See the best of the Dolomites and Lake Garda in 9 days. Explore medieval and baroque churches, interesting museums, and stunning nature throughout. Hike beautiful trails around Belluno and Cortina d'Ampezzo. Meet with local guides in Bolzano and Bressanone and learn the fascinating histories of these winding and narrow medieval town centers. Be charmed by Lake Garda's natural beauty and the colorful houses lining the lakeside promenades.


  • Explore medieval architecture and waterways in Peschiera del Garda
  • Experience the best of the Dolomites: Tre Cime, Funes Valley, & the Odle Mountains
  • Hike through Belluno National Park
  • Admire magnificent castles and villas in Sirmione
  • Visit spectacular Lake Misurina

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 Bolzano, Walking Tour Bolzano
Day 6 Day Trip to Bressanone and the Funes Valley Bolzano
Day 7 Bolzano to Southern Lake Garda Sirmione
Day 8 Guided Tour of Lake Garda Sirmione
Day 9 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 Dolomites

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.

Plan your trip to Italy
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.

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 Bolzano, Walking Tour

Looking out from Bolzano
Looking out from Bolzano

Today you'll travel further west 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 81-mile (131 km) drive from Cortina to Bolzano takes around 2 hours, so hit the road after 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 6: 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 7: Bolzano to Southern Lake Garda


Today, you'll leave the city behind and journey to Lake Garda, where spectacular natural beauty meets charming Italian villages. From Bolzano, it takes 2.5 hours to reach Sirmione by train and taxi, or a direct bus. Lake Garda is the biggest lake in the region, and you'll have time to discover what makes it so special. The northern villages of Bardolino, Riva, Malcesine, Gardone, and Limone are smaller and have a more romantic mountain village feeling. The southern towns of Sirmione and Desenzano del Garda are somewhat bigger, with a vibrant nightlife, trendy bars and restaurants, and plentiful accommodation options.

You will stay in 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. This 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 lived and built their homes. 

After checking in to your hotel, head out to explore Sirmione on foot. Have a peaceful walk around Sirmione Park for great views from the peninsula. Then grab a gelato and go for a leisurely stroll along Sirmione's beautiful promenade. Relax on a bench and watch boats go by as the evening draws near. Head to one of the town's many excellent restaurants for a dinner featuring fresh-caught fish from the lake. A great spot to find authentic food is Sirmione's main square, Piazza Carducci.

Day 8: Guided Tour of Lake Garda

Lake Garda
Lake Garda

After breakfast, you'll meet your guide in the center of Sirmione for a half-day tour of Lake Garda on land and water. Sirmione and neighboring Desenzano del Garda are steeped in history. Your guide will take you on a tour of these two villages, hopping between them using the lake'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.

Sirmione is situated on a long peninsula that juts into the lake, making its location and views unique. The village itself is very pretty, with colored houses and cobbled streets waiting to charm you. You'll visit the two main sites with your guide: 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. 

Take a short and scenic ferry ride with your guide to Desenzano. Explore the lakefront, old port, and winding streets, and learn about ancient history when visiting the castle and Roman Villa. 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 here on a Tuesday, don't miss out on the market!

Towards the end of the day, enjoy some leisurely free time to explore at your own pace. We suggest hopping over to Peschiera del Garda, where you can pick from the following activities:

  • Visit the Roman archeological sites of the Palazzina Storica Museo, and the Sanctuary of Madonna del Frassino.
  • Hike to see the Waterfall of Varone. After, enjoy wine at Cantina Zeni and the Museum of Wine, set inside the Zeni Winery overlooking Lake Garda.
  • Enjoy nature in Peschiera at the Hruska Botanical Garden, where you can find species from every part of the world from the Himalayas to Africa.
  • Shop for and sample local food and wine. Producers sell sweet and savory treats, including tortellini, formaggella di tremosine (a soft cheese), honey, and sbrisolona (a delicious crumble cake). Vineyards surround Lake Garda, producing Bardolino wine, grappa, and limoncello.

We'd recommend finding a great spot for dinner in your favorite town. Fish is a specialty here- try delicious fresh trout, fish risotto, or alborelle pasta.

Day 9: 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 of Mountains and Lakes in Northern Italy: The Dolomites, Lake Garda, Verona & More - 9 Days
Map of Mountains and Lakes in Northern Italy: The Dolomites, Lake Garda, Verona & More - 9 Days
Written by Megan Griffiths, updated Feb 18, 2021