Village Life around the Italian Lakes

Program Overview

Immerse yourself in the essence of Italian life in the fabled Lake District for one full week, with charming accommodations in the heart of lovely Como at the Palace Hotel. Cruise by private boat on Lake Como, Lake Maggiore, and Lake Orta. Excursions feature Bellagio, Villa del Balbianello, Stresa, Isola Bella, and the Sacro Monte di Orta. Visit Milan’s Duomo and Teatro alla Scala and see Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Enriching lectures and the exclusive Village Life® Forum with local residents bring personal perspectives of the region’s modern life and cultural heritage. Verona and Venice Post-Program Option. A Spring version of this program also exists.

Program Details

October 8 to 16, 2022
From $3,195 plus air View Terms & Conditions
  • Comprehensive Italian soggiorno in the fabled region that has inspired renowned writers and artists for centuries.
  • Accommodations for seven nights in the charming Palace Hotel in the heart of medieval Como—just steps away from historical monuments, family-owned negozi, or shops, and old-world ambiance.
  • This small group program allows for an authentic experience of life in the Italian Lake District in the foothills of the majestic Alps.
  • Private boat tours on Lake Como, Lake Maggiore, and Lake Orta, an undiscovered gem.
  • Enriching lectures by local Como resident and by a resident art historian.
  • Visit the stunning 18th-century Villa del Balbianello and gardens and time at your own pace in the renowned lake town of Bellagio.
  • Full-day excursion to Milan featuring the impressive Duomo, the exquisite Teatro alla Scala, and the UNESCO-inscribed Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, for a specially arranged viewing of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper.
  • Exclusive excursion to Lake Orta featuring Orta San Giulio, one of Italy’s most beautiful villages and the 16th-century chapels atop the Sacro Monte di Orta, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
  • Exclusive Village Life® Forum featuring local residents.
  • Bologna and Florence Post-Program Option.

Day 1 - Depart the U.S. or Canada

Day 2 - Milan, Italy / Lake Como

Day 3 - Como

Day 4 - Lake Maggiore / Borromean Islands / Stresa

Day 5 - Milan

Day 6 - Lake Como / Villa del Balbianello / Bellagio

Day 7 - Lake Orta / Orta San Giulio / Sacro Monte di Orta

Day 8 - Como

Day 9 - Como / Milan / Return to the U.S. or Canada

View detailed program itinerary >

A Spring version of this program also exists.

Palace Hotel

The ideally located, classic belle-époque Palace Hotel is a delightful establishment with an ideal setting on the lungolago—the lakefront promenade—overlooking Lake Como, just steps away from Como’s beautiful marble Duomo and the medieval, pedestrian-only town center. Venetian stucco artistry, Italian marble and antique furniture provide subtle touches of 19th-century elegance throughout the hotel.

Its expertly landscaped gardens are the perfect setting to admire enchanting views across Lake Como. The Garden Bar Ceccato, with its summer terrace overlooking the lake, is an excellent setting to enjoy the hotel’s renowned homemade ice cream or a cappuccino.

Each of the hotel’s 94 renovated guest rooms is tastefully appointed with a private bathroom, air conditioning, satellite television, minibar, and hair dryer. Meals feature fresh seasonal Italian ingredients, local specialties, and international cuisine. Regional wine selections accompany dinner. The hotel staff provides exceptional service.

Bologna and Florence Post-Program Option

Conclude your tour with a four-night extension featuring Bologna and Florence, both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Enjoy a tour of Bologna’s storied medieval square, from Piazza Malpighi to Piazza Maggiore. Visit the legendary Basilica of San Petronio and admire the 17th-century Anatomical Theater at Archiginnasio. Explore Florence’s historical center and view Filippo Brunelleschi’s dome on the Duomo and Lorenzo Ghiberti’s bronze-cast “Doors of Paradise.” Enjoy an afternoon at the Uffizi Gallery to admire works by Botticelli, Giotto, Michelangelo, and Leonardo da Vinci. Also take a tour of Ravenna’s historical center to see the stunning Ravenna Cathedral and the majestic Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo. Accommodations are in the historic Hotel Corona D’oro Bologna in the heart of Bologna.

The Post-Program Option is available at additional cost. Details will be provided with your reservation confirmation.

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Program Itinerary

Day 1 Departure

Your trip will begin by departing the U.S. or Canada.

Day 2 Como

Arrive in Milan, Italy, and transfer to Como, the perfect “home” for our soggiorno in the spectacular mountainous Italian countryside. Check into the charming Palace Hotel on the shore of Lake Como, and enjoy ideally located accommodations for the entire week in the centro storico, or old town, of this timeless Italian città. Join your traveling companions for a Welcome Reception and dinner in the hotel.

Day 3 Como

Founded by the Romans in 196 B.C., Como has been internationally known for its silk-weaving industry since silkworms were first imported here in the 14th century. At one time, Como was the largest European silk producer—dyeing, weaving, and designing fabrics to be shipped to the fashion houses of Milan, Paris, and London. Stroll beside medieval towers and walls, Renaissance palaces and churches, Neoclassical 19th-century villas and small family-owned negozi, or shops, leading to the Piazza Cavour and the tranquil lakeside promenade.

See the magnificent Duomo di Como, considered the most beautiful cathedral in Lombardy. It took nearly 400 years to complete, reflecting a seamless blend of Gothic and Renaissance styles. Visit the 12th-century Romanesque Basilica di San Fedele, with stunning frescoed naves and apses and an exquisitely sculptured choir, carved by Comacini masters. Peruse the fresh fruit and vegetables in the tri-weekly outdoor market, a local tradition for centuries.

Day 4 Borromean Islands

A close rival to Lake Como as the most spectacular in the Lake District, Lake Maggiore’s mild climate allows gardens to grow rare and exotic plants beneath the high Alps, particularly on the remarkable Borromean Islands—Isola Bella, Isola di San Giovanni, Isola Madre, and Isola dei Pescatori collectively—named after the powerful and influential Borromeo family, a dynasty of counts, cardinals, and warriors. Enjoy a private boat cruise amidst Lake Maggiore’s charming islands that inspired Gustave Flaubert, Richard Wagner, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and graced with elegant villas and striking natural beauty.

Visit the crown jewel of the Borromean archipelago, Isola Bella, occupied by the 17th-century Palazzo Borromeo. Walk through its splendid Italianate gardens, a Baroque botanical masterpiece ablaze with roses, gardenias, azaleas, and rhododendrons. Its extravagant halls and opulent salons are filled with priceless masterpieces by old masters such as Peter Paul Rubens, Titan, and Anthony van Dyck. See the Sala di Napoleone, where Napoleon and Josephine slept in 1797, and the unforgettable grotto, decorated entirely with marble- and lava-studded mosaics of marine life.

No 18th- or 19th-century “Grand Tour” of Europe was complete without a visit to Stresa to experience its spectacular mountain views, tropical gardens, and the sparkling waters of Lake Maggiore.

Day 5 Milan

The recognized capital of the design and fashion worlds, Milan has an ancient cultural heritage that blends its ornate palaces, Gothic churches, and venerable museums with vibrant contemporary life, a wealth of modern art, an abundance of haute cuisine, and outstanding operatic traditions. Visit Milan’s exquisite late-Gothic Duomo, which dates from 1386, and the world-famous Teatro alla Scala opera house, a Neoclassical jewel of gilt boxes and glittering chandeliers.

By special arrangement, visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Santa Maria delle Grazie to experience the enduring genius of Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, The Last Supper.

Day 6 Bellagio

Cruise by private boat across the sparkling waters of Italy’s deepest—and perhaps most spectacular—lake while learning about its fascinating history and allure. Perched on a promontory punctuated by stands of cypress trees, Bellagio has been a favorite retreat since the time of the Caesars and is one of the Italian Lake District’s most internationally well-known villages. Enjoy time to explore Bellagio at your own pace.

Across Lake Como from Bellagio, visit the magnificent Villa del Balbianello and its unique terraced gardens. Built in 1787 by Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini, this consummate Italian lake villa was renovated in the early 20th century by an American veteran of World War I and then purchased by Italy’s first explorer to summit Mt. Everest, Guido Monzino, who bequeathed it to the Italian National Trust. It remains a paragon of authentic Italian luxury, the villa is a repository of 18th-century French and English furniture and an exquisite collection of Monzino’s Chinese, pre-Columbian, and African art.

This evening, during the Village Life® Forum in Como, residents will discuss contemporary life in the extraordinarily beautiful and historic Italian Lake District. Savor the delights of a northern Italian dinner in a local ristorante.

Day 7 Lake Orta

Serene Lake Orta, nestled in the captivating Piedmont region of northwestern Italy, is the Lake District’s best-kept secret. Enjoy a walking tour to the heart of Orta San Giulio’s medieval village center, a cinematic tableau of gracefully aging ochre-hued houses woven with arabesques of decorative wrought-iron and flamboyant Baroque palazzos built by Italian nobility.

Visit several small chapels dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi replete with elaborate frescoes and nestled atop the summit of Sacro Monte di Orta—one of nine sacred mountains in northern Italy and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Cruise across the cobalt-blue water in a private boat to diminutive Isola San Giulio, taking in stunning views of picture-perfect Italian villas and gardens along the way. Robert Browning, Honoré de Balzac and Lord Byron all wrote of this intimate island’s sublime beauty. Visit the 12th-century Romanesque-style Basilica San Giulio, whose opulent interior is adorned with richly detailed frescoes painted upon the nave, chapel, vaults, and aisles; then, stroll the monastery’s lush grounds. Return to Orta San Giulio for time at leisure in this beguiling village.

Day 8 Como

The day is free for independent pursuits. You have the opportunity to peruse the fresh fruits and vegetables in Como’s outdoor market, a local tradition for centuries.

This evening, join your travel companions for the Farewell Dinner in the hotel.

Day 9 Milan / Return to U.S. or Canada

After breakfast in the hotel, continue on the Bologna and Florence Post-Program Option or transfer to Milan for your return flight to the U.S. or Canada.