Hidden gems of the Italian lakes
    • Italy - Lake region
    • 8 days
    • Walking
    • Self-guided
      • From March to October
    • 2 - 10 travellers
      • Simple
      • Comfort
      • Charming
      • Prestige
      • Trip code : R1105

About the Hidden gems of the Italian lakes trip

About the trip: Hidden gems of the Italian lakes

Your walking holiday in the Italy lake region: with the Alps painting a dramatic backdrop, the Italian lakes offer a charming and romantic landscape to discover on foot. Over the years, this idyllic part of the country and wonderful climate have become home to many villas and magnificent botanical gardens.  

During this Italy walking trip you will discover the hidden gems of the Lake Maggiore and Lake Como. No car needed on this trip.
You’ll enjoy the prettiest walking trails on both lakes, and through olive groves and vineyards, past hamlets and picture postcard villages.  The trip begins in Stresa on Lake Maggiore, where you’ll stay on the magical island  of « Isola Pescatori » a small fishing village right in the heart of the Borromoean islands.  You will explore the beautiful Borromean islands and the unique gardens of Villa Taranto.
You continue onwards to the northern part of of Lake Maggiore to the elegant town of Cannobio and its picturesque narrow streets. Then to Lake Como, the pearl of the Italian lakes, with the exquisite botanical gardens of Villa Carlotta, and Villa Melzi.
The cherry on the cake : you end your trip in the perched village of Brunate, high above the town of Como, at the summit of the historic cable car. A great experience, with spectacular views over the lake. 

A paradise for any walker keen on lush nature, luxurious villas and botanical gardens, charming small mountain villages  and great cuisine with the unique experience of sleeping in Brunate, and on the Borreamean Islands!

Highlights of the trip

  • Sleeping on the Borromean Islands, and in Brunate high above Como
  • The best panoramic walking trails, the stunning scenery of Lake Maggiore and Lake Como
  • Stroll through beautiful gardens and villas after sailing to the Borromean Islands and Villa Taranto
  • All transfers included from Lake Como to Lake Maggiore
  • The famous must see villas & gardens : Villa Carlotta,  Villa Melzi
  • La dolce vita : a real Italian way of life !

  • Choose your type of accommodation,  extra walks, etc .. Click on BOOK
From the blog

Walking from Lake Como to Lake Maggiore: Day by Day

Day 1 - Welcome to Isola Pescatori !

lake maggiore walking italy tours

  • You arrive on your own in Stresa, on the shores of  Lake Maggiore : a beautiful little town on the lake shore with majestic XIX century hotels, traditional narrow streets and Friday morning market.
    Boat transfer to the fishing village island "Isola Pescatori" right on the Borromean islands and settle into your comfortable hotel and explore of the narrow streets of "Fishermen's Island".
  • Isola Pescatori is the smallest island, and the only one to be inhabited. This small village is made up of multi-storey dwellings, with long balconies used for drying fish, narrow alleys and the Church of San Vittore. There are no cars on the island, the only way to discover it is on foot. You can swim in the lake from the small pebble beach, next to the hotel.
    At the end of the day, once all the tourists boats have left, you will have the island to yourself with just a handful of locals. 
  • Night in Isola Pescatori

  • Market on Friday morning in Stresa

  • Access
    . Flight : Regular flights and low cost airline to Milan : Milano Malpensa Airport (click here ) - Milan Linate Airport (click here ) - Milan Linate airport (click here)
    . Milan Malpensa airport : Direct bus to Stresa - Or Train to Milan city and then to Stresa
    . Milan Linate airport : Shuttle bus to Milan, and then train to Stresa
    . Milan Bergamo airport :
        . Bus to Milan Malpensa and then bus to Stresa
        . Bus to Bergamo center, and then train to Milan -  train change -  and train to Stresa

Day 2 - The Borromean islands and Villa Taranto

walking tours of italy on the borromeo islands on lake maggiore

  • Stroll on the Borromean Islands and Villa Taranto
  • Today, you take the boat to  discover Isola Bella and Isola Madre on the Borromean islands and discover the history of the Borromeo family.  Seduced by the natural beauty of the landscape and the pleasant climate, the Borreaman family built palaces and stunning exotic gardens on two of the largest islands on Lake Maggiore, symbols of exceptional splendour and lifestyle. First Isola Bella with its 17th-century palace. Then Isola Madre with its famous palaces and botanical garden,  terraced gardens and magnificent exotic garden. 
    Then, you continue onwards by boat to the Villa Taranto botanical gardens. In spring, summer and autumn, the extraordinary bursts of colour turn the gardens of the Villa Taranto into the floral attraction on Lake Maggiore. You enjoy a 1h30 to 2h trail through terraced gardens, rare majestic trees, chapels and water pools. A magnificent park in all seasons with rhododendrons blooming from February to July, camelias from October to April and a beautiful selection of dahlias in the autumn. An enchanting visit with beautiful views over the lake.
  • You can also take the boat to Stresa and enjoy the charming pedestrian centre. Boat transfer back to Isola Pescatori. 
  •  Night in Isola Pescatori
  • MEALS included:  Breakfast

  • Market on Friday morning in Stresa

- Enjoy some extra time on Lake Maggiore !

italy hiking tours to lake maggiore in santa caterina del sasso and mottarone

  • We recommend you have an extra night on Lake Maggiore : you can choose from our many suggestions and options and also enjoy swimming in the lake

    . Loop Walk - Mottarone
    3 hours - 8km / 4.9 miles - Ascent: +300 m / Descent: -300 m
    Take the cable car in Stresa to the summit of Mottarone. You can stop off on route at the "Giardino alpino",  a huge 40.000 m² park at 800m above sea level, with over 700 different botanical species. The Mottarone sits at 1491m above sea level and offers stunning panoramic 360° views over the 7 lakes  (Orta, Maggiore, Mergozzo, Biandronno, Varese, Monate et Comabbio) and the Borromean islands. On a clear day, you can see the Pô plain and the summit of Mount Rose. The Mottarone is considered to be one of the most beautiful natural viewing points of the Piemont region.  At the summit, you can enjoy lunch in a mountain chalet.  

    . Walk - Stresa > the chestnut route > Belgirate
    3 hours 30 - 8km / 4.9 miles - Ascent: +200 m / Descent: -200 m
    Panoramic views on this walking trail overlooking the lake from Stresa to Belgirate, a charming village with traditional houses and flowered gardens along an old roman trail dotted with old chapels. A walking trail representing a rural and religious past.  The path alternates between tarmac road, old mule paths and through wooded areas, then quickly rejoining the panoramic trail overlooking the lake at the oratorium in Passèra, passing by some beautiful villas. Return by boat or train to Stresa

    .The Santa Caterina del Sasso Monastery
    Arriving in Stresa by boat is spectacular! A little gem on the lake, the small XIII century monastery is perched above the lake, clinging to the cliff, offering stunning views of the lake. From the top of the rock, you need to descend the 268 steps (or take the lift) that lead to this remarkable place, nestled into the cliff. You can admire remarkable frescoes dating back to the 14th century. Visit the monastery and the church with its 3 gothic style chapels. We recommend arriving either early or late in the day to avoid the crowds.  

Day 3 - Boat cruise from Stresa to medieval Cannobio

best hiking and cruise on lake maggiore from stresa borromeo island to cannobio

  • Today, you enjoy a boat cruise on the Lake Maggiore (2 hours) from Stresa to the lovely medieval town of Cannobio, on the northern part of Lake Maggiore. You can choose to enjoy Stresa in the morning and take the boat in the late afternoon, or take the boat in the morning and have a free afternoon to discover Cannobio. 
    Cannobio is a pretty medieval town close to the Swiss border, a great place to stroll through the historical centre on the narrow paved streets and admire the beautifully painted houses along the lakeshore. There are many bars and restaurants to enjoy under the archways with views of the lake, the beautiful baroque church, the Palazzo Parasi dating back to the 13th century and the collegiate church of San Vittore. Cannobio also boasts one of the most beautiful beaches on Lake Maggiore. 
  •  Night in Cannobio
  • MEALS included:  Breakfast

Day 4 - Panoramic trail from Cannero to Cannobio

best hikes in italy in cannero cannobio on lake maggiore

  • Walk - Cannero > Carmine superior > Canobbio
    3 hours - 8km / 4.9 miles - Ascent: +400 m / Descent: -400 m
  • Boat transfer from Cannobio to Cannero (30 mn)
  • You start your walk in the small village of Cannero, a small, pretty village at the foot of Mount Carza. After a lovely stroll on the sea front on Cannero, you take the old mule path to the medieval village of Carmine Superiore. Here, time seems to have stood still.  Magnificent views over Lake Maggiore and the possibility to visit the San Gottardo church, well worth the detour. You continue on the panoramic path towards the village of Molineggi. After the dairy shacks in Solivo you descend to Cannabio where the walk ends with a charming seafront stroll. 
  • Night in Cannobio
  • MEALS included: Breakfast

- Add an extra night in Cannobio !

walking tours in italy with a private baot cruise on lake maggiore

  • Have an extra night in Cannobio. We suggest great extra activities : 

  • Extra short walk (6 km) to the Orrido Santa Anna heading inland following a small river via a suspension bridge. You follow woodland until reaching the small 17th century Orrido di S.Anna church, perched above the gorges. You can swim at the foot of the cliffs. If you arrive around lunchtime, you can eat at the restaurant also perched above the gorges, authentic and so very Italian! 
  • Great Sunday market in Cannobio
  • Big & famous traditionnal Wednesday market in Luino
    On Wednesday, you can take the boat to Luino on the opposite shore (20min crossing). You can explore the traditional market in Luino, one of the most authentic all day markets on Lake Maggiore.  With over 350 stall holders, you will find some great local crafts and produce, fresh cheeses, local cured meats, fish from the lake and seasonal fruit and veg, clothes, bags and hardware... a great Italian experience!  
  • Spend the day on a small boat with a local Italian guide. From 9am to 3pm, hop on board the boat and sail on the lake towards the castles in Cannero, with swimming and snorkling opportunities, or just enjoy some time sun bathing on the deck... Aperitif and lunch served on the boat. 
    You can also try a "discovery dive" of 30 minutes in the lake. You will see shoals  of fish and enjoy swimming around the rocks : an exciting experience. (All diving equipment and semidry suit are provided). 

Day 5 - Panoramic & historic walk to Villa Carlotta

Walking day during a self guided tour in Lake Como

  • Walk - Lenno > Villa Carlotta
    2 hours 30 - 5km / 3.0 miles - Ascent: +200 m / Descent: -200 m
  • Transfer from Canobbio to Lenno on Lake Como ( 2h45) and drop your bags at your hotel on Lake Como
  • From Lenno, you climb above the lake and enjoy stunning panoramic views of the mountains.  Your walk takes you through a small medieval village with narrow streets, past churches and chapels on paths lined with olive trees and lush vegetation.  You end this first walking day at Villa Carlotta: a "must see villa" on Lake Como ! You can visit the beautiful botanical garden where camellias, azaleas and rhododendrons bloom (April -May) .
  • Return by boat to Lenno
  • Night in Lenno
  • MEALS included: Breakfast

Day 6 - Bellagio and Varenna

  • best walk in Varenna, in Lake Como during the best independent tours of italyVisit of Bellagio & Walk - Bellano > Varenna
    3 hours 30 - 7km / 4.3 miles - Ascent: +300 m / Descent: -300 m
  • Boat transfer from Lenno to Bellagio (35 mn). Free time to discover the village of Bellagio, one of the prettiest Italian villages, affectionately known as the "pearl of the lake" with its narrow streets lined with flowers, its church and cafés, and also famous for the Villa Melzi gardens that greatly inspired Stendhal, Flaubert and Wagner. 
  • Afternoon boat transfer around 12pm from Bellagio to Bellano (15 mn). 
    Your walking tour continues on one of the oldest walking paths of the lake. The "sentiero del viandante" was traced by the Roman legionaries who reached the great passes of the Alps. It's a gentle climb past the "Orrido di Bellano" (visit is possible), and natural gorges formed in the antiquity. The path then offers panoramic views, passing through the village of Gittana and the Vézio castle dating back to the 12th century. You end the walk in the pretty village of Varenna, known for its colourful hillside houses.  In Varenna, you must visit the Villa Monastero gardens : the villa is surrounded by a botanical garden home to  rhododendrons, glycines, magnolias and citrus fruit trees.  For any horticultural enthousiasts you can also visit the Villa Cipressi, dating back to the Renaissance era. 
  • Boat transfer from Varenna to Lenno (45 minutes)
  • Night in Lenno
  • MEALS included: Breakfast

  • All day Market on the third Wednesday of the month in Bellagio
  • Market on Thursday morning in Bellano
  • Market on Saturday morning in Varenna

Day 7 - The perched village of Brunate, high above Como

best walk in italy

  • Walk - Brunate > Volta lighthouse > San Maurizio Church > Brunate
    2h30 - 5km - Ascent: +100m /  Descent: - 100m
  • Boat transfer from Lenno to Como city ( 2h30/3h ). Transfer on your own with the cable car in Como to the perched village of Brunate (15 mn) : settle in your comfortable accommodation
  • Located at 750m above sea level, high above Lake Como at the summit of the historic cable car, Brunate boasts spectacular views over the lake. This charming village  is a maze of small alleyways and stairs, famous for its beautiful baroque church, magnificent "Art Nouveau" style villas and the Volta lighthouse.
    You walk from Brunate to the Volta lighthouse, famous for its spiral staircase and 143 steps. Along the way, you can admire the San Maurizio church, and the magnificent "Art Nouveau" style villas. 
  • By staying the night, you can really appreciate Brunate once the crowds have left. The amazing sunset over the lake is yours to enjoy! In the morning,  you go against the crowd and take the cable car down and explore the town of Como  while the rest of the tourists head up from the lake to explore Brunate!
  • Night in Brunate
  • MEALS included: Breakfast

Day 8 - End of your Italy Lake walking holiday

self guided walking holidays italy lake maggiore

  • End of your trip in Brunate after breakfast. You can take the cable car to get to Como station.
    Contact us if you would like a private transfer
  • MEALS included:  Breakfast

  • Market on Tuesday, Thursday morning  & Saturday all day in Como city

  • Return
    . Flight : Regular flights and low cost airline to Milan : Milano Malpensa Airport (click here ) and Milan Linate Airport (click here )
    . Train :
        . Milan City / Malpensa airport : Regular train lines to Como city on trenitalia. Access information here  
        . Milan Linate airport & Milan Bergamo airport : Bus shuttle to Milan city and then train to Como city

- Add an extra day and discover Orta !

self guided tours of italy on the italian lakes in orta san giulia

  • Have an extra night in Stresa and enjoy one extra day to discover Orta San Guilio 
  • You head off on the discovery of one of the smallest yet most charming of the Italian lakes : Lake Orta.  
    Orta is a  small pedestrian village listed as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy with its old stone houses and impressive mansions. Visit the Sacro Monte, a UNESCO World Heritage site, perched on the hill above the village, nestled in a huge centuries old forest.  It tells the story of the life of St Francois of Assisi  through 20 chapels decorated with colourful frescoes and life-size statues. You can visit the little island of San Giulio located in the middle of the lake (boat transfer) that is home to a Romanesque basilica and a Benedictine convent. (Just one restaurant on the island for lunch)

Want more info on Lake Como & Lake Maggiore ?

  • Lake Como history, climate, traditions & gastronomy -- Click here
  • Lake Maggiore history, climate, traditions & gastronomy -- Click here

Trip info

The rates are per person:

  • on a 2 pers. minimum reservation basis ( shared room)
  • and always remain subject to availability
  • If you travel SOLO : please contact us 

INCLUDED

  • 7 nights double occupancy with private facilities
  • 7 breakfasts
  • Day 1 : boat transfer from Stresa to the Isola dei Pescatori
  • Day 2 : return boat ticket  from Stresa to the 3 Borromean islands, and to Villa Taranto
  • Day 3 : boat transfer from the Isola dei Pescatori to Stresa, and from Stresa to Cannobio
  • Day 4 : boat transfer from Cannobio to Cannero, start of the walk
  • Day 5 : transfer from Cannobio on Lake Como
  • Day 5 : boat transfer from Villa Carlotta back to Lenno
  • Day 6 : boat transfer from Lenno to Bellagio, and then to Bellano
  • Day 6 : return boat journey from Varenna at the end of the walk to Lenno
  • Day 7 : boat transfer from Lenno to Como city
  • Our Road Book with detailed walking itineraries including highlighted maps
  • 2 road map of the region
  • GPS files
  • 24/7 phone assistance 

NOT INCLUDED

  • All meals not noted-included in your itinerary
  • Day 7 : transfer on your own from Como to Brunate with the cable car (3€ / person)
  • SINGLE supplement
  • Entrance fees into museums, villas, insurance, drinks, items of personal nature

  • Entrance fees to the Villas & gardens
    . Borromean Islands : Isola Bella villa & gardens - Around 17€ / Isola Madre palace & gardens - Around 13.50 €
    Isola Bella & Isola Madre -  Around 24 €
    . Gardens of Villa Taranto - Around 11 €uros
    . Gardens & Villa Carlotta - Around 10 €uros
    . Gardens of Villa Melzi - Around 6.50 €uros
    . Gardens of Villa Monastero  - Around 5 €uros
    . Botanical garden of the Villa Cipressi - Around 6 €uros
    . Castle Vezio - Around 4€ 

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  •   Accommodation choice :

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    • Panoramic walking paths between the lake and the mountains
    • 4 nights in Lenno, a pretty & peaceful little village
    • Flexible lake boat pass allowing you to plan your walking days as you wish  
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      • Italy - Lake region
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  •   Accommodation choice :

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  • Highlights of the trip

    • The best panoramic walking trails, the stunning scenery of Lake Como and Lake Maggiore
    • Stroll through beautiful gardens and villas after sailing to the Borromean Islands
    • All transfers included from Lake Como to Lake Maggiore
    • The famous must see villas & gardens : Villa Carlotta, Balbianello, Melzi ..
    • La dolce vita and swimming in the lake: a real Italian way of life !

    • Choose your type of accommodation,  extra walks, etc .. Click on BOOK
      • Italy - Lake region
      • 8 days
    • Walking
    • Self-guided
      • From March to October
  •   Accommodation choice :

      • Simple
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      • Charming
      • Prestige
  • Highlights of the trip

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    • The best panoramic walking trails, the stunning scenery of Lake Maggiore and Lake Como
    • Stroll through beautiful gardens and villas after sailing to the Borromean Islands and Villa Taranto
    • All transfers included from Lake Como to Lake Maggiore
    • The famous must see villas & gardens : Villa Carlotta,  Villa Melzi
    • La dolce vita : a real Italian way of life !

    • Choose your type of accommodation,  extra walks, etc .. Click on BOOK
    Hidden gems of the Italian lakes
        • Italy - Lake region
        • 2 adults (2x900€)
        • 0 children (0x900€)
      • 8 days
      • Simple
    Total 1800€
    Deposit 540€
    Book now !