Grand Tour of Lake Como, Milan & the Bernina Express

Grand Tour of Lake Como, Milan & the Bernina Express

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11 Days
From

$3286

Grand Tour of Lake Como, Milan & the Bernina Express

11 Days

Visiting: Italy

Tour operator:

Riviera Travel

Tour code:

COL6

From:
$3286 (USD) including Flights from the UK

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Tour Overview

Combining the beautiful Lake Como and Lake Maggiore with chic Milan, this Grand Tour explores some of the highlights of northern Italy and Switzerland, including a jaw-dropping journey on the Bernina Express. 

Explore Italy's most fashionable city, Milan, along with two of its most famous lakes on a Grand Tour.    

Starting in Milan, the perfect blend of old and new, the city offers a unique window into Italian culture - a complete contrast to the more traditional cities further south. And yet it holds something to interest everyone, from world-class art galleries and theatres to incredible architecture and amazing restaurants serving everything from international cuisine to traditional Italian classics with a modern twist.

Then it's on to Lake Como, known for its dramatic natural scenery, it's a chance to breathe the fresh air. While we're so close to the border, we'll take the opportunity to visit Switzerland aboard one of the world's most iconic railways, as well as explore another of Italy's famous lakes, Lake Maggiore.

This Grand Tour is perfect for travellers who want the best of both worlds: a break in an historic city with a modern edge and time to explore the quaint towns and villages along the edge of Lake Como.

Highlights

  • Full day visit to St Moritz including a journey 

  • on the 

  • Bernina Express, one of the world’s most spectacular alpine railway journeys

  • Full day visit to Stresa on Lake Maggiore, including a tour of the beautiful Isola Bella

  • Explore medieval Bergamo, a hidden gem, on a guided tour

  • Lake cruise to stunning Bellagio with a private visit to the enchanting Villa del Balbianello and its inspirational gardens

  • Visit to the Swiss lakeside town of Lugano

  • Seven nights in a choice of conveniently located four star accommodation including all local taxes, 

  • with breakfast and dinner

  • The Signature Tour 

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Itinerary

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Day 1

Arrive at one of the Milan airports and transfer to your hotel, where you will stay for three nights with breakfast. Settle into your hotel and get a good night’s sleep as tomorrow our adventure begins in earnest. 

Day 2

Guided tour of Milan 

Welcome - or should we say "Benvenuto" - to one of the fashion capitals of the world! Milan offers the perfect introduction to this artistic and eclectic country. It's a buzzing, forward-thinking city where global trends are born and new ideas thrive, gleaming skyscrapers and sustainable ‘Bosco Verticale’ buildings redefine the historic city's skyline.

We'll begin with a guided tour of the city to take in the main sights of Milan, starting with the mammoth cathedral - the largest Gothic cathedral in the world. This icon of the city took nearly six centuries to complete (and looking at its incredibly intricate spires, it's not hard to see why!). Next door is the beautiful Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II - another iconic masterpiece. Built in the 19th century as a shopping arcade, it houses a selection of opulent restaurants, shops and cafes, with a vibrant mosaic floor and a glass dome in its centre.

Other highlights include the La Scala Theatre - one of the world's most prestigious opera houses, having hosted some of the very best opera singers in the world since its opening in 1778 - as well as the 15th-century Sforzesco Castle located within the open green spaces of Sempione Park. 

 

+ Included Experience – A guided tour of Milan 

Signature Experience -

A highlight for any lover of art, history or religion, with a timed entrance ticket to admire one of the most famous artworks in the world, Leonardo Da Vinci's Last Supper.

Although almost destroyed during the French Revolutionary War, this incredible masterpiece has survived in situ since it was completed in 1498. Located in the atmospheric refectory of the Dominican Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, it's now a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site, offering a glimpse into Da Vinci's multifaceted genius.

Day 3

Free day in Milan 

Today, you can explore Italy's second city as you wish. While Rome may be Italy’s political capital, Milan punches above its weight. Located in Italy’s industrious north with excellent links to neighbouring European countries like Switzerland and France, it is at the centre of Italy’s economic engine and its undisputed business centre, as well as its fashion capital, and it shows. Take a wander past the luxurious boutiques in the city's Quadrilatero della Moda - an upscale shopping district lined with designer boutiques and antique shops - or stop for a spot of people-watching (and a cup of rich, dark espresso the city is famous for) and you'll see just how stylish Milan is.

If fashion isn't your thing, perhaps head to the buzzing Navigli canal district - the perfect place for informal drinking, dining or simply strolling by the water. Alternatively, you could explore the elegant Brera area, with its countless alfresco restaurants and cafes, also famous for the Pinacoteca di Brera Gallery, a collection of Italian art spanning centuries.

Day 4

Monza 

This morning, we'll travel to Monza, a hidden gem north of Milan. The town, nestled within Europe’s largest walled park, may be best known for its racetrack but it has a lot more to offer. The Gothic cathedral is a highlight, with the beautifully frescoed Teodolinda Chapel - housing a priceless Medieval iron crown - believed to have been made from one of the nails used on Christ's cross. Monza Park, commissioned in 1805 to exceed Versailles in size, includes several distinct areas: landscaped gardens and wild meadows surrounding the imposing Royal Villa in the south, a wooded area in the north, and the home of the Italian Grand Prix, the legendary Monza Circuit.

Here, we’ll enjoy time at leisure. You could explore the town and park or perhaps just experience this typically Italian town like a local would, by enjoying a pleasant stroll, followed by a coffee in one of the pavement cafes dotted around its pedestrianised centre.

Lake Como 

We'll continue to Lake Como, arriving late afternoon to check into our hotel.

 

+ Included Experience - A visit to Monza 

Day 5

Villa del Balbianello

Lake Como, one of the deepest lakes in Europe, has been beloved by romantics since the famous Roman chronicler Pliny wrote of its luxuriant beauty. It has since inspired some of the best works by greats such as Verdi and Rossini. A favourite of Shelley and Wordsworth, the delights of Lake Como are many and varied.

This morning, you can enjoy one of its many highlights on a private boat ride and tour of the beautiful 18th-century Villa del Balbianello, one of the finest villas surrounding the lake.

Originally built for a cardinal, it features a renowned collection of art and historic furniture, ironically much of it English, including an oak bureau from Nelson’s flagship HMS Victory.

The gardens are equally impressive: a series of manicured terraces full of roses and colourful borders, dominated by a classic three-arched loggia, and all creatively planted using the rugged topography to great effect.

Bellagio 

The boat will then take us to the elegant resort of Bellagio which, with its idyllic location on a promontory on the lake, is often described as the most beautiful town in Italy, and when you see it, you will almost certainly agree!

Once the haunt of European monarchs, today the attractive, pastel-coloured buildings, faded by decades of sunshine, line the lake shore and narrow cobbled streets and lanes climb their way to the hilly centre.

Awash with colourful flowers, Bellagio cannot be bettered for a long lazy lunch in one of the many lakeside restaurants. You could follow it up with a stroll, perhaps amongst the many typically formal Italian gardens so beloved of romantics over the centuries, sprinkled as they are with fine, 18th century sculptures.

Free time in Bellagio 

Spend the afternoon exploring at your own pace before returning to your resort by boat when you wish. (Subject to available boat timetable).

 

+ Included experience – A private boat trip and guided tour of Villa Balbianello and a visit to Bellagio 

Day 6

The Bernina Express 

Today, we'll enjoy a contrasting day of spectacular scenery and extraordinary Swiss engineering. Firstly, we'll ascend the Valtellina, a classic alpine valley with soaring peaks rising steeply on both sides to Tirano, where we board the famous Bernina Express.

One of the slowest ‘express’ trains in the world, this remarkable Swiss train twists upwards in an amazing sequence of spirals, loops and tunnels to the summit at Ospizio Bernina, the highest through station in Europe. Here, you'll be surrounded by stunning vistas over snow-clad peaks and glacial lakes which mark the watershed between Mediterranean and Black Sea River systems.

St Moritz 

We'll then descend through pretty pastures and dense pine forests to the ostentatious resort of St Moritz, home of the infamous Cresta Run toboggan track, where there’s time for a spot of window shopping or perhaps afternoon tea and cake. Listen carefully and you may notice a rather unusual tongue: here, in this tiny corner of Switzerland, the locals speak Romansch, an ancient and little-known Latin language.

Returning through yet more spectacular scenery, we'll arrive back at Lake Como in time for dinner.

 

+ Included experiences - A journey on the Bernina Express and a visit to St Moritz 

Signature experience -

From Tirano settle into your upgraded first-class seat in a spacious carriage, sit back and soak up the dazzling mountain views as you ride the legendary Bernina Express in style and comfort. This world-famous journey will be something special so stretch out and relax whilst admiring the landscapes through the train’s panoramic windows. 

Day 7

Free day in Lake Como 

Today you’re free to explore Lake Como at leisure. Perhaps enjoy a boat trip to one of the picturesque villages dotted around the lake, or simply relax at the hotel and enjoy the stunning scenery.

Day 8

Lake Maggiore & Stresa 

Today we'll visit nearby Lake Maggiore and its most attractive lakeside town, Stresa. The resort town owes its origin to the days of the ‘Grand Tour’ when Europe’s 19th-century aristocracy, having crossed the border from Switzerland, experienced their first taste of Italy.

Unmistakably Mediterranean in character, its shores, lined with oleanders and palms, backed by classic belle époque hotels create an ambience of classic gentility. Here you can explore as you wish, perhaps you'll take a stroll along its impressive palm-lined promenade and enjoy the fine views across the shimmering lake to the Borromean Islands just offshore.

Literary enthusiasts could relax at the bar of the Grand Hotel, featured in Hemingway’s A Farewell to Arms and frequented by the likes of George Bernard Shaw and Charlie Chaplin. 

Isola Bella  

We'll also enjoy a guided tour of the Baroque Palazzo on Isola Bella. Its resplendent rooms feature refined furniture, sculptures and paintings while outside exquisite terraces are planted with citrus trees and magnolias. The Island’s gardens were transformed by a 17th century count, from a barren rock into an amazing, terraced garden. This stunning display has long been visited by the famous, amongst them Queen Caroline of England, wife of George IV, plus Napoleon and Josephine. (B, D) 

 

+ Included experience – A visit to Stresa on Lake Maggiore and a guided tour of Isola Bella

Day 9

Lugano 

This morning we'll travel to Lugano, the capital of the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino which was seized by the Swiss in 1512 and has steadfastly refused any opportunity to revert to Italy ever since! It is absolutely fascinating, an eclectic mix of traditional Swiss values and the more laid-back Latin influences from across the border.

The trains run on time and shops are just as chic, but there’s a distinctive Mediterranean feel unlike anything you’ll experience elsewhere in Switzerland. Tiny alleyways lead to unmistakably Italian piazzas, where you can relax over a typically Italian lunch, but like everywhere else in Switzerland, the traffic laws are obeyed without question - it really is a quirky blend!

The town is a delight to explore. Centred around the café-lined main square, it’s the ideal spot for people-watching whilst enjoying a coffee. Alternatively, you can explore the myriad of twisting lanes of the old town or the dense network of shops with their displays probably unmatched anywhere in the world. 

Lugano is a lovely place to idly wander before enjoying yet more outstanding scenery on the return journey to our hotel for dinner.

 

+ Included experience – A visit to Lugano

Day 10

Villa Carlotta 

Enjoy a full day of Ssignature experiences.

First expereince -

Discover a true Italian treasure with a visit to the 17th-century Villa Carlotta with its majestic views over the lake. From world-famous azaleas, heavenly camellias and exotic orchids, you can wander its magnificent gardens, enjoying the displays of colourful and fragrant plants from around the world. You'll feel like you've stepped back in time as you explore the villa’s impressive interior and view its superb artwork, sculptures and antique furniture collected over three centuries.

Second expereince -

As we soak up the spectacular views enjoy a refreshing local aperitivo and nibbles at Villa Carlotta's panoramic terrace. 

Day 11

As our Grand Tour of Lake Como, Milan and the Bernina Express draws to a close, we'll return to the airport and fly home arriving back in the UK on the same day.

What's Included

  • The price of this holiday is per person, based on two people sharing a twin room. Single and lake view rooms are subject to availability at the relevant supplement. The price includes: Return flights Seven nights’ accommodation Breakfast and dinner All local taxes and transfers All tours as mentioned Entrance to Villa del Balbianello The services of a Riviera Travel tour manager Stays at the Grand Hotel Menaggio will be on a bed & breakfast basis

  • The price of this holiday is per person based on two people sharing a twin or double room. Single rooms and Lake View rooms are subject to availability at the relevant supplement.The price includes: Direct return flights; 10 nights’ accommodation;; Daily breakfast and 7 dinners; All local taxes and transfers; All tours as mentioned; Services of an expert Riviera Travel Tour Manager;

Check out our Q&As

  • How long has the tour company been trading?

    For almost 40 years

  • I have reduced mobility; can I still travel?

    We want to ensure you make the correct choice before you book your holiday with us. If you have any concerns regarding the suitability of the holiday due to reduced mobility we would encourage you to contact us to discuss these concerns

  • Do I require travel insurance?

    It is a condition of booking that you carry suitable travel insurance.

  • What is my luggage allowance?

    You will receive details of your luggage allowance with your final travel documents, which are sent approximately 10 days prior to your date of departure.

Reviews of this Operator

David Clarke (Google Reviewer)  

This review is for the...

08-Aug-2023

This review is for the italian Lake Como trip Aug 1-8 Wow what a trip. Riviera from start to finish were excellent the booking and help line answering questions were very good and clear. The travel booklet you get is laid out that it is simple to read and follow with step by step info from booking in to flights to meeting the guides. Our guide Matt Purse was just the best guide and real credit to Riviera with his knowledge and straight forward approach to running the trips. Matt kept us informed and told us all the sort of info you want to know without going over the top....This chap should teach other reps ..thank you so much. The coaches they use are all clean and well equipped with usb chargers and have aircon. The places chosen to visit were well researched even down to where coaches park or drop you off. The Bernina Express was the highlight for our family and matts photo tip was welcomed. The only down point was the hotel,a little dated and evening meal in main restuarant was a bit of a let down. I think we were lucky with our room on level 7 and with balcony as the walls are very thin and noise travels. We would book again with riviera

Barbara Shillaker (Google Reviewer)  

I have been on three...

11-Jan-2024

I have been on three trips with Riviera Travel so far, with two more booked during 2024. Highly recommended. Excellent tour guides. Great program of visits. Great hotels used.

Valerie Pascoe  

We would go again in a heartbeat

22-Jan-2022

Oh my goodness, what a relief it was to actually get away! Full marks to all at Riviera for keeping us up to date before our trip and for the help so cheerfully and patiently given with the extra admin that Covid brought our way. We felt totally safe with the measures taken on board, thank you very much for this. Without exception, Staff were fantastic and our every need was attended to. The additional Covid testing ran smoothly, organised by our Riviera Reps. The guided tours were most interesting: the guides very knowledgeable and more importantly, interesting to listen to. We loved this trip and would do it again in a heartbeat. Thank you again Riviera, you were FAB!

Chris Wilson (Google Reviewer)  

Second escorted tour with this...

25-Jul-2022

Second escorted tour with this company. Did 5 days in Iceland tour. Everything went smoothly, excellent tour guide, Per. Extremely knowledgeable and interesting guy. Very friendly too. Highly recommend. Just let down by the room given at the hotel, but I guess the travel company doesn't have control over this.

Kathryn Jurin, GB  

Riviera South Africa tour - awesome

21-May-2021

Riviera have amazing holidays and tours to choose from. The one we chose was South Africa and wow! It turned out to be our best trip ever - incredible memories we will never forget. We’ve been all over the world which was because of all our experiences, this one was awesome. The organisation of the holiday, the guide and the travel was e cells that. The choice of hotels, meals, restaurants, trips was absolutely fantastic - very good quality and character - nothing bland or boring! The Riviera guide was permanently with us along with a South Africa guide and they were both extremely friendly, professional, informative and you could ask any questions you want! I would massively recommend this holiday/trip and when you’ve experienced it, you realise how reasonable the price is. We reflect on this trip a lot and thank you Riviera for giving us such a wonderful experience.

Trustpilot
Barry, GB  

Rhine Christmas markets cruise

09-Dec-2019

Just completed a 5 day trip on the Rhine. Our first river cruise and a tester for future cruises. The boat was well appointed and the cabin and public areas were spotlessly clean. The staff were attentive and contributed to the very relaxed atmosphere on the boat. The quality of the food surpassed that which we have experiened on sea cruises in recent years. I have written little because it was a faultless experience. We have booked a further cruise (in France) on the basis of our experience.

Trustpilot
Joan Yarker (Google Reviewer)  

My first cruise and I...

23-Sep-2023

My first cruise and I couldn’t have done better than my recent Seine River cruise. Carmen the tour organiser was excellent and always willing to go the extra mile to sort out any problems. The crew were amazing , friendly and helpful, the captain was great when explaining the controls on the bridge. Everything was very clean, food truly delicious and the pianist a delight and I was able to indulge my passion for dancing. My fellow guests were a delight and I made many new friends. Thank you Riviera

Christine Hardy (Google Reviewer)  

Although most people seem to...

10-Mar-2024

Although most people seem to book and pay for their holidays online, because we live close by we prefer to make a personal visit. In my opinion if they are offering this as an option they should be better equipped to accommodate visits in person. We have not been on our river cruise yet, so can't comment on that yet.

Rob Steele (Google Reviewer)  

My 3rd Riviera trip within...

16-Feb-2024

My 3rd Riviera trip within a year and I wasn't disappointed 😁 This time it was https://www.rivieratravel.co.uk/escorted-tours/southern-india-coastal-route-solo-travellers This trip, although not cheap, it really offers exceptional value for money as you see a lot of Tamil Nadu and Kerela, stay in fantastic hotels, excellent breakfasts every day as well as some lunches and dinners also included. George Bareham, our "Tour Manager" was brilliant, very professional, but also friendly and diligent. Satheeshan, our local guide was helpful and picked me up antibiotics when I got ill, he was a nice chap, if (for my taste) went on a bit and used 20 words when 1 would suffice. Mr Sweeny, our coach driver was fantastic,really professional and an exceptionally good driver. His assistant, Murgon wad a delight, always smiling and attentive. This is a full on trip, early morning starts and quite a packed itinerary, but still leaving time to laze around some brilliant hotel swimming pools. Only a couple of suggestions to improve the holiday. More shopping time in Cochin and change carriers from Etihad who, unfortunately aren't the excellent airline they used to be. But, will I use Riviera Travel again - Yes 😁

Barbara Parkes (Google Reviewer)  

Presently in Croatia staying at...

22-Sep-2023

Presently in Croatia staying at Arauana Hotel, supposedly a 4 star property, but wouldn't give it any star rating. Rooms are small and dirty. Wallpaper blistering. Meals served in a shed like lean-to. Food like warm, greasy and always self service. Second holiday with Riviera this year and neither at standard advertised. Have travelled with them previously and everything was fine, but standards have really dropped. Have booked a holiday with them next year and now dreading it. Certainly don't provide the standard advertised. We have never stayed in such a hovel and have visited youngsters in back packers accommodation which was far better than this supposedly 4 star accommodation. There are no indoor bars or lounges only a shed as a so called restaurant. Absolutely disgusting. Won't be boking with them again

Dates & Availability

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Saturday - Tuesday

May 10, 2025 - May 20, 2025
$3286 (USD)

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Saturday - Tuesday

Jun 07, 2025 - Jun 17, 2025
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Saturday - Tuesday

Jul 12, 2025 - Jul 22, 2025
$3349 (USD)

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Saturday - Tuesday

Aug 02, 2025 - Aug 12, 2025
$3349 (USD)

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Monday - Thursday

Sep 08, 2025 - Sep 18, 2025
$3411 (USD)

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Book with Confidence

  • Low Deposit

    Riviera Travel requires a minimum deposit of 200 GBP per person or the full booking value, whichever is less, with the final balance not due until 75 days before departure.

  • Cancellation Policy

    We don't charge a cancellation fee, here is a summary of riviera travel charges.

    Up to 75 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of deposit.

    At 74 days before tour starts: Forfeit 50% of booking price.

    At 60 days before tour starts: Forfeit 70% of booking price.

    At 30 days before tour starts: Forfeit 90% of booking price.

    At 14 days before tour starts: Forfeit 100% of booking price.

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