Villas and Gardens of the Italian Lakes (RHS Package)

8 Days

From £1795pp

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  •  Embark on a private tour with the owner of the magnificent Villa Cicogna Mozzoni
  • Visit a specialist plant nursery on Lake Maggiore, the perfect place to pick up souvenirs for your own garden!
  • Explore the personal garden of the President of the Italian Camellia Society, home to over 500 plants

The fabulous scenery and warming climate of the northern Italian lakes have attracted eager aristocrats and the wealthy for years. The beguiling beauty of this Mediterranean landscape of colour shows no signs of waning: with its scarlet camellias, pink oleanders and cerulean waters.

Elegant villas and lush gardens perfectly complement the natural landscape of the Northern Italian Lakes. From our bases on the Gulf of Borromeo on Lake Maggiore and at the foot of Lake Como a succession of villas and their gardens are available to us – all set against the breathtaking backdrop of snow-capped mountains and glittering waters. 

We begin with a real treat – visiting the private garden of the President of the Italian Camellia Society, home to a remarkable collection of over 500 plants. Nowhere captures the extravagant spirit of the lake-land gardens better than the three Borromean islands we visit: Bella, Pescatori and Madre. They feature sumptuous terraced gardens, flowered terraces, shaded woodland walks and elegant statuary. Other highlights during our stay on Lake Maggiore include a fascinating specialist plant nursery, Villa Taranto; and the gardens around Locarno, just over the border in Switzerland.

On our way to Lake Como, we pause for a private tour of the Villa Cicogna Mozzoni with its owner. Azaleas and rhododendrons put on a dazzling display at Villa Carlotta; and the manicured garden of Villa Balbianello, impeccably maintained, and an undoubted highlight. In addition we enjoy a free day to relax and shop in Como town, or visit Villa Melzi d’Eril.

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Day 1

We depart from London to Milan.  On arrival we continue by comfortable coach to our base for the next four nights, the Grand Majestic Hotel, Pallanza, Verbania. Built in 1870, on the elegant west Piedmont shores of Lake Maggiore, overlooking the Isola San Giovanni, the Grand Hotel Majestic is a fascinating example La Belle Époque architecture. Pallanza’s lakefront is one of the finest on Lake Maggiore; a walk along its promenade with the lake and the Borromean Islands on one side and colourful facades, porticoes, flowered balconies, terraces and cafés on the other is a most agreeable experience.

A welcome drink will be served in the evening followed by dinner.


Day 2

Today, we start by visiting the private garden of the President of the Italian Camellia Society. Since the 1950s the garden has housed a remarkable collection of camellias, developed with great passion by Antonio Sevesi, the founder of the Italian Society of Camellias and Andrea Corneo, the current President.

After lunch we travel the short distance to a remarkable wholesale nursery business in the Italian Lake District - Compagnia Del Lago. This is a fascinating producer of azaleas, camellias, rhododendron and other plant species successfully grown for the Italian Lakeland gardens.

We return to the hotel where dinner is served in the evening.

Day 3

We spend a full day exploring the famous Borromean Islands. We take a cruise from Stresa to Isola Bella to see the vast baroque palace built from the island’s rock and surrounded by terraced gardens that were inspired by the ‘Hanging Gardens of Babylon’.

We continue to Isola Pescatori, the ‘island of fishermen’, with its narrow cobbled streets and pretty harbour. Our final visit is to Isola Madre. In contrast, to Isola Bella, Isola Madre has a simple, unspoilt aspect, where tropical and Mediterranean plants, citrus fruits, crape myrtle, hibiscus, bougainvillea, protea and agaves all flourish. 

We later return to our hotel where dinner will be served.

Day 4

We start the day at Villa Taranto. Flourishing with rare botanical examples, the early 20th century concept of a garden offers both an aesthetic experience and a scientific adventure.  

 We travel northwards along the lake towards Ticino and Switzerland – briefly stopping at Cannero Riviera to learn about the ancient tradition of lemon cultivation on Lake Maggiore. This afternoon we visit Parco Gambarogno, a magnificent botanic garden, were Otto Eisenhut, a talented horticulturalist, cultivated thousands of beautiful and colourful flowering plants. 

We also visit Eisenhut Nursery at San Nazzaro, before concluding our afternoon with a cable-car ride up to the Cardada peak. Dinner will be served at the hotel in the evening.

Day 5

Today, we visit Villa Cicogna Mozzoni, situated in the former hunting grounds of nobility, in the foothills between Varese and Lake Lugano. We enjoy a private guided tour with the owner. The garden was established by Ascanio Mozzoni, a man of great culture who brought back ideas from his travels (including Rome) for the arrangement of his garden across seven levels.

We continue to the town of Como and our lakeside hotel. The hotel is situated in the heart of the town and is only accessible on foot or by horse-drawn carts. Dinner is served in the hotel in the evening.

Day 6

Today we have a free day for you to shop and sightsee at leisure. It is very easy to hop on board one of the many ferries or hydrofoils which go to Bellagio where you may have lunch and visit the Villa Melzi d’Eril (admission not included). Our guide will be on hand to assist.

Day 7

We spend an enchanting day on Lake Como, so similar and yet so different from its larger neighbour, Maggiore. On arrival in Tremezzo we have time to enjoy the elegant 18th century Villa Carlotta, where, in the spring, azaleas and rhododendrons burst into a simply dazzling display.

After lunch in Tremezzo, we catch the ferry to the Villa Balbianello on the Lavedo point. It sits in a sylvan setting of pine, soaring cypress and oak, with pollarded plane trees, manicured lawns and flowerbeds. 

Later we return to the mainland and our hotel where dinner is served in the evening.

Day 8

After breakfast we check-out of our hotel. We return to the airport in time for our return flight to London, where the group will disperse or make onward connections.

What's Included

  • 7 nights: 4 at the 4* Grand Majestic Hotel on Lake Maggiore & 3 at the 4* Hotel Barchetta Excelsior on Lake Como — dinner, bed & breakfast
  • Return flights: London to Milan
  • Special visit to the private garden of the President of the Italian Camellia Society 
  • Services of a professional tour manager

Supplements per person

  • Single room supplement: £385.00
  • June and September supplement: £100.00
  • Lake view supplement (subject to availability): £140.00
  • Insurance: £45.00 (under 65); £90.00 (65–74); £135.00 (75–90)

Regional flight connections and/or overnight accommodation can be arranged on request before or after the tour

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Print tour details

Departure points and times

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