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* specializing in France & Italy *

Europe’s cultural mosaic offers something for everyone – historic and artistic masterpieces, mesmerizing architecture, extraordinary cities and charming villages, a variety of cuisines, and remarkable geographic diversity. Whether a first-time visit to a previously uncharted territory or a many-times-over return visit, discover anew the thrill and enchantment of Europe with insider-access experiences.

Initiate your own independent odyssey by selecting destinations, cities, and regions you wish to explore. We will then connect the dots by designing an exciting and unique itinerary that encompasses your personal passions and interests. You will be escorted point-to-point by guides whose expertise enlightens and delights. Or you may opt to travel with a congenial like-minded group of old friends or new acquaintances. Whether the royal capitals and tsarist palaces of the north or the Mediterranean flavors and playgrounds of the south, embrace Europe’s magic with family and friends.

In Deep: Lake Como & the Italian Lakes


La Dolce Vita - Lakeside 

Experience the Italian Lakes on foot, by private launch and even by cog railway. The Italian Lakes district is where elegance resides and Old World comforts abound. Set between the Alps and the Swiss border, legendary Lake Como, Lake Lugano and Lake Maggiore, along with their rugged alpine surroundings, have long attracted the world to their shores. Prepare for an active and inspired agenda as we negotiate this extraordinary landscape by foot, by private launch and even by cog railway. Along the way, enjoy the enchantments of the Lugano and Bellagio hotels, indulge in the region’s stellar cuisine, and relish the surroundings knowing that this is truly one of the world’s most compelling retreats. 

Como has been noted as one of the world’s most beautiful places since the earliest days of mankind. The breathtaking beauty of the lake has served as an inspiration for artists throughout history, from the poets Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger of the Roman era to the enraptured musicians Verdi, Wagner and Liszt of the Romantic era. Lake Como traditionally has served as the favoured playground for the Milanese, but it has also been a preferred holiday retreat of the English. Wordsworth lived here in 1790, Shelley and Byron frequently visited the lake, and D.H. Lawrence made it his home from 1925 to 1927. Nowadays, you may catch a glimpse of one of Hollywood’s own, George Clooney, who owns a villa on the lake close to the city of Como.

The Journey 
Activity Level: Enthusiast | Duration: 6 Days/5 Nights
Traversing by foot is the ultimate slow mode of transport ... No other activity allows you more flexibility to stop and smell the roses (or wild rosemary), meet the locals and drink in the scenery. We cover a variety of terrain. Some walks are on mountain trails with strenuous ups and downs. A number of trails follow narrow footpaths through woods, while others are on well-surfaced small roads. Hiking boots are required for some days. Daily distances average 10 km (6 mi.), with options for easier or more challenging hikes. 

Days 1 & 2
Lake Como & Bellagio
We rendezvous in Milan at the Hotel Château Monfort and drive to Bellano, an ancient fishing village located on the eastern shores of Lake Como. After a quick stretch we begin our walk, traversing cobblestone streets and small pathways, enjoying spectacular views of the colourful houses dotting the lake. In short order we arrive to lunch at a cozy trattoria where we’ll be introduced to the local cuisine before continuing by foot to Varenna. Here, our speedboat awaits for a memorable sprint across the crystalline waters with unforgettable views over the “legs” of Lake Como. Our evening continues on the shore of Lake Como with music and aperitivos waiting for us.

Often dubbed the pearl of Lake Como, Bellagio is a warren of narrow laneways and picturesque staircases, not to mention the Romanesque church of San Giacomo. Today is dedicated to exploring it all. We step out of our front door to meet up with our knowledgeable local guide, who walks with us through the different frazioni (quarters) of the town. Along the way she introduces us to everyone and everything, including a small maritime museum full of antiques, and a glass-blowing demonstration. Next we continue on to the Villa Melzi, one of the most spectacular properties on the lake; we can wander freely through the gardens (making sure to see the private chapel) or continue into town. After the walk, return to our great hotel for a lunch overlooking the lake at your leisure.This afternoon you will have time to explore the small cobblestoned streets, where the window-shopping is addictive, or perhaps you’ll want to take us up on an additional walk, where you’ll awe at the spectacular views from the church of San Martino. Time to learn more about Lombardy wines; our host Norberto takes us on a virtual tour around the Valtellina area, pairing wines with local specialties.

HOTEL: Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni - Bellagio
The Villa Serbelloni was one of the most famous stops along the 19th century grand tour of the lakes. Not much has changed today. Set in the Como Lake district, the hotel is decorated in a neo-classical style, with refined interiors.

THE WALKING:
Day 1: An 8 or 10 km (5 or 6 mi.) walk along cobblestone paths and dirt trails.
Day 2: An 8.5 km (5 mi.) walk with many great stops along the way. There is a long option of 5.5 km (3.5 mi.) which includes some good climbs.

Days 3 & 4
Lake Lugano
We start the day with a quick speedboat ride from Bellagio across to Menaggio on the north shore,
and a taxi shuttle up above the town. From here, the trail follows rolling wooded paths along the valley that links Lakes Como and Lugano. We have reserved a perfectly situated lunch spot in a local pizzeria, that is firing up their woodburning oven just for us. The walk continues on to Porlezza at the northeastern tip of Lake Lugano, where we taste artisanal gelato before boarding a private boat to bring us to Switzerland and Lugano proper. While cruising the water’s edge, we pass the old Swiss Customs House, now a museum, and several villages that have been exchanged between Switzerland, Italy and independent fiefdoms over the last millennium. After an hour of breathtaking cruising, we dock directly in front of our next hotel, where dinner tonight is à la carte, and arguably the best of the trip.

The classy city of Lugano graces the lakeshore with promenades, stately hotels and renowned museums. Above looms Monte San Salvatore, a stunning forestgreen backdrop of steep woods cradling charming villages. In the centre of the town is the Piazza della Riforma, the main square, whose layout was designed on the scale of Italian grand opera, accommodating multiple ranks of café tables around an enormous outdoor chess game. Not far from the square is the church of Santa Maria degli Angioli, which boasts fine frescoes, including Bernardino Luini’s Christ’s Passion. This morning, we take the funivia, a cog railway built in 1908, up to the top of Mount Bré for a walk that takes in stunning views of the lake and surrounding Alps. Or opt for a deliciously flat stroll along the lakeshore path to the village of Gandria, whose narrow alleys take you back in time. Back in Lugano, enjoy a great lunch on your own, allowing plenty of afternoon time to explore the city—including streets hiding the bank vaults that lie under the town centre - as well as its many shops, museums and gelaterias. Tonight you are free to explore the culinary options in this bustling town, but not before joining us for a “white merlot” in town.

HOTEL: Villa Castagnola - Lugano (Small Luxury Hotels of the World)
On the shores of Lake Lugano, the Villa Castagnola is a luxurious property surrounded by sub-tropical flora. Our days of walking can be rewarded by time in the hotel’s Turkish hammam. All rooms offer stunning views of the lake.

THE WALKING:
Day 3: A 13 km (8 mi.) walk, moderate to challenging, with shorter options.
Day 4: A 7 km (4 mi.) or 11 km (7 mi.) walk on Mont Bré, or a lakeside 7 km (4 mi.) walk to the next village. Shorter walking options are also available.

Day 5
Lake Maggiore & Stresa
Today begins with our only drive of the week, just over an hour across the border to a tiny town in Italy for a delicious caffè. We then set out on a little-tread trail, a mix of quiet roads and paths, winding along the cobaltblue Lake Maggiore. We’ll stop for lunch in a hip place. After lunch, our private speedboat will be by for a cruise across Lake Maggiore, in the zone made famous in Hemingway’s A Farewell To Arms. Our local guide will be with us to talk about the lake’s history. Our arrival in Stresa is indicated by the sight of the Borromean Islands, a small archipelago located just across from the town. Anyone wishing to explore them can do so right away - the palace on Isola Bella is especially interesting, as is the lively market scene on Isola Pescatori - or, if you prefer some downtime, remain aboard until we disembark at the hotel dock minutes later. This evening we leave the Belle Epoque splendour of our hotel for a private villa on the hills above town, where cocktails, a catered dinner, and musicians will serve as a fittingly elegant finale to our week at the Lakes.

HOTEL: Grand Hotel des Iles Borromées & SPA - Stresa 
Overlooking Lake Maggiore with the splendour of a late 19th century resort, it is easy to see why this enchanting five-star hotel has welcomed famous guests from Leopold II and the Rockefellers to Ernest Hemingway and Clark Gable.

THE WALKING
Day 5: A gentle 10 km (6 mi.) walk along and near the lake shore, quaint villages and forests. The longer option adds 3 km (2 mi.) and an additional optional loop in Stresa adds another 4 km (2.5 mi.) 

Day 6
Homeward Bound
After breakfast, we transport you to Milan’s central train station or Malpensa International Airport, from where you can head home or continue your adventures on your own. Buon viaggio! For those who decide to stay on in Stresa, we encourage you to explore this beautiful and lively small town.

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HOTEL TYPE:  Signature Hotels
Hotels on our Signature trips are unique expressions of the region. Oftentimes that means they’ve had a previous life as a monastery or a castle, but in every case it means they offer both an exceptionally comfortable stay and a taste of the region’s culture. Best of all, we’re friends with our hoteliers. Translation? Preferential treatment for you.

WHAT’S INCLUDED 
• All hotel accommodation (suite upgrade available, call for details) 
• All breakfasts, four lunches and four dinners, including wine
• Services of B&R guide(s) and support van
• Waist pack with water bottle and holder
• Use of two lightweight, telescoping walking sticks
• Detailed maps and route suggestions
• All special events and private tours
• All transportation from rendezvous to drop-off
• All baggage transportation
• All gratuities for baggage, porters and hotel service

2016 Price: From $6,795 (Prices are per person and in USD.)
($1,300 single supplement)
Single supplement is based on the most affordable rooms within the allocation.
Upgrades often available.
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EXTENDING YOUR TRIP
As Italy’s largest and most business-oriented city, Milan is often regarded as a mere place to arrive/depart the country, or to change trains. In fact, the city has a great deal to offer and is well worth a few days’ stay. While not as renowned as Rome or Florence, Milan boasts a cultural patrimony that would be the envy of most cities around the world: the late Gothic cathedral; Teatro alla Scala opera house; the world-class Brera Gallery; the Sforzesco Castle; and Leonardo da Vinci’s celebrated Last Supper at the church of Madonna delle Grazie. The lively downtown is criss-crossed with pleasant pedestrian-only areas, which in turn offer some of the finest dining in Italy. And of course the shopping, from designer clothing to artisanal wares, is second to none.

CHÂTEAU MONFORT - MILAN
Originally an Art Nouveau mansion, Chateau Monfort is a five-star luxury hotel in the heart of Milan’s historic Porta Monforte district. Inspired by the concept of fairy-tale atmospheres, Chateau Monfort represents a new kind of hotel: that of the Urban Chateau. Drawing its inspiration from the worlds of fairy tale and opera, the atmosphere throughout the hotel is romantic and tasteful. It is a magical spot where dreams and reality merge in a nostalgic ambiance.

in collaboration/Butterfield & Robinson

 


Condé Nast Traveler Award
Resorts & Charted Courses

"World's Top Travel Specialists"
SALLIE MASSIE for Destination MONACO
Four-Time Award Recipient - Condé Nast Traveler

Condé Nast Traveler Award
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