonzaga’s life in the court and use witty trompe l’oeil painting techniques (optical illusions). Entrance to the Palace apartments is also included which houses a set of nine 16th-century Flemish tapestries reproduced from Raphael’s original designs for the Sistine Chapel. Other artistic masterpieces on display include works by Rubens, Morone, Pisanello, Giulio Romano and Lorenzo Costa. After your Ducal Palace tour, stroll into Mantova’s historical center and enjoy some free time for lunch. This afternoon, you’ll take a short drive to Valeggio Sul Mincio where you’ll discover the botanical garden called Parco Giardino Sigurtà. This beautifully manicured park is home to varieties of flowers, trees and medicinal herbs. There’s a guided tram-train that will take the group around the park’s 6 km trail for approximately 35 minutes so you can fully appreciate the history and natural beauty of these elaborate gardens. Return back to your hotel in the Lake Garda area and enjoy free time for the remainder of the day and dinner at your leisure.
Breakfast included at hotel. Depart with your private motorcoach for a tour of the Isle of Garda, Salò and Gardone Riviera. Once in the Salò area, take the private boat on the crossing to the stunning Isle of Garda for a tour of the Villa Borghese Cavazza. Also known as the Isola Borghese, it’s the largest island in Lake Garda. This Venetian-styled villa was built between 1894 and 1901 and is still the private residence of the Cavazza family. It was built by Duke Raffaele De Ferrari di Genova on pre-existing remains, since the island has been inhabited since pre-Roman times. Your guided tour will include the gardens, a few rooms inside the villa, a short tour of the island’s nature park and a welcome aperitif. The formal gardens beside the villa include bridges, canals, artificial caves and ancient settlements; while the wide variety of fruit trees, flowers and plants will impress you. Return by boat to Salò for lunch in a local trattoria in the center (including ½ liter water and ¼ liter wine per person). Enjoy a little free time to explore the town of Salò. It was the capital of the Magnifica Patria (Magnificent Homeland) during the period of Venetian domination. More recently, it was the capital of Mussolini’s Fascist government of the Italian Social Republic from 1943 to 1945. Traces of its prestigious past can still be seen in Salò’s elegant historic center filled with buildings of great historical and artistic value. Continue by motorcoach for the short drive to Gardone Riviera – famous for its numerous parks, gardens and historical villas that have lined the lakefront since the 19th century. Gardone Riviera has an especially unique microclimate that allows alpine, Mediterranean and tropical species to grow. Go on a guided tour of the eclectic Vittoriale degli Italiani – The Shrine of Italian Victories which was the former residence of poet, playwright and World War I officer, Gabriele d’Annunzio. This noted eccentric bequeathed his estate to the government upon his death, which today is a popular museum. You’ll get to see his home decorated as he designed it, an outdoor amphitheater, his personal museum to World War I, a military ship used in the war, his personally designed pond and his mausoleum. Return to your hotel and enjoy the remainder of your day and dinner tonight at your leisure.
Breakfast included at hotel. Depart with your private motorcoach for a day devoted to the delicacies found in the Lake Garda area. Start the day by going to one of the local markets and learn about both the local foods and everyday life in the Lake Garda region. Depending on the day and the markets’ availability, you could venture to any one of these town markets: Desenzano, Garda, Bardolino, Peschiera or Lazise. Next, you’ll go to a local farm/agritourism in the Sirmione area for a specially prepared 4 course lunch. The following is a sample menu and just an example of what might be served.
Appetizers of local salami, bruschetta, fresh herb omelettes and vegetables au gratin
Risotto made with Lugana wine and typical pastas
Roasted meat with rosemary potatoes and seasonal vegetables
Fresh homemade pies and cookies, mocha coffee with Lugana grappa (spirits)
Wine: 1 bottle per 3 persons
After departing the local farm/agriturismo, pay a visit to a local olive oil cellar to learn about and sample the various varieties and types of olive oils. Return to your hotel and spend some free time at your leisure. Later this evening, you’ll celebrate with a 4 course Farewell to Lake Garda group dinner at your hotel (including ½ liter water and ¼ liter wine per person).
Breakfast included at hotel. Depart with your private motorcoach to transfer to the city of Venice. Relax as you drive through the countryside and towns of the Veneto region to reach the magical city known as Serenissima – Venice. Upon arrival in Venice, your motorcoach will drop you off where you will then walk 200 – 300 meters to the pier. You’ll take a boat to St. Mark’s Square where your luggage will be transported for you from the boat to your 4* hotel. Its unique location, design and rich history makes Venice one of the most interesting cities in the world. Take in the city’s canals, bridges, piazzas and palazzos as you start your tour in St. Mark’s Square with your English speaking local guide. This half day tour will be interrupted with some free time to get lunch before the second half of your tour resumes. View St. Mark’s Basilica, Venice’s largest cathedral, which originally began as the private chapel for the Doge and other Venetian aristocracy. Attached to the Basilica is the landmark Doge’s Palace, the administrative seat of the Venetian Republic and opulent residence of the Venetian doges. View the famous Campanile – the bell tower in St. Mark’s Square, a memorable symbol of the city located just opposite the Basilica and the Doge’s Palace. Continue your walking tour with an external view of the famous Bridge of Sighs. This enclosed stone passageway was designed to link the palace’s interrogation rooms to the city’s prison and is thusly named for the sound prisoners would make while getting their final view of Venice prior to their imprisonment. Free time for lunch on your own. Resume your guided tour with entrance and a tour of St. Mark’s Basilica. Enter the basilica and marvel at the golden mosaics, Byzantine influenced architecture and historic furnishings. Finally, you’ll have a guided tour of the Doge’s Palace (headphones included with ticket). Today, this magnificent museum is a masterpiece of Gothic architecture where you’ll be allowed to explore parts of its large halls, rooms, courtyard, armory and prison. Relax the rest of the day or further explore Venice on your own. Dinner is at your leisure.
Breakfast included at your hotel. Meet with your English speaking local guide for a private boat tour of the Venetian Lagoon islands: Murano, Burano and Torcello. Depart by boat for your first stop in Murano, famous since the 13th century for its glassmaking. Visit a local glassmaking factory and watch the glass masters at work. Next stop on your boat tour is the island of Burano. This small picturesque island is famous for its lace making workmanship and for its richly painted houses. Enjoy a special fish lunch at a local restaurant in Burano (including ½ liter water and ¼ liter wine per person). After lunch, your boat will take you the short distance to the island of Torcello, once very popular in the region’s salt trade. This quaint island has been a place of refuge for writers (Ernest Hemingway) and musicians over the years. Learn about Torcello’s unique history and enter its famous Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta. Originally founded in 639, this cathedral is famous for its stunning 11th century mosaics and for being one of the oldest standing religious structures still in existence in the region. Return by private boat to Piazza San Marco and return to your hotel. Reminisce about your Italian experiences tonight at your Farewell Dinner at a local Venetian restaurant (including ½ liter water and ¼ liter wine per person).
Breakfast included at hotel. Depart from your hotel and walk to Piazza San Marco where you’ll take a boat directly to the Venice Marco Polo Airport for your flight home. Luggage porterage (1 piece per person) will be handled from your hotel to the airport so you won’t have to carry your bags through Venice to reach your boat. Say “Ciao Italia!” as you return home with cherished memories of your journey to discover the magnificence of Enchanting Lake Garda & Venice.