Arena di Verona on Piazza Bra – one of the best preserved ancient structures of its kind dating back 2000 years, and host to the historic annual Opera Festival.
Castelvecchio, built in the 15th century to protect the city, now home to military artefacts, sculptures and paintings, and a connecting bridge -
Ponte Scaligero – constructed as an escape route to the countryside which boasts one of the city’s most evocative views. Check out beautiful
Basilica di San Zeno for its magnificent Romanesque façade, stunning stained-glass rose window, elaborately crafted bronze doors, and many notable artworks. Marvel over the incredible Romanesque
Duomo Santa Maria Matricolare’s gorgeously vaulted interior constructed from pink Verona marble, and its stunning medieval frescoes and Renaissance paintings. Don’t miss
Galleria d'Arte Moderna Palazzo Forti’s extensive collection of artworks (reached by the Gothic
Scala della Ragione or ‘Stairs of Reason’).
Ristorante Il Desco (Via Dietro S. Sebastiano) – classic Italian cuisine in the heart of Verona’s historic centre.
Stay: Palazzo Victoria (2 nights)
||Verona to Lake Garda
Drive Time: 1 hour, | Distance: 27 miles
Discover unforgettable organic and biodynamic wines with intimate guided tours and tastings at
Villa Calicantus Winery in Calmasino in the heart of the Bardolino Classico. It’s all about ‘kitsch’ at Il Vittoriale degli Italiani – the truly OTT estate of writer-turned-soldier Gabriele d’Annunzio – its mansion packed to the rafters with furniture, frescoes, eccentric objets d’art, plus over 30,000 books and 10,000 paintings. For something a little more light-hearted, take in the seriously stunning lake views while biking along the
Ciclo-Pedonale from Lazise to Bardolino. Or take the kids to Italy’s biggest theme park,
Gardaland, where Peppa Pig will be setting up home later this year.
Creative Mediterranean cuisine at Ristorante Antica Trattoria La Speranzina, set directly on the lake in Sirmione
Stay: Villa Cortine Palace Hotel (2 nights)
||Lake Garda to Lake Iseo
Drive Time: 1 hour | Distance: 40 miles
Go back in time on
Monte Isola, Europe’s largest lake island, where only the priests, doctors and the mayor have cars. Wander the backstreets of
Peschiera, visit the two lost-in-time waterfront fishing villages; go by mule to the picture-perfect chapel at Isola’s peak; or take the nine-mile trail on foot or by bike around this entire gorgeous wooded isle. Up in the hills, between Bergamo and Lake Iseo, in the heart of the Valcalepio region, wine-lovers won’t want to miss
Castello di Grumello, a castle dating back to the Middle Ages that now also produces around 100,000 bottles of wine annually.
Ristorante Locanda al Lago, in the middle of the lake on Monte Isola, where you’ll feast on the area’s finest seafood.
Stay: L'Albereta (2 nights)
||Lake Iseo to Lake Como
Drive Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes | Distance: 75 miles
Villa del Balbianello – so picturesque in fact, it was cast as the Lake Retreat of Padmé and Anakin in Star Wars Attack of the Clones. In Como’s historic centre, the green-domed
Duomo blends over 400 hundreds of years of styles, influences and inflections of copious artists and skilled artisans. ‘Pearl of the Lake’
Bellagio will have you smitten with its maze of tiny streets, steep stone staircases, red-roofed and green-shuttered buildings, and rhododendron-filled gardens. That’s not to say Bellagio has the monopoly on gorgeous grounds though.
Villa Carlotta’s magnificent Botanical Gardens near Tremezzo are a modern theatre of greenery, awash with colour, and dotted with mythological statues.
La Colombetta – a rich and modern interpretation of authentic Sardinian cuisine; and a family-run favourite with the likes of George Clooney and Robert De Niro.
Stay: Villa d'Este (3 nights)
||Lake Como to Lake Maggiore
Drive Time: 1 hour, 25 minutes | Distance: 66 miles
Loved by Ernest Hemingway and more recently the royal family, the
Borromean Islands of Isola Bella and Isola Madre are unique little worlds of their own, bursting with flora and fauna: the former entirely occupied by the sumptuous 17th-century
Palazzo Borromeo and its scenographic terraced gardens; the latter home to a magnificently romantic botanical garden rich in rare plants and where a collection of white peacocks, golden pheasants and parrots live freely in this splendid natural setting. Travel up
Monte Sasso del Ferro on the on the
Laveno Bucket Lift for picture-perfect panoramas (choose an open air ‘bucket’ for peak photo ops). And for the best view in town, head to Stresa for drinks at
Hotel La Palma’s super-cool rooftop Sky Bar.
Dinner in one of the charming restaurants on Isola Pescatori.
Stay: Grand Hotel Majestic Pallanza (3 nights)
||Lake Maggiore to Lake Orta
Drive Time: 40 minutes | Distance: 19 miles
Make a break for the largely pedestrian-only
Isola San Giulio, dominated by its 12th-century Romanesque basilica, bishop’s palace and Benedictine abbey. Perfect for a romantic afternoon amongst its charming piazzas lined with markets, cafés and small family-owned restaurants. Another wonderfully tranquil way to pass a few hours is meandering from chapel to chapel on the
Sacro Monte di Orta. Twenty small chapels dedicated to St Francis of Assisi dot the hillside; and the views down to the lake are completely captivating.
Two-Michelin-starred gourmet restaurant at
Villa Crespi (20 minutes’ walk from Hotel San Rocco on Via G. Fava) – a fusion of the Mediterranean flavours of Naples (chef Antonino Cannavacciuolo’s home town) and the traditions of his adoptive Piedmont.
Stay: Hotel San Rocco (2 nights)
||Depart Lake Orta
||14 nights from £2650 per person, including accommodation, round-trip economy class flights, breakfast and car hire.