A trio of the best Italian Lakes by First Class rail

Prices from £2,150 per person

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Set in the foothills of the Italian Alps, Lake Como is one of Italy’s most romantic and picturesque holiday destinations. Charming villages and towns are dotted all along the wishbone-shaped lake, surrounded by soaring mountains, exotic flowers and classical villas. The stunning views from all over Lake Como, combined with its tranquil beauty, have inspired generations of composers, artists and poets, such as Verdi, Shelley and Byron.

Enjoy the best of stunning, sparkling, serene Lake Garda and take the opportunity to visit nearby Verona. Lake Garda embraces diverse scenery, from towering cliffs to tiny harbours and palm tree lined promenades, from hilltop castles to lemon orchards and olive groves. Italy’s largest lake boasts spectacular scenery and vista from Sirmione’s peninsula in the south to the Monte Baldo, towering over 2,000 metres above Malcesine in the north.

Majestic Lake Maggiore provides a stunning holiday setting with its sparkling waters and stunning Alpine scenery. Enjoy the abundance of exotic flowers and plants, fascinating contrasts between northern Italy and southern Switzerland, and the enchanting Borromean Islands. From the lovely town of Stresa journey north aboard the Centovalli railway to Locarno or south to magnificent Milan. You can relax and unwind or embrace some of Italy’s most wonderful history, culture, scenery and gastronomy.

This marvellous 14 night / 15 day itinerary by First Class rail also includes time in the fantastic Swiss destinations of Zurich and Montreux, and is available from £2,150 per person (based on two people travelling together departing in April or October) and from £2,295 per person (based on two people travelling together departing between May and September). Prices include lake views at all hotels in Italy.

Day 1 – By rail to Switzerland

Your holiday to the Italian Lakes begins at London St Pancras International. Admire the impressive architecture of this lovingly restored station, including the curved glass roof, before you board the Eurostar to Paris. Sit back, relax and watch the countryside glide past as you reach speeds of up to 186mph. Savour the light meal and drinks served at your seat in Standard Premier Class (Eurostar’s First Class for leisure travellers) as you continue towards Paris. On arrival in the French capital, you are transferred across the city by private taxi to the Gare de Lyon, where you connect with the high-speed TGV service to Switzerland.

You travel through the undulating Swiss countryside to the attractive lakeside city of Zurich. On arrival, make your way to your hotel for tonight, the popular Hotel St Josef (3 star). After settling in, why not take a whistle-stop tour of the city? Most of the main sights lie within the compact area on either side of the River Limmat, between the main station and Lake Zurich. The churches and burgher houses of the Old Town are clustered here, as are the elegant shops along Bahnhofstrasse. The baroque Rathaus (Town Hall), Zurich’s most impressive churches – the Grossmünster, Fraumünster – and the city’s oldest, St Peterskirche (its clock face is the largest in Europe), all lie within a short distance of the River Limmat, near the point where it opens onto the lake.

 

Day 2 – Through Switzerland to Lake Como

After a leisurely breakfast in the hotel, make your way back to Zurich station. Here you join the comfortable Euro City service to travel along the spectacular Gotthard route for the fabulous journey through picturesque scenery, past soaring mountain peaks and through the Gotthard Tunnel into Italy. On arrival at Como station this afternoon, you can either take a taxi or enjoy a picturesque ferry journey (both payable locally) along the lake to Bellagio. This charming small town has been called Europe’s most beautiful town, and here you spend four nights at the friendly Hotel Metropole (3 star), ideally situated with glorious views over Lake Como.

 

Days 3 to 5 – Exploring Lake Como

You have three full days to enjoy relaxing at your hotel or strolling around Bellagio, described as la perla del lago (the pearl of the lake) it is perfectly situated where the arms of the Lake Como come together. Its narrow cobbled streets, breath-taking views and glorious villas make it an enchanting place to stay. During your stay make the most of the opportunity to visit some of the nearby attractions. Nearly opposite Bellagio is Villa Carlotta, a perfect combination of luxurious interiors (beautiful stuccos, lovely ceiling frescoes and a great art collection, including an Eros and Psyche by Antonio Canova) and luxuriant exteriors (over 500 species of plants, trees and shrubs from all over the world).

You can travel by ferry to the lovely town of Como (pictured) where you can visit the fascinating Duomo (cathedral), which reflects changing architectural styles, and wander through the historic centre of the walled town. Another popular option is Varenna, one of the most picturesque towns on the lake; its steep winding alleys are lined with charming houses, flowering balconies and lace-curtained windows. Just above the town is the ancient castle and close by the famed Villa Cipressi, with terraced gardens cascading right down to the shores, and Villa Monastero. To experience a different view take the cog train to the mountain village of Monte Bre and enjoy fabulous views of Lake Lugano or board the funicular and ride up the mountain to Brunate, this quaint town where the views of Lake Como and the distant Alps are breath-taking. You might be tempted to visit medieval Bergamo, a classic Italian mix of architectural styles from Romanesque to Medieval, Renaissance to Neoclassical epitomised by the Piazza Vecchia.

 

Day 6 – Lake Como to Lake Garda

Bid farewell to charming Bellagio as you make your way back down the lake to Como station (payable locally). Here you join the train for the brief journey south to Milan. On arrival at Milan’s art-deco Centrale station you change trains and continue on the Eurostar Italia service to Desenzano on the shores of Lake Garda. Here your private taxi transfer takes you to your hotel for the next four nights, the stylish Park Hotel (4 star), ideally located overlooking the lake and set in the heart of the town.

 

Days 7 to 9 – Exploring Lake Garda

Enjoy three full days to explore Lake Garda and its surrounding attractions. A great way to see Lake Garda at its best is on a relaxing lake cruise (payable locally), marvelling at the cliffs that rise almost vertically from the lake shore and admiring the fabulous views of the picturesque villages nestled between the mountains and lakeside. The Lake Garda ferry departs just a short ride from your hotel. Destinations accessible from the ferry include Limone, Riva del Garda or Malcesine in the north or Torri del Benaco, Lazise or Sirmione (pictured) in the south and east. Sirmione in particular is well worth a visit, with its narrow, medieval streets and 13th century castle.

You may wish to relax in Desenzano and admire this attractive little town, which is a delight to explore. The inter-connected squares of the compact centre are home to an array of shops, ice cream parlours, restaurants and pretty pavement cafés. Other highlights include the medieval castle and the ruins of a Roman villa. Alternatively, you could take advantage of the local rail network to explore further afield. Timeless Venice, the charming walled city of Verona and Bolzano in the heart of the Dolomites are all easily accessible by train.

 

Day 10 – Lake Garda to Lake Maggiore

Today you leave Lake Garda behind as your private taxi transfer returns you to the station. Here you join the Eurostar Italia service to Milan, where you connect with the Euro City service northwards to Stresa, nestled on the shores of Lake Maggiore. On arrival in Stresa, it is a short distance to your hotel for the next four nights, the charming Hotel La Luna Nel Porto (3 star).

 

Day 11 – The Lake Maggiore Express (supplements apply)

Today you may wish to discover more of the beautiful scenery around Lake Maggiore on the Lake Maggiore Express. You begin by taking a ferry to the Swiss part of the lake, arriving in the pretty town of Locarno. You have some time to discover the town’s attractive centre with its mix of Swiss and Italian cultures, before you join the Centovalli Railway service to Domodossola. The line takes you on a wonderfully scenic route, across viaducts and bridges through a hundred undulating valleys, past deep ravines and thundering waterfalls, through forests and vineyards as you travel back into Italy. In Domodossola you connect with the regular rail service back to Stresa, marking the end of a varied and stunning day.

 

Days 12 and 13 – Stresa and Lake Maggiore

Allow yourself to unwind and soak up the unique atmosphere of Lake Maggiore and the pretty town of Stresa with a further two days to explore. You might fancy a visit to the old town to wend your way along the narrow streets and picturesque waterfront or hop on a ferry to discover more of sparkling Lake Maggiore. You can visit its stunning islands, including Isola Bella, on a relaxing lake cruise (payable locally). A highlight of Isola Bella is the gorgeous Borromeo Palace with its lovely Italian gardens, though each of the islands in this spectacular lake has its own charms.

If you would prefer to go a little further afield, you could travel west to Lake Orta, lesser known yet utterly charming and picturesque. Alternatively relax in the comfortable surroundings of your hotel with its lovely views of the lake.

 

Day 14 – Stresa to Montreux on Lake Geneva

Montreux luxury holidays by planet railToday you return to Stresa station, where you board the comfortable Euro City service and bid farewell to Italy as your train snakes its way through the spectacular scenery of the Swiss Alps into Switzerland. From here you continue to the pretty lakeside town of Montreux on the shores of Lake Geneva for your overnight stay at the belle époque Grand Hotel Suisse Majestic (4 star superior) located right next to the station. Take a stroll alongside Lake Geneva and visit this elegant lakeside town which is home to the famous jazz festival. If time permits, take the trolleybus to the nearby Château de Chillon, one of the best-preserved castles in Europe.

 

Day 15 – Homeward bound

After breakfast and time for some last-minute sightseeing in Montreux, you begin your journey home as you join the Inter Regio train to Lausanne, then connect with the TGV to whisk you back to Paris. Watch the rolling hills flash past or reminisce on the wonders of the past few days. Your private taxi transfer takes you to the Gare du Nord and the last leg of your journey. Here you board the Eurostar and let the train take the strain as you stretch out and savour the light meal and drinks included in your Standard Premier service. At 186mph the landscape is a blur at times, though memories abide as you return to London St. Pancras International and the final leg of your journey home.