Lago di Como - Around Italy’s most beautiful lake

Prices from £2,290


7 May 2019 - 12 May 2019
Duration: 5 nights
Ref: 19COMO
With: Anthony Majanlahti


Prices from £2,290
Single Supplement: £270
Deposit: £200

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Sparkling enigmatically like a dark Sapphire, Lake Como is arguably Europe’s most beautiful lake — and certainly its deepest. Dramatically set against the steep and forbidding Italian and Swiss Alps in its austere northern reaches which betray the water’s glacial origins, towards its south end the lake acquires warmer, gentler prospects with stylish holiday villages nestling along the shore and innumerable villas perched on terraced slopes.

Situated at the southern tip of the lake’s ‘left leg’, the lively little city of Como, birthplace in 23 AD of Pliny the Elder and in 1745 of Alessandro Volta, is an ideal base from which to explore the region’s rich and varied offerings: by boat, to enjoy aristocratic villas and beautiful gardens bordering the lake, and by coach to explore frescoed pre-Romanesque churches off the beaten track.


Anthony Majanlahti is a historian and writer specialising in Rome and other Italian subjects. He has taught for the University of Toronto, the Università di Roma "Sapienza", and various American universities, as well as publishing three books, the first one, The Families who Made Rome, a bestseller in Canada and translated into Italian and Portuguese. He is currently writing a single-volume history of the city of Rome for the Oxford University Press. He has reported on papal elections for National Public Radio and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, and has participated in several documentaries.

DAY 1:

Morning flight with BA from London Heathrow to Milan Linate. En route to Como, visit Cantù and the 1000-year-old basilica of San Vincenzo at Galliano, featuring a majestic apse painting, before continuing to your four-star hotel in time for dinner.

DAY 2:

In the morning, explore Como on foot, including the lavishly decorated Duomo, and the Romanesque churches of San Fedele and Sant’Abbondio. In the afternoon, a visit to the Industrial Silk Museum will introduce you to this century- old key aspect of Como’s economy.

DAY 3:

The day will be dedicated to the southern part of Lake Como: take a leisurely private boat cruise past villas and harbour towns, before visiting the enchanting gardens of Villa del Balbianello — a matchless blend of scenic eclectic architectural elements with lake and landscape — perhaps one of the most beautiful places ever created. Boat on to the Isola Comacina for a sumptuous lunch, before spending some time at the picturesque resort of Bellagio, known as ‘la perla del lago’ for its unspoilt setting.

DAY 4:

In the morning, coach excursion into the province of Varese to visit the Renaissance villa of the Mozzoni Cicogna family: extensive frescoes of the loggia and interiors are complemented by impressive gardens. After lunch by Lake Lugano, visit the famous Villa Carlotta at Tremezzo with its spectacular 19th-century gardens.

DAY 5:

In the morning, excursion by boat to the north- eastern shores of the lake: the Cistercian Abbey of Piona, situated on a peninsula between Colico and Olgiasca, has a splendid cloister. Corenno Plinio, named after Pliny the Elder, is a picturesque village with a church dedicated to Thomas Becket. After lunch in Varenna, continue to Olgiate Molgora where we will enjoy the hospitality of the Sommi Picenardi family in their 18th-century villa, with an English park at the front and a formal Italian garden at the back.

DAY 6:

The 7th-century church of Santa Maria Foris Portas and the former nunnery at the Lombardic settlements of Castelseprio and Torba contain rare Byzantine and Carolingian wall paintings. The programme of visits will conclude at Castiglione Olona, a spectacular showcase of 15th-century Tuscan art in Lombardy, featuring works by Masolino and the Sienese Vecchietta and a visit to the Benedictine convent of Torba with fragments of Lombard and Carolingian wall paintings. Late afternoon flight with BA from Milan Malpensa to London Heathrow, arriving at c. 8pm.

Please note that at this stage the programme is still provisional. Although we aim at the greatest degree of accuracy from the outset, some details, especially the order of visits, may be subject to change.


Specific fitness requirements for this Study Tour:

This tour involves a lot of walking, mostly on pavements, but sometimes on uneven ground and up and down steps. Museum and church visits require prolonged periods of standing without the possibility of a rest. Coach journeys generally do not exceed one and a half hours.

Please note that all our Study Tours involve a significant amount of standing and walking, often across uneven ground, over cobbled streets, or up and down steps and inclines. While we do not have an upper age limit for participants, we require you to have a level of fitness which does not spoil other participents' enjoyment of the holiday and you should be able to walk at a reasonable pace and / or stand for at least thirty minutes without aid or requiring a rest.

If you are in any doubt as to whether a particular tour is suitable for you, please ring us to check before placing your booking.


Twin/double share: £2290 per person
Double room for sole use supplement: £270
Price of the tour without flights: £2190 per person
Deposit: £200 per person


  • Scheduled return flights (Economy class) with British Airways between London Heathrow and Milan Linate / Milan Malpensa
  • Travel in Italy by private coach and both public and private boat
  • Four nights B&B in the family-run four- star Hotel Metropole Suisse
  • Three dinners and two lunches
  • Guided visits to all sites listed in the programme
  • Services of the lecturer and a tour manager
  • Detailed programme and study notes
  • All entrance fees, taxes, and gratuities for coach drivers and waiters
  • Small group between 12 and 22 participants


  • Transport between home and London Heathrow
  • Travel insurance. We strongly advise you to be covered by adequate travel insurance

Hotel Metropole Suisse****

Located right on the main square and just a few steps away from the historic centre with breathtaking views across charming Lake Como, the Hotel Metropole Suisse offers the best that Como has to offer. The hotel is elegantly decorated with rooms varying in style from contemporary to traditional georgian.


  • Television
  • Telephone
  • Air conditioning
  • Minibar


Breakfast is served in the dining hall. Evening meals at the Imbarcadero Restaurant, served on the terrace during summer. After a busy day relax at the wine bar or in the hotel’s sauna.