Trip Overview

A visit to the Italian Lake District is a feast for the senses. Views of Cerulean blue waters, lush Mediterranean vegetation and the snow-capped Swiss Alps are infused with the delicate aroma of jasmine and complimented by the taste of fine northern Italian cuisine. 

Once a mandatory stop on the Grand Tour of Europe, a visit to Italy’s Lake District is the perfect pastoral setting for exhilarating day hikes from the Lake District’s charming villages and across her beautifully varied landscapes. From the tranquil shores of Lake Maggiore to the Swiss elegance of Lake Lugano, and finally to the sophistication of Lake Como, our day hikes through northern Italy’s Lake District take us through historic towns, woodlands and verdant pastures. We explore the area on foot and by boat, breathing in its spectacular scenery and gorgeous gardens, and exploring her quaint but colorful villages,  Best enjoyed at a relaxed pace, we’ll visit with local Italian people as we explore remote coastal areas, hike country lanes and lake trails, traverse through alpine forests, and ferry across the lakes.

You might be wondering…where exactly IS the Italian Lakes District? This unique destination in Italy is located in the very north end of the country close to the border with Switzerland, just south of (and in full view of) the Swiss Alps. The major lakes within Italy’s Lake District include Lake Maggiore, Lake Lugano, Lake Como, Lake Garda, and the minor lakes of Lake Orta, Lake Verese, and LakeIseo. Parts of Lake Maggiore and Lake Lugano are located in Switzerland. Lake Como, Lake Lugano, and Lake Maggiore are located a short drive north of Milan.

Traveling on foot is a time-honored way to see the world, especially Northern Italy. Defined by stunning contrasts, we’ll hike the Italian Lakes District along foot-worn, ancient trails that wind past medieval hill villages and tiny churches, and from mountain villages to internationally acclaimed lakeside resorts and opulent villas that conjure up images of a more gracious past. Our Italian hotel accommodations range from the elegance of a family-run hotel to a restored Italian villa on spectacular Lake Como. For one night we cross the Swiss border and stay in a small, lovely Swiss hotel.

In the evenings, we dine by candlelight on the renowned cuisine of Northern Italy, enjoying quiet outdoor restaurant terraces with picturesque lakeside views. A time-honored hiking agenda, romantic and dramatic scenery, plus the cuisine of Northern Italy, all combine to make this very exclusive AdventureWomen Italian hiking vacation one of the highlights of our 2015 season. We love Italy and we hope you will too!

Main Attractions

  • Hike the trails that only the locals know on daily guided hikes with our Italian-based guide, and experience some of the most stunning scenery in Northern Italy’s Lake District.
  • Travel to lakes, villages, and trails via scenic boat and ferry.
  • Sip the famous red wines of Piedmonte with a special wine tasting to refine your palate. Savor the sumptuous Italian cuisine of the North.
  • Visit the 17th century palace, the Villa Carlotta, with its delightful and expansive art collection and gardens.
  • Tour the enchanting 19th century botanical gardens at the Villa Melzi in Bellagio.
  • Relax in beautiful lakeside hotels with panoramic views.

What You'll See and Do

  • Cultural Exploration
  • Hiking
  • Photography
  • Sightseeing
  • Wine Tasting

If you're curious about this trip, we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Call us ~ 1.800.804.8686

Trip Itinerary

Day 1

Saturday, September 26, 2015Depart from the United States to Milan, Italy

Day 2

Sunday, September 27 – Arrival in the Picturesque Town of Canobbio

At 12 noon we rendezvous at Milan’s Malpensa airport and take a scenic shuttle along the shores of Lake Maggiore to Canobbio, our base for the next two nights and one of the most charming towns in the entire Lake District.

After settling into our beautiful hotel we are off for an afternoon walk through the hills to the small village of Carmine Superiore. Here we’ll visit a beautiful Romanesque church decorated with well-preserved frescoes from the 1300s. Views of Lake Maggiore are splendid as we descend to the small village of Cannero, where we take a ferry back to Cannobio.

Lake Maggiore is particularly special, in that it is much less developed than many of the other lakes. Hiking around the lake allows us to get off the beaten path and hike in the Valle Cannobio, a less discovered and magical place with many wild rivers and fewer hikers.

(3-hour hike)                                                                          Dinner

Our hotel for the next 3 nights is at Casa Arizzoli

Casa Arizzoli
Cannobio – Lago Maggiore
Tel. / Fax +39.0323.72001
Our small, family-run boutique hotel is located on a quiet street close to the lake shore. It was refurbished in 2010 to preserve its historic architecture. All rooms are furnished with class and good taste, are equipped with satellite TV, private baths, and some have balconies. There is a spacious garden at the back of the hotel. It is just a few steps from the center of the medieval hamlet of Cannobio, one of the jewels of Lake Maggiore. A buffet including fresh fruit is served in the breakfast room each morning.

Day 3

Monday, September 28 – Hike to Small Villages Above Cannobio

Today we head up into the hills above Cannobio on an old stone trail. In days gone by, this trail was the only access to the small villages of Trarego and Viggiona. At 2,300 feet, there are wonderful views of the lake and the snow-capped Swiss Alps beyond. We’ll see some stunning mountain architecture along the way, as many simple stone houses in the valley have been beautifully renovated and enjoy wonderful settings. We’ll have lunch along the way at a local trattoria. On the way home, our trail takes us through beech woods and the villages of Oggiono and Donego.

Once back in Cannobio we’ll visit one of its many wine cellars for a special tasting of the region’s famous Piedmonte wines.

(4-hour hike)                                                                          Breakfast, Lunch, and Dinner

Overnight at Casa Arizzoli

Day 4

Tuesday, September 29 – Hiking in the Valle Cannobina

Today’s hike takes us into the Valle Cannobina, a place where traditional mountain culture is still alive. Our trail follows the green, glacier fed Cannobina River along an ancient mule track. We pass through larch and beech forest to the tiny hamlets of Cavaglio and Gurro.

After lunch our walk continues to the small village of Crealla. This forgotten village is accessible only by foot and lies at the top of a climb of 1,500 steps (get into shape!). The climb is optional, and if you prefer you can take a rest by the river. From here you have the option of getting a ride back to the hotel from Ponte Falmenta or continuing homewards down the other side of the valley.

You are free for dinner tonight.

(4 – 5 hour hike which can be shortened by van transfer)            Breakfast and Lunch

Overnight at Casa Arizzoli

Day 5

Wednesday, September 30 – Hiking to Forgotten Villages and Across the Swiss Border

We start our day with a scenic ferry ride across Lake Maggiore to Macagno where our trail begins. We climb through the woods to small, forgotten villages. Our trail emerges at a 10th century hermitage hidden deep in the woods and a perfect place for lunch al fresco. From here we head into the woods and cross over the border passing through some quaint Swiss villages. Our base for tonight is the small village of Astano where we stay in one of Switzerland’s historic hotels.

(4 hour hike)                                                                          Breakfast and Dinner

Overnight at Albergo La Posta Astano
via Domenico Trezzini, 6999 Astano, Switzerland
Phone:+41 91 608 32 65
Our hotel for tonight is the Albergo la Posta, operating since 1888 and a member of the Swiss Historic Hotels. It is located in the quiet little village of Astano in the Malcantone region of Switzerland, and offers an outdoor swimming pool, a restaurant serving gourmet dishes with local products, and a bar. Both the vintage rooms in the historic building and the modern rooms in the Nicoletta building are tastefully decorated and some have a balcony or a terrace.

In good weather, you can dine outside in the charming garden and enjoy selected wines provided from regional vineyards. The local lake for swimming is just a short distance away.


Day 6

Thursday, October 1 – Return from Switzerland to Menaggio, the “Pearl of Lake Como”

Today we transfer back to Italy and to our trailhead in Porlezza. The morning section of the walk is very attractive and passes by Pian del Lago, a wildlife refuge, where we’ll see a variety of raptors in cages. These are all birds who have been injured and can no longer live in the wild.

We walk on through Bene Lario to Gonte, then downhill to the river and the Agriturismo Vecchia Chioderia, meaning “the old nail factory.” Our trail then continues through the hills to Menaggio, on Lake Como. One of the most beautiful and romantic places on the lake, it is called “the Pearl of Lake Como.”

This evening you are free for dinner on your own.

(5 hour hike)                                                                          Breakfast and Lunch

Our hotel for the next three nights is the Hotel Villa Cipressi, on the shores of Lake Como.

Hotel Villa Cipressi
Via IV Novembre 18 – 23829
Varenna (LC)
tel. +39 0341 830113
fax +39 0341 830401

Set on Lake Como’s enchanting shore, Villa Cipressi is an elegant, newly renovated villa that is rich in history. It was built between the 1400s and the 1800s. Throughout the centuries, the property changed hands from one noble family to another, until 1980, when the people and friends of Varenna bought it through voluntary contributions. The recent renovations were carried out to comply with its original architectural design. The dining area opens up to an intimate garden with gazebos and a Jacuzzi. Its century-old botanical garden, containing plants of rare beauty and worldwide botanic importance, descends in tiered terraces to the lake.

Day 7

Friday, October 2 – The Wonders of Lake Como

Today is a day for exploring the wonders of Italy’s iconic Lake Como, both man-made and natural. In the morning we cross the lake to visit Villa Balbianello. Built for Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini at the end of the 18th century, the Villa stands on the tip of a steep promontory overlooking Lake Como, almost opposite Bellagio. Today, the villa has the appearance desired by its last owner, the explorer Guido Monzino, with a rich collection of Chinese, African and pre-Colombian art, precious English and French furniture of the 1700s, and the small museum with documents and mementoes of his expeditions. Yet the true masterpiece is the panoramic terraced garden dominated by the elegant “loggia,” with three arches rising on the highest point of the promontory.

After lunch, we take a short panoramic walk around the outlying villages of Bellagio and the Bellagio Pensinsula. We begin with a visit to Villa Melzi, with its botanical gardens, fine terraced garden, and a lake of water lilies. Between the 16th and 18th centuries many nobles from Milan had their summer residences built on the lake, and the gardens exhibit a variety of styles. Built from 1808 to 1810, the garden was the first example of an English garden on the lake. The Japanese pond with water lilies is especially beautiful, surrounded by Japanese maple trees and cedar trees. Our walking trail winds its way through the most attractive villages via small stone walkways with panoramic views of the lake below.

(3 hour hike)                                                                          Breakfast and Dinner

Overnight at Hotel Villa Cipressi

Day 8

Saturday, October 3 – Palaces, Castles, and Gardens of Lake Como

This morning we take a boat to the Villa Carlotta with its delightful and expansive art collection and stunning gardens. The 17th century palace has a superb assortment of art, boasting works from the likes of Antonio Canova, Francesco Hayez and Bertel Thorvaldsen. The splendid residence was commissioned at the end of the 17th century by the marquis Giorgio Clerici, and it was built into a natural depression between Lake Como and the mountains, in front of a breathtaking landscape on the dolomitic Grigne range and Bellagio’s peninsula. The gardens are known for extensive species of rhododendrons and azaleas, old varieties of camellias, and centuries-old cedars and sequoias.

We then take a ferry to Bellano and enjoy lunch on our own before setting off on a winding uphill hike past gardens and vineyards to the ruins of Castello Vezio. Situated high above the gorgeous little town on Varenna on Lake Como, is this magnificently positioned castle. A bit of a climb to get there but the views over Lake Como are superb. After exploring the castle, we continue down steep footpaths to Varenna and the Hotel du Lac. There is the longer option to the foaming Fiumelatte, “river of milk,” which is Italy’s shortest river at less than a quarter of a mile long. We’ll continue our hike along the river to the 13th century Villa Monastero, a former convent. Our hike ends in Varenna at the Hotel du Lac.

(4 hour hike)                                                                          Breakfast and Dinner

Overnight at Hotel Villa Cipressi

Day 9

Sunday, October 4 – Depart Italy for the USA

This morning we depart for Milan. From Varenna you can get a train at 8:37 am or 10:37 am to the Milan Central Railway Station. The train takes exactly one hour from Varenna to Milan. In Milan, you can overnight, or get a train to the airport for your departure. Most flights, however, depart from Milan in the morning, so you will most likely need to overnight in Milan.


If you're curious about this trip, we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Call us ~ 1.800.804.8686

Traveling to Italian Lakes

Arrival and Departure

It is important you work with Ciretta Green at Travel Café (800-247-3538) in Bozeman, MT to coordinate your flights with our group pick-up and drop-off times at Milan’s Malpensa airport. You must be at the Milan airport by 12 noon on September 27, 2015 for the group pick-up and transfer to your first night’s hotel in Canobbio. If you are unable to arrive for the pick up at noon, you’ll need to come in a day early and stay overnight near the airport or in Milan so you can come back to the airport to meet the group on September 27, at 12 noon for the transfer to Canobbio.

Gillian will wait until 1 p.m. before the van departs for Canobbio. If your flight is late, you will have to arrange to get to our first night’s hotel on your own. To do this you can get the shuttle bus from the airport to the train station. It runs hourly and takes only 10 minutes to get to the closest railway station at Gallarate. From Gallarate you take the hourly train to Verbania (30-40 minute trip), and from Verbania a taxi to Canobbio. It’s not as complicated as it sounds!

On October 4 you will depart Varenna for Milan. From Varenna you can get a train at 8:37 am or 10:37 am to the Milan Central Railway Station. The train takes exactly one hour from Varenna to Milan. In Milan, you can overnight, or get a train to the airport for your departure. Most flights, however, depart from Milan in the morning, so you will most likely need to overnight in Milan.

Making Travel Arrangements to Italy

We suggest you book your air reservations with our travel consultant soon after registering for this trip!

On this AdventureWomen HIKING IN ITALY ADVENTURE, we ask that you work directly with our travel consultant at Travel Café, Montana’s Travel Agency, to make your travel arrangements. After booking your trip, please call Ciretta Green to discuss your air schedule based on the arrival and departure times we have set for the group pick-up and departure.

1-800-247-3538 OR FAX 1-406-586-1959


CANADIAN RESIDENTS, please call 406-587-1188

When calling, please identify yourself as an AdventureWomen traveler. If you leave a message on Ciretta’s voice mail, she will return your call promptly. She will be happy to discuss your travel plans and help you decide when to purchase your ticket for the best rate. If you purchase your ticket through her, she can also help you with hotels, should you want to come early, stay longer, or share a hotel room with another participant. If you do not purchase your air ticket through Travel Café, you are responsible for making your own arrangement for hotels, rental cars, trip extensions, transfers, etc.

NOTE: The recent trend in travel is for travelers to finalize their plans much closer to departure time than was customary in the past. While we try to be as flexible as possible booking last minute registrants, we must often relinquish hotel space and air reservations up to 6 – 12 weeks prior to departure!

Please keep this in mind when making your travel plans.

Passport and Money

Citizens of the U.S. must possess a valid passport to travel to Italy. There is no visa required. If you do not have a passport, APPLY NOW! You should always carry two extra photos, just in case of emergency (i.e., if your passport is stolen).

Credit cards are widely accepted in Italy and ATM machines are accessible in many towns. You should bring a few hundred dollars in cash, which you can exchange into Euros, for your spending money and tips. Tips are also accepted in U.S. Dollars.

Health Requirements and Physical Condition Required

This AdventureWomen trip is rated as MODERATE and requires that you be in very good physical condition, and be able to hike 5 – 8 miles a day. The most you will carry is a small day pack with your rain gear, camera, water, etc. Paths are through rolling terrain and can be rough and uneven, so good hiking boots are recommended, as well as a walking stick if you prefer to hike with one. A typical day consists of 3 to 5 hours of leisurely hiking, with stops that include plenty of time for lunch, and exploring villages, cultural, and historical sites.

You MUST have your own health insurance, and not have any physical problems or conditions that would be adversely affected by participating in any of the planned trip activities and the rigors of international travel.

Liability Form and Final Payment

Part of what ADVENTUREWOMEN, INC. hopes to foster is the taking of more self-responsibility for our own lives, health, and safety. Please read the LIABILITY FORM carefully, sign it, and return it with the remainder of your balance due by June 27, 2015.

If you're curious about this trip, we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Call us ~ 1.800.804.8686

What's Included

What's Included:

  • 8 days/7 nights, with lodging in twin-bedded, double-occupancy rooms with private baths in fine hotels and family run inns.
  • Transportation and all transfers in Italy, beginning at Milan’s Malpensa airport and ending at Lake Como.
  • Fully guided hikes each day with Gillian Arthur, our Italian-based guide.
  • All luggage transfers.
  • Meals specified in the daily itinerary including 7 breakfasts, 3 lunches, and 5 dinners.
  • A special wine tasting.
  • All gratuities for meals covered in the itinerary.

What's Not Included:

  • Round-trip airfare to Milan, Malpensa Airport, and train from Lake Como back to the airport in Milan.
  • Meals not specified in the itinerary.
  • All drinks, including alcoholic beverages, wine, and beer.
  • A recommended tip to your main guide is $100 per person, assistant guide is $50 per person.

If you're curious about this trip, we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Call us ~ 1.800.804.8686


If you're curious about this trip, we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Call us ~ 1.800.804.8686

What to Bring

What To Bring

September-October weather in this Mediterranean climate is generally beautiful and typically quite mild, with daytime average temperatures in the 70s, and morning temperatures in the 50s and 60s. As with all outdoor activities, however, you must be well prepared for weather changes.

Ideally, you should bring one suitcase or duffel bag, and your daypack should act as your carry on bag. Your carry on bag should contain one change of clothing, your camera equipment, all medications and your important travel documents. PACK LIGHTLY!

  • Medium-weight hiking boots: It is best not to wear shoes, even if they are walking shoes, because ANKLE support is absolutely essential in mountain terrain. Please do not buy heavy leather boots as there are numerous medium-weight quality hiking boots on the market that will better serve your purpose. Asolo, Garmont, Merrell, Vasque - to name a few - are widely available and designed especially for women. Since they are waterproof, Gore-tex boots, although a bit more expensive, are our first choice. Other boots should be waterproofed with one of the excellent waterproofing products available such as Nikwax. MAKE SURE your boots fit properly and are well broken-in. Wear them around town to thoroughly break them in. Please do not come on this trip with a pair of boots you have never worn before!
  • Rain gear: You should be well prepared for whatever conditions occur. Therefore, it is very important to bring a good waterPROOF (not just waterREPELLENT) rain suit (jacket and pants). A rain parka or poncho will not keep your legs and feet dry, and it is important that your entire body is covered in a downpour. Many outdoor stores carry inexpensive rain suits, but beware of cheap VINYL gear that may tear easily at the seams. Your rain parka can also act as a lightweight wind jacket.
  • Socks – it is best to wear 2 pair of socks inside your hiking boots, such as a pair of wool socks, and a thin pair of liner socks underneath the wool socks. We like Thorlo hiking socks and polypropylene liner socks which wick moisture and reduce blistering. Bring plenty of socks!
  • Comfortable shoes for the evening in hotels.
  • Medium-weight jacket, fleece jacket, or sweater for cool evenings.
  • Pants (loose and comfortable for walking) and two pairs of walking shorts (if you like to wear shorts). Zip off pants are often the most versatile.
  • Shirts (long- and short-sleeved) and a few T-shirts.
  • Underwear, sleepwear.
  • Sun hat and sunglasses with securing strap.
  • A spare pair of glasses (if you wear glasses).
  • Swimsuit.
  • Day pack that is water resistant for carrying rain gear, camera, water bottle, etc., on day trips (you can use this for your carry-on bag). If not waterproof, bring a garbage bag to line the inside of the pack.
  • Money belt, waist pouch, or a way to carry your money, passport, and airline tickets. You can leave these valuables at the hotels while day hiking.
  • One-quart water bottle. We recommend the 24 oz. Nalgene Everyday OTG Tritan Bottle. Made of Eastman Tritan™ copolyester, the bottle is completely BPA-free. Tritan™ copolyester provides excellent impact resistance and is suitable for both warm and cold beverages.
  • Regarding Foot Care: To prevent blisters, many hikers use moleskin. However, we recommend bringing a small roll of ordinary duct tape as an alternative. Applied before the hike, it reduces friction much better than moleskin. If you develop a blister, Spenco “2nd Skin” is a very comforting necessity. Your foot care kit should also include: cloth Band-Aids (not plastic), individually wrapped alcohol pads, a small tube of Neosporin or other antibiotic cream, and foot powder.
  • Bandanas. Bring 2 or 3 (100% cotton) for instant sweat bands and other uses too numerous to mention, some of which you have never even dreamed! Besides, it’s a tradition at AdventureWomen!
  • Swiss Army knife or equivalent (for picnics, opening wine bottles, cutting cheese, etc.). Be sure to pack this in your checked luggage.
  • Sunscreen, lip balm with sunscreen.
  • Small flashlight with spare batteries and bulb to use if you need to get up at night and don’t want to wake your roommate by turning on the lights.
  • Earplugs. We recommend Mack's Pillow Soft White Moldable Silicone Snore Proof Earplugs, which you can buy at most drug stores, or at Good to 22 decibels!
  • Small travel alarm clock.
  • Toiletries, prescription medications, and a washcloth (sometimes not provided in Europe).
  • Pre-moistened towelettes or baby wipes.
  • Hand sanitizer (alcohol based).
  • Ziploc bags in various sizes for dirty boots and dirty clothes, etc.
  • A collapsible walking stick (to fit into your suitcase) if you prefer to hike with one.
  • Book, notebook, pen, lightweight binoculars (optional).
  • Electricity: Italy's electric current is 220 volts, 2 prong European outlets, so if you are traveling with electrical appliances you will need an international converter. Cameras only need the 2 prong European adaptor.

Camera Equipment

For many women, photography will be a VERY LARGE part of this trip. The opportunities are endless, and the scenery spectacular! We suggest that you bring many more memory cards and batteries than you think you could ever use!

  • Digital camera, memory cards, battery chargers. You will be able to charge all of your batteries in hotels.
  • Any camera gear you carry during the trip should be in a backpack or in a bag that will leave your hands free. It is also recommended that a tight sealing camera bag be used to protect your camera equipment from moisture, dust, sand and dirt. Large Ziploc bags are especially handy.

 Personal First-Aid Kit (bring in small amounts in small containers)

  • Foot powder for moisture absorption; cloth, not plastic Bandaids; about 10 individually wrapped alcohol pads; and a small tube of Neosporin or other antibiotic cream.
  • Aspirin/ibuprofen, etc.
  • Cold-symptom relief tablets, antihistamine, cough drops.
  • Tweezers.
  • Ace bandage.
  • Systemic antibiotic (prescription)/optional (but not a bad idea to always take this on international trips.)
  • Prescription medicines in their original bottles.
  • Acidophilus enzyme (available in capsules in health-food stores). This often helps your digestive system get in shape for “new” flora.
  • Immodium, Lomotil, or similar anti-diarrhea medicine.
  • Pepto-Bismol tablets and/or liquid (in leak-proof bottle).
  • Laxative tablets.
  • Visine or similar eye drops.

Last Minute Reminders

  • Make photocopies of your airline tickets and the first two pages of your passport, and put them in different locations (suitcase, carry-on bag, etc.).
  • Bring 2-3 extra passport size photos to use in emergencies.
  • Your valuables should be insured for the duration of the trip, but better yet, leave them at home.
  • Remove extra credit cards, driver’s license, and personal items from wallet or purse.
  • Make sure passport and airline tickets are valid and in the correct name.
  • Check with airline to reconfirm reservations and departure time.

Some Extra Items to Add to your "What to Bring" List

We are always updating and adding items for all international trips. With over 32 years of experience flying around the world, we think these items help make your long airline flights much more comfortable and even more bearable:

  • Neck pillow- Inflatable neck pillow for blissful support and deep sleep. For packing, it folds into itself. Self-sealing valve means nothing to close. Soft microfleece cover removes for washing.
  • Sleep mask /Comfort eye shade - Ultra lightweight and comfortable, the Comfort Eye Shade screens out light and distractions for a cozier flight. Ultra-soft micro fleece for comfort. Adjustable elastic strap for a perfect fit. Made of Molded Polyester Micro Fleece.
  • Travel compression socks - Reduce ankle and leg swelling and reduce the risk of deep vein thrombosis. These doctor-designed socks stimulate circulation through gradual compression that stops swelling and guards against (DVT). Made of coolmax®-lycra®-nylon. The TravelSox® cushion Walk Socks have extra-padded soles and are made of moisture wicking SoftPrim®
  • Noise canceling headphones -Block out unwanted sounds of children crying and airplane engine drone, and/or enjoy great audio sound. Reduce distortion and increase perceived loudness so you can enjoy sound at a lower volume. Get the around the ear design, which is very comfortable.

If you're curious about this trip, we would be happy to answer any questions you might have.

Call us ~ 1.800.804.8686