Italian Lakes – Spring Gardens around Lakes Como and Maggiore

19 – 26 April 2022

Italian Lakes - Spring Gardens around Lakes Como and Maggiore

Concentrating on the wealth of beautiful gardens around Lakes Como and Maggiore, the tour offers a balance between interesting botanical 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 Botanical Garden and Nursery. An insubric climate, acid soil and cold yet sunny winters enable the rich variety of plants found in the region to thrive.

The first few days are spent on Lake Como at the delightful, family-run Hotel Firenze 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 was formerly curator of the University Botanical Gardens in Bern and has led tours for us for some years.

Our group will have a maximum of sixteen participants. Travel between gardens is minimal, and is by lake boat and minibus.




Flights are arranged to Milan airport where you are met by Beat. The transfer to the hotel is along the beautiful coast of Lake Como. Late afternoon gives time to relax and discover the village. An aperitivo and short talk on the week’s programme is given before dinner together in the hotel restaurant. Beat has extensive knowledge of the region with its gardens and plants, and you will find him an engaging communicator.


Morning visit on foot to Villa Melzi with its garden along the lakeside at Bellagio. Built by Francesco Melzi, Duke of Lodi, in the early nineteenth century, it has extensively landscaped gardens with statues, a temple in the classical style and an orangery; it is also well planted with mature trees and acid-loving plants. Cross by ferryboat to the attractive town of Varenna. Lunchtime free. Afternoon visit to Villa Monastero with its superb terraced garden beside the lake, featuring cypress avenues, statues and balustrading leading to a coffee house. Return by ferry boat to Bellagio. Free evening to discover local restaurants.


Leave by private boat to visit the gardens of Villa Balbianello on a promontory across the lake. A strikingly attractive garden with candelabra-shaped plane trees, clipped holm oaks and tall cypress, it is dominated by an elegant loggia. The property was bequeathed to the Italian National Trust (FAI), and 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 with its flowering azaleas and rhododendrons. Return by boat to Bellagio. Free evening (a reservation can be made at a local restaurant).


Depart by minibus from Bellagio in the morning to visit Villa Cicogna Mozzoni and gardens at Bisuschio. The Renaissance villa and the gardens, with a celebrated water staircase, date back to 1560. The property has belonged to the same family for over 500 years and the current owner will show us around. We enjoy a delicious lunch in the villa. Taking the ferry across Lake Maggiore to Cannero we arrive at the hotel. Dinner together in the hotel restaurant.


Taking the lake ferry, we visit the island of Isola Bella with its superb, theatrical Baroque garden dating from the early seventeenth century. An architectural wonder, it was conceived to appear as a ship floating on the water. At lunchtime we arrive by boat at the gardens of Villa Taranto where light refreshments are available. The garden was created in the 1930s by Scotsman Neil McEacharn and features a superb collection of plants gathered from all over the world on a site of some 44 acres. On returning to Cannero, tastings of Piedmont wines in the hotel cantina can be enjoyed before dinner.


Morning visit to the Botanical Garden and Nursery of Otto Eisenhut at San Nazzaro in Switzerland. Guided tour of the collection, one of the most comprehensive in Europe, specialising in magnolias, camellias, cornus and azaleas. Lunchtime in Ascona. We continue by private boat to visit the well-known Swiss botanical garden on Isole di Brissago with a rich collection of plants. Return by boat to Cannero enjoying views of the mountains and villages surrounding the lake.


Morning visit to a delightful private terraced garden on the lakeside in Cannero. Originally a citrus orchard with a defensive tower above the attractive harbour, the garden is wonderfully well planted and the tower has been incorporated into a villa. We then leave for the Borromean island of Isola Madre, and a botanical garden with its own microclimate featuring citrus trees, mimosa and carob, high camellia hedges, cornus and azaleas – a magical creation. A huge Kashmir cypress grows by the Renaissance villa (which can be visited). Lunchtime on the island. Return to Cannero late afternoon for dinner featuring 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

Tour Costs

£3,140 per person sharing
Single occupation of double room supplement £520


All flights and transport in modern, comfortable minibus, lake ferries. Accommodation with
en-suite bathroom, delicious meals as indicated, garden visits led by Beat Fischer, botanist. Tips.

Not included:

Alcoholic and soft drinks (except the first evening’s aperitivo), items of a personal nature, comprehensive travel insurance with full cover to be taken out on payment of the deposit.


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

Hotel Firenze, Bellagio

Hotel Cannero, Cannero Riviera

Activity Level:

Good walking ability. Gardens are large and most have series of steps and terraces. Ability to board small boats.


The climate in late April can be sunny and warm, though heavy rain showers are sometimes experienced. Layers are recommended and sturdy 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.