Tailormade tour Verona, Lake Garda and Lake Geneva by train touring holiday Italy

7 nights /8 days

Lausanne • Lake Geneva • Verona • Gardone Riviera • Lake Garda

This rail holiday to Verona and Lake Garda combines the beauty of the artistic city of Verona with chance to visit the opera in season, and the serenity of the largest lake in Italy, renowned for its mild climate, sub-tropical vegetation and pretty villages. You travel to Verona on a day-time service stopping for one night in Lausanne on Lake Geneva. You return by sleeper train from Milan.
Holiday price guide

Available year-round subject to the opening period of the hotels, from about £2,210 per person.

Luxury rail tailormade holiday to Verona, Lake Garda and Lake Geneva

Highlights

Eurostar London to Paris return • Lausanne • Verona • Visit the Opera depending on the season • Lake Garda • Return by sleeper train

Day by day

Start your rail holiday to Verona and Lake Garda by taking an early morning Eurostar train from London St Pancras to Paris Gare du Nord. Transfer from the Gare du Nord to the Gare de Lyon by taxi and board the high-speed TGV Lyria train to Lausanne on Lake Geneva where you arrive just after 16.00 hrs. Spend the rest of the afternoon and evening exploring the lakeside city. The promenade at Ouchy Harbour, when lit up in the evening, is one of the highlights of your stay in Lausanne.

Depart from Lausanne just before 8.30 hrs on a direct train to Verona. This scenic journey through the Alps takes a little over five hours and takes you through some spectacular landscapes as you follow the Rhone upstream, travel through the famous Simplon Pass and along the shores of Lake Maggiore before heading east through Italy. You reach Verona at about 13.30 hrs and are met at the train station by a private car and transferred to your hotel. Stay two nights in Verona.

You have a full day at leisure in Verona to explore this small but beautiful city, packed full of places of historic and cultural worth, particularly dating from Roman and mediaeval times. There are not only iconic sights such as the Arena, the venue for the opera performances and the house said to be Juliet’s, but other Roman remains such as the Roman theatre, the Ponte di Pietra and Porta Borsari, and mediaeval masterpieces such as the Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore, the Basilica of San Lorenzo and the church of Santa Maria Antica, as well as the Piazza delle Erebe. Within and near the city are several notable gardens worth a visit, including the Giardino Giusti. If your stay in Verona coincides with the opera performances, you may want us to book seats for you in advance.

Enjoy a relaxed breakfast at your hotel before being collected by a private car to take you west to Lake Garda. Reach your hotel on the lake in the early afternoon and settle into your room before dinner.

You have two full days on Lake Garda. On the lower slopes of the hills around Lake Garda are a profusion of lemons and olives, chestnuts and palms, magnolias and camellias. Pretty villages hug the sheltered bays and fishing boats moor next to sailing boats. Monte Baldo, above the lake, can be reached by cable car and affords spectacular views. At Gargnano on Lake Garda you can see the stone pavilions where lemons were traditionally cultivated. Sirmione behind its mediaeval walls enjoys a beautiful position at the southern end of the lake, dominated by Scaligero castle. You can also visit the residence of Gabriele d’Annunzio, Il Vittoriale, at Gardone Riviera. Another beautiful excursion is the Isola del Garda, an island in the lake where you can visit the Italian and English gardens and some rooms inside the neo-gothic Venetian-style villa dating from the early 1900s. In terms of getting around whilst you are staying on Lake Garda, if you don’t want to have the use of a hire-car, it is easy enough to use the lake ferries that criss-cross the lake between all the main points.

You have much of the day at leisure before leaving your hotel with a private transfer to Desenzano where you take the train to Milan. Change trains and board the Thello sleeper service that leaves Milan at about 23.00 hrs. We include a double cabin aboard the train.

You arrive into Paris Lyon at about 9.30am, and after changing stations you then take the Eurostar back to London where you arrive at lunchtime.

Holiday price guide Price from £2,210 per person based on two people sharing a double room including second class rail travel. Supplement about £220 per person for first class rail travel.

Holiday Code ITBR10

Luxury rail tailormade holiday to Verona, Lake Garda and Lake Geneva

Holiday price guide Price from £2,210 per person based on two people sharing a double room including second class rail travel. Supplement about £220 per person for first class rail travel.

Holiday Code ITBR10

Our prices include ● Second-class travel on all trains, with standard class on Eurostar (first and standard premier can be booked at a supplement)
● Double sleeper compartment on Thello sleeper train Milan to Paris overnight
● Private transfer from Verona station to the hotel in Verona
● Private transfer from Verona hotel to Lake Garda hotel
● Private transfer from Lake Garda hotel to Desenzano station
● 1 night’s bed and breakfast in a Superior room at the Hotel Angleterre et Residence in Lausanne
● 2 nights’ bed and breakfast in a Double room at the Hotel Gabbia d’Oro in Verona
● 3 nights’ bed and breakfast in a Double room with lake view at the Villa del Sogno in Gardone Riviera
● 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
● Transfers in Paris and Lausanne

Luxury rail tailormade holiday to Verona, Lake Garda and Lake Geneva

Cultural highlights of Verona

The Arena di Verona in the main Piazza Bra, Juliet’s house, the Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore, Ponte Scaligero, the Roman Theatre.

Festivals in Verona

The annual Opera Festival throughout the summer months is hosted in the famous Arena di Verona. It is essential to book early for specific operas in order to avoid disappointment. Carnevale is celebrated on Shrove Tuesday and is a magnificent display of floats and costumes. The wine festival ‘Vinitaly’ is hosted in Verona in April and is a must for wine connoisseurs.

Gastronomy in Verona

As with most cities in the Veneto, the food tends to be hearty and is more meat and game based. Horse meat is still popular and can be found on many menus. Otherwise, large spaghetti or ‘bigoli’ are often served with duck or liver-based sauces. The tall ‘Pandoro’ cake is traditional here at Christmas, literally translated as ‘golden bread’. The Veneto is one of the largest DOC wine producing areas of Italy and numerous wines from Soave, Bardolino and Valpolicella can be sampled relatively inexpensively in all restaurants and bars.

Travel around Verona

It is easy to get about by bus or taxi in Verona. Alternatively, all the main sites are within a maximum half an hour’s walk of each other and the city centre is mainly pedestrianized. Should you wish to go further afield, then it is straightforward getting to Vicenza, Padua, Venice and even Milan by rail and services are regular and reliable. Alternatively, a hire car is always an option should you wish to explore Lake Garda, which is only about 20 miles away.

Luxury rail tailormade holiday to Verona, Lake Garda and Lake Geneva

Highlights of Lake Geneva

Montreux, on the most eastern point of the lake is most famous for the Montreux Jazz Festival, which is held in international esteem. One of the most iconic sights, for both Switzerland and Montreux, is of Chillon Castle, jutting out on a rocky outcrop into the lake waters. This castle cannot be missed because of its fairy-tale beauty. You can also begin to explore the landscape around Montreux by rail. One railway takes you across Alpine meadows to Rochers-de-Naye at more than 2000m above sea level, from which you can sometimes see the Jet d'Eau in Geneva. The Swiss Chocolate Train, adorned with lavish Belle Epoque carriages, travels to the village of Gruyeres, where characterful old cobbled streets are lined with townhouses containing cafes and three museums. An imposing medieval castle sits at the top of the village. You can also reach the Maison Cailler on the Chocolate Train, where you learn about traditional Swiss chocolate-making and even make some of your own. The Vineyard Train (number S31) will take you through the 800 hectares that make up the Lavaux Terraced Vineyards from Vevey to Puidoux-Chexbres. The vineyards are the largest living cultural site in Switzerland and a recognised UNESCO World Heritage Site. Further west from the Lavaux Vineyards is Lausanne, home to the International Olympic Committee headquarters, but perhaps best known for simply being a particularly romantic and beautiful Swiss town. Gardens, promenades, and lakeside pathways ensure that your days here are as picturesque as they are cultural. At Lausanne's heart stands the Cathedral, believed to be one of Europe's most beautiful Gothic monuments. The purple and orange hues of its two main spires are visible throughout the town. It was originally built in the 12th and 13th centuries. In contrast with the Cathedral, immersed in the history of the cobbled Old Town, a new Olympic Museum has recently opened. Interactive displays illustrating the colourful history of the games are spread over three levels and include more than 1,000 objects and 150 screens. One of the highlights of the museum, however, is the Olympic Park. The artworks, sports sculptures, and beautiful patches of well-maintained nature provide a stunning setting for this modern cultural venture. From here, you can wander down the promenade at Ouchy, an area that is unrelentingly popular with residents. This promenade takes you to the Haldimand Tower, the Bellerive Swimming Pool, the Chateau d'Ouchy, and the port.

Cultural highlights of Lake Geneva

Any stay on Lake Geneva remains incomplete without a visit to the city that gives it its name. One of the key features of Geneva's cultural heritage is its place as the origin of fine watch-making. Workshops, boutiques, and museums all provide an insight into this prestigious craft. Even the Jet d'Eau fountain bears some connection, as it originally harnessed the power of the Rhone for the craftsmen of Geneva. Today, it acts as a captivating, animate monument to the skills, craft, and natural forces of the city. Geneva is also home to the Palais des Nations, the European headquarters of the UN. Guided tours take visitors through the building, which seems to blend geometric modern design with classical, palatial style. Geneva's Old Town, or Vieille-Villa, is the largest in Switzerland, laced with narrow alleyways and charming squares, and centred around the St Pierre Cathedral. 157 steps will take visitors to the top of the cathedral tower in order to appreciate the remarkable views over the fascinating jumble of unique townhouses. A very unique feature of Geneva is the Flower Clock in the Jardin Anglais. This precise and beautiful clock has the longest second hand in the world. Visitors interested in Swiss art and modern culture should spend an afternoon in the Quartier des Bains, wandering around the MAMCO and the Centre d'Art Contemporain before enjoying dinner in a chic bistro. Mediterranean Carouge is Switzerland's gateway to the south, with abundant Sardinian style. Finish your exploration with one of the four world-exclusive museums: the International Museum of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, Le Musee International de la Reforme, the Patek Philippe Museum, and the Bodmer Foundation Library and Museum.

Festivals in Lake Geneva

Much of the canton of Geneva's culture is built around a celebration of its history and traditions. Perhaps one of the liveliest celebrations is the Oktoberfest, though many more unusual festivals prove equally enjoyable. In the first two weeks of February, the Antigel Festival brings a variable programme of music, dance, and other performances to the less likely stages. In March, the International Geneva Motor Show, largest of its kind in Europe, unveils a range of new innovative designs at the Palexpo Exhibition Centre. Similarly, in April you can visit the International Exhibition of Inventions, New Techniques, and Products in the same venue. On specific dates of the year, usually mid-May, a selection of museums stay open for the whole night, an event that is also celebrated in a number of bars. Also in May is a Day of Open Wineries, where upwards of 90 wineries open their doors for free to wine-touring visitors. A charge of 5CHF at one winery will enable you to taste wines at every other winery for no further charge. In June and July, parks, gardens, and secluded outdoor spots on the lake shores play host to a range of live music and DJ sets at the Ecoutes au Vert Festival. In the middle of June each year, Lake Geneva is transformed into the largest sailing regatta in Europe, with over 500 boats competing. Geneva's largest music festival is the Geneva Music Festival in late June, specialising in a range of musical genres, and accompanied by an array of food stalls. Impossible to forget is the Montreux Jazz Festival, founded in 1967, that brings an eclectic range of performances to the lakeside stages, not limited to Jazz. The Cine Transat, hosted in one of Geneva's parks, features a series of French and English films. The Prelude to the Geneva Festival and the Geneva Festival itself take place from the middle of July until the first week of August and are widely believed to be the highlight of summer in the region. Carnival rides, concerts, stalls with Swiss delicacies and street food, parades, and variety performances take over the lake shores, topped off with unique firework displays each and every night. The Festival de la Batie from the end of August to mid-September exhibits the works of many local artists from a range of disciplines in Batie Park. The Nuit des Bains sees several galleries in the Quartier des Bains open their doors for free. For a taste of Geneva's history, watch l'Escalade in the Old Town in the second week of December, which commemorates that defence of the city against the Duke of Savoy in 1602.

Gastronomy in Lake Geneva

With over 1,000 restaurants, Geneva is recognised as the capital of culinary delicacies in Switzerland. For decadent dining, choose one of the hotels that line the lake shores; for foreign cuisine, head to the Paquis district; for traditional Swiss dishes, dine in Geneva's Old Town; for Italian restaurants and French cafes, go to Eaux Vives; and for experimental, chic restaurants, eat in Carouge. Some ingredients to look out for in particular are cheeses from Gruyere, oil from Severy, charcuterie, perch, fera, char, and leeks. Vaud, the region in which Lake Geneva sits, is Switzerland's largest wine-growing region, and the most prominent grapes are Chasselas, Pinot Noir, and Gamay. You may also discover some Tartiflette, which originated over the French border in Haute-Savoie, made with Reblocohon cheese.

Luxury rail tailormade holiday to Verona, Lake Garda and Lake Geneva

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.

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