Tailormade tour Three Italian Lakes and Venice fly-drive touring holiday Italy

10 nights/11 days

Lake Como • Lake Iseo • Lake Garda • Venice

This is a leisurely Italian fly-drive touring holiday of three of Italy’s most famous lakes, spanning the northern Italian regions of Lombardy, Piemonte and the Veneto, and culminating in a stay in the splendid city of Venice. There is time for side-trips to Bergamo and Verona too.
Holiday price guide

Available year-round subject to the opening period of the hotels, from £3,660 per person.

Luxury fly-drive tailor-made touring holiday to Lakes Maggiore, Como and Garda plus Venice


Lake Como • Visit Villa Carlotta • Lake Iseo • Play golf or have a spa treatment • Visit Bergamo • Lake Garda • Boat trip to Sirmione • Visit Verona • Venice

Day by day

Arrive in Milan on your first day of this touring holiday of the Italian Lakes and collect your hire car. Drive north onto the central promontory in the lake and the stunning lakeside village of Bellagio. The central piazza, the Piazza San Giacomo, is the point from which to begin your exploration of Bellagio town. From here, explore the Romanesque Basilica di San Giacomo, with its beautiful frescoes, statues, bell-tower and apse. The pretty fountain at the centre of the square was commissioned for Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. From the small garden at the very tip of the promontory, take the ten-minute walk to the picturesque fishing hamlet of Pescallo. Walk on from Pescallo to see a collection of agricultural ruins, as well as the abandoned Villa Giulia. Walk along Villa Giulia’s Vialone to the waterside settlement of San Giovanni, at the centre of which sits a grotto dedicated to the Madonna of Lourdes. San Giovanni is also the site of a quirky museum of navigational instruments. In nearby Loppia, a traditional old village church is enclosed in the gardens of the Villa Trivulzio Gerli. From Bellagio, take a boat to one of the other lakeside towns and villages, such as Varenna, home to a small beach and gardens including the Villa Monastero, In the other direction are the lakeside towns of Cadenabbia and Tremezzo. At Tremezzo visit the beautiful grounds of the Villa Carlotta. In the evenings, relax with an ‘apertivo’ in one of the cafes or restaurants under the arcade back in Bellagio.

On your way from Lake Como to Lake Iseo, stop off in Bergamo to witness the architecture of this town, from the basilica and baptistery, to the vast convents and aqueducts. The area is dotted with defensive castles that used to divide the Republic of Venice and the Duchy of Milan. The town’s streets are lined with the palaces and towers of old nobility. Lake Iseo and Erbusco where you will stay is at the heart of the Franciacorta wine area. Franciacorta wine is known for being a highly refined sparkling wine, produced according to champagne methods. The wineries are housed in many of the historic buildings in the area, most open for wine-tasting sessions. For example, the Terra Moretti in Erbusco is a particularly popular spot, but the wine routes can be toured more fully using Brescia as a starting point. Lake Iseo, however, has a wealth of charm and history. The best way to experience the water and its secrets is on a boat trip from one of the lakeside towns. Sail across to Monte Isola, the largest lake island in the whole of Italy, and dominated by the eponymous mountain. At the very top of this island sits a beautiful castle with breath-taking views. In contrast, the Isola di Loreto is the smallest island on the lake. Privately owned, it cannot be visited by tourists, but the majesty of its historic castle can still be appreciated from the water. Back on either Monte Isola or the mainland, take advantage of the many cycling, climbing, and walking trails that vein the landscape. Monasteries, churches, and Roman ruins punctuate the shoreline. Take part in some of the water sports, such as sailing, diving, and kite surfing, or simply relax on one of the small lakeside beaches. Your hotel is renowned for its gastronomy, so pre-booking a table is essential.

It is an easy drive of about an hour from Erbusco to Lake Garda on the motorway but you could take a longer, country route over the hills. On Lake Garda there are numerous visits and activities that are possible. One highly recommended excursion is to take a tour of Il Vittorale degli Italiani, a villa complex designed by Gabriele D’Annunzio as a self-tribute. Make sure to book a tour in advance to avoid disappointment. The scale of the complex makes it more akin to a small town, with its uncountable eccentric buildings, its squares, avenues, and fountains. The complex also features a vintage car museum, a war museum, a Greco-Roman theatre, and the opportunity to have dinner in the low lights of the lakeside, making Il Vittorale even more of a desirable day-out. Drive to nearby Salò, seat of the Fascist government, and famous for its long promenade. Try the remarkable produce of the lemons at Limone sul Garda, particularly the citrus desserts. Take a boat trip out to Isola del Garda to explore the stunning Neo-Gothic villa and its Italianate gardens. Or visit Peschiera del Garda, a town surrounded by canals, once a centre-point for Garda defence, as can be seen in its 15th century pentagonal fortress. Sirmione is now referred to as the ‘Pearl of Garda’. Upon entry to the town, tour the 13th century Rocca Scagliera fortress, and then make your way through to the Grotte di Catullo on the waterfront, reputedly previously owned by the Roman poet Catullus. As a spa town, the hot springs under the town feed the many spas that offer luxury treatments throughout the town. Take a lake tour to glimpse the stately homes and glorious estates of the stars and elite that live on the banks. The small village of Riva del Garda hosts an atmospheric classical music festival in July.

Break up the short journey from the Gardone Riviera to Venice with a brief stop in Verona. Known to the Ancient Romans as ‘Little Rome,’ the streets still bare the evidence of their important past, from the Roman Forum, to the palaces and Renaissance architecture. Pass under the Arco della Costa, separating the Piazza delle Erbe from the Piazza della Signoria, from which hangs a whale bone that will reputedly fall when someone righteous enough walks underneath. Also worth a visit is Verona’s Civico Museo d’Arte, one of the most important Art museums in Italy. You reach Venice by driving across the causeway and then you leave your car in the Piazzale Roma, and from here we will arrange for you to be collected by a private water taxi (so long as we know the time of your arrival). The water taxi will navigate along the canals to your hotel. The city of Venice itself is comprised of 117 islands and 150 canals, making it a veritable maze to navigate. For a more authentic experience of Venetian life, visit the Eberia and Pescheria local markets, situated across the Rialto Bridge, before visiting the major tourist locations, such as the glass museum, and the San Giorgio Maggoire. The Chiesi dei Frari houses art by Titian and Bellini, among others, as well as the tomb of Italian neoclassical sculptor, Canova. The work of Il Furioso himself, Tintoretto, is housed in the Scuola Grande di San Rocco. Similarly, it is possible to see the tombs of 25 doges in the Basilica dei Santi Giovanni e Paulo. The magnificently maintained Ca’ Rezzonico allows visitors to witness what an 18th century palazzo interior would have looked like, with all the splendour and elaborate eccentricity of the height of Venetian culture and design. The Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, originally built in 1748, was converted into one of the best art galleries in Italy, the Guggenheim Museum, and displays a vast array of 20th century masterpieces. Head out to the distant island of Torcello, a far-cry from the busy Venetian town centre, to see the Byzantine Duomo and the 16th century ghetto. For a taste of traditional Venetian cuisine, look out for dishes based on the combination of polenta with beef stew or dried fish, as well as dishes of liver and onions.

We will arrange for a private water taxi to take you back to Venice Marco Polo airport for your flight back to London.

Special offers for this holiday>

We particularly loved the Hotel del Sogno on Lake Garda for its character, beauty and amazing views. Great service too from the reception staff. Also they gave us great recommendations for restaurants.
Mr and Mrs S, June 2023

Holiday price guide Prices from £3,660 per person based on two people sharing a double or twin room.

Holiday Code ITFD10

Luxury fly-drive tailor-made touring holiday to Lakes Maggiore, Como and Garda plus Venice

Special offers for this holiday>

We particularly loved the Hotel del Sogno on Lake Garda for its character, beauty and amazing views. Great service too from the reception staff. Also they gave us great recommendations for restaurants.
Mr and Mrs S, June 2023

Holiday price guide Prices from £3,660 per person based on two people sharing a double or twin room.

Holiday Code ITFD10

Our prices include ● Scheduled flight with British Airways London to Milan, returning from Venice to London
● Hire of a basic group car for eight days from Milan to Venice
● Private water taxi transfers from Venice Piazzale Roma to hotel and back to airport
● Three nights’ bed and breakfast in an Executive room with lake view and balcony at the Grand Hotel Imperiale at Moltrasio on Lake Como or in a Classic room with garden view at Grand Hotel Tremezzo
● Two nights’ bed and breakfast in a Standard room at the Hotel L'Albereta near Lake Iseo
● Three nights’ bed and breakfast in a Classic room with garden view at the Villa del Sogno on Lake Garda
● Two nights’ bed and breakfast in a Standard room at the Hotel Bisanzio in Venice
● Concierge service and Expressions Holidays regional helpful hints

Our prices do not include ● Early check-in or late check-out at any hotels (although we can arrange this on request at additional cost)
● Any other services not mentioned above, such as transfers and meals except breakfast at hotels
● Personal holiday insurance. This is essential, and cover should be in place from when you book the holiday.
● Local tourist tax, usually between Euros 1 and 3 per person per night, and payable locally to the hotel

Additional information Driving times for this touring holiday
Milan to Moltrasio or Tremezzo 1 hour 30 minutes
Lake Como to Erbusco 1 hour 45 minutes
Erbusco to the Gardone Riviera 90 minutes
Gardone Riviera to Venice 2 hours

Luxury fly-drive tailor-made touring holiday to Lakes Maggiore, Como and Garda plus Venice

Expressions Holidays includes these hotels in this touring holiday as suggestions, but they can be substituted by others in the same region, if you have a preference to stay elsewhere.
Hotels included in this tour
Lake Como
Grand Hotel Imperiale Value option

Grand Hotel Imperiale Resort & SPA offers period Art Nouveau grandeur in a splendid lakeside setting. This hotel offers the chance to experience both the peaceful beauty of Lake Como and a taste of Italian town life.

Executive room with lake view and balcony

Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni Luxury option

Grand Hotel Villa Serbelloni is a 5-star deluxe hotel in a beautiful lakeside location. The excellent spa facilities, gourmet cuisine and stunning gardens afford guests a truly tranquil and indulgent experience.

Classic double room with lake view

Hotel l'Albereta

Hotel l'Albereta is a 5-star boutique hotel in a beautiful natural location. Stunning cuisine, a divine spa and convenient proximity to Lake Iseo afford guests a relaxing and restorative retreat among the rolling hills and vineyards.

Standard double room

Gardone Riviera
Hotel Villa del Sogno

Hotel Villa del Sogno is an exclusive 5-star hotel in a beautiful natural location. Patios and terraces allow for relaxed al fresco dining in which the beauty of Lake Garda and surrounding flowers and greenery can be appreciated.

Classic room with garden view

Hotel Bisanzio Value option

Hotel Bisanzio is an elegant 4-star hotel, which exudes historical charm, in an excellent position for exploring the main sights of Venice.

Classic room

Ca'Sagredo Luxury option

Ca'Sagredo is a grand 5-star palazzo hotel overlooking Venice's Grand Canal. The delicious cuisine, art gallery and museum afford guests a unique city stay that reflects the culture of the surrounding city.

Classic room

Special offers

Call to make your booking and save an extra £50 per adult Call us instead of emailing us when you are thinking of booking a holiday and save an extra £50 per adult (in addition to any special offers that might be available). We want to talk to you to discuss your requirements and a phone call is usually the best way for you to define what you want enabling us to respond more accurately. We want to talk to you and you save an extra £50 per adult.

We particularly loved the Hotel del Sogno on Lake Garda for its character, beauty and amazing views. Great service too from the reception staff. Also they gave us great recommendations for restaurants.
Mr and Mrs S, June 2023

Holiday price guide Prices from £3,660 per person based on two people sharing a double or twin room.

Holiday Code ITFD10

Luxury fly-drive tailor-made touring holiday to Lakes Maggiore, Como and Garda plus Venice

Highlights of the Italian Lakes

Historic villas are to be found on every lake from the Grotte di Catullo Roman villa at Sirmione on Lake Garda to Villa Melzi and Villa Olmo on Lake Como and the Palazzo Estense in Varese. Most of these villas also have extraordinarily beautiful gardens (which can be visited as part of an Expressions Garden Tour holiday) such as the Villa Carlotta on Lake Como, the Isola Bella in Lake Maggiore and Villa Taranto at Punta della Castagnola on Lake Maggiore. Monte Mottarone above Stresa on Lake Maggiore and Monte Baldo above Lake Garda can both be reached by cable car and afford spectacular views. At Gargnano on Lake Garda you can see the stone pavilions where lemons were traditionally cultivated. Within the region there are national parks such as the Stelvio National Park north of Orta and the Parco Nazionale della Val Grande above Verbania on Lake Maggiore.

Cultural highlights of the Italian Lakes

Much of the artistic and architectural cultural wealth in the region is concentrated in the great cities such as Milan and Verona but also in the less well-known but culturally-rich centres of Bergamo, Brescia, Pavia, Mantova and Vicenza (not directly on the Lakes but within reach for a day`s excursion). Highlights include the frescoes by Masolino at Castiglione Olona, the Rocca (castle) at Angera, the Flemish tapestries on the Isola Bella Lake Maggiore, the marble cathedral of Santa Maria Maggiore at Como and the works of art in the Galleria dell`Accademia Tadini at Lovere on Lake Iseo. Milan has La Scala, the Museo Poldi Pezzoli, the Brera Gallery (containing Raphael`s `Marriage of the Virgin` and the Montefeltro altarpiece by Piero della Francesca) and its Gothic cathedral. Verona has its annual opera festival from June until the end of August, the Romanesque church of San Zeno, the Renaissance Loggia del Consiglio and the Roman Arena.

Festivals in the Italian Lakes

The Verona Opera Festival takes place in the Roman Arena every year with performances running from June until the end of August. Verona also celebrates Carnival every year culminating on the Friday before Shrove Tuesday. Como holds a flea market, the Fiera di Pasqua, over the Easter weekend. Music festivals take place in Bergamo throughout the year. The Mille Miglia veteran car race starts and ends in Brescia (via Ferrara to Rome in May each year).

Gastronomy in the Italian Lakes

The cuisine of northern Italy tends to contain more meat and butter than further south and rice and polenta compete with pasta. Saffron is used extensively as in Risotto alla Milanese. Bresaola is cured raw beef served as an antipasta (now often with rocket and parmesan). Manzo al Barolo (beef in Barolo wine), Costolette alla Milanese (veal cutlets in breadcrumbs) and Ossobucco (veal in wine and tomatoes) are all popular dishes. Panettone cake and Zabaglione are two regional desserts. This region produces some of Italy's most famous cheeses such as Gorgonzola, Bel Paese, Fontina and Taleggio as well as some of Italy's most exportable wines such as Soave, Bardolino and Valpolicella. Less well known but interesting wines are produced in the Valtellina in the north of Lombardy and in Franciacorta near Lake Iseo.

Luxury fly-drive tailor-made touring holiday to Lakes Maggiore, Como and Garda plus Venice

Cultural highlights of Venice

St Mark’s Square, Doge’s Palace, Bridge of Sighs, The Grand Canal, Accademia, Museo Correr, Rialto Bridge, La Fenice theatre, The Church of the Redentore, The Church of Santa Maria della Salute.

Festivals in Venice

Venice’s most famous festival is the Carnevale in February, the actual dates of Carnevale vary from year to year, but it generally spans three to four weeks ending on Shrove Tuesday. Costumed and masked people parade around the streets of Venice and there are numerous private parties and dances, but the atmosphere on the final night of Carnevale itself is electric. Alternatively, there is the Regata Storica on the first Sunday in September, when boats and gondolas race against each other along the Grand Canal, or the Feast of the Redentore in mid-July to celebrate the end of the plague in the 16th century. A makeshift bridge is constructed to link the Giudecca island with the Dorsodouro island and there is a huge firework display.

Gastronomy in Venice

Venetian food is naturally fish and sea food orientated and popular dishes include the sweet and sour ‘sardee in saor’ or sardine salad, cuttlefish risotto with its black ink and ‘caparossoi a scota deo’, which are large clams cooked with lemon and pepper. Liver is also popular as are several sweet fried delicacies or ‘fritole’, popular particularly around festival time. This area is famous for its Prosecco and is the home of the ‘Bellini’ cocktail.

Travel around Venice

Gondola rides are always popular, but are expensive. The vaporetto and motoscafo services are good and will take you from A to B and are essential to reach the islands of Murano, Burano and Torcello in the lagoon unless you hire a private water taxi. The services can be disrupted at high tide or ‘Aqua Alta’, which usually occurs in the autumn, or if the lagoon is particularly choppy. To cross the Grand Canal the precarious ‘traghetti’ are like large Gondolas, but you are expected to stand up in order for the maximum number of passengers to board, so it is an art, as well as an experience to remember!

Other holidays you might be interested in...