Spend 15 days traveling through the dramatic Dolomites in Northern Italy to Lake Garda. Enjoy self-guided hikes in Belluno and Ortisei, visit a castle and monastery near Bolzano, and experience scenic Lake Garda by boat. Explore the Old Towns, and the fortresses guarding them, in Malcesine and Sirmione. Finish your trip in Verona by delving into Roman history on a guided city tour and visiting a local winery.

Highlights

  • Experience the best of the Dolomites: Tre Cime, Funes Valley, & the Odle Mountains
  • Visit spectacular Lake Misurina
  • Hike through Belluno National Park
  • Tour alpine town centers in the South Tyrol region
  • Visit magnificent castles and villas on Lake Garda

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Venice, Transfer to Belluno Belluno
Day 2 Hiking in Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park Belluno
Day 3 Belluno to Cortina d’Ampezzo Cortina d'Ampezzo
Day 4 Lake Misurina and Tre Cime di Lavaredo Day Trip Cortina d'Ampezzo
Day 5 Cortina d'Ampezzo to Ortisei Ortisei
Day 6 Free Day Hiking from Ortisei Ortisei
Day 7 Ortisei to Bolzano, Walking Tour Bolzano
Day 8 Day Trip to Bressanone and the Funes Valley Bolzano
Day 9 Bolzano to Northern Lake Garda Riva del Garda
Day 10 Self-Guided Day Trip to Malcesine and Monte Baldo Riva del Garda
Day 11 Riva del Garda to Desenzano del Garda Desenzano del Garda
Day 12 Guided Tour of Southern Lake Garda Desenzano del Garda
Day 13 Lake Garda to Verona, Guided Tour Verona
Day 14 Wine Tour from Verona Verona
Day 15 Goodbye Italy  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Venice, Transfer to Belluno

The Dolomites
The Dolomites

Welcome to Italy! Upon arriving at Venice's Marco Polo International Airport, collect your bags and get ready for a trip through the natural beauty of Northern Italy. After you arrive, pick up your rental car and set off on a 1.5-hour drive from Venice to Belluno (this trip requires some rural travel, especially through the Dolomite mountain range, so for maximum flexibility, we recommend a rental car). This scenic and historical town is surrounded by the snowy peaks of the Dolomites high above the Piave River. Once you reach Belluno, check in to your accommodation and admire the spectacular views and fresh air.   

The town is larger than many in the Dolomites, and we recommend taking your time today to explore the Old Town's sights:

  • The Piazza del Duomo is the main city square surrounded by the Palazzo dei Rettori and Cathedral of San Martino. The cathedral's exterior architecture is not as grand as more well-known Italian churches, but the yellow stone is locally sourced and typical throughout the region
  • Sit and enjoy a coffee at a cafe in Piazza dei Martiri - another open square with Renaissance-style palaces and a good spot for people watching
  • Visit the Civic Museum to view a collection of 16th and 17th-century artworks
  • There are two ancient gateways into Belluno: Porta Dojona is the entrance to the old town, and Porta Rugo is located downtown closer to the Piave River. From the latter, you have great views of the surrounding countryside. 

In the evening you'll find good restaurants on Via Carrera to the north of the old town, or around Piazza dei Martiri. In this region, the cuisine is less typically Italian. Try some of the local cheeses such as Malga Bellunese (yellow with a smokey taste) or Schiz (fried cows-milk cheese).

Day 2: Hiking in Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park

Belluno National Park
Belluno National Park

Enjoy a big breakfast in the morning and get ready for a full day outdoors at the Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park. We recommend taking a full bottle of water and food for lunch, as well as extra shoes and clothing in case of wet weather. Driving the 12 miles (19 km) to the center of the park takes no longer than 30 minutes. Parking can be found along one of the two main roads in the park or in the lot near Lago del Mis. From here, leave your car behind and head out to start discovering the 79,073 acres of unspoiled and protected land.

The area was declared a national park in 1990 and spans across mountain ranges including Monti Serva, Alpi Feltrine, and Monti del Sole. There are many hiking trails through the park which are suited to different ability levels, but the most spectacular views are found on the more advanced elevated routes such as Alta Via 13 (trail 13) and the end of the famous Alta Via 1 (trail 1) which begins in Austria. Dolomiti Bellunesi National Park is also known for a wide variety of rare wildflowers plus beautiful lakes and waterfalls. We recommend starting your day with an easy walk around Lago del Mis on the edge of the park. 

Lago del Mis is surrounded by tree-covered mountains, and when standing at either end you can see straight through the valley. Locals and visitors alike say that the area has a magical atmosphere created by the calm water of the lake and the energetic Cadini del Brenton and Cascata della Soffia waterfalls

The Cadini del Brenton is comprised of 15 potholes and waterfalls with amazing colors and shapes created by the water. From the top of the lake, there is a 0.6 mile (1 km) trail leading you to this natural sight. You can complete a leisurely walk around Lake Mis in 1.5 hours. Nearby, there are also some other fairly easy trail options heading deeper into the park:

  • Sentiera Natura Val Falcina
    • From the Parco del Mis camping site you will see the trail signposted. The route is a loop, so it can be completed in either direction and is 2.5 miles long (4 km). Along the way, enjoy learning about the geography, flora, and birds of the area from information boards. 
      • Duration: 2-hour loop
      • Difficulty: Easy
  • Val di Canzoi
    • Drive along the SP12 road to Soranzén, then follow the signs to Val di Canzoi and leave your car at the Preton parking area. From the parking lot, walk along the Caorame stream on the trail CAI 806 which loops around Lago della Stua. The trail is 5.2 miles (8.4 km) and there's an abundance of nature to look out for. 
      • Duration: 4-hour loop
      • Difficulty: Easy

Spend your day in nature as you explore the magnificent park on whichever trail you choose. Having introduced yourself to the dramatic mountainous landscape, drive back to your accommodation in Belluno in time for dinner. Tonight, rest up and indulge in a hearty meal, topped off with a glass of wine and an apple strudel. Head to a restaurant close to Piazza Duomo, in the heart of the old town.

Day 3: Belluno to Cortina d’Ampezzo

The Dolomites
Deep in the Dolomite mountains

Today you will be venturing further into the Dolomites as you transfer to the popular ski town of Cortina d’Ampezzo. The drive through the heart of the Dolomites takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes. Take your time and admire the amazing scenery as you pass by dramatic mountains including Monte Antelao.

In 1956, Cortina hosted the Winter Olympics, giving the town worldwide fame as an active holiday destination. Located in the Ampezzo Valley, visitors flock to Cortina for excellent skiing and snowboarding in the winter, but in the warmer months it is also highly regarded as a good base for biking, hiking, and shopping in the Dolomites region. Check in to your accommodation and spend the afternoon exploring the compact but stylish town center. 

  • Visit the 18th-century Basilica of Santi Filippo and Giacomo. The belltower is visible around Cortina and the interior is lavishly decorated with local marble
  • The Mario Rimoldi Modern Art Museum is a three-in-one option, housing modern art, local history, and paleontology exhibitions
  • Follow the footsteps of James Bond and check out some of the "For Your Eyes Only" filming locations in Cortina including the Piazza Angelo Dibona square on Corso Italia and the Olympic bobsled track
  • Ride the Faloria cable car from the stop in Cortina on Via Ria de Zeto. At the top are spectacular views and a number of walking or cycling trails.  

In the evening enjoy an aperitivo, commonly called an 'apres-ski' drink by those returning from the slopes. Cortina has many great restaurants serving high-quality food. For dinner head to the square Piazza Angelo Dibona.

Day 4: Lake Misurina and Tre Cime di Lavaredo Day Trip

Lake Misurina
Lake Misurina

Today after breakfast you will head out on a half-day trip to Lake Misurina and the Tre Cime di Lavaredo. Meet your driver in the center of Cortina and enjoy the scenic journey up towards the lake. Lake Misurina is located 5,755 feet (1754 m) above sea level, and the air here is so pure that some say it can help the recovery of respiratory diseases. It's a wonderful place to spend a few hours clearing your lungs and discovering natural beauty before experiencing more tranquility with an easy hike through the three-peak mountain range, Tre Cime di Lavaredo. 

In 1956, Lake Misurina was the venue for the Winter Olympics speed skating events. This was the final year that the event was held on natural ice. Your local guide will tell you about the history and magical mirror legend before allowing you to enjoy a leisurely walk around the lake's 1.6-mile trail.

Continue your drive further north to the Tre Cime di Lavaredo, meaning the Three Peaks of Lavardo in English. They are iconic because of their jagged appearance and extreme vertical slopes. During World War I, the area was along the Italian and Austrian front line, and today you can still stumble upon trenches, tunnels, and plaques left in commemoration of fallen soldiers.

The peaks are popular with beginners as well as more experienced trekkers. In the afternoon, head out on an easy and mostly flat walk between two alpine huts. The route from Refugio Auronzo to Refugio Lavaredo is 1 mile each way, and the route can be adapted for more advanced hikers by adding an extra few miles up to and around the three peaks.

The tour ends back in Cortina d'Ampezzo, where you have the rest of the afternoon free. We recommend taking it easy and browsing Cortina's finest high fashion clothing and jewelry in designer shops and luxurious small boutiques, or just exploring more of the town. In the evening, walk along Corso Italia and find a traditional restaurant for dinner.

Day 5: Cortina d'Ampezzo to Ortisei

Town center
Ortisei town center

Leave one winter ski town for another today as you drive on to the picturesque alpine resort of Ortisei. The drive from Cortina is about 45 miles and will take you no longer than 2 hours depending on which road you take. Along the way, you'll drive alongside the Col di Lana and Piz Boè mountain peaks.

Ortisei is the main town in the Gardena Valley, and the town itself is an interesting mix of extravagant Italian frescoes and traditional wooden buildings. Make your way to your accommodation, refuel with an espresso, and explore the small town center on foot. 

The pedestrianized streets mean the town is very accessible, and there are several places of interest to visit as you walk around:

  • The local Museum de Gherdëina celebrates the history and nature of the Val Gardena region through archeology and art collections
  • Admire Baroque style inside the ornately decorated Church of Saint Ulrich and Chapel of Saint Anne, built in the 16th-century
  • Enjoy a 20-minute uphill walk from the center to the 12th-century Church of St. Giacomo and enjoy the more rural surroundings as well as the medieval frescoes outside the church
  • Take a cable car ride from Ortisei to Seceda and admire panoramic views of the Dolomites from 8,200 feet (2,500 m) up. Once at the top it's possible to rent a bike or grab a map and head out on a trail run or walk through beautiful meadows. 

In the evening, find a small local restaurant for dinner and try some regional dishes. The downtown area along Strada Rezia had several spots to choose from. As a ski town, Ortisei also has some bars to enjoy before calling it a night if you are so inclined.

Plan your trip to Italy
Customize your trip with help from a local travel specialist.

Day 6: Free Day Hiking from Ortisei

Hiking and cablecar rides
Hiking and cablecar rides

As well as being a popular skiing destination, Ortisei has excellent trails making it a haven for hikers in the spring and summertime. Today is a free day with endless hiking possibilities from the town center. Put on your best boots, pack a water bottle and lunch, and start your day mid-morning after a leisurely breakfast. We've put together a couple of suggested routes that vary in ability and duration: 

  • Steger Trail to Alpe di Siusi
    • Begin by taking the Seiser Alm cablecar up to 2,000 meters. The route follows trails no. 6A, 6, 7, 8, and 9, and the walking time is about 4 hours. From Alpe di Siusi, head back via the Sanon and Monte Piz cable cars and reach Ortisei in about 1.5 hours. 
      • Duration: Full-day hike, 5.5 hours return
      • Difficulty: Medium
  • Resciesa Hike
    • From Ortisei take the Resciesa cable car to the top and start walking northeast. Follow trails 31, 1, and 10 towards the small church (45 minutes walk). In another 350 meters, you'll reach a large cross with incredible views over the valley. This is a great spot to watch the sunrise or sunset. Head back to the cable car along trail no. 35, or you could choose to make the descent to Ortisei by foot, adding another 1.5 hours to your hike
      • Duration: Half-day hike, 2 hours using cable car both ways, 3.5 hours return if hiking downhill back to Cortina
      • Difficulty: Easy

On either route, there are plenty of refugios where you can stop for a break serving coffee, beer, and homemade food. A slice of apple strudel is sure to keep your energy levels up.

Back in Ortisei, you can spend the late afternoon at a spa and sauna to relax your muscles before feasting on a hearty dinner.

Day 7: Ortisei to Bolzano, Walking Tour

Looking to the Dolomites from Bolzano
Looking to the Dolomites from Bolzano

Today you'll travel further south in the Dolomites to the charming city of Bolzano. In the South Tyrol region, most locals speak German, but Bolzano is an outlier with a stronger Italian influence hailing back to Mussolini's dictatorship. The drive from Ortisei to Bolzano is very short, taking around 40 minutes to travel the 22-mile (35 km) route, so you don't need to rush your breakfast and checkout. When you arrive in Bolzano, head to your new accommodation and admire the delightful pastel-colored buildings.

Bolzano has a very relaxing vibe, which can be attributed to the greenness of its parks, flower-lined streets, cycling paths along the river, and leisurely markets. We recommend starting off with a coffee at a cafe in one of the main squares, such as Piazza Walther where you will meet your guide for a 3.5-hour walking tour. Enjoy wandering the historic center of Bolzano and visiting the main highlights and lesser-known sights. Piazza Walther has an ornate fountain at the center and monument dedicated to the German poet Walther von der Vogelweide. In the square, you will notice the Duomo of Bolzano, recognizable due to its striking green and white tiled roof. The interior of the Gothic church is also worth visiting as it has a large decorative altar and is very well maintained, as the oldest part was built in the 4th century. Nearby, you can also have a look inside a Baroque-style church.

From the Piazza Duomo, walk through the old town and the arcades of shops which were at the center of the medieval village. Each building along Via dei Portici, also known as Laubengasse, has a unique archway and fresco, so don't forget to look up and admire the ornate architecture. Browse popular fashion shops and small local boutiques as you wander out to Piazza delle Erbe. This lively square is at the heart of the old town center, and while you are here stop to look at the 18th-century sculpture in the Fountain of Neptune. 

Your guide will continue to lead you through the piazzas and explain the history of important buildings such as the town hall and La Casa della Pesa, before walking for 30 minutes to the medieval Roncolo Castle. Inside you will see frescoes depicting peasant life in the middle ages and stories of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table. Take a tour of the castle and courtyard and look out over Bolzano from the hilltop. Together with your guide walk back down to the town center and end your tour at Piazza Walther in time for dinner. 

Via Argentieri is a prime street to find many good restaurants. Bolzano's cuisine is a mix of Italian and German influences, so look out for hearty pasta dishes and Gröstl (potatoes and onions cooked with beef) on the menu.

Day 8: Day Trip to Bressanone and the Funes Valley

Bressanone town center
Bressanone town center

Discover the alpine town of Bressanone and the beauty of the surrounding area on a day trip from Bolzano. After an early breakfast, meet your guide in the center to begin the 6-hour tour. Admire the luscious scenery during the 50-minute drive to Bressanone, which is also known to Germans and Austrians as Brixen. The charming town is situated on the rivers of Eisack and Rienz and has a rich and ancient history going back thousands of years. It is the oldest town in the South Tyrol (Alto Adige) region.  

Take a guided walking tour around the medieval center of Bressanone and learn about the significance of the 18th-century Baroque churches including the Duomo di Bressanone and the town's castle. Explore the grand main squares and their pastel-colored buildings at Piazza Duomo and Piazza Parrocchia, as well as the labyrinth of narrow streets filled with shops, Italian gelaterias, and charming hidden courtyards. 

The next stop is the beautiful Novacella Abbey, around a 10-minute drive from Bressanone. The ancient Augustinian Canons’ Monastery of Novacella was founded in 1142 and is set amongst vineyards and landscaped gardens. Spend time visiting the ornately decorated church and strolling around the abbey's community gardens where vegetables, fruit, and medicinal herbs are grown. Further into the walled outdoor area is the tranquil Baroque garden with fountains, flowers, and ancient trees. The abbey winery is a highlight of the tour; enjoy a visit to the wine cellar storing the 70% white and 30% red wine produced here since the 12th century. You can even take a bottle home with you at the shop. 

The peaceful and fairytale-like Funes Valley is protected by the Odle Mountains. Drive through the valley and stop to look up at the towering Odle Massif peak. Notice farmers with their grazing sheep at the bottom of the mountain as you marvel at the dramatic jagged grey structure. The tour will end as you head through the valley and return to Bolzano.

After a late lunch, you're free to visit the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology. The collections on display tell the stories of prehistoric life and modern history. The museum has unique artifacts from the local region which piece together what the Alps and Dolomites would have looked like in previous centuries. Most visitors are interested in seeing the 5,300-year-old frozen man who was found in the Alps and now is on display in the museum. 

Cross the Ponte Talvera bridge and enter the Parco Petrarca. You won't feel like you're in a city when you're in the beautiful green park set alongside the River Talvera. Straight ahead from the bridge is a grand piazza and the Monumento della Vittoria. The stone and marble arch was ordered constructed by Mussolini in 1928 in honor of Italy's fallen soldiers from WWI. Enjoy some tranquility in the park before heading back to your hotel. 

In the evening enjoy a relaxing drink at Piazza del Erbe and walk up towards Via Dr. Josef Streiter to find a cozy restaurant for dinner.

Day 9: Bolzano to Northern Lake Garda

Dramatic mountains surrounding Riva del Garda
Dramatic mountains surrounding Riva del Garda

This morning, you'll transfer to Lake Garda and stay in the town of Riva del Garda. From Bolzano, take a 1-hour train ride to Rovereto station and then either a taxi or local bus to Riva del Garda. Check into your accommodation and spend the afternoon getting familiar with the town and its surrounding dramatic landscape.

Riva del Garda belonged to Austria until 1918, so you will notice an Austrian influence on the language and cuisine. Locals say danke as well as grazie as a sign of thanks, and many restaurants serve schnitzel and sausages, and apple strudel rather than tiramisu. The main attractions to visit in the town are the Rocca fortress and the 13th-century Torre Apponale tower. The Rocca is located on the shore overlooking Lake Garda and is now used as the City Museum, housing interesting art and historic exhibits. Take a walk around the waterfront park as well. Back in the center of town in Piazza III Novembre, you'll find the 112-foot (34 m) tall Torre Apponale, where you can climb 165 steps to the top and enjoy a spectacular view across Riva Del Garda, the lake, and the surrounding mountains. From this square, spend some time wandering around the Old Town and include a stop at the medieval Porta San Marco gate, one of the town's original entrances. 

Located at the northern tip of Lake Garda, Riva is known for catching the wind and is a popular place with windsurfers and hikers alike. We recommend the following activities if you're feeling adventurous today:

  • Walk 1.5 miles (one-way) along the waterfront and beaches from the town center to Forte Garda, an Austro-Hungarian fortress at the bottom of Mount Brione. You can enter the fort or just sit and enjoy the tranquil scenery.
  • Rent a boat and head out to explore the lake, or go windsurfing from Torbole.
  • The Ponale Trail is a popular walk beginning close to the hydroelectric power station in Riva del Garda. It's a fairly easy trail, but increases in elevation. Belvedere is a great halfway stop for refreshments. You can choose to head back from here, or otherwise carry on to Pregasina, where incredible views and the Ponale waterfall await you. The trail is around 4 miles each direction, so be sure to pack water and snacks for the journey.
  • Enjoy a 40 minute, 1.9-mile walk or hop on a local bus from Riva del Garda to reach the Cascate del Varone park. Enter the cave that contains the waterfall to see the results of thousands of years of erosion. Discover the many scenic vantage points both from the top and bottom of the waterfall, as well as a beautiful botanical garden to explore.

In the evening, head to an osteria around Piazza San Marco for dinner and try some regional Austro-Italian dishes.

Day 10: Self-Guided Day Trip to Malcesine and Monte Baldo

Restaurant at the top of Mount Baldo
Restaurant at the top of Mount Baldo

Today, you'll take a day trip to the picturesque village of Malcesine. The best way to arrive is by boat, as you will see more of the spectacular beauty of the lake and the surrounding mountains. After breakfast, hop on the ferry and enjoy the 30-minute trip. The charming, colorful houses and cobblestone streets heading uphill from the fishing harbor of Malcesine lead up to Monte Baldo, the highest mountain around Lake Garda. Malcesine is small but filled with great local artisan and craft shops. When you're ready for a bite to eat, the local olives and lemons are particularly delicious.

Spend some time wandering the winding streets and enjoy a coffee or gelato before visiting the majestic Scaligero Castle. Locals know it as the sister of the castle in Sirmione. Soak in the romantic atmosphere of both Malcesine and its castle, emanating from the beauty of the village itself and the spectacular views you'll encounter here, as well as from the top of Monte Baldo. You can take a cable car to reach the peak. The station is located on Via Navene Vecchia, up from the harbor, and from there you'll enjoy a peaceful ascent up the mountain. The cable car stops once at San Michele (approximately 1,800 feet, or 560 m, up), where you can take a quick photo and change to a larger cabin for the final part of the journey. This cable car has a rotating floor to give all inside equally stunning 360-degree views.

Monte Baldo is great for trekking, paragliding, and biking. The area is known as the Garden of Europe with its excellent variety of botanical species and alpine flora. Surprisingly to many, there are 62 types of orchids growing on Monte Baldo. If you are interested in a more relaxing day, there are some short trails to walk as well as several mountain hut cafes and restaurants where you can sit and enjoy views of the lake. The food is slightly different from typical Italian cuisine, so it's interesting to try some local dishes. 

When you're ready to descend, take the cable car back down the mountain and enjoy the panoramic view over Lake Garda and the Alps once again. Malcesine makes great limoncello- give it a try before returning to Riva del Garda by ferry. Raise a delicious toast to a beautiful day and find a great restaurant for dinner in the center on a walk up from the lake along the street Via Florida.

Day 11: Riva del Garda to Desenzano del Garda

Lake Garda
Lake Garda

Today you'll leave the north of Lake Garda behind and make the 2.5-hour journey back south by boat to Desenzano del Garda. The town has a lot of history to offer as well as vibrant bars and restaurants. Take the early morning ferry from Riva del Garda, then make your way to your hotel to check-in.

Once you've settled in, head out to explore the lakefront, old port, and winding streets of Desenzano. Learn about ancient Roman history with visits to the hilltop castle and Roman villa. When walking between these two sites, you will also come across the Duomo, which is worth a quick visit. If you're interested in delving even further back in time, there is also the Bronze and Stone Age museum in Desenzano (the G Rambotti Museo Archeologico).

Wander through the center and check out the variety of shops ranging from high-end designers to smaller boutiques, and if you are there on a Tuesday don't miss out on the market. As you're exploring today, don't be afraid to get lost in the maze of old streets, find a nice cafe in a square to enjoy a coffee, and grab an Italian gelato for a walk along the promenade.  

In the evening, join the locals in sitting outside and indulging in an aperitivo while overlooking the lake. We'd recommend finding a great spot for dinner in Piazza Cappalletti to end your day.

Day 12: Guided Tour of Southern Lake Garda

Scaliger Castle, Sirmione
Scaliger Castle, Sirmione

After breakfast, you'll meet your guide in the center of Desenzano del Garda for a half-day tour of Lake Garda on land and water. Sirmione and nearby Peschiera del Garda are steeped in history, as your guide will help you discover as you hop between these two villages using Lake Garda's ferry service. If you'd like to visit other villages with your guide, that can also be arranged in advance. During your tour, admire how the landscape changes around the lake, noting that the south is much flatter and less mountainous than the north, but also beautiful.

Your guide will first take you to Sirmione's two main attractions: the Grotto of Catullus and Scaliger Castle. The grotto was actually a large Roman mansion built for the poet Catullus. It was very common for patrician families to construct their villas around the lakes, inspired by the tranquility of the water and views of the mountains. The 14th century Scaliger Castle overlooks Sirmione and Lake Garda.  For an unrivaled view across the lake, you can climb to the top of the castle up narrow stairs.

After exploring the highlights of Sirmione, you'll take a short and scenic ferry ride with your guide to Peschiera del Garda. As you approach, you'll notice that it looks different from other towns on Lake Garda due to its fortress walls and interesting architecture dating back to the Roman period. Your guide will show you around the center and lead you through historical points of interest. Visit Roman archeological sites, the Palazzina Storica Museo, and the Sanctuary of Madonna del Frassino. The islands of Peschiera Del Garda are connected by bridges constructed in the 16th century.  The iconic Ponte Voltoni connects the waterways to the river Mincio. There are two decorative gates to enter the town, the most famous being Porta Verona, and the fortress is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is possible to climb parts of the fortress to see what it would be like to guard the town.

While wandering the streets, you will notice many local food and wine shops. Producers sell sweet and savory treats, including tortellini, formaggella di tremosine (a soft cheese), honey, and sbrisolona (a delicious crumble cake). You are also lucky enough to find yourself in a renowned wine region. Vineyards surround Lake Garda, many producing the local specialty of Bardolino. It is sold in a straw basket that acts as a holder and can be a nice souvenir to take home. Grappa and limoncello liqueurs are also not to be missed and are wonderfully enjoyed with a cake or as a digestif after dinner.

After your tour, enjoy some leisurely free time to explore at your own pace. We suggest picking from the following activities:

  • Hike to see the Waterfall of Varone, and after enjoy wine at Cantina Zeni and the Museum of Wine, set inside the Zeni Winery overlooking Lake Garda
  • Enjoy time in nature at the Hruska Botanical Garden in Peschiera del Garda where you can find species from every part of the world, from the Himalayas to Africa.

We'd recommend finding a great spot for dinner in Peschiera. Fish is a specialty here- try delicious fresh trout, fish risotto, or alborelle pasta. Head back to Desenzano by ferry at the end of your day.

Day 13: Lake Garda to Verona, Guided Tour

Verona
Verona

Make your way east to the city of Verona after breakfast, the inspiration for Shakespeare's most famous love story. Traveling by train is easy and will take around 30 minutes. After settling into your hotel, you'll head out to savor the romantic city with a local guide. You'll see for yourself why this city is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Apart from being the setting of Romeo and Juliet, Verona is rich in history and archaeological importance. 

Your walking tour will start with one of Verona's most notable landmarks, the Arena in Bra Square. Still used today, this ancient Roman amphitheater is one of the best-preserved of its kind. From there, wander through the cobblestone streets and arrive at the central Piazza Bra, the largest square in the city and the perfect spot to delve into the importance of the ancient economic and political life in the quaint market Piazza delle Erbe.

Nearby, you'll visit the house of Verona's famed lovers and see Juliet's balcony and the Casa di Giulietta, said to have inspired Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. However, Verona isn't only known for its romance. Continue your tour and learn more about why Verona holds such an important place in Northern Italy's medieval history and visit the former political center Piazza dei Signori.

After your tour, take the rest of the day to explore on your own. Spend some time seeing inside the Roman Theater and Archaeological Museum. Admire the impressive archaeological feats before heading over to the Castelvecchio. First, cross the Castelvecchio Bridge, constructed in the 1350s. You'll travel back in time as you walk over its red brick and take in the incredible scenery of the Adige river from this ideal vantage point. As you reach the other side, you can visit the Castelvecchio Museum. This small castle, built for military purposes, is a lovely example of Gothic architecture. 

Take note of your guide's recommendations for which restaurants not to miss for the best local dishes, and watch the sunset over dinner.

Day 14: Wine Tour from Verona

Ripe grapes in a vineyard
Ripe grapes in a vineyard

After a relaxed breakfast, head out for a delightful half-day wine tour in the vineyards of the Valpolicella region, surpassed only by Chianti and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo in terms of red wine production. The name, which comes from a mix of ancient Latin and Greek, translates to "valley of many cellars." 

This sprawling district in the Veneto region sits between the Alps foothills and the surrounding valleys of the Lessini Mountains. Valpolicella's rich, alluvial soils cultivate some of the world's best-quality grapevines, which produce four styles of revered red wines: dry, classic Amarone, spicy cherry Valpolicella Ripasso, sweet Recioto, and lively, accessible Valpolicella. With such a wide range of flavors, there's a wine for every palate. 

You'll stop at two local wineries to learn about the production process and to tour the cellars, seeing how wine barrels are stored for aging. You'll have a couple of tastings to discover the different flavors and compare and contrast before heading back to Verona.

In the afternoon, explore the city of Verona on your own. Head to the Giusti Garden in the east of the city, located just behind the Giusti Palace. Stroll through the maze of lawns, manicured hedges, and Greek statues that adorn its walkways and appreciate the Renaissance style. For dinner check out the Old Town area and find a cozy restaurant where you can spend your evening.

Day 15: Goodbye Italy

Goodbye Italy
Goodbye Italy

Your journey in Italy will end after breakfast, with a transfer to the airport to catch your flight home or to your next destination. Arrivederci!

Map

Map of Mountains and Lakes in Northern Italy: The Dolomites, Lake Garda, Verona & More - 15 Days
Map of Mountains and Lakes in Northern Italy: The Dolomites, Lake Garda, Verona & More - 15 Days