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Set off on an iconic road trip paired with walks around the Italian Lakes, showcasing the authentic side of Lakes Como, Lugano, Maggiore and Orta in just 5 rewarding days. Experience a slice of la dolce vita as you explore off the beaten track on your choice of hand-picked hikes.
Your two-centre trip stays at picturesque Menaggio on Lake Como, and the pretty resort town of Stresa on Lake Maggiore. You’ll also discover Lake Lugano in between and nearby Lake Orta too. Travel by car, ferry, funiculars and on foot to take in the dramatic combination of shimmering lakes, lush green mountains, elegant resorts and pastel-hued medieval villages filled with traditional trattorias.
Set off towards stylish Lake Como (90km from Milan Malpensa Airport). As you follow the road north along the eastern lake admire the waterside views as you drive past classical villas, promenades and gardens. Time-permitting why not visit Villa Balbianello en route today, made famous in scenes from ‘Casino Royale’
You’ll stay 2 nights at Menaggio, a picture-postcard Italian lakeside town surrounded by a network of paths and mountain trails.
Drive: approx. 90km
From Menaggio you can hop on a ferry across to chic Bellagio, stroll along the promenade and through the old town, or simply people-watch from a café terrace.
Choose from two walks: From Menaggio; hop on a ferry to pastel-hued Varenna to enjoy the ’wayfarer’s walk’ along Como’s western shores (return by train to Varenna). Or explore Monte Grona, ascending through pastures and woodland to a lovely Rifugio, the perfect panoramic lunch spot.
Walk 1: 11.5 km, +915m –928m
Walk 2: 3.8km, +/-460m
Drive into Switzerland’s Ticino canton and along the northern shores of Lake Lugano and on to Lake Maggiore. If you are travelling during the summer season, you can take the car ferry from Laveno across to Intra and then drive Maggiore’s western shore south to Stresa (shortening your drive).
A more leisurely route is to head towards Varese and its lake; the ’Garden City’ is filled with art deco architecture, plus the spectacular Baroque Palazzo Estense, completed in 1760. Skirt around the southern end of Lake Maggiore and then continue north through lakeside villages to the elegant town of Stresa. Take an evening stroll along the lakeside passing luxury villas and grand art nouveau properties.
Directly opposite Stresa, are the must-see trio of the Borromean Islands. Isola Bella is boasts a spectacular palace and gardens; Isola Madre is covered in 20 acres of exotic lush gardens, and Isola dei Pescatori is home to a traditional fishing community, filled with tiny shops and fish restaurants. Hop on a ferry and explore!
Lake Orta is just 25km from Stresa; a peaceful lake just 8miles long and much beloved of philosophers and writers, including Nietzsche, Balzac and Browning. Let the tranquillity wash over you as you wander amongst the 20 small chapels of the Sacro Monte above Orta San Giulio.
If you’d like an easy walk from Stresa, you can follow a string of old pathways through chestnut woods, tracing the shoreline south to the quiet village of Belgirate. Return by ferry or train (15 mins).
Alternatively, take the cable car then chair lift to climb to the top of Mottarone (1378m) with outstanding 360° vistas. It’s a long descent to reach the lakeside, but you can shorten your walk by catching the cable car mid-way at Alpino, where the botanical gardens are well worth a visit.
Walk 1: 7.4km, +/- 390m
Walk 2: 5.3km -650m
After breakfast your Italian Lakes adventure comes to a close and you bid arrivederci to Lake Maggiore. It’s an easy drive back to Milan where you drop off your hire car at the airport. Alternatively, continue your time exploring bella Italia on one of our further self-guided walking tours.
Drive: 55km to Milan Malpensa Airport (our standard drop-off point), or 90km to Milan.
5 nights accommodation is included in your trip; you’ll stay 2 nights at Lake Como (Menaggio) and 2 nights at Lake Maggiore (Stresa) where you’ll stay in small family-run authentic hotels that are ideal for walkers (of a 3-star standard).
The accommodation we normally use is detailed as follows, and on our website, however is subject to availability and therefore alternatives of an equal standard may be offered. You can add on extra nights in any of the overnight locations on this tour.
Upgrades to 4-star hotels (breakfast basis) are available at a supplement.
Stay in a lake-view room at 24-room Hotel Garni Corona. This family-run hotel is located in the pedestrian area in Menaggio's main square, close to restaurants and cafes. All rooms have WiFi, aircon, mini bar and TV.
Hotel du Parc is an elegant 20th-century and 21-room villa with large gardens, just 5 mins on foot from Stresa's historic centre. There is a bar and lounge and TV room.You can access free WiFi in the tavern.
This trip is available to solo walkers and a supplement is payable as some of the costs (such as transfers) are not shared. Single rooms are on request and a supplement is payable.
You are on a breakfast basis for all 4 nights, as you will be spoilt for choice for good local restaurants!
Most of your accommodations will more than happy to provide a packed lunch on request and this can be booked on arrival
You can start this walking tour on any of the week between May and end of October. The earliest departure date for 2017 for this trip is 1 June 2017. The Italian Lakes are very popular so it’s best to book as far in advance as you are able to. Please bear in mind that July and August can be hot for walking, however there is often an afternoon breeze.
The peak season is June-early September, when the ferries run to their full schedule and all attractions are open. Outside these months some facilities may be closed and not all walks may be possible, however the roads and towns will be quieter and you’ll have the place to yourselves!
This trip is available to solo walkers, although a solo walker supplement is payable as some costs are not shared. If you require single rooms within your party then we can request this, and a single supplement is then payable. Please remember that with smaller properties the number of dedicated single rooms will be limited.
This trip is graded ‘easy to moderate’ overall, as the walks are generally around 10-12km, and none of the walks are obligatory so you can choose to enjoy a walk or simply sightsee! The footpaths and tracks are not technically difficult. Paths consist of footpaths, ancient mule trails and some minor quiet roads.
We provide you with a comprehensive route notes booklet, giving you a choice of hand-picked walks which showcase the authentic Italian Lakes and get you off the beaten track. The walking routes are not consistently waymarked (with the exception of some sections where you will be walking on official trails). We also supply you with 1:50 000 Kompass maps so you will have no problem finding your way.
It is a requirement of booking this tour with Macs Adventure that you have suitable travel insurance which covers you for the activity and emergency evacuation and hospital care.
The distances and ascent/descents are approximations of the recommended routes. Please be prepared by packing all necessary items, for example, proper rain gear (jacket and pants), sun hat, sunscreen. Your information pack has a detailed equipment list which includes standard walking gear such as good walking boots or shoes, warm and waterproof clothes for the cooler months and lightweight clothing for summer, and a day pack.
By Air: We recommend flying to Milan, and then you can pick up your rental vehicle from the airport. The largest airport is Milan Malpensa, however a smaller airport which could also be an option is Milan Linate (a supplement may be payable for car hire pick up/drop off from here—please check with our team).
If you are travelling to Milan from elsewhere in Italy or Europe, then there are excellent train connections to Milan (and again car hire pick-up from a city centre point can be arranged at a supplement).
Train timetables are available at Trenitalia.
Further information regarding travel advice will be in your comprehensive pre-departure information pack.
We are often asked the following questions and we hope that you will find the answers useful.
This trip is graded ‘easy to moderate’ overall, as the walks are generally around 10-12km, and none of the walks are obligatory so you can choose to enjoy a walk or simply sightsee! The footpaths and tracks are not technically difficult. Paths consist of footpaths, ancient mule trails and some minor quiet roads. The most challenging walk is the optional Monte Tamaro-Monte Lema Traverse from Lugano, which requires you to have a head for heights, but this walk is not obligatory and you can opt for an alterative walk instead (Monte San Giorgio).
We suggest you book as soon as your plans are finalised as the region is extremely popular. The accommodations mentioned on our website are those that we normally use and are subject to availability at the time of booking, however we will always try and accommodate your plans.
You will need good walking shoes/boots (ideally waterproof), comfortable walking clothes, and dependent on when you are travelling; waterproof jacket and trousers, a daypack and hats/gloves etc. Our info packs have a list of all equipement to bring on your walk.
If you prefer to walk in cooler months then May and September will be perfect for you. The Italian Lakes are renowned for their mild climate. Temperatures range from around 13 degrees celsius in Dember to the high 20s in July. Midsummer (July and August) can get quite hot - up to 30 degrees celsius - although an afternon breeze is nearly always guaranteed, and you can of course take a dip in the lake. The Italian Lakes can get extra busy on the main Italian public holidays during the season: 1 May (Labour Day), 2 June (Republic Day) and 15 August (Ferragosto).
The walks are not obligatory, so you can choose to simply sight-see if you wish or relax at your hotel or in the town/village where you are staying.
We book as standard a pick-up/drop-off from Milan Malpensa Airport, as this is the largest airport in the region. If you wish to pick-up your vehicle from another location (for instance another airport or central Milan) then please contact us as a supplement may be payable. Alternatively if you wish to arrange your own car hire then you are free to do so and we can remove the cost of the hire car from your booking. If you wish to upgrade from a category B car, then again you may do so and please contact us for a quotation. Standard CDW insurance is included in your car hire package. Upgraded insurance (which includes an excess waiver) is available locally or you can buy a policy online before you travel (this is often the cheaper option). Fuel, tolls, oil and insurance policy upgrades are not included in your car hire.