About this Trip:
Join your host Bob Morse on this tour of the Italian lakes region and Turin. Bob spent years playing professional basketball in Europe, including nine season with the Varese, Italy team. In addition to his spectacular sports career, Bob has taught Italian language, culture and literature for many years. This very special tour will provide you with an up-close and personal view of Italy from a celebrated honorary Italian! You will discover the spectacular natural, artistic and architectural beauty, the cultural and historical highlights, and the cuisine of the Italian Lake District and you are likely to meet many of Bob’s Varese friends along the way! On this tour you will also enjoy two professional Italian League basketball games.
Varese is a provincial capital (population circa 80,000) in the Lombardy region of Northern Italy. It is considered by most guide books to be “off the beaten track;” it is little known to American tourists. Varese lies in the heart of the Italian Lake country, north of Milan, strategically situated between Lakes Maggiore and Como in the Alpine foothills. It offers beautiful panoramas of the Italian and Swiss Alps. Varese’s nickname is the Garden City of Italy, given because of its many stunning Liberty (Art Nouveau) style villas and their lovely surrounding gardens.
Fly from the USA to Milan
Upon your arrival at Milan Malpensa airport, you'll be picked up and transferred to Varese. After check-in at your hotel, the group will meet for a welcome talk and dinner. Sleep in Varese
This morning you'll head to Sacro Monte (Italian for “Holy Mountain”). It lies only few miles north of Varese, among the pre-Alps. From its peak, on clear days, you can enjoy a breath-taking view of the Alps and of the many lakes that make this region so famous. Your local guide will explain to you why Sacro Monte has been recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Site and introduce you to its 15th century church, chapels and terracotta statues. In the afternoon, you’ll enjoy a walking tour of Varese, before going back to the hotel for some relaxation time. In the evening, the Italian League Basketball Game will surely entertain you. Sleep in Varese
Today, you'll enjoy a visit to Milan. Named by the Romans as “Mediolanum,” Milan dates back to 600 BC, and it has grown over time to become Italy's capital of fashion, banking, and publishing, as well as a thriving cultural city. Together with your local guide, you'll visit some of these iconic places in Milan: The Duomo and its cathedral square, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele – one of the world's oldest shopping malls – and the Teatro della Scala. Inaugurated in 1778, La Scala theatre has showcased the works of many of Italy’s greatest opera composers. Giuseppe Verdi and Giacomo Puccini had their premières performed here. The theatre continues today to host many of the finest singers from around the world. You’ll appreciate the contrast between the facade – a pure example of neoclassicism – and its gorgeous, luxurious interior, that has hosted queens, and opera and ballet lovers for more than two centuries. After the visit, you'll enjoy some free time to wander around the busy streets of downtown Milan and, perhaps, shop in some of the many boutiques and designer stores. The bus will then drive you back to Varese, for some relaxation before a scrumptious dinner. Sleep in Varese
Today, we will leave the lake region and travel to the amazing city of Turin which was once the capital of the Savoy Kingdom. On the way to Turin, we’ll visit the UNESCO site of Venaria Reale. This Royal residence was created in the 1600s as a hunting lodge for the king. In the 1700s, it was transformed into a very impressive palace surrounded by beautiful gardens and parks. Some of the most important architects and artists of the time worked on the creation of this huge complex. During the world wars, it was overtaken by the military and converted into barracks. It was only at the end of 1997—when it was declared a UNESCO site—that European Community and State funding made it possible to start restoration. This undertaking is the biggest restoration project to ever reach completion in Europe. The palace reopened to the public in 2007. In the early evening, we’ll head to one of Turin’s historic bars from the late 1800s to enjoy a tasting of Vermouth, learn its recipe development, and compare Turin’s signature vermouth brands. Together with this unique and herbaceous aperitif, we’ll savor a range of finger foods that are traditionally served along with aperitifs in place of dinner – which is otherwise known as “aperitivo.” Sleep in Turin city centre
Today, we will explore the amazing city of Turin. Home to the Italian Royal family for centuries, Turin attracted the international spotlight thanks to the 2006 Winter Olympic Games. Turin hosts several awesome buildings such as Mole Antonelliana, the symbol of the city, the Royal Palace, which now displays a beautiful painting museum, and the Cathedral, which preserves arguably the most famous Roman Catholic relic in the world – the Shroud of Turin. After a walking tour of the city-center with a great local guide, we’ll sample delicious hand-made gianduiotti chocolate and meander through a few of the world’s finest coffee and pastry shops (Torrefazione Samambaia, Caffe Mulassano, Stratta, Caffe al Bicerin). We will be introduced to bicerin, the famous coffee and chocolate drink the city is renowned for, and will have time to relax and maybe shop in the great city-center boutiques. In the afternoon, you can either enjoy some time off, or join us for a visit to the National Car Museum. The museum reopened in 2011 after huge structural renovations and it is now the best of its kind in Italy. It traces the history of automobiles from the end of the 1800s to contemporary and futuristic models. If you are not into cars you can opt for the National Cinema museum or the Egyptian museum - it is the second best in the world, after the one in Cairo, Egypt. Sleep in Turin city center
Piedmont’s culinary and wine-making traditions are world famous, and today is dedicated to unveiling the delectable treasure of its countryside! We will start our exploration with a visit to one of the best wineries of the region where we’ll learn about the two famous full-bodied reds that are produced from the local Nebbiolo grape: Barolo and Barbaresco. We will then sample some of the best dishes of Piedmontese cuisine including “ravioli del plin”, “vitello tonnato” and “carne battuta al coltello”. We will also visit one of the main castles that dot the Piedmont hills and were home to the Savoy aristocracy. Sleep in Gavi, Piedmont
Today, we are poised to discover a different area of Piedmont where the white Gavi wines are produced. We will visit a local winery owned by three very smart and friendly women and learn about their family business and production. After the tasting, we will head to a traditional trattoria for some delicious local food. We will then visit a renowned chocolate producer and sample several different kinds of chocolate and pralines while learning the secrets about a local favourite: chocolate liqueur. Sleep in Gavi, Piedmont
This morning, we’ll leave Gavi and head to the magical Lake Maggiore and the famous village of Stresa. On the way there, you will explore one of the smallest lakes of Northern Italy, Lake d'Orta, and you will surely be stunned by its beauty and special atmosphere. Considered the most romantic and mysterious of all Italian lakes, Lake Orta hosts a beautiful village, Orta San Giulio, built on the slopes of another sacred mountain. You may not want to leave because as the light changes constantly, you have the feeling you’re living in fairy tale. You'll enjoy an exquisite lunch and have time to explore its narrow streets and its nostalgic dock. You will be in Stresa tonight. Sleep in Stresa
Today, you will enjoy a boat ride to Isola Bella, an island directly opposite Stresa, and for many centuries a destination for Europe's aristocrats. When the noble Borromeo family took possession of the area in the 16th and 17th centuries, they summoned the best architects, artists and gardeners to completely transform Isola Bella and the adjacent island, Isola Madre, by constructing opulent palaces and the most beautiful parks in Italy. Tonight, it will be your second opportunity to enjoy the Italian League Basketball Game*. Sleep in Stresa
Today, we’ll go to Locarno, in Switzerland for a day trip. Lake Maggiore, Locarno is the third major city in the canton Ticino after Lugano and Bellinzona, and it is worldly famous for hosting the Locarno International Film Festival. We’ll take a stroll in downtown Locarno and learn about the cultural differences between this Swiss region and its neighbor, Italy. If there is time, we’ll also visit the Castello Visconteo, that served as the seat of the Visconti Dukes of Milan from 1513 to 1798. The castle is now a museum that houses artefacts from the Late Bronze Ages to the High Middle Ages. We’ll then return to Stresa for our farewell dinner. Sleep in Stresa
Today, you'll be transferred back to the Milan Malpensa airport in time for your flight back home. Please make sure not to book any flight departing earlier than 11 am.
*The schedule might change in order to adjust to the schedule of the LBA regular season
3 nights in Varese
2 nights in Turin
2 nights in the Piedmont countryside
3 nights in Stresa, Lake Maggiore
Total: 10 nights, 11 days
$ 4,250 per person in double room
$ 650 single supplement