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Lake Maggiore, Lake Orta and the Alps

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20242025
8 days From £1,399 £1,299 per person
4.2 stars(68 reviews)
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Uncover fabulous scenery and charming Italian towns on a rail holiday to two of the country’s most beautiful lakes

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Save £100pp on Europe 2024 holidays, when you book by 21st May 2024.

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Mobility Rating 2

2024 Tour code: 24LMS

About the tour

Explore the serene beauty of Italy's lakes from your base in the quaint town of Stresa on the shore of Lake Maggiore.

Enjoy a cruise on Lake Orta to an island monastery and explore the attractive lakeside village of Orta San Giulio.

Savour a journey through the Alps to Switzerland on the Centovalli Railway, passing incredible scenery on the way to Locarno, and cruise along Italy's longest lake back to Stresa.

Experience the delights of Lake Maggiore at your own pace, with free time to uncover the idyllic Borromean Islands and Stresa's elegant villas and charming town..

Unforgettable experiences

Journey on the ‘railway of 100 valleys’ to Switzerland
Journey on the ‘railway of 100 valleys’ to Switzerland
Enjoy a spectacular ride through the Alps on the Centovalli Railway from Italy to the Swiss town of Locarno and relax on a cruise down Lake Maggiore.
Cruise to Lake Orta’s island monastery
Cruise to Lake Orta’s island monastery
Experience the serene lake and the picture-perfect village of Orta San Giulio, then sail over to the Isola San Giulio, a tiny island village dominated by an impressive monastery.
Stay in a hotel overlooking Lake Maggiore
Stay in a hotel overlooking Lake Maggiore
Relax in 4-Star accommodation on the shore of Italy’s longest lake with wonderful views of the glistening waters and stunning peaks of the Italian Alps.
Free time to explore
Free time to explore
Uncover the surroundings on your own terms, maybe going island hopping to discover the stunning Borromean Islands near to your base of Stresa.

What’s included

Itinerary

Day 1 – London to Strasbourg

You meet your group and Tour Manager at London St Pancras International this morning to catch the Eurostar service to Paris. In the French capital, you board the train to Strasbourg, arriving in the Alsace city in the afternoon. Your hotel is near the station, and you have time to explore this pretty city. Strasbourg's impressive main square, Place Kléber, or the half-timbered, riverside houses of La Petite France are only a short stroll from the hotel.

This evening, your group gathers to enjoy a three-course dinner in a local restaurant.

**Please note: For departures 11/05/2024 & 06/07/2024 will be staying in Mulhouse (not Strasbourg).

Includes
  • Dinner
Day 2 – From the Alsace to the Italian lakes

After a leisurely morning, your group travels by train to Mulhouse, where you change trains for the journey to Stresa. Coming out of the Simplon Tunnel - used by the iconic Orient Express - you get your first glimpse of northern Italy, emerging into a verdant valley with sharp, tree-covered cliffs.

The pretty town of Stresa is your base for the next five nights and is a highly popular Italian resort that retains its characteristic charm. Small enough to explore on foot, its picturesque alleys and elegant promenade reward visitors with medieval buildings, opulent villas, delightful public gardens and fascinating museums.

Set beside the lake, your traditional hotel has great views across Lake Maggiore and the surrounding Italian Alps. You have a three-course dinner in the restaurant this evening.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 3 – Lake Orta cruise to an island monastery

After breakfast this morning, you travel by coach to Orta San Giulio on the shores of beautiful Lake Orta. The lake is overlooked by the mighty peak of Monte Mottarone and, unlike its more famous cousins (Como and Garda), Orta's seclusion makes it a peaceful alternative where you can experience an authentic and relaxed Italian way of life.

The village is small but utterly beautiful and has inspired poets and artists including Lord Byron and Robert Browning. The gorgeous colourful buildings on Piazza Motta look out across the blissful lake, and the pillared 16th-century medieval old town hall is decorated with frescoes. You have free time to explore the delightful, cobbled lanes and perhaps stop for lunch in one of the many appealing restaurants.

In the afternoon, you enjoy a scenic cruise across Lake Orta to Isola San Giulio, a tiny island village dominated by a monastery that rises majestically in the centre. You have free time to look around independently. The inside of the basilica is well worth a visit, with grand pieces of artwork stretching across the walls and under the domes. You can walk round the island on a path called the 'way of silence and meditation' and view the Bishop's Palace and the Benedictine abbey, where a small convent of nuns live.

You return to Orta San Giulio by boat where a coach takes you back to Stresa in time for dinner this evening.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 4 – A free day to explore Stresa

Today you're free to relax in Stresa. The town benefited greatly from the arrival of the railways, and it found itself on the line connecting London, Paris and Milan. Soon, travellers and writers from Europe and beyond became spellbound by its charming lakeside position. Maybe head out to explore the delightful town and follow in the footsteps of historic guests, such as Ernest Hemingway and Princess Margaret, as you stroll along the pretty lakeside promenade.

The town's location also inspired the construction of some spectacular villas. The incredible Villa Pallavicino sits in more than 37 acres of grounds and, with free access to the park, it is a great place to wander around. Its collection of trees includes giant tulip trees and Lebanese cedar, while the colourful flowerbeds burst into life throughout the summer. There is also a zoo with llamas, flamingos, zebras, kangaroos and other fascinating animals.

Alternatively, take advantage of the hotel's comforts and spend the day relaxing. Lounge on the sun terrace, drinking in the spectacular alpine views, or take a dip in the pool of the nearby sister hotel. Due to its position by the lake and mountains, Stresa's restaurants offer up an excellent array of fish and meat dishes accompanied with fresh pasta. You are free to find some local specialities for dinner this evening.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 5 – To Switzerland on the railway of 100 valleys

A highlight of your holiday awaits today as your group transfers to Stresa train station for a superb round trip. In Domodossola, you change on to the Centovalli Railway. Meaning '100 valleys', the Centovalli is a spectacular route through the Alps to Locarno in Switzerland.

The track quickly begins to climb after leaving Domodossola, passing the evocative ruins of the tower of Creggio as it winds its way up to Trontano and into the Vigezzo Valley. In fantastic alpine scenery flanked by impressive mountains, the train passes characteristic villages and elemental nature in the form of gorges, ravines, rivers and waterfalls. The whole route is incredibly scenic and, shortly after entering Switzerland, you can enjoy views of the emerald Lake Palagnedra far below. In total, the route crosses 83 bridges on the journey from alpine peaks to the palm-lined promenade of lakeside Locarno.

On arrival in Locarno, on the northern edge of Lake Maggiore, you're free to choose a place to enjoy lunch and look around. Polenta is a local speciality, and the regional cuisine beautifully blends Italian and Swiss cultures. You could take the funicular railway up to the Sacred Mount Madonna del Sasso, a historical site perched above the town, with fantastic views over Locarno and the lake, or enjoy the town's glittering lakeside.

The return journey to Stresa sees you board a boat for a two-hour cruise on Lake Maggiore. The serene waters of Italy's longest lake are bordered by attractive mountains sloping gently into the lake. Shortly after passing the twin islands of Brissago, home to a botanical garden, you leave Switzerland, with the Italian region of Piedmont on the right and Lombardy on the left. Charming towns and villages spill out of the valleys between the peaks, and you will be able to spot the 16th-century castle island of Cannero before arriving in Stresa in time for tonight's three-course dinner.

*For depatures 05/10/2024 and 12/10/2024 the day running order may vary from the above.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 6 – Island hopping on a free day

Today you are free to spend the day relaxing in the hotel or by the lake. Alternatively, you might like to go island hopping.

The aristocratic Borromeo family acquired much of the surrounding area in the 16th century, including Stresa and the nearby islands that now bear their name. From the jetty outside the hotel, you can board a hop on/hop off boat for a wonderful day exploring the idyllic Borromean Islands.

The closest island is picturesque Isola Bella which is dominated by the exquisite Borromeo Palace with gardens that are equally as opulent as the interior - and you might be able to spot one of the magnificent white peacocks. The palace was visited by Napoleon Bonaparte and wife Josephine, whose room has been preserved to showcase the furniture and decoration of the time.

Continuing by boat to Isola Superiore, also known as Isola dei Pescatori (Fisherman's Island), you arrive at a quaint fishing village of tightly knit, shaded alleys and floral promenades. If your visit coincides with lunch, it is recommended that you stop by one of the traditional restaurants to try a local speciality - perch caught directly from the lake. You could also visit San Vittore church to see the wooden busts of apostles Peter and Andrew, the patron saints of fishermen.

The final island is Isola Madre which was the first to be settled. The largest of the three Borromean Islands is largely covered with gardens containing rare plants and trees from around the world. The grand palazzo overlooks an ornate pond and a charming family chapel.

With this evening at leisure, you might like to try local delicacies such as Ossola mortadella or beautifully prepared lake fish. The Piedmont region is also renowned for Nebbiolo wines such as Barolo.

Includes
  • Breakfast
Day 7 – Lake Maggiore to Mulhouse

After a leisurely morning, you head to the train station for a journey to Mulhouse in France. Travelling through Switzerland, you enjoy spectacular views of the majestic mountains lining the Rhône Valley before passing the sparkling waters of Lake Thun and the fairytale castle at Spiez.

In the early evening, you arrive in the historic Alsace city of Mulhouse. The focus of the medieval centre is Place de la Réunion, where you can find the Gothic Revival Temple St-Étienne and the pink and gold decorated town hall. Constructed in 1553, this striking Renaissance building displays allegoric frescoes representing vices and virtues.

Your hotel is near the station, and it is here that you and your group enjoy dinner this evening.

Includes
  • Breakfast, Dinner
Day 8 – Homeward bound

You have time in the morning in Mulhouse, exploring this Alsace city that blends the cultures and architecture of France and Germany.

In late morning, you take the short walk to the station for the train to Paris. As you pass through the picturesque towns of the French countryside, you can recall the serene beauty and laid-back atmosphere of the Italian lakes. From the glistening waters of the cruises to the spectacular scenery witnessed from the Centovalli Railway, it's easy to understand why lakes Maggiore and Orta have been charming visitors for centuries.

Returning to London St Pancras International on the Eurostar, you bid farewell to your Tour Manager and the rest of your group who have shared these unforgettable experiences with you.

Includes
  • Breakfast

Additional information

Please note

Please note that while every departure of this tour will feature the same excursions, the order may differ from that shown above.

Departure times

Provisional departure and return times, where available, can be found together with dates and prices by clicking on the 'Prices & Availability' button. We will write to you around 10 weeks before your departure date with the precise meeting times for your tour group.

Mobility information

Due to the nature of our tours they are generally unsuitable for those with restricted mobility. If you’d like to discuss any particular holiday with us in this respect, then please don’t hesitate to call us.

Hotel

Milan Speranza Hotel au Lac, Stresa

Milan Speranza Hotel au Lac, Stresa

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Trains

Centovalli Railway
Eurostar
The TGV

Enhance your holiday

Upgrades

Door to door luggage service
Upgrade your room at the Milan Speranza Hotel au Lac
Extend your European holiday
Eurostar Upgrade
UK rail connections
London hotels

Reviews

4.2 stars4.2 / 5 · 68 reviews

  1. 5 stars
    (28)
  2. 4 stars
    (29)
  3. 3 stars
    (6)
  4. 2 stars
    (4)
  5. 1 star
    (1)

Mrs C R Stansfeld

4 stars

Submitted 28/Apr

Stresa is a beautiful Italian town which we had already visited 3 times! (Once with Rail Discoveries) I was very pleased to try out my halting Italian and the locals, as ever, were very understanding. All the hotels and meals were good. Some of the rail travel was challenging especially for those with mobility 'issues', and the scenery, especially in Switzerland, is breathtaking.

Collected by Trustpilot

M Garratt

4 stars

Submitted 26/Apr

An excellent holiday, but not suitable for people with mobility problems.

Collected by Trustpilot

Eric Menzies

3 stars

Submitted 25/Apr

Too much waiting between trains.

Collected by Trustpilot

mary

2 stars

Submitted 25/Apr

Too many changes of trains , stations with no elevators or escalators, too large a group , no consideration of those in group with disabilities or mobility difficulties , limited time in Switzerland as a late train , poor mass meals for two nights in the otherwise lovely hotel with great staff ! All group was exhausted after the holiday , comments like never getting on a train again for at least 6 months !! Very disappointing , however would like to return to Stresa it’s very beautiful !

Collected by Trustpilot

Derek

5 stars

Submitted 20/Apr

Beautiful setting, terrific hotel with good food and friendly staff.

Collected by Trustpilot

J Priestley

3 stars

Submitted 27 Oct 2023

Lack of planning lead to disappointment in not having sail back from Locarno to Stresa. Food in hotel was merely adequate! Sunshine was very welcome. Centovali trip amazing. Hotel location excellent.

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