Lake Garda - Marvel at magnificent mountain scenery as you travel by train to northern Italy and beautiful Lake Garda.
Marvel at magnificent mountain scenery as you travel by train to northern Italy and beautiful Lake Garda. The dramatic Dolomites are ever-present as you explore this charming region of lively lakeside towns, flourishing vineyards and olive groves and hilltop castles. Further afield, visit Venice, sure to be a highlight of this leisurely holiday.
9 nights' hotel accommodation with breakfast each day
Full-day excursion to Venice including a guided tour
Excursion by boat to Isola del Garda including a guided tour of the house and gardens
Full-day excursion to Verona including a guided tour
Excursion by boat to Sirmione
The services of an experienced Tour Guide
Standard class return rail travel by Eurostar/European train provider
Station transfers (if applicable) and transfers between stations and hotels
Day 1 - London to Paris on the Eurostar
Your holiday begins at St Pancras International in London, where we board the Eurostar to Paris for an overnight stay at the Hotel Mercure Gare de Lyon. This evening you are free for dinner - there are a number of excellent brasseries in the nearby Bastille district.
Day 2 - The journey to Italy
From Paris we travel on the high-speed TGV, heading southeast towards the mighty Alps. We cross the border into Italy, passing through Turin on our way to Milan. We transfer across Milan by coach to connect with the train for our journey east towards Lake Garda, travelling past the Italian Alps to the north and the vast Lombardy Plain to the south. We arrive in the bustling town of Desenzano, located on the wide, sealike southern shores of Lake Garda, Italy's largest lake. We spend the next seven nights here at the welcoming Hotel Desenzano. We dine together in the hotel this evening. After the meal, why not introduce yourself to Desenzano with a stroll through the winding lanes of the Old Town, or wander along the lake shore and watch the breeze rippling the calm water. (B,D)
Day 3 - Sightseeing in romantic Venice
Today we board the train in Desenzano for a full-day excursion to the fabulous city of Venice. Arriving at the city's Santa Lucia station close to the Grand Canal, we are greeted by a truly glorious view of the shimmering Venice lagoon. A private boat transports us along the Giudecca Canal - our first chance to soak up the wonderful atmosphere of this unique city. We arrive at St Mark's Square, undoubtedly one of the most beautiful city squares in the world. Overlooked by St Mark's Basilica, the large open space is surrounded by Doge's Palace, the Procurator's residence, the famous Sansoviniana Bookshop and the iconic bell tower, as well as the waters of the lagoon. Our local guide greets us in St Mark's Square and takes us on a walking tour of the city, leading us around the narrow winding streets and small squares to visit some of Venice's main sights. Your afternoon is free to explore at leisure - take an enchanting gondola ride on the canals, passing Marco Polo's house and learning about the city's history from the informative gondolier, or explore using Venice's water-bound public transport network - the Vaporetti. We return to Lake Garda by train. (B,D)
Day 4 - Excursion to Sirmione
Today we take a cruise across the lake by boat to the picturesque town of Sirmione, which occupies a peculiar position on a thin and craggy peninsula jutting 4km into the lake. Surrounded on three sides by water, Sirmione is one of the most peaceful towns on Lake Garda. The narrow winding lanes and pretty piazzas of Sirmione are mostly pedestrianised, which makes strolling through the town a pleasure. A panoramic walk leads out around the promontory, and on a clear day you can enjoy great views over the lake and towards the mountains in the north. We have time in Sirmione to explore the imposing Rocca Scaligera (payable locally)- a beautifully preserved 13th century castle surrounded by a large water-filled moat that dominates the Old Quarter of town and offers beautiful views over Lake Garda from the ramparts. Alternatively, visit the ruined Roman villa, the Villa Romana, built at the end of the headland. (B,D)
Day 5 - At leisure
Your day is free to discover Desenzano, with its narrow streets, medieval castle and picturesque waterfront. Today is market day in Desenzano; make your way to the Old Town where you will find the main square filled with colourful stalls selling locally produced food and crafts. Alternatively, why not visit Malcesine, located at the narrow, northern end of Lake Garda where the scenery and lake resembles the Norwegian fjords; dramatic cliffs rise steeply from the very edge of the water. Malcesine is a pretty lakeside town whose charming cobbled streets and a quaint harbour are dominated by the distinctive 14th century castle. While you are here you could take the opportunity to travel by cable car up to the summit of Monte Baldo, Lake Garda's highest mountain, which rises up behind Malcesine and separates the lake from the Val d'Adige, the valley of the river which flows through Verona. The modern Malcesine cable car is the simplest and most spectacular way to get to the summit, climbing to 1750 metres. On the upper section the cars revolve slowly to give a spectacular panorama of the lake and mountains. (B)
Day 6 - Excursion to Isola del Garda
Today's excursion takes us on a wonderful cruise across the calm waters of Lake Garda to the wooded Isola del Garda, the biggest island in the lake. Dominated by an impressive neo-Gothic villa, the island can be reached only by private boat, and we travel out to see the elegant house and flower-filled gardens, scented with lemon and pine. Exotic plants jostle for position among verdant foliage, and beautifully manicured terraces run down to the water. We enjoy a guided tour of the house and gardens. (B,D)
Day 7 - Excursion to Verona including a guided tour
Our excursion today takes us by coach to beautiful Verona - a city of Roman ruins, medieval buildings, Italian culture and romance; the setting for Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet. Our guided tour of the city, which takes us into Verona's historic heart, surrounded on three sides by a loop of the picturesque River Adige, features Juliet's balcony and Verona's great Roman Arena. We end our tour at the imposing amphitheatre which is now an open air opera house. There is some free time following our tour to explore Verona at your own pace - the charming narrow streets and picturesque piazzas make the city a pleasure to explore, while an abundance of pavement cafés offer the perfect opportunity to relax with a drink. (B,D)
Day 8 - A day at leisure exploring Lake Garda
Today is also free to relax in Desenzano, enjoying the warm local climate and the hotel's facilities. Alternatively you could travel further afield; visiting stylish Milan to explore the sights, including the incredible Duomo - the largest Gothic cathedral in the world - and the world's most famous opera house, the 'Teatro alla Scala'. You could enjoy some retail therapy at the beautiful 19th century glass-roofed shopping arcade, the 'Galleria Vittorio Emanuele'. (B)
Day 9 - To Strasbourg We bid farewell to Garda and travel via Milan and Basel on our way to Strasbourg, where we spend the final night of the holiday at the Mercure Strasbourg Centre Hotel, ideally located in Strasbourg's historic centre. (B,D)
Day 10 - Straubourg to London
We board the high-speed TGV to Paris, where we cross the city by coach to join our connecting Eurostar to London. (B)
Eurostar is the high-speed rail service directly linking the UK to France and Belgium via the Channel Tunnel. It started operating in 1994, providing convenient city centre to city centre services.
TGV: Train à Grande Vitesse, (high-speed train) is France's high-speed rail service.
The family-run 4-star Hotel Desenzano is close to the centre of the town and is located within walking distance of the harbour and just 50 metres from the railway station. Boasting immaculate furnishings and impeccable service the hotel has its own outdoor swimming pool, solarium, roof terrace and cocktail bar. Rooms are air-conditioned with a telephone, television, minibar, safe and hairdryer.