Last Modified: 23 May 2014
Italian Lakes Discovery
Trip code: ZGXI
Validity: 01 Jan 2014 to 31 Dec 2014
Pamper the appetite and treat the senses on this exquisite journey through Italy’s Lake District and the staggering peaks of Switzerland’s St. Moritz. Stroll the forested paths around Lakes Como and Garda, unwind through the Dolomite highlands and just keep whetting and sating that appetite with classic Italian delicacies. Shop til you drop among Milan’s famous fashionistas, ferry to and fro between lake villages and villas that keep getting prettier, and clamber about the crumbling ruins of medieval castles. Idyllic in setting, laid-back in lifestyle, and a gastronomist’s delight, this jaunt through one of Europe’s most charming nooks shouldn’t disappoint. And if it does, take the issue up with one of the local residents – like Sting or George Clooney.
Table of Contents
- Comfort is your style of travel if you want the whole grassroots experience with more inclusions, meals and creature comforts. While accommodation is predominantly tourist class (3-4 star), on some itineraries there is the opportunity to stay with a local family, spend the night on a train or camp out in exotic places (without putting up your own tent of course). Along the way, you'll really experience the destination up close. You'll mingle with locals, enjoy a taste of their way of life and gain special insights from your leader. This is not luxury travel, but real world experiences - just with a softer landing!
Day 1 Milan
Your trip starts today with your arrival in Milan (Milano), Italy's second largest city and capital of Lombardy - the wealthiest province.
Milan Central station (Milano Centrale) is also one of Italy's and Europe's main rail hubs for both domestic and international routes so it’s easy to arrive by train from other Italian cities or European destinations.
Milan's Malpensa Airport (45kms from central Milan) is a major international air gateway with frequent and comfortable bus and rail connections to the downtown area. Whilst at your discretion, we recommend arriving/ departing by train where possible within Europe due to this method of transports minimal carbon emissions.
No activities are planned so you may arrive at any time. Please make your own way to the joining hotel (details are in your travel documents) that is centrally located and close to all the major sights.
In the evening we meet our tour leader and our fellow travelling companions at a Welcome Meeting (this is usually at 6pm, but you will be advised as to the exact time and place in a notice, located near the reception at our hotel), where our leader will give us a briefing on what lies ahead on our tour.
This evening is free, so why not enjoy dinner in one of the nearby traditional restaurants.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 2 Lake Como/Breglia
We spend the morning enjoying a walking tour of Milan. Apart from being known as the fashion capital of the world and Italy’s financial centre, there is also an overwhelming amount of history here, as we discover when we visit some of the must-see sights.
The Gothic Duomo is the city's most famous building and walking in between the sculptures on its roof is an amazing experience. The views from up high are also very impressive.
We then walk through the beautiful Galleria, to the Teatro alla Scala, arguably Italy’s most famous opera house and a stage that has been graced by many great performers.
We also explore some shops in the famous fashion district and we visit the medieval castle and enjoy its beautiful park. Lunch is optional, we can either eat in a local restaurant or pick up a ‘panino’ if we prefer.
In the early afternoon we drive north to Lake Como (Lago di Como) - an area of stunning beauty and full of unique and evocative landscapes. We stop and enjoy a stroll in the beautiful medieval town centre of Como.
Then there is time for a drink, either on Como's amazing town square or along the lake shore, before driving around the western side of the lake to our next base.
Walking time: approx. 3 hours
To recover from the hectic city life, we stay for one night in the quaint mountain village of Breglia, high above Menaggio. In the evening we get together and savour some fine local fare at our hotel.
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 3 Menaggio/Lake Como/Varenna
Today we take a great walk up to the mountain hut above Menaggio, situated on the southern slope of Mount Grona. The walk is challenging in sections but the visual rewards are spectacular with peerless views of Lake Como and the surrounding mountains. The pace set by the leader will be achievable for the whole group.
The first portion of our walk goes through forest and pastoral land, before we trek up to the 'Rifugio' itself. This is a great scenic setting to enjoy our picnic lunch. A ten minute walk from the 'Rifugio' takes us to a viewpoint called Pizzo Coppa, from where we have a view not only of Lake Como, but also of the entire region with Lake Piano and Lake Lugano, between Italy and Switzerland. After lunch we have time for a rest and then begin our descent down to the lake again.
Walking time: approx. 5-6 hours
According to our energy levels there are a number of different return routes back down to Breglia and from there to Menaggio. There is also the possibility to catch a bus at various points.
Those who wish to have a more relaxed day, you can opt to miss today’s more challenging walk and instead take a wonderfully panoramic, but easy circular route directly from the hotel. Alternatively you can travel down to Menaggio and relax by the lake.
In the late afternoon we all head to Menaggio and take a local ferry to the romantic town of Varenna, on the east side of the lake. Strewn with elegant villas and crowned by an old castle, Varenna is our base for the next two nights.
- Walk to Mount Grona Viewpoint
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 4 Lake Como
This morning we take a boat ride to the central part of Lake Como and visit the pretty village of Bellagio. We walk through the Bellagio’s delightful countryside and visit beautiful Villa Melzi. This grand white villa sits just back from the water and its surrounding estate is filled with a plethora of rare and exotic plant life.
Boarding another boat, we then travel to the lakeside village of Tremezzo and explore the splendid Villa Carlotta, with its beautiful gardens overlooking the lake.
Another ferry ride takes us back to the charming village of Varenna, deemed by some as the most romantic town in all of Italy. We see the Fiumelatte, the curious ‘River of Milk’ and Italy’s shortest river (250m), which flows only six months a year. Not even Leonardo da Vinci, who explored the cave from which the river emerges, could discover its source or the reason why it flows for only half the year.
Walking time: 3-4 hours
Hotel (1 nt)
Day 5 St. Moritz/Tirano
After an early breakfast, we depart for a day in the real mountains - partly in Italy and partly in Switzerland.
We drive to the northern edge of Lake Como and for some shopping time and also enjoy a drink in the last Italian town, Chiavenna. Upon entering Switzerland, we travel along a wonderful panoramic road and make a stop at Passo Maloja before arriving in the famous St. Moritz area, which is full of beautiful lakes. We take an easy, but spectacular excursion to the Morteratsch Glacier, where we can choose to enjoy a picnic lunch whilst taking in the incredible view.
Walking time: approx. 3 hours
We return to Italy on the Bernina Express, a small local train that operates directly from Morteratsch. This amazing rail trip takes us past mountain peaks and glacier lakes, before descending steeply towards the valley. This journey is one of the most spectacular in the world and definitely a highlight of our tour. The train takes us back to Italy and the town of Tirano (Tiran), where we spend the night.
- Morteratsch Glacier Excursion
- Bernina Express Scenic Train Ride
Hotel (1 nt)
Days 6-7 Riva del Garda
After breakfast, we drive to Lake Garda. Our drive takes us along some of Italy’s famous mountain chains, including the Dolomites. Our base is at the most northern point of the lake, in the charming small city of Riva del Garda. We stay in the medieval town centre, with its colourful painted houses.
We take a boat tour across the northern side of Lake Garda to Limone, a village named after the many lemon groves that surround it. From here we walk up through the old cobbled streets to the edge of town, where the landscape changes from Mediterranean into alpine mountain scenery. After a coffee break, we walk steeply uphill into the Singol Valley, along a comfortable path, alternating between woods and panoramic views of Lake Garda. After a short rest at a mountain stream, we descend back to Limone and walk amongst olive groves and citrus trees down to the lake shore. It is worth spending some time in the old centre of Limone, strolling along its steep and narrow lanes.
Walking time: approx. 3-4 hours
For those who wish there is a direct bus back to Riva, but it is also possible to spend some more free time in Limone, and then jump on the boat, to travel back to Riva along the coast.
Tonight we can choose to dine together under the medieval arches of Riva del Garda and raise our glasses in a toast to the infinite charms of the Italian Lakes region.
Hotel (2 nts)
Day 8 Verona
After breakfast this morning, a private minibus takes us from Riva to Verona. Our trip ends on arrival in Verona.
From Verona you can travel easily by rail to other major destinations in Italy. Please do not book any onwards train or bus travel before midday. For train schedules please check the national rail site: www.trenitalia.com.
Of course you may opt to stay in beautiful Verona and spend time exploring this romantic city of Romeo and Juliet dominated by its Roman Amphitheatre. If you wish to return to the Italian Lakes Region, additional accommodation can also be booked in Riva del Garda or in the town of Sirmione. Please enquire when booking your tour.
Also available to purchase
For many of our trips we have other services or experiences that are also available to purchase to extend your trip or to make your holiday a little easier. Below is a list of other travel products you can purchase in conjunction with this trip.
- Italian Lakes Discovery - Single Supplement (ZGXI)
We also recommend
If this trip is not quite right for you, cast your eye over these alternatives:
- The Cinque Terre Explored (ZGXT)
- Italy Experience (ZMKF)
- Spirit of Sicily (ZGKS)
Occasionally our itineraries are updated during the year to incorporate improvements stemming from past travellers' comments and our own research. The information given in this itinerary may be slightly different to that in the brochure. It's very important that you print and review a final copy of your Trip Notes a couple of days prior to travel, in case there have been changes that affect your plans. For the latest updated Trip Notes please visit our website: www.intrepidtravel.com
Please note that while we operate successful trips in this region throughout the year, some changes may occur in our itineraries due to inclement weather and common seasonal changes to timetables and transport routes. This can happen with little notice so please be prepared for modifications to the route.
At times local life here will be familiar to that of back home, and at times very different. Services are available most of the time, English may not be the native language, and there may be some cultural differences.
Some easy physical activities included in your trip. No physical preparation is required to make the most of the journey.
Included activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary, all other activities are optional and at your own expense. If you choose not to participate in the included activities on this itinerary, the cost will not be refunded.
A selection of optional activities are listed in the day-to-day itinerary. This isn't an exhaustive list and should be used as a guide only. Prices are approximate and are for entrance only and don’t include transport to and from the sites or local guides unless indicated. All activities are subject to availability and it may not be possible to do all the activities listed in the time available at each destination.
Where activities are considered medium or high risk, we work with operators whose safety and credentials we have sighted and assessed. This means that it is possible that you may find the same activity cheaper with another operator on the ground, however we cannot vouch for the safety or quality of that operator. Activities not listed above have not been assessed by us and as such our staff and leaders are unable to assist you with booking these activities. The decision to partake in any activity not listed is at your own discretion and risk.
The Euro (EUR) is the official currency in the following destinations: Andorra, Austria, Belgium, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Montenegro, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain. All other European countries still have their own national currencies.
The most convenient and cheapest way to acquire money is via an Automated Teller Machine (ATM) or Bancomat as they are often referred to. Check with your bank in advance concerning the suitability of your account / card overseas and any international fees that will be applied.
You can obtain local currencies easily at airports and major train stations, but be sure to bring some extra emergency cash in a major currency that can be exchanged if the ATMs are not functioning.
When leaving home don't forget your PIN and make sure you know the telephone number for cancelling your card if it is stolen. Keep this in a safe place.
Credit cards are not always accepted in stores and restaurants. While travelling we recommend you carry some cash to pay for restaurant bills and other services. Change can be difficult to obtain so throughout the day, try to gain as many small denominations as you can.
You might be advised to take some of your money as travellers' cheques from a major financial institute. Travellers' cheques have security advantages, however please be aware that the exchange rates may not be favourable and that it is difficult to change Travellers' cheques in most countries. Be particularly aware that after hours money exchanges and hotel receptions carry high commissions- sometimes up to 20%.
For money safety we recommend that you carry your cash and credit cards in a secure money belt or pouch concealed under your clothes.
Every traveller is different and therefore spending money requirements will vary. Some travellers may drink more than others while other travellers like to purchase more souvenirs than most. Please consider your own spending habits when it comes to allowing for drinks, shopping, participating in optional activities, and tipping. Please also remember the following specific recommendations when planning your trip.
If you're happy with the services provided a tip - though not compulsory - is appropriate. While it may not be customary to you, it's of great significance to the people who will take care of you during your travels, inspires excellent service, and is an entrenched feature of the tourism industry across many Intrepid destinations.
The following amounts are per person suggestions based on local considerations and feedback from our past travellers:
Restaurants: Local markets and basic restaurants - round your bill up to the nearest €1. More up-market restaurants we suggest 10% to 15% of your bill.
Local guides: Throughout your trip you may at times have a local guide in addition to your tour leader. We suggest €2-€3 per day for local guides.
Drivers: You may have a range of drivers on your trip. Some may be with you for a short journey while others may be with you for several days. We would suggest a higher tip for those more involved with the group, however we suggest €1-€2 per day for drivers.
Your Tour Leader: You may also consider tipping your tour leader for outstanding service throughout your trip. The amount is entirely a personal preference, however as a guideline €2-€4 per person, per day can be used. Of course you are free to tip more or less as you see fit, depending on your perception of service quality and the length of your trip. Remember, a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.
In total, we recommend you budget approx €5-€10 per day of your trip to cover tipping.
Over the years we have found that many of our travellers find the need for tipping to be both tiresome and embarrassing, especially if they don't have the correct small change. To overcome this, we have established a tipping kitty system. At your group meeting, your tour leader may discuss the idea of running a group tipping kitty, whereby everybody contributes an equal amount and then your tour leader pays the tips while keeping a running record of all monies spent (except restaurant tips). The record can be checked at any time and any money remaining at the end of the tour returned to group members.
All departure taxes should be included in your international flight ticket.
OUR LOCAL PARTNER:
This trip is operated by Peregrine Adventures and you will be joined by other like minded Intrepid and non Intrepid travellers. Single travellers will share accommodation with another traveller of the same sex.
Maximum of 16 travellers per group.
Your fellow travellers
As you travel on a group trip you will be exposed to all the pleasures and maybe some of the frustrations of travelling in a group. Your fellow travellers will probably come from all corners of the world and likely a range of age groups too. We ask you to be understanding of the various needs and preferences of your group - patience with your fellow travellers is sometimes required for the benefit of everyone's travel experience. Remember too that you have responsibilities to the group. If you are requested to be at a place at a certain time, ensure that you don't keep the rest of the group waiting. We have found time and time again that the very best trips we operate are those where the dynamics within the group work well - this takes just a little effort on your part.
Due to privacy reasons we are unable to provide you with contact details and any personal information about your fellow travellers booked on your trip prior to departure. However you can download Intrepid's FREE Meet Up app to chat with your fellow travellers before your trip. Meet up, discuss your upcoming trip and share the excitement of planning for your adventure. For more information visit: www.intrepidtravel.com/meetup
Our group trips are designed for shared accommodation and don't involve a compulsory single supplement. Single travellers share with people of the same gender in accommodation ranging from twin to multishare. Some of our itineraries have accommodation booked on a mixed gender share basis and where applicable this will be specified in our Trip Notes. On a selection of our trips, you have the option to pay a single supplement to ensure that you have your own accommodation (where available). Please note that this only applies to accommodation during the tour - pre-trip and post-trip accommodation will be booked on a single room basis.
A single supplement is available on this trip, please refer to your booking agent for further information.
Hotel (7 nts)
OCCASIONAL ALTERNATIVE ACCOMMODATION
The style of accommodation indicated in the day-to-day itinerary is a guideline. On rare occasions, alternative arrangements may need to be made due to the lack of availability of rooms in our usual accommodation. A similar standard of accommodation will be used in these instances.
TWIN SHARE / MULTI SHARE BASIS
Accommodation on this trip is on a twin/multishare basis. Please note there may be times where facilities will be shared rather than ensuite and rare occasions when you share a room with passengers travelling on different Intrepid trips than your own.
Throughout the trip we request that our hotels prepare rooms in time for our arrival, especially if we're arriving prior to normal check-in time. However this isn't always possible which means we won't be able to check-in immediately on arrival at some hotels. Instead, we can store our luggage and explore our new destination.
PRE/POST TRIP ACCOMMODATION
If you've purchased pre-trip or post-trip accommodation (if available), you may be required to change rooms from your trip accommodation for these extra nights.
7 Breakfasts, 2 Dinners
Please budget for additional meals and expenses while on your trip. Our suggestion is based on past traveller feedback but you may choose to spend more or less.
Private Bus, Boat, Train
All Intrepid group trips are accompanied by one of our group leaders. The aim of the group leader is to take the hassle out of your travels and to help you have the best trip possible. Intrepid endeavours to provide the services of an experienced leader however, due to the seasonality of travel, rare situations may arise where your leader is new to a particular region or training other group leaders.
Your leader will provide information on the places you are travelling through, offer suggestions for things to do and see, recommend great local eating venues and introduce you to our local friends. While not being guides in the traditional sense you can expect them to have a broad general knowledge of the places visited on the trip, including historical, cultural, religious and social aspects. At Intrepid we aim to support local guides who have specialised knowledge of the regions we visit. If you were interested in delving deeper into the local culture at a specific site or location then your leader can recommend a local guide service in most of the main destinations of your trip.
Hotel Gran Duca di York
Via Moneta 1
Phone: +39 02 874863
We don't expect any problems (and nor should you) but if for any reason you are unable to commence your group trip as scheduled, please contact your starting point hotel, requesting that you speak to or leave a message for your group leader.
Please also make sure have a copy of the local operators Emergency phone numbers from our Emergency Contact section of these trip notes.
Verona Train Staion
Piazzale XXV Aprile
Please also make sure you have access to an additional US$400, to be used when unforeseen incidents or circumstances outside our control (eg. a natural disaster, civil unrest or an outbreak of bird flu) necessitate a change to our planned route.
Visas are the responsibility of the individual traveller. The visa requirements for your trip vary depending on where you are from and where you are going. As a general rule most countries expect that you will have at least 6 months' validity on your passport. On arrival visitors may be asked to present return tickets and evidence of means to cover your intended stay.
We keep the following information up to date as much as possible, but rules do change - it's important that you check for yourself. Residents from other countries must consult the relevant embassies or your travel agent.
EUROPEAN COUNTRIES ON THIS TRIP (EXCLUDING RUSSIA, UKRAINE, TURKEY):
Australia: No - Not required
Belgium: No - Not required
Canada: No - Not required
Germany: No - Not required
Ireland: No - Not required
Netherlands: No - Not required
New Zealand: No - Not required
South Africa: Yes - in advance
Switzerland: No - Not required
UK: No - Not required
USA: No - Not required
Issues on your trip
While we always endeavour to provide the best possible holiday experience, due to the nature of travel and the areas we visit sometimes things can and do go wrong. Should any issue occur while you are on your trip, it is imperative that you discuss this with your group leader or our local representative straight away so that they can do their best to rectify the problem and save any potential negative impact on the rest of your trip.
We recognise that there may be times when your group leader/local partner may not be able to resolve a situation to your satisfaction - if this is the case, please ask the leader to speak to their direct manager.
You may also choose to provide details in your online feedback, which we ask you to complete within 30 days of the end of your trip. But we do ask you to be aware that it is very difficult for us to provide any practical help after the trip is complete.
What to take
On this trip, you must pack as lightly as possible because you will be expected to carry your own bag and although you won't be required to walk long distances with your luggage (max 30 minutes), we strongly recommend keeping the weight under 10kg / 22lb.
Most travellers carry their luggage in a backpack, although an overnight bag with a shoulder strap would suffice if you travel lightly. Smaller bags or backpacks with wheels are convenient although we recommend your bag has carry straps to accommodate the cobbled streets, uneven surfaces, stairs and steps you are lightly to encounter while carrying your luggage. You'll also need a day pack/bag to carry water and a camera etc for day trips.
You can find Intrepid's Ultimate Packing List on our website. It should be used as a guide only and isn't intended to be a complete packing list.
Many national governments provide a regularly updated advice service on safety issues involved with international travel. We recommend that you check your government's advice for their latest travel information before departure. Please refer to our website's safety page for links to major travel advisories and updates on safety issues affecting our trip.
We strongly recommend the use of a neck wallet or money belt while travelling, for the safe-keeping of your passport, air tickets, cash and other valuable items. Leave your valuable jewellery at home - you won't need it while travelling. Many of our hotels have safety deposit boxes, which is the most secure way of storing your valuables. A lock is recommended for securing your luggage.
Your leader will accompany you on all included activities, however during your trip you'll have some free time to pursue your own interests, relax and take it easy or explore at your leisure. While your group leader will assist you with the available options in a given location, please note that any optional activities you undertake are not part of your Intrepid itinerary, and Intrepid makes no representations about the safety of the activity or the standard of the operators running them. Please use your own good judgement when selecting an activity in your free time. Please also note that your group leader has the authority to amend or cancel any part of the trip itinerary if it's deemed necessary due to safety concerns.
For more details on the type of conditions and safety standards you can expect on your trip, please refer to Intrepid's operational safety policy on our website. We recommend that you take a moment to read through this information before travelling, and would appreciate any feedback on how well it's being implemented in the field:
Please be aware that local laws governing tourism facilities in this region differ from those in your home country and not all the accommodation which we use has a fire exit, fire extinguishers or smoke alarms.
TRAFFIC AND DRIVING ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE ROAD:
Depending on where you come from please note that drivers in this part of the world may drive on the opposite side of the road from what you are used to. Look both ways before crossing any road. Traffic can be a little more chaotic than you might be used to at home. Be aware!
PETTY THEFT AND PERSONAL SAFETY:
While travelling there is always the risk of pick-pocketing and petty theft, particularly in the more touristy cities. We recommend that you exercise caution when walking alone at night and encourage you to walk together and only on main, well-lit thoroughfares. Be particularly vigilant on public transport. Simple measures like carrying your day pack on your front, not hanging your bag over the back of your chair and wearing a money belt will reduce any chance that your valuables should go missing.
Travel insurance is compulsory for all our trips. We require that, at a minimum, you are covered for medical expenses including emergency repatriation. We strongly recommend that the policy also covers personal liability, cancellation, curtailment and loss of luggage and personal effects.
When travelling on a group trip, you won't be permitted to join the group until evidence of travel insurance and the insurance company's 24 hour emergency contact number has been seen by your leader.
If you have credit card insurance your group leader will require details of the participating insurer/underwriter, the level of coverage, policy number and emergency contact number rather than the bank's name and credit card details. Please contact your bank for these details prior to arriving in-country.
Please go to our website for links to various travel insurance providers:
We believe strongly in low impact or rather positive impact tourism. Broadly speaking this means that we try to minimise the negative aspects of tourism on the local cultures and environments that we visit and highlight the positive aspects. Please visit our website for further details and suggestions on how you can be a responsible traveller:
A couple of rules
Illegal drugs will not be tolerated on our trips. Possessing or using drugs not only contravenes the laws of the land, but also puts the rest of the group at risk. Smoking marijuana and opium is a part of local culture in some parts of the world but is not acceptable for Intrepid travellers. Intrepid's philosophy of travel is one of respect towards everyone we encounter and in particular, the local people who make our destinations such special places. The exploitation of prostitutes is completely contrary to this philosophy. Our group leader has the right to expel any member of the group if drugs are found in their possession or if they use prostitutes.
The Intrepid Foundation
Since Intrepid Travel commenced operating in 1989 we've been committed to giving something back to the communities we visit. One way has been through our support for local humanitarian, development and conservation projects. Many of our travellers want to contribute something too. Whilst it is often tempting to give hand-outs to those less fortunate, this has the potential to promote a culture of begging and dependency. Handouts are not a sustainable way for individuals or communities to live. That’s why we established The Intrepid Foundation – to make it easier for travellers wishing to give back to communities in an effective and meaningful way.
The Intrepid Foundation is a not-for-profit fund offering a selection of excellent grassroots organisations which you can contribute to. All donations to The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar (up to AU$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$400,000 for all donors in each financial year). And every cent gets there as Intrepid Travel pays for all the administration costs. Donating is simple and secure. Please ask your group leader for information on the projects we support through The Intrepid Foundation or go to our website:
Carbon Offset C02-e 270.00 kgs per pax.
After your travels, we want to hear from you! We rely on your feedback. We read it carefully. Feedback helps us understand what we are doing well and what we could be doing better. It allows us to make improvements for future travellers.
Remember that once you’ve left your feedback you’ll automatically be entered into our monthly draw for a US$500 (or equivalent in your local currency) travel voucher.