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Italian Lakes and Bologna

We begin this exciting tour of Italy’s northern region in Bologna, one of Italy’s most fascinating cities with its incredible maze of porticos and arcaded walkways clustered around two lively main squares. 
Perfect for exploring on foot, Bologna is home to the oldest university in Europe and known for its great love of food and wine. We will experience the best the area has to offer during our walking tour of the city and dinner at a local farmhouse. From here we will also visit the quintessential Italian city of Parma, recognized for producing the world-famous Parma ham and Parmesan cheese (which we will of course sample during our visit). 

Next we travel to beautiful Lake Garda for a 4-night stay in the charming town of Desenzano. Garda is the largest lake in Italy, dotted with pretty villages and modern towns.  En route we visit medieval Verona, the setting of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, which remains steeped in romance and cultural treasures. While in Lake Garda we will enjoy a boat trip to medieval Sirmione, uniquely positioned on a narrow peninsula jutting out into the lake with a maze of pedestrian streets and lakefront promontory ideal for strolling, and the Alpine capital of Trento to the north.

Then we explore the Franciacorta wine region, famous for their high quality sparkling wines, en route to the praradise of Lake Lugano for our final 4 nights. This stunning glacial lake is situated on the border between southern Switzerland and northern Italy, surrounded by mountains and breathtaking panoramic views. We will stay in the city of Lugano, in Switzerland’s Italian-speaking Ticino region. The Swiss-Mediterranean mix of cultures here is reflected in the city’s architecture (the main square, Piazza della Riforma, is ringed with pastel-coloured, neo-classical palazzi).  From our base here we will explore the region around the lake as well as neighbouring Lake Como, including a visit of the historical Villa Carlotta.

* Those joining any of our tours to Europe must be able to walk fairly long distances and climb stairs easily.

Itinerary / Excursions

We depart for Bologna, via Frankfurt.
We arrive in Bologna and transfer to our hotel for a 4-night stay. Tonight is our Welcome Dinner.
Our tour of this energetic city begins with a walking tour of its historic centre. Lined with hundreds of arched porticos and arcaded walkways, the town is clustered around two main squares, one of which is home to the striking Neptune's Fountain - a symbol of the city decorated with magnificent bronze figures. A series of defensive towers, built in the 12th and 13th centuries, dot the city, some leaning more than the famous Leaning Tower in Pisa! The people of Bologna are known for their love of fine food and fresh local produce, so we will enjoy a special dinner tonight at a farmhouse in the hills surrounding the city.
A day at leisure to explore this fascinating city, visit nearby Maranello or perhaps take the train to Florence for the day.
Today we visit the typical Italian city of Parma, bursting with art and culture, and home to the world famous Parma ham and Parmesan cheese! During our city tour we see the octagonal towered Baptistery built from the pink marble of Verona and the cobbled square Piazza del Duomo. After some free time to explore we visit the Museum of Parma Ham and enjoy a light lunch with local specialties.
We depart for Verona, a city of roman ruins, medieval buildings, culture, romance and setting of Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet. On our guided walking tour we will see the historic centre with Piazza dei Signori, Juliet’s balcony and the great Roman arena - now an open-air opera house. There will be time to enjoy one of the cafés or do some shopping before we continue to Desenzano on the shores of beautiful Lake Garda for a 4-night stay.
We take a short cruise to Sirmione, picturesquely located on a thin peninsula jutting into the lake and surrounded on 3 sides by water. The narrow winding lanes and pretty piazzas are mostly pedestrian so browsing the town is a pleasure. Our walk around the promontory offers great views of the lake and mountains.
At leisure to discover Desenzano’s narrow streets, medieval castle and inviting waterfront. The town is well served by a variety of transportation – boats, trains and buses - that provide endless options to explore.
We enjoy an excursion to the Alpine capital of Trento, a city of Roman treasures and Renaissance splendor. Our tour brings us to the historical centre with its colourful squares, noble palaces and the Castello del Buonconsiglio - the largest monumental complex in the region.
Today we tour the wine region of Franciacorta, famous for its high-quality sparkling wines. We will visit a local estate to see the cellars, sample the “Italian champagne” and enjoy a traditional farm style lunch. We then continue to the splendid Lake Lugano region for a 4-night stay.
Our exploration of Lugano begins with a brief walking tour of the centre. Then we will board a local boat to enjoy a cruise of the southern part of the lake and to visit the village of Morcote - one of the prettiest and most authentic hamlets on the shores of Lake Lugano.
This morning we travel by coach to historic Villa Carlotta, ideally situated on lovely Lake Como. The stunning villa was built in the 18th century for a Milanese Count, and later belonged to the Prussian Monarchy. The villa has magnificent gardens and an abundance of beautiful art, including sculptures by Canova. Later we sail on the local ferry to the picturesque resort town of Bellagio. Enjoy the delightful old-world streets and the main square - a bustling hive of activity and site of the Romanesque Basilica di San Giacomo.
A day at leisure to further discover the town and lake, do some shopping or take a ferry to one of the many nearby charming towns. This evening is our Farewell Dinner.
We transfer to the Milan airport for our flight back to Canada, non-stop to Toronto.
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