There's no need to choose between water or mountains on this two-week trip. You'll visit both the lakes and peaks of northern Italy and Switzerland, scouting out real estate that ranges from luxurious villas on the shores of Lake Como to Alpine hiking huts over the course of your trip.

Highlights

  • Tour the lakeside hamlet of Malcesine
  • Ride iconic Swiss mountain train routes
  • Take in 360-degree views of the Dolomites
  • Pay a visit to a Swiss chocolatier in St. Moritz
  • Wander the waterfalls of Lauterbrunnen Valley

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Milan, Transfer to Lake Garda Gargnano
Day 2 Tour of Malcesine, Cable Car to Monte Baldo Gargnano
Day 3 Bernina Express Train Journey Across the Alps St. Moritz
Day 4 Free Day in St. Moritz St. Moritz
Day 5 Funicular to Muottas Muragl, Mountaintop Hike St. Moritz
Day 6 Transfer from St. Moritz to Lake Como Tremezzina
Day 7 Day Trip to Bellagio & Varenna from Tremezzina Tremezzina
Day 8 Explore Villa Balbianello & Lenno from Tremezzina Tremezzina
Day 9 Gotthard Panoramic Train, Guided Tour of Luzern Luzern
Day 10 Free Day in Luzern Luzern
Day 11 Transfer to Interlaken, Day Trip to Thun Interlaken
Day 12 Day Trip to Jungfrau Region & Trummelbach Falls from Interlaken Interlaken
Day 13 Transfer to Zürich, City Tour Zürich
Day 14 Goodbye Switzerland!  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Milan, Transfer to Lake Garda

Riva del Garda
Riva del Garda

Arrive at Milan Malpensa Airport, then drive to Lake Garda—a beautiful two-hour journey through Northern Italy's Lakes Region. Arrive in Gargnano, then check in to your lakeshore accommodation and spend a few hours unpacking and relaxing after your travels. 

Lake Garda is large, and its northern villages of Bardolino, Riva, Malcesine, Gardone, and Limone are smaller and have a more romantic mountain feeling. The southern towns of Sirmione and Desenzano are somewhat bigger, with a vibrant nightlife, trendy bars and restaurants, and plentiful accommodation options.

In the afternoon head to the town of Sirmione, which sits on a narrow peninsula on the south end of the lake. The town is known for its famous healing waters and its many historical sites, including the striking 13th-century Rocca Scaligera. The fortress is one of Italy's best-preserved medieval castles and features a restored stone harbor. 

Sirmione is also famous for its ancient Roman villa, the Catullo Grottoes, which dates back to the 1st century BCE. The villa is situated on the northernmost tip of Sirmione's peninsula and commands unparalleled views of the lake. Today, visitors can tour the grounds and ruins of the grand villa to see how ancient Rome's rich and powerful citizens built their homes. 

In the evening, stroll through Sirmione's narrow alleyways, then head to one of the town's many restaurants for a dinner featuring fresh-caught fish from the lake. After dinner, you'll take a ferry ride back to Gargnano.

Day 2: Tour of Malcesine, Cable Car to Monte Baldo

The Scaliger Castle in Sirmione
The Scaliger Castle in Sirmione

After breakfast, board a private boat to Malcesine, a small hamlet nestled between the lake and the nearby mountains. The town encircles the striking Scaliger Castle with an old town center of steep cobbled streets that spreads out from the lakeshore. Family-owned shops, medieval buildings, narrow alleys, and hidden pockets of nature give the small town an old-world feeling. 

Stroll through the village and visit the castle to learn about local history. After your tour of the town, ascend to the top of nearby Mount Baldo to see the surrounding area from an elevation of 5,774 feet (1,760 m). You'll reach the summit on a rotating cable-car, with 360-degree views of the landscape that are an absolute highlight. Take in the views of the lake, hillsides, and distant mountains as you sit back and enjoy the ride. 

Once at the top go for a short and easy stroll to take in the views and breathe the fresh mountain air. When you're ready for lunch pop into one of the many mountain huts or restaurants next to the mountaintop station. Enjoy a delicious typical Northern Italian meal with Lake Garda and the Dolomite Mountains forming a stunning backdrop behind you.

Day 3: Bernina Express Train Journey Across the Alps

Rhaetian Railway along the Albula Pass
Rhaetian Railway along the Albula Pass

Start your morning with a drive to Tirano, which sits on the border with Switzerland. Here you'll board the Bernina Express for a panoramic train journey across the Alps. This train line connects Europe from north to south, including a section that passes through the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Rhaetian Railway as the landscapes shift from glaciers to palm trees. 

One of the route's most iconic sections is the traverse across the 213-foot (65 m) Landwasser Viaduct, the Rhaetian Railway's signature structure. Altogether the train passes through 55 tunnels and rolls over 196 bridges on its way from Tirano to Chur

Enjoy the incredible 2-hour route through alpine landscapes as you travel to the town of Pontresina. From here transfer to St. Moritz and check in to your hotel, then end your night with a typical Swiss dinner at one of the town's many local restaurants.

Day 4: Free Day in St. Moritz

St. Moritz Lake in summer
St. Moritz Lake in summer

Enjoy a free day in St. Moritz. 

You can choose to immerse yourself in the process of Swiss chocolate production with a visit to a local chocolate producer, where the maître chocolatier will spend an hour walking you through the process of chocolate-making. See how the chocolate is mixed and how the delicious sweets are handcrafted into perfect bite-sized morsels, then get hands-on as you create your own bars of chocolate. 

Alternatively, you may visit the Segantini Museum, which honors local artist Giovanni Segantini. It was opened in 1908, nine years after the artist's death, and houses the world's most comprehensive collection of works by the great reviver of alpine painting. Note: the museum is closed until mid-December 2019 for renovation. 

When night falls in St. Moritz and the mountain peaks are illuminated by starlight, the town's merrymakers come out to play. The mountain town is famous for its many lounges, bars, and night clubs that offer a variety of atmospheres, from laid-back to extravagant. Head out to mingle and socialize with the locals until the early hours, who often gather at the famously lavish parties that have made St. Moritz the place to be.

Day 5: Funicular to Muottas Muragl, Mountaintop Hike

Panorama of the Upper Engadine from Muottas Muragl
Panorama of the Upper Engadine from Muottas Muragl

In the morning head to the base of Muottas Muragl for your funicular ride to the top of the mountain. Glide over snow-covered peaks, farm fields, and turquoise lakes as you ascend. The area between the broad valley of the River Inn and the valley that leads to the Bernina Pass has some of the best views of the lakes of Upper Engadine

The original funicular was built here between 1905 and 1907 and has been updated several times for safety. In appearance, however, the railway remains essentially the same as 100 years ago. Starting from the base at Punt Muragl, the panoramic cars climb 2,300 ft (700 m) to the summit of the Muottas Muragl. 

Reach the top then meet your hiking guide and go for a short a scenic hike to admire panoramic views of the Swiss Alps. After working up an appetite, enjoy a high-altitude lunch at the restaurant at the top of the funicular station.

Enjoy a quiet afternoon of strolling through St. Moritz, or opt for a  tandem hang-gliding experience high above the Engadine Mountains

The Engadin-St. Moritz region is home to many stellar restaurants. Enjoy a typical Engadin dinner of local specialties like capuns (small rolls of dough mixed with finely chopped salsiz or Bündnerfleisch, wrapped in a Swiss chard leaf and baked with a topping of spicy cheese), maluns (boiled grated potatoes mixed with flour, roasted in butter and served with Alpine cheese or applesauce), and the Engadiner Nusstorte (a traditional sweet, caramelised walnut-filled pastry).

Day 6: Transfer from St. Moritz to Lake Como

Village of Tremezzina
Village of Tremezzina

After a leisurely breakfast, transfer to Lake Como. Before heading to your luxury accommodation above the lake, stop at a winery for a tasting and lunch. The winery is family-owned, with a strong focus on preserving the region's heritage of winemaking. Thanks to the family's commitment to history, a visit to the winery is an authentic cultural experience. 

After a stop at the winery, check in to your hotel in the village of Tremezzina. The town may be small, but it boasts a variety of historical and cultural attractions, including the background scenes for several of the Star Wars films.

Spend the afternoon relaxing and exploring the shops and cafes along the lake. In the evening, head to an upscale restaurant for dinner and drinks. Stay after dinner to enjoy cocktails and a buzzing social atmosphere that continues late into the night, à la Jay Gatsby's lavish dinner parties. If you prefer something a bit more high-energy, pay a visit to Lenno's nightclubs and bars.

Day 7: Day Trip to Bellagio & Varenna from Tremezzina

Spring morning on Comacina Island
Spring morning on Comacina Island

Spend the day exploring the lake aboard an iconic Riva boat, made popular by countless movie stars and famous figures throughout the last several decades. The unmatched craftsmanship of these boats, together with their refined beauty on the water, makes these crafts some of the world's most recognizable and elite forms of recreational transportation. 

You'll go on a private 2-hour tour of Lake Como to see some of the lake's beautiful summer villas, including Villa D’Este and Villa Oleandra (George Clooney’s Villa). Enjoy stunning views of Comacina Island, the Roman bridge of Nesso, cascading waterfalls, and the majestic Alps in the background while sipping on a refreshing glass of sparkling Italian Prosecco. 

Stop in Bellagio, "The Pearl of Lake Como," located between the two southernmost branches of the lake. Bellagio is renowned for its beautiful villas and scenic shoreline. Meet a local guide, then stroll through the village to see grand buildings and picture-perfect cobblestone lanes lined with cafes and shops. 

Enjoy lunch at a quiet cafe in town, then head back to your Riva boat to reach Varenna—a typical Northern Italian village on the eastern shore of Lake Como. The village is divided into a grid of streets that slope steeply down towards the lake. Go for a walk among the colorful houses that brighten the village streets and visit Villa Monastero, one of the area's most iconic villas. The sprawling property features impeccable landscaping and a terraced Botanic Garden. Spend a peaceful afternoon in the fragrant gardens and enjoying the shaded benches and pavilions. 

Afterward, return to  Tremezzina and enjoy a free evening.

Day 8: Explore Villa Balbianello & Lenno from Tremezzina

Villa del Balbianello
Villa del Balbianello

Spend the morning exploring the grand Villa del Balbianello, which sits on the edge of a wooded peninsula and offers exceptional views of Lake Como. The building was commissioned at the end of the 18th century by Cardinal Durini, a scholar and patron of the arts. The peaceful stretch of lakeshore was the ideal location for his exclusive literary retreat. 

The villa's last owner, Guido Monzino, was an entrepreneur, collector, and passionate traveler who decided to dedicate the villa to the preservation of the memories of his adventures. The villa is exquisitely decorated with maps, travel tools, books, furniture, and magnificent pieces of art from his travels. 

In 1988 the National Trust of Italy took over managing the villa, preserving the spirit of his legacy and managing the vast property. The gardens here are a sight to behold, with trees pruned into unusual shapes, romantic shaded avenues lined with statues, panoramic terraces and lush greenery that surrounds a path leading to the 18th-century Loggia Durini, a spectacular balcony which crowns the whole Balbianello complex. The property's incredible beauty has made it the film set for many Hollywood movies, most notably the Star Wars series. 

After a tour of the villa make your way to the town of Lenno for a refreshing and creamy gelato—the perfect afternoon treat. The rest of the day is free to enjoy the area. 

Alternatively, spend the afternoon discovering the town of Como, which sits in a beautiful basin at the southern tip of its namesake lake. The historic town was established by Julius Caesar as an alpine garrison and a Roman holiday resort in the 1st century BCE. Stroll through the town's historic city center and see the area's landmarks, such as the striking Gothic-Renaissance Duomo, the Broletto Town Hall Palace, the 18th-century Teatro Sociale, and the Romanesque San Fedele Church

Dinner tonight is a special and unique affair—enjoy a meal hosted in the home of a local family, and spend the evening swapping stories and enjoying each other's company.

Day 9: Gotthard Panoramic Train, Guided Tour of Luzern

Gotthard Panoramic Train
Gotthard Panoramic Train

In the morning, transfer to Lugano to board the Gotthard Panorama Train to Flüelen. This 2.5-hour trip travels through some of Switzerland's most beautiful regions.

Enjoy a luxurious trip in first-class, with full panoramic views of the surrounding area thanks to the windows that completely surround the train compartment. Admire the Mediterranean landscape of Ticino, travel along the historic Gotthard route, and enjoy the views as the train passes through a series of tunnels and over bridges. Photography lovers will enjoy getting the perfect panoramic shots of the surrounding landscape from the specially designed photography coach. 

Once you reach Flüelen, board a steamboat to cross Lake Luzerne and enjoy the views of the quiet bays and notable local sites as you cross the lake. You'll pass the Rütli Meadow where Switzerland was founded in 1291, as well as the Schiller Stone and Tell’s Chapel.

Arrive in Luzern, a city in the spectacular heart of Switzerland. Join a local guide as you tour the city's sunny plazas, candy-colored homes, and peaceful lakefront promenades. Continue the tour in the well-preserved medieval Old Town to see its ancient rampart walls and towers, 15th-century buildings with painted facades, and Luzern's best-known landmark: the Chapel Bridge. Built in 1332, it's the world's oldest covered wooden bridge. The bridge leads to another well-known historic site, the octagonal Water Tower. Despite the name, the tower does not hold water and has instead been used throughout history as a treasury, a prison, and an archive. 

Your evening in Luzern is free to explore. The city is a food lover's paradise, with a combination of stylish new restaurants and well-loved old-world taverns on every street corner. 

Day 10: Free Day in Luzern

World's steepest cogwheel railway
World's steepest cogwheel railway

Enjoy a free day in Luzern. 

One option to enjoy the area's beauty is to visit Luzern's landmark mountain, Mt. Pilatus. Leave from the valley station in Kriens to ride the gondola for half an hour over a pre-Alpine landscape to Fräkmüntegg, where you'll transfer to an aerial cableway known as the "Dragon Ride." After a spectacular five-minute ride, you'll arrive at 7,000 feet (2,132 m) above sea level.

You can also opt take an easy hike with a local alpine guide or embark on a private photo session with a professional photographer. Enjoy views over Lake Luzerne and the Swiss Alps and take photos in some of the best locations from the summit of Mount Pilatus.

Soak up the panoramic views over the lake and Alps, then take the world's steepest cogwheel railway back down the mountain, alongside rock faces, across mountain streams, and through alpine meadows to reach Alpnachstad.

In the evening, sample local and international fare at one of Luzern's many high-end restaurants. After dinner, stop by a cafe to try the famous Luzern pastries and cakes. Round out your evening by exploring Luzern's bars.  

Day 11: Transfer to Interlaken, Day Trip to Thun

Lake Thun
Lake Thun

In the morning transfer to Interlaken, a quiet city famous for its mountain scenery. Interlaken sits in the Bernese Oberland on an alluvial plain between the glacier-fed Thun and Brienz Lakes. The town is surrounded by the snowcapped mountain peaks of Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau, and is the gateway to Switzerland's fabled Jungfrau region. 

Make your way to Thun, a charming city at the lower end of Lake Thun. The city has a young spirit with lively crowds that hang out at riverside cafes and unique boutiques. Meet with your local guide and visit the medieval town to see old-world squares and 15th- and 16th-century homes. 

Stroll to the nearby 300-year-old Untere Schleusenbrücke, a covered wooden bridge that is covered in pink and purple flowers in summer. Take in the views of the turreted 900-year-old Schloss Thun Castle, which sits on a nearby hilltop and once belonged to Duke Berchtold V of the powerful Zähringen family. 

At the end of the tour, enjoy a leisurely guided bicycle ride along Lake Thun. Marvel at the ever-changing views of the surrounding mountains and enjoy the cool breeze that blows from the deep blue waters of the glacial lake. 

Return to Interlaken and enjoy a free evening in town. Take advantage of being in a culinary capital and enjoy haute cuisine at one of Interlaken's many restaurants. If you want a night out, the city's many bars and clubs provide a vibrant nightlife experience.

Day 12: Day Trip to Jungfrau Region & Trummelbach Falls from Interlaken

Goats grazing in the Lauterbrunnen Valley
Goats grazing in the Lauterbrunnen Valley

Today you'll hike in the Jungfrau Mountain Region on the Männlichen excursion. Start your day with a transfer to Grindelwald and board Europe's longest gondola cableway, then kick back and relax on the 30-minute journey to the Männlichen.

Meet up with a local guide and hit the trail for a hike on the Royal Walk, a trail which brings you from the top of the cableway station to the 7,693-foot (2,345 m) summit in around half an hour. Along the way, learn about the alpine region at seven information points. The highlight of the hike is the panoramic scene from the top: a majestic view of the Eiger, Mönch, and Jungfrau mountains. 

After your hike, enjoy a bite to eat at the mountaintop restaurant and take in the surrounding views. 

In the afternoon, return to Grindelwald and transfer to the Lauterbrunnen Valley. Here you'll explore the UNESCO-designated Trümmelbach Falls, a series of ten glacier-fed waterfalls that thunder down the mountain. The falls are accessible by tunnels, so you'll be able to get close and feel the force of 20,000 liters (5,283 gallons) of water cascading down every second. The waterfalls stem from a glacial lake nearly 10 square miles (24 km sq.) in size, approximately half of which is covered in snow and ice. 

Return to Interlaken and enjoy the free evening.

Day 13: Transfer to Zürich, City Tour

Zurich's Bahnhofstrasse
Zurich's Bahnhofstrasse

In the morning take the train to Zürich, known as the financial center of Switzerland, as well as the country's largest and wealthiest metropolis. 

Join your local guide to discover this cultural and vibrant city, set in a beautiful landscape at the confluence of the Limmat River and Lake Zürich. Go for a leisurely stroll on the famous Bahnhofstrasse, a traffic-free 19th-century boulevard designed by Arnold Bürkli. The boulevard is based off a model of Parisian streets and is one of Europe’s most exclusive shopping areas.

Make your way to Old Town Zurich, starting at the Lindenhof, one of the city’s prettiest squares. From there, walk along the river to the 11th-century Fraumünster Church, decked out in beautiful stained glass windows.  Learn about Zürich's past from your guide as you walk the pedestrian route, then stop to see the café-gallery that gave rise to the Dadaist art movement. 

Take the remainder of the day to relax or shop. Treat yourself to a traditional dinner of Swiss fondue, complete with a glass of white wine.

Day 14: Goodbye Switzerland!

Wintertime in the Alps
Wintertime in the Alps

Time to say goodbye! After breakfast, head to the airport for your connecting flight home.