Tour the Gardens of the Italian Lakes with Jerry & Amy Fritz
April 28 – May 5, 2018
Jerry and Amy have worked carefully to ensure a unique experience by including not only privately guided tours of the gardens, but also fun and informative experiences, wine tasting and tours of charming towns. They have balanced the days with an wide-range of experiences designed to appeal to many people, not just to strictly gardeners, including time in villages with the opportunity to shop and explore. Jerry and Amy are enthusiastic leaders whose goal is to make sure each participant has exactly what he or she needs to have a wonderful trip. Attention to every detail is very important and they only partner with the best local establishments for a truly authentic experience. This tour is the culmination of many hours spent researching and exploring the best destinations. They take care of all the details to ensure the participants enjoy once-in-a-lifetime level experiences on this journey.
Day 1: Friday/Saturday, April 27-28, 2018
Departure from the United States*
* You are responsible for your own airfare. You MUST arrive at Milan Airport no later than 9:30 AM on April 28 to be included in the group transfer. If you arrive after this, you must make your own way to the hotel at your own cost.
Arrival at Malpensa Airport where you will meet your English speaking guide. You will transfer in private bus to your hotel in Bellagio.
Hotel Belvedere Bellagio: The name did not come by chance: it is Belvedere because this hotel offers a wonderful view of the lake. And it is but a few minutes’ walk from the centre of Bellagio. The hotel staff spares no efforts to enable guests to savour all the beauty of this little paradise. The hotel has belonged to the same family for over a century, more precisely since 1880. Since then, they have expanded it and improved it, year after year, to endow it with all it takes in terms of modern comfort features, to make your stay pleasurable, to make full use of space.
Upon arrival, we will be welcomed at the hotel with a fresh cocktail -a fruit non-alcoholic drink. Then, at dinner time, we will have a group 3-course dinner at the hotel restaurant.
Day 2: Sunday, April 29, 2018
Villa Melzi and Villa Monastero
This morning after breakfast in the hotel, our guide will pick us up at the hotel and we will depart by public boat for this full day tour. We will first reach Varenna, a wonderful small medieval village situated on a steep hillside with narrow alleys that lead down to the lakeside. At the top of this steep hillside sits the ruins of a castle (Castello Vezio) which was the last home of a 7th century Lombard Queen (Theodolinda). Although it is much smaller than Bellagio and Menaggio, it is far less commercial and less crowded and has excellent hotels and restaurants. There are also two lakeside villas; Villa Cipressi which is now a hotel and Villa Monastero which is now an international and cultural scientific center.
Villa Monastero arises inside a patrician house, once monastery. We will visit the garden only. Villa Monastero has very interesting architecture, furniture and garden. A path is silhouetted in the middle of the garden of Villa Monastero, flanked by secular trees, exotic and evergreen plants. Since we are lucky to be visiting the garden in spring, the explosion of the flowers’ colours gladdens the heart and strikes with its thousand natural wonders. Villa Monastero is, as it says the same name, an ancient monastery and patrician villa. The structure of the villa is elegant with baroque and Moresque elements. The villa has a botanical garden containing architectonic ornamental elements, which increase the beauty and fascination.
Once back in Bellagio, we will proceed with the visit of Villa Melzi. The most beautiful spot on Lake Como is the old town of Bellagio resting on the mountain slopes surrounded by green woods. From the town centre to Villa Melzi is an avenue of trees and flowers with fragrances of precious camphor, between the lake and the mountains. Bellagio is criss-crossed by a series of pretty lanes of azaleas running down the hillside to the lake. Salita Serbelloni is one of these lanes. The villas and gardens of Bellagio are living witnesses to the memories of aristocratic days of the 16th to 18th century arts when Bellagio was one of the most exclusive resorts in Europe, these opulent villas and the gardens filled with colors, rare trees and shrubs are a true delight.
We will head back to our hotel for a night of leisure.
Day 3: Monday, April 30, 2018
Villa Balbianello and Villa Carlotta
After breakfast in our hotel, our guide will pick us up at the hotel in Bellagio and we will depart by private boat for a tour of the Lake that will include the visits to Villa Balbianello and Villa Carlotta. With a panoramic coastal cruise we will first reach Villa Balbianello. Built for Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini at the end of the XVIII century, the Villa stands on the tip of a steep promontory overlooking Lake Como, almost opposite Bellagio. Today, the villa has the appearance desired by its last owner, the explorer Guido Monzino, with a rich collection of Chinese, African and pre-Columbian art, precious English and French furniture of the 1700s and the small museum with documents and mementoes of his expeditions. Yet the true masterpiece is the panoramic terraced garden dominated by the elegant “loggia” with three arches rising on the highest point of the promontory.
We will then board our boat again to proceed to Tremezzo. Situated in the middle of Lake Como, this lakeside town is a great place for lovely scenery. Not only does one get a wonderful view of Lake Como, but also a spectacular view of the mountains as well. One of the most visited tourist destinations in Tremezzo is the Villa Carlotta, the only historic villa with public access on the lake. This villa is a neoclassical building which is built on steeply tiered ground. Villa Carlotta has striking staircases at the entrance and contains sculptures that were created by Canova and other artists. One of the best times to visit this villa is in the spring. There are gardens outside with azaleas and rhododendron that flower magnificently in the springtime.
At the end of the visit, you can decide if you want to go back to Bellagio with our guide or if you prefer to spend more time strolling around the gardens on your own. In both cases, the way back to Bellagio will be by private boat. There are several public connections and the guide will provide the tickets for all of you. Evening and dinner at leisure.
Day 4: Tuesday, May 1, 2018
Bellagio to Cannero with stop at Bisuschio
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
Private bus transfer from Bellagio to Cannero with stop at Bisuschio. Today we will depart by bus from Bellagio. We will reach Cannero on Lake Maggiore for the second part of our stay but, before reaching the hotel, we will stop in Bisuschio for a private visit of Villa Cicogna Mozzoni.
There is no country house in Lombardy that reflects the genius of Renaissance architecture more than does Villa Cicogna Mozzoni, where interior and exterior spaces blend into a graceful, coordinated whole. Rather than the garden borrowing its layout from the house, it is the building which seems to throw itself open to the magnificent views outside, creating a perfect balance between garden and villa. After the visit you will have a group luncheon at the Villa.
We will proceed to Cannero for the check-in at the hotel.
Park Hotel Italia, located directly on the waterfront promenade, brings together the finest Italian hospitality tradition with modern life style. The historical building has been completely renovated with all luxury and comforts, keeping its beautiful exterior design. The hotel’s botanical park rich in fragrance provides an elegant and beautiful environment for the guests.
Day 5: Wednesday, May 2, 2018
Isola Bella and Isola Madre
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
Today we will explore two of the Borromean Islands: Isola Madre and Isola Bella. We will move by public boat with our tour escort and once on site we will meet our private guide for the tour of the Island.
Isola Madre is the biggest of the Verbano islands. It raises from the water with an enticing silhouette traced in the luxurious vegetation that covers the greatest part of it. Isola Madre overlooks the Pallanza shores and, compared to Isola Bella and Isola dei Pescatori, looks secluded from the view. It was also the first to be inhabited. The history of Isola Madre is bound to the Borromeo family since 1502. The first transformation works to create a place of delights and a private residence began by the will of Earl Lancillotto Borromeo. In 1542, the island had started to look like a garden. Forty years later Renato the First Borromeo started the works on the palazzo. At the end of 1700 the island appeared just like today, a place of peace and rest thanks to a mild weather and a luxurious nature.
Several greenhouses were built in 1826, along with the family chapel (from 1858), located on the eastern side of the great plaza, named after the chapel itself. The name Madre (Mother), still in use, comes from the historical supremacy of the island in the Verbano and also, it is said, from the benevolent mood of the mother of Earl Renato, Margherita Trivulzio.
Today the Isola Madre is a botanical garden like there is no other, famous for the rare vegetable essences hailing from all over the world. This British-fashioned park offers shady boulevards where you can promenade or stop by a fine telescope to enjoy the panorama. Amidst green slopes, the botanist is provided with a great variety of subjects to test himself and the tourist can cherish the continuous blooming, as a result of hard work. Every moment of the year allows a new flower to bloom and the discovery of new hidden corners. From the magnolia and bamboo brushes to the scented wisteria pergolas and the citrus espaliers. From the ancient perfect flower parterres to the overflowing ponds of lilies and lotus flowers.
Isola Bella is a place of splendor thanks to the recurrent blooming and the priceless architectural treasures that blends into a wonderful microcosm. Since when it was transformed from barren rock to a blooming garden, the island appears as a galleon floating on the blue waters of the Lago Maggiore as his founder, Vitaliano VI Borromeo, meant for her. Visiting this place allows you to live a normal day of a long-gone era. Here, the baroque boldly blends with the green architectures of the garden, creating a sight for sore eyes.
It took four hundred years and the work of a hundred men (qualified architects, engineers, stucco workers, painters and cabinet-makers) to transform Isola Bella from a barren rock in the middle of the lake to a place of delight. Until 1630, Isola Bella was but a cliff inhabited by fishmongers, with a couple of churches and vegetable gardens sprinkled here and there. The Borromeo family, owner of Isola Madre since 1501, took an interest in the Isola Bella since the first twenty years of the century. The interest resulted into Giulio Cesare III and Carlo III starting the ambitious project for the palazzo we can see today.
The garden is a heaven where you can see statues and architectural decors set amidst the perfect green geometry of botanical treasures. Many trusted and capable gardeners trim, fertilize and experiment, preserving this place of wonders from the passage of time. A two-hundred-years-old camphor tree welcomes you at the garden’s entrance. Crossing the gate, you will experience the breath-taking panorama of the Amphitheater in the middle of the island. This Italian garden with a baroque taste spreads on parterres and terraces placed at different heights and sprinkled with statues, obelisks, ageless stone stairs and balustrades. This results in an impressive view, displaying the power and magnificence of the noble house.
Back to Cannero for dinner and evening at leisure.
Day 6: Thursday, May 3, 2018
Switzerland Gardens: Brissago Island & Gambarogno Botanical Garden
Today we will enjoy a full day tour in the Swiss side of the Lake. You will depart from Cannaero by private bus and you will reach Brissago. Once there, you will take the public boat to the
Brissago Islands. The Brissago Islands are named after the kinzigite gneiss that forms the bedrock of the area. Along the shore of the little island, it is possible to see some rocks that emerge. In all other places of the islands, the rock is covered by a thin layer of moraine. The Brissago Islands are the two peaks of a hill that was engraved by the erosion of the ancient ridgeline of the Ticino’s valley and the Maggia river.
The Brissago Islands, surrounded by the waters of Lake Verbano, enjoy a temperate climate. They are protected by the Alpine chain and, because of the accumulation of heat in summer, they remain warm in winter. This is definitely a subtropical climate. In the garden, around 1,700 plant species are cultivated. They originate in regions of Mediterranean climate (the Mediterranean Basin, Chile, South Africa, Southwest Australia and California) and of humid subtropical climate (in particular from Asia, but also from North and South America and Oceania).
The second part of the tour will focus on this magnificent botanical garden set on the Gambarogno side of Lago Maggiore, on the hillside terrace between Piazzogna and Vairano. Here, the Parco Botanico del Gambarogno foundation lavishes endless love and skill on the over 17,000 square metres of gorgeously colorful plants. 950 species of camellia, 350 different magnolias, azaleas, peonies and rhododendrons may be viewed here. Nurseryman Otto Eisenhut once added his valuable botanical collection to this extremely attractive landscaped garden. The Parco Botanico del Gambarogno foundation now ensures the long-term continuation of this work. Drive back to the hotel in Cannero by bus.
Day 7: Friday, May 4, 2018
Meals: Breakfast, Dinner
On our last day, we will visit Villa Taranto. We will go there by public boats.
The gardens at Villa Taranto were created by Scotsman, Captain Neil McEarcharn who bought the estate in 1931. He wished to transform the estate into an English style garden to remind him of home. He spent nine years making his dream a reality, which included the difficult job of acclimatizing many of the more exotic species collected from round the world. The estate was renamed Villa Taranto in honor of his ancestor, Marshall McDonald who Napoleon named the Duke of Taranto.
Captain Neil McEarcharn was keen to ensure that all his hard work would continue beyond his lifetime and so he generously presented the gardens to the Italian State. Since 1952 the gardens have been open to the public from April through to October, with more than 150,00 visitors a year. The most significant achievements have been the “Valetta” (little valley), the terraced gardens and waterfalls, the water lily and lotus pools, the ornamental fountains and the irrigation system which draws water directly from the lake. Every year from April 25th to May 1st there is the tulip week when thousands of tulip bulbs are in bloom. One in five entrance tickets has a special stamp on the back and the lucky owner receives a free plant cultivated in the gardens. Maintenance of the gardens was passed to the “Ente Giardini Botanici Villa Taranto” after Captain Neil McEarcharn’s death in 1964. He is now buried in the mausoleum in the garden.
At the end of the tour, the rest of the day will be at leisure.
Tonight we will enjoy a farewell dinner at a local restaurant to celebrate the end of this magical experience.
Day 8: Saturday, May 5, 2018
You will transfer from Park Hotel Italia to Malpensa Airport by private bus in time for your flight home.
Your flight MUST depart Milan Malpensa Airport no earlier than 10:30 AM on May 5 to be included in the group transfer. If your flights depart before this, you must make your own way to the airport at your own cost.
All hotels are boutique type with classic furnishings. If you prefer a higher room category at any/all of the hotels than what is provided in the tour cost, please contact Travel Haus and we will get the pricing supplement and availability for your preferred room category on an individual basis.
Hotel Belvedere Bellagio
All rooms contain a bathtub or shower, air-conditioning, minibar, satellite TV, direct phone, High speed Internet, a safe. The Belvedere Hotel is surrounded by a beautiful private park, solarium, and panoramic grass-covered terraces. Inside: a modern American bar, and a delightful restaurant on the terrace overlooking the lake. Bellagio is known as “the pearl of the lake” because, like a beautiful jewel, it is set in its very centre. It has a mild climate, scented gardens rich with olive trees and semi – tropical plants. The Belvedere Hotel rises in the centre of a colour palette. The site is so enticing that several painters’ associations gather here with their members for their painting events.
Park Hotel Italia
East-facing with a stunning view on Lake Maggiore from where you can enjoy the morning sunrise. Tasteful and elegant, bright and harmonious colours. Amenities: Buffet breakfast included, Wi-Fi, air conditioning & heating, safety deposit box, shower or bath, hairdryer, TV, minibar, and bath amenities.
A NONREFUNDABLE deposit of $750 per traveler will be required upon booking to reserve your space on the trip. $2275 2nd deposit (nonrefundable) due no later than December 31, 2017. The final payment is due NO LATER than February 12, 2018, after which time a late fee of $100 per person may apply.
Email Amy Fritz at with any questions.
$4525.00* per person double occupancy / $1100.00* per person single supplement
*Assuming an exchange rate of not more than 1.20. If using a credit card, please add 4% to the above amount.
Contact Travel Haus for more information and registration forms.
| 215-723-8687 (Ask for Groups)
Airfare is NOT included in the price of the trip. This allows travelers to use a variety of means, including airline and credit card points, to purchase their airfare. You are responsible for your own airfare.
Travel Haus will be happy to assist any travelers in booking airfare and will suggest flights for all travelers to ensure that the group arrives at Milan Malpensa Airport in a timely manner and we stay on our first day’s schedule. In many cases, Travel Haus may be able to find better airfare than what the published price is showing. If we can provide you with a special contracted rate, the advantage is that the airfare would just require an approx. $200 per person deposit and then the final payment is not due until the final payment of the tour. This would limit your airfare liability.
Travel Haus is not responsible to honor information or prices incorrectly listed due to typing or printing errors.