Susan Worner Tours

Italian Lakes – Spring Gardens around Lakes Como and Maggiore

17 – 24 April 2018

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 with many varieties of azalea, wisteria, cornus, and magnolia – a spectacular yellow variety is particularly eye-catching

At the northern end of Lake Maggiore we cross into Switzerland to visit the impressive Eisenhut nursery. An insubric climate, acid soil and sunny cold winters encourages the rich variety of plants found in the region

The first few days are spent on Lake Como at the delightful, family-run Hotel Florence in the lakeside village of Bellagio, overlooking the beautiful lake and snow-capped mountains. We then transfer to the very comfortable Hotel Cannero on the beautiful Maggiore lakeside, run by Signora Gallinotto and her family to a very high standard.

Beat Fischer, our Swiss botanist, leads the tour with his usual enthusiasm. Beat has been curator of the University botanic gardens in Berne and has led tours for us for some years.

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




Flights are arranged to Milan airport where you are met by Beat. The transfer to the hotel is along the beautiful shoreline of Lake Como. Late afternoon gives time to relax and discover the beautiful village. An aperitivo and short talk on the week’s programme is given before dinner together in the hotel restaurant. Beat Fischer, our leader, has extensive knowledge of the region with its gardens and plants which he recounts with much interest.


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 the lake by ferry boat to the attractive town of Varenna. Lunch-time free. Afternoon visit to Villa Monastero with its superb terraced garden along the lakeside with cypress avenues, statues, and balustrading leading to a coffee house. Return by ferry 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, clipped holm oaks 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 (a reservation can be made at a local restaurant).


Depart by coach from Bellagio in the morning to visit Villa Cicogna-Mozzoni and gardens at Bisuschio. The Renaissance villa and the gardens date 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 boat 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, a Scotsman who created the garden in the 1930s. On returning to Cannero tastings of Piedmont wines in the hotel cantina can be enjoyed 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 with a rich collection of plants. We return by boat to Cannero.


Morning visit to a delightful private terraced garden on the lakeside in Cannero. Originally a terraced citrus orchard with a defensive tower above the attractive harbour, the garden is beautifully planted and the tower incorporated into a villa. We then leave for the Borromean island of Isola Madre, a botanic garden with its own microclimate, with citrus trees, mimosa and carob, high camellia hedges, 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 for dinner with local specialities.


After breakfast, we depart for Milan Malpensa airport for the return flights.

“The Villa Cicogna still gives a vivid idea of what an old Italian country house must have been in its original state”Edith Wharton
Map of Italy

Tour Costs

£2,425 per person sharing
Single supplement £475


All flights and transport in modern comfortable minibus, lake ferries.
Accommodation with ensuite bathroom, delicious meals as indicated.
Gardens visits, led by our botanist Beat Fischer, Tips to guides and staff.

Not included:

Alcoholic and soft drinks (except the first evening’s aperitivo), items of a personal
nature, Fully covered comprehensive travel insurance.


Both hotels are of a high standard and are on the lakeside.

Hotel Florence, Bellagio

Hotel Cannero, Cannero Riviera

Activity Level:

On and off ferry boats and a private boat. Terraces with flights of steps.


The climate in late April can be sunny and warm, though heavy rain showers are sometimes experienced. Layers are recommended and good shoes for the garden visits. Smart casual for the evening.

Meals included are shown as B (breakfast), L (lunch) and D (dinner). Often guests meet for drinks before dinner (optional).

Wifi is available in both hotels.