Friday 24 March 2017
We depart from London to Milan. On arrival we continue by comfortable coach to Como
and arrive at our accommodation for the next three nights – the 4* Barchetta Excelsior Hotel
The hotel is situated in the heart of Como within the pedestrian area
and very close to the lakeshore. Lake Como is enchanting at any hour of
the day, on any day of the year and has been celebrated widely by poets
and artists for its landscapes, historical villas and villages perched
on the mountains. A quiet, relaxing and welcoming atmosphere will greet
you at the Barchetta Excelsior Hotel, where you will simply enjoy some
of the most breathtaking of views.
A welcome drink will be served in the evening followed by dinner.Saturday 25 March 2017
Following breakfast this morning, we travel along the lake shore road for an enchanting day on Lake Como
. On arrival in Tremezzo
we will have time to enjoy the elegant 18th century Villa Carlotta
where in the spring, camellias, followed later by azaleas and
rhododendrons burst into a simply dazzling display. Around the house the
layout is formal with lemon arbours on the terraces and tall camellia
hedges while further away from the villa we will discover a relaxed
English-style garden in the woodland, dotted with unusual trees.
Imaginative planting includes twining climbers, jasmine and roses while
in the more natural garden a dell of tree ferns, palms, eucalyptus,
Japanese maples and cactus reveal the microclimatic conditions with
banana and flowering orchids creating an exotic semi-tropical jungle
effect. The house itself has its own story to tell, full of
neo-classical art treasures including paintings by Hayez and sculptures
After our visit to Villa Carlotta, we will have a relaxing lunchtime break in Tremezzo. We will catch the ferry to visit the Villa Balbianello
on the Lavedo point which, combined with the romantic arrival at the
water gates landing stage, turns the expedition into an arcadian
delight. Remote from lakeside tourism, in a sylvan setting of pine,
soaring cypress and oak, with pollarded plane trees, manicured lawns and
flowerbeds, the garden is maintained to an exceptionally high standard
by the Italian National trust or FAI (Fondo Ambiente Italiano). With
unparalleled views down the three branches of the lake and fronting the
promontory of Serbelloni, the first villa was built in 1540, but was
later moved to a new site inland to protect it from flooding.
Later we return to the mainland and our hotel where dinner is served in the evening.Sunday 26 March 2017
morning we enjoy a leisurely breakfast in our hotel. Today we have a
free day to shop and sightsee at leisure. It is very easy to hop on
board one of the many ferries or hydrofoils which go to many places
around the lake, including the famous village of Bellagio, where you may
have lunch and visit the Villa Melzi d’Eril (admission not included).
Our tour manager Kate Williamson will be on hand for further guidance on
how best to spend your day.
This evening, we will enjoy dinner in the hotel.Monday 27 March 2017
Following breakfast this morning, we check out of our hotel and will head for Villa Cicogna Mozzoni
situated in what were ancient hunting grounds for the nobility, in the
foothills between Varese and Lake Lugano. Here we will be privileged to
enjoy a private guided tour with the owner. The garden was established
by Ascanio Mozzoni, a man of great culture who from his travels,
including to Rome, brought back ideas for the arrangement of his garden
over seven levels. In 1580 his only daughter was married to Giovan
Pietro Cicogna, through whose descendants we arrive at today’s owners.
The most pleasant characteristic of the villa, apart from its
surprisingly intact frescoes, is its merging with the garden. A
two-flight stairway with a brook running in between leads directly to
the halls of the Villa. The walled garden is a typical example of formal
Italian garden with box hedges, water basins, fountains and a grotto.
The visit raises the “who” and “how” questions relative to the
conservation of historic buildings and should prove to be most
Later today, we enjoy a visit to the gardens of Villa Taranto
Flourishing with rare botanical examples, the early 20th century
concept of a garden as both an aesthetic experience and a scientific
adventure reaches its height of perfection in the grounds of Villa
Taranto. In 1931, Captain Neil McEachern, a Scotsman from Galloway,
bought the estate through an advertisement which appeared in the Times
with the intention of creating an English-style garden where he could
grow plants from all over the world, to delight the eye and satisfy the
curiosity of the horticulturalist. Today you can appreciate a very
important botanical collection with a wide range of plants. Captain
McEachern is buried in the grounds which are a true testament to his
dedication, continual work and great love of nature.
We then continue to our 4* accommodation for the next four nights - Hotel La Palma
), situated directly on the lakefront in Stresa with picturesque views over Lake Maggiore.
Hotel La Palma welcomes and invites you to discover the romantic
atmosphere and beauty of Lake Maggiore from the wonderful Isola Bella
that houses the impressive 17th century Palazzo Borromeo to the
impressive bordering mountains.
Situated opposite the lakeside
promenade with only a five-minute walk to the town centre of Stresa, the
hotel offers elegant accommodation and the pretty gardens provide a
lovely setting for relaxing, especially after having wandered amongst
Stresa’s picturesque villas and gardens.
Dinner will be served in the hotel this evening.Tuesday 28 March 2017
This morning following breakfast, we start with a real treat by visiting the private garden
of the President of the Italian Camellia Society
The site is above the shores of Lake Maggiore surrounded by mountains
and facing the south east. Since the 1950s due to the combination of
acid ground, a mild climate and frequent rainfall the garden has housed a
remarkable collection of camellias, developed with great passion by
Antonio Sevesi, the founder of the Italian Society of Camellias and
Andrea Corneo, the current President. The camellia collection includes
500 plants and 318 cultivars. The garden, of course, is in full bloom in
spring but is a delight to visit at any time of the year.
Later in the afternoon, we return to Stresa, where dinner will be served at our hotel in the evening.Wednesday 29 March 2017
Today, after breakfast, we spend a full day exploring the famous Borromean islands. We start with a cruise from Stresa to Isola Bella
to see the vast baroque palace built from the island’s rock and
surrounded by terraced gardens that were inspired by the ‘Hanging
Gardens of Babylon’. Our visit will reveal the magnificent palace, which
was constructed in the 17th century by Carlo III of the House of
Borromeo and was the scene of sumptuous and lavish parties, attended by
the cream of European nobility. Out into the gardens, we find an ornate
parterre with low box hedges and brilliantly coloured flowers, a pond
adorned with blue and pink water lilies and lush plantings of oranges,
grapefruits, orchids and more.
We then continue to Isola Pescatori
the ‘island of fishermen’, with its narrow cobbled streets and pretty
harbour. The island was thought to be first inhabited in the 10th
century and there are now approximately 50 residents. The church on the
island is worth a visit and there is a good choice of restaurants and
snack-bars for lunch (not included).
Our final visit is to Isola Madre
In contrast, to Isola Bella, Isola Madre has a simple, unspoilt aspect,
where, depending on the season, tropical and Mediterranean plants,
citrus fruits, crape myrtle, hibiscus, bougainvillea, protea and agaves
all flourish. The English romantic feel is due to re-working of the
former Renaissance terraced gardens. Woods of native trees – aromatic
cypress, bay and pine – allow for shaded and fragrant walks past
magnolias and camellias where peacocks and pheasants roam free, and the
story of the salvage of the ancient Himalayan cypress is an inspiration
We return to our hotel where dinner will once again be served this evening.Thursday 30 March 2017
This morning following breakfast, we drive to Locarno
the North of the Lake in canton Ticino, Switzerland to meet the Head
gardener of the public gardens of the town and visit the Swiss camellia
garden that has been landscaped along the lakeshore. Opened in 2005 in
conjuction with the World International Camellia Society Conference,
work continues today in collaboration with some of the best camellia
producers from China, Belgium, Germany, Italy and the USA. As activity
has been on-going, the park now has 850 named varieties of camellia,
with a further 70 still to be identified. It is an ICS Garden of
Lunch will be at leisure with some free time to shop
and explore Locarno before our return to the hotel where we will enjoy
our final dinner together.
The remainder of today will be at leisure to enjoy and some free time in Locarno town.
We return to our hotel where we will enjoy our final dinner together.Please remember to bring your passport today as we will be entering Switzerland and it may be required.Friday 31 March 2017
breakfast today we must check-out of the hotel. We return to the
airport in time for our return flight to London, where the group will
disperse or make onward connections.