About the Host:
Bob Morse will be your host on this Italian Lakes Basketball Tour. As a senior at the University of Pennsylvania in 1972, he and Corky Calhoun co-captained the basketball team, which had a three-year record of 78 wins and 6 losses. Drafted by the NBA’s Buffalo Braves, Bob opted to play professionally in Europe and during nine seasons with the Varese, Italy team, he won three European Champions Cups, four Italian League titles, one Italian Cup, and one Intercontinental Cup. He led the Italian League in scoring six times. He received his Master’s degree in Italian from the University of Virginia in 2007 and taught Italian language, culture, and literature at Saint Mary’s College in Indiana for nine years. In recognition of his contributions, in 2009 the City Council of Varese made him an honorary citizen.
Bob looks forward very much to accompanying you on your discovery of the spectacular natural, artistic and architectural beauty, the cultural and historical highlights, and the cuisine of the Italian Lake District as well as an interesting up-close and personal view of Italian basketball from the city so close to his heart.
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
Today, you'll enjoy a visit to Milan. Named by the Romans as “Mediolanum,” Milan's first settlement, which dates to 600 BC, 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, you'll head out to explore Lake Lugano, crossing the Swiss border. This Italian-speaking area of Switzerland is known as “Canton Ticino” and takes its name from the Ticino river. Here you'll enjoy a lakeside promenade past palm trees through the Parco Civico – Lugano's major green space that covers fifteen acres. You'll also explore Lugano's town centre, characterized by Mediterranean-style squares and arcades, modern buildings, and historical banks. On the way back to Varese, you'll visit the historical Poretti Brewery, founded in 1877, and enjoy a beer tasting, while learning the inside-out of hops, yeast and malting. The complex housing the brewing facility is one of the rare examples of Art Nouveau-style industrial buildings. In fact, you'll be able to admire gargoyles, flared medallions with drops, gigantic pilasters and shells, all inspired by the Naturalism and Classicism of the Art Deco age. At the end of your visit, you can stop by the gift shop to bring home a bottle of beer, or a few! Sleep in Varese
This morning, you'll head to Sacro Monte (Italian for “Holy Mountain”). It lies only a 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 makes 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 will explore one of the smallest lakes of Northern Italy, Lake 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 a 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
This morning, you'll visit magical Lake Maggiore and the famous village of Stresa. 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. Dinner will be an opportunity to sample the area's main specialities, like the risotto made with the local whitefish coregone, and the delicious butter cookies of the city: Margheritine di Stresa. Sleep in Stresa
Today, we'll head to Turin, the former capital of the Savoy Kingdom. En route we will visit a very interesting cheese producer, where we will try several delicious kinds of local cheeses and will learn more about their aging process. Before heading to Turin city centre, we will stop to 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. Tonight we will enjoy another basketball game. Sleep in Turin
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 hosts 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, Eygpt. Sleep in Turin
Piedmont’s culinary and wine-making traditions are world famous and today is dedicated to unveiling the delectable treasures 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 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 beautiful, award winning restaurant where we will enjoy a very special farewell lunch. We will then visit a renowned chocolate producer and sample several different kinds of chocolate and pralines while learning the secrets about a local favorite: chocolate liqueur. Sleep in Gavi, Piedmont
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.
4 nights in Varese
2 nights in Stresa, Lake Maggiore
2 nights in Turin
2 nights in the Piedmont countryside
Total: 10 nights, 11 days
$ 4,250 per person in double room
$ 650 single supplement
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