Michelangelo Travel Team in the Italian Lake District
The second leg of Michelangelo’s staff educational took us to the beautiful Italian Lake District and the alluring Lake Maggiore and the glamourous Lake Como, home to George Clooney. These two lakes are a hugely popular area for our clients.
With its mild Mediterranean climate Italy’s second largest lake forms part of the border between Italy and Switzerland.
Predominantly Italian, Lake Maggiore stretches North in to Switzerland and the city of Locarno. The northern area of the lake is characterised by steep cliffs. There are many different sorts of historical sights in the area and decorative villas, castles and churches abound. Lake Maggiore is dotted with small villages which seem to cling to the mountainsides gazing down on to fashionable towns in the valleys which surround it.
A short visit to the elegant town of Stresa with its numerous Belle-Epoque villas point to its long tradition of tourism. Following a visit to the Hotel Milan & Speranza we undertook a boat trip to the Borromean Islands.
The Borromean Islands – a must see when on Maggiore
The impressive Borromean Islands are one of the main attractions in the area. The three islands with its two mini islets have been visited and admired by tourists for many years, indeed both Hemmingway and Queen Victoria were entranced by their beauty. The islands are comprised of Isola Bella, with its 17th Century Palazzo Borromeo surrounded by spectacular gardens, the picturesque Isola dei Pescatori, and the Isola Madre, which is famed for its botanic gardens with many rare plants. The two islets of S. Giovanni, located just off the shore close to Pallanza and the tiny Isola La Malghera, midway between Isola Bella and dei Pescatori complete the picture.
A trip across the border into Switzerland is certainly worthwhile. Locarno is the main resort on the Swiss side of the lake and a trip to the Camellia Park comes highly recommended. From March to October when the camelias are in bloom the park transforms into a sea of colour.
Camellia Park Locarno – Our Secret Travel Tip
The stunning Camellia Park was inaugurated in Locarno in 2005 and has rapidly become an international attraction. The Town Council gardeners have been able to further enlarge their already considerable collection, exchanging rare species and collaborating with growers from Italy, Germany, Belgium, the USA and China.
> > We offer a fantastic tour during the Camellia’s blooming season in March during which your clients will be able to marvel at Europe’s most diversified range of Camellias.
Passing through the elegant and exclusive resort of Lugano we returned into Italy where we went on to Lake Como. This lake has a curious form which looks like an upside down letter Y and has long since been a tourist magnet. Our base for the night was the Hotel Britannia Excelsior in Griante, one of our most popular properties where we enjoyed a meal and a sleep after a long days‘ sightseeing.
Located opposite Griante at the point where the lake splits into two separate branches, Bellagio is also known as “the Pearl of Lake Como” because of its central location between the two branches of the lake. A town of about three thousand inhabitants, it’s one of the most beautiful and romantic places of Northern Italy. This delightful town is blessed with a mild climate reminiscent of that of the Ligurian coast. From here, many unforgettable trails or trekking tours start, that will allow you to discover magnificent views and enchanting landscapes. If you prefer to relax and take a swim, the best place is the Lido di Bellagio, where there’s a beach with umbrellas and sun beds. Visit the old “Borgo” with its mysterious alleys and characteristic stone-paved stairways and colorful shops, or take a stroll along the shoreline and visit the magnificent Villa Melzi D’Eril, built in 1808 for the Duke Francesco Melzi D’Eril and now owned by Count Gallarati Scotti. The park of the superb neoclassical villa is open to visitors from late March to early November.
From Bellagio, a boat takes you directly to the fascinating Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo.
Villa Carlotta – another must see attraction
The Villa Carlotta and its park are famous for its terraced gardens, and museum with its works of art from Canova, Thorvaldsen und Hayez.
Usually closed during the winter months we were delighted to be able to get access to it. Even though there were few flowers at this time of year, the gardens were wonderful and it was easy to see that this would be an excellent visit to make during the season.
Continuing on to the city of Como, which gave name to the lake, a brief tour of the town with its imposing Cathedral was made before enjoying lunch in one of the many bars and restaurants in the area.
The city is located on the southernmost shore of the Lake and was at one time a very prosperous place due to the traditional silk industry. Como was a leading centre for the rearing of silkworms and the silk industry was the largest employer in the region back in the 15th Century. Still to this day, one of the most important businesses in the production of silk items is based here and many of its products are sold in the many shops in the town. The town walls date back to the Middle Ages and can be seen in the heart of the town along with the San Abbondio und San Fedele Churches as well as the Porta Vittoria tower and the Bishop’s Palace.
To round off our visit we took in three more of our partner hotels in the area.
Some of our partner hotels on Lake Como:
- The Rural Resort Corazziere & Casa del Mulino in Merone. This stylish Country Hotel, located between Como, Lecco und Milan, offers a peaceful retreat in the midst of a country Park
- The modern NH Hotel Pontevecchio, in the centre of Lecco at the foot of the Lake.
- Hotel Nuovo in Garlate. This 3* Hotel is located in an idyllic location on Lake Garlate, directly alongside Lake Como, offering an excellent base to explore the many attractions in the area.
All the participants returned to our Head Office on Lake Garda with an excellent insight into the attractions and features of these two key destinations in Northern Italy.