Susan Worner Tours

Italian Lakes – Spring Gardens around Lakes Como and Maggiore

19 – 26 April 2016

Italian Lakes - Spring Gardens around Lakes Como and Maggiore

Concentrating on the wealth of beautiful gardens around Lakes Como and Maggiore, this tour gives a balance between interesting botanic gardens and those of classic Renaissance and later Italian style. The exuberant spring flowers are set against breath-taking scenery including many varieties of azalea, wisteria, cornus and magnolia – a spectacular yellow variety is particularly eye-catching.

We commence at the delightful, family-run Hotel Florence in the lakeside village of Bellagio, overlooking Lake Como and the mountains. We then transfer to the very comfortable Hotel Cannero on the quiet Maggiore lakeside, run by Signora Gallinotto and her family.

Beat Fischer, our Swiss botanist, will lead this tour. Beat accompanied the RHS Fellows on their tour which we arranged for them to Lake Maggiore in April 2015 and is Speaker at the Fellows Dinner in October 2015.

Our group will have a maximum of nineteen participants. Travel between gardens is minimal and we use lake boats extensively and a minibus.

This tour still remains one of our most popular Italian Garden Tours.




Flight to Milan airport. Transfer to the hotel with time to relax or discover the village.
Aperitivo and short talk on the week’s programme before dinner together in the hotel restaurant. Beat Fischer, our Swiss botanist, will lead the tour. His knowledge of the region and its gardens is recounted with great enthusiasm.


Morning visit on foot to Villa Melzi with its garden along the lakeside at Bellagio. Built by the Duke of Lodi, Francesco Melzi, in the early nineteenth century, there are extensively landscaped gardens with statues, a classic temple and orangery. Well planted with mature trees and acid-loving plants. Cross by boat to the lakeside town of Varenna. Lunch-time free. Villa Monastero, a villa with a superb terraced garden along the lakeside with cypress avenues, statues, and balustrading leading to a coffee house. Return by boat to Bellagio. Free evening to discover Bellagio’s restaurants.


Leave by private boat to visit the gardens of Villa Balbianello on a promontory across the lake. A strikingly beautiful garden with candelabra-shaped plane trees and tall cypress, dominated by an elegant loggia. Left to the Italian National Trust (FAI), a guided visit of the fascinating interiors is included. Continuing by boat to Tremezzo, we arrive at Villa Carlotta. Guided walk around the extensive garden of flowering azalea and rhododendron. Return by boat to Bellagio. Free evening (optional reservation can be made at local restaurant).


Depart from Bellagio in the morning, to visit Villa Cicogna-Mozzoni and gardens at Bisuschio. The Renaissance garden dates back to 1560, with its celebrated water staircase. Belonging to the same family for over 500 years, the current owner will show us around. We enjoy a delicious lunch in the villa. Taking the lake ferry across Lake Maggiore to Cannero, we arrive at the hotel. Dinner together in the hotel restaurant (each evening).


Taking the lake ferry, we visit the island of Isola Bella with its superb, theatrical Baroque gardens: an architectural wonder, it was conceived as a ship in the early seventeenth century. At lunchtime we arrive by ferry at the gardens of Villa Taranto where light refreshments are available. A superb collection of plants, in 44 acres, gathered from all over the world by Neil McEarcharn who created the garden in the 1930s. Tasting of Piedmont wines in the hotel cantina before dinner.


Morning visit to the Botanical Park and Nursery of Otto Eisenhut at San Nazzaro in Switzerland. Guided tour of the collections, one of the most comprehensive in Europe, specialising in magnolias, camellias, cornus and azaleas. Lunch time in Ascona. We continue by lake ferry to the well-known Swiss botanical garden on Isole di Brissago. Return by boat to Cannero.


Morning visit to a delightful private garden on the lakeside in Cannero. We then leave for the Borromean island of Isola Madre, a botanic garden with its own microclimate, with citrus trees, mimosa and carob, hedges of camellias, cornus and azaleas – a magical garden. A huge Kashmir cypress grows by the Renaissance villa, which can be visited. Lunch time on the island. Return to Cannero late afternoon.


Morning departure for Milan Malpensa and the return flights.

Map of Italy

Tour Costs

Airflight, Hotel and Itinerary Costs £1920
Accommodation based on
2 people sharing
b&b, dinner on 5 evenings,
1 lunch
Supplement – single use of double room £255
Lake view supplement £200 per room/sharing
To extend your stay (Hotel Cannero) £125 pp sharing – half board
plus taxi to airport £130

Activity Level:

On/off lake boats. Mostly level. Some steps. Good paths.

Additional Information:

Why not add a few more days at the Hotel Cannero.