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Golden Week in the Italian Lakes - For Women Only
time 9 Days / 7 Nights

Stresa (7 nights)

Exclusive Small Group Tour Led by Author Susan Van Allen —14 guests maximum

Join Susan Van Allen, author of 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go, for an inspiring springtime adventure in Italy’s beautiful Lake region!

We’ll immerse ourselves in this wonderland that’s inspired poets and painters, fully experiencing three diverse lakes: Maggiore, Como, and Orta. Surrounded by breathtaking landscapes of snow covered alps, sparkling waters, and vibrant gardens bursting into bloom, we’ll discover gorgeous palazzos, quaint villages, and meet wonderful locals. Highlights include 7 nights in lake view rooms at a historic 5-star luxury hotel, a hands-on cooking class, day in marvelous Milan, artisan shopping, private boat excursions, as well as extraordinary wine and food every step of the way.

This is a gift of La Dolce Vita=The Sweet Life, custom-designed and led by Susan so that wonderful women like you can fully enjoy the rejuvenating pleasures of the Bel Paese.


inclusionAt a Glance
  • Saturday - Depart USA - Andiamo!
  • Sunday - Welcome to Your Golden Week
  • Monday - Delicious Tastes of the Lakes
  • Tuesday - Lake Maggiore’s Splendid Islands
  • Wednesday - Marvels of Milan
  • Thursday - Mystical Lake Orta
  • Friday - Wonders of Lake Como
  • Saturday - La Dolce Vita Day / Farewell Dinner
  • Sunday - Arrivederci!
dates Itinerary
Click on the plus sign for full day description.

Board your overnight flight and you're off to your exciting Golden Week in the Italian Lakes! 
*Flights are not included in the price of this package.  We are happy to arrange them for you.

Benvenuta! You’ll be met by our driver at the Milan airport and transported to the enchanting town of Stresa, on the shore of Lake Maggiore, a spot that’s been beloved by travelers since the days of the Grand Tour. Your home for the week is the 5-star Grand Hotel des Iles Borromees, a masterpiece of Belle Epoque architecture. The awe-inspiring view from your lake view room will set the tone for this magical adventure, and you’ll have time to relax, perhaps enjoy the hotel’s spa or pool, a stroll on the lakeside promenade, or shopping in the village.

In the evening, we’ll gather to toast the week ahead. Susan will give you tips for keeping a travel journal, so you can create a treasured souvenir of your week. You’ll dine at the elegant Borromees restaurant, to enjoy local specialties, the first of many memorable meals.

Meals: D

Buongiorno! Wake up and smell the caffe'. An abundant breakfast awaits you in the hotel’s dining room. Get used to this lovely start to all your Golden days.

We’ll take a short ride through the countryside to the home of a darling superstar chef, who will introduce us to the Lombardy region’s delicious culinary traditions. The fun, hands-on cooking class begins with gathering vegetables and herbs from her garden to make our lunch, and will include learning the secrets of making the perfect risotto. The class ends with us enjoying the fruits of our labors, dining al fresco on the dishes we’ve created, and toasting with local wines, that are praised as the best in Italy.

We’ll return to Stresa by late afternoon and you’ll have the rest of the day at leisure. There will be an optional journal writing workshop at cocktail time, and you can explore the town’s lovely shops and have dinner on your own, with Susan’s recommendations.

Meals: B, L

Today we’ll have an amazing adventure discovering the Borromeo Islands, jewels set in the middle of Lake Maggiore. We’ll begin with a private boat ride to Isola Bella—a baroque masterpiece. A passionate guide will lead us through the island’s opulent palazzo, telling us entertaining stories about the Borromeo family and the guests who’ve stayed here, including Napoleon Bonaparte and his sweetheart Josephine.  Surrounding this glamorous place are extraordinary gardens, which appear like an “Alice in Wonderland” vision has come to life.

Then we’ll boat to the folksy Isola dei Pescatori (Fisherman’s Island), to have lunch together, followed by free time to explore this island’s charming shops.

The rest of the day is yours to enjoy Stresa at your leisure. As June is the season for musical concerts in Stresa and the surrounding villages, you may wish to head off for an evening serenade. Susan will provide you with an event calendar to help you make your plan.

Meals: B, L

This is our day to discover treasures that abound in the marvelous city of Milan. We’ll take a train from Stresa and meet our Milanese guide at the city’s heart: Piazza del Duomo. There we’ll visit the glamorous 19th century Galleria (world’s first shopping mall) and take a break at an elegant caffe. Next, we’ll tour Milan’s stupendous Gothic Duomo, the largest church in Italy, and elevator up to its stunning rooftop, that’s flanked with over 100 beautiful sculptures. Afterwards we’ll have time on our own to enjoy lunch and shopping in the Fashion Capital of the World.

The day’s finale will be a visit to one of the world’s most acclaimed masterpieces: The Last Supper. A viewing with a small group will give you time to truly appreciate the genius of Leonardo da Vinci.

We’ll return to Stresa inspired and have the evening to relax and dine on our own.

Meals: B


After breakfast, we’ll begin a day that takes us off the average tourist path to Lake Orta, a mystical gem, that’s affectionately called the “Little Sister of the Italian Lakes”, for its small size and secluded location. We’ll travel by private mini-van to the town of Orta San Giulio, discover its lovely historic center, with its pretty palazzi, and then take a short ferry ride to Isola San Giulio, nicknamed the Island of Silence.

The island’s centerpiece is a twelfth century Basilica, adorned with superb frescoes. We’ll stroll serene paths of the island, accompanied by the sounds of birdsongs and sweet aromas of spring blooms. There will be free time for lunch and shopping in Orta’s craft and antique shops, before we board a historic train for a short ride up to Sacro Monte, (Sacred Mountain), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Here we’ll enjoy stunning panoramic views and visit sixteenth century chapels, decorated with sculptures and painting, that tell stories from the life of Saint Francis.

We’ll head back to Lake Maggiore, and land in the quaint lakeside village of Arona, to visit the Guffanti Cheese Cellar. This humble family run operation has been praised as one of Europe’s best cheese cellars. We’ll be guided through to learn about the process of aging cheeses, and be treated to a delicious tasting with wine.

Back in Stresa by early evening, we’ll enjoy the night on our own.

Meals: B

Today we’ll enjoy the enchantments of Lake Como, a playground for aristocrats since the days of the Roman Empire. We’ll begin at the glamorous Villa Carlotta, that’s surrounded by exquisitely manicured gardens. Inside the 17th century villa, we’ll hear fascinating stories of Carlotta and her family, as we discover sumptuously decorated rooms and gorgeous Canova sculptures.

Next, we’ll boat to Bellagio, aka The Pearl of Lake Como. This village is beloved for its enticing lanes lined with luxury boutiques, wonderful restaurants, and perfect setting for views of the sparkling lake. We’ll have time on our own to have lunch, explore, and shop. (BTW, Lake Como has been famous for centuries for its fine silk production, so bella-bella souvenirs await you!).

From Bellagio, we’ll board a private boat to leisurely cruise the lake with our entertaining guide, hearing stories about the history of this destination, including its magnificent villas. And YES, among the many impressive villas, we will see George Clooney’s!

Our last stop will be the town of Como, where we’ll have free time to enjoy its charming medieval center, that’s full of lovely shops, caffes, and a magnificent Renaissance-Gothic Duomo.

Back in Stresa, after this exhilarating day, you’ll have the evening to enjoy at your leisure.

Meals: B

This is your day to immerse yourself in La Dolce Vita, and experience Lake Maggiore according to your desires. You may want to enjoy the hotel pool and have a spa treatment, shop for souvenirs in Stresa’s pretty boutiques, ferry off to a different village, return to Milan on your own, or enjoy the gardens of Isola Madre. Susan will help you customize your day’s adventure.

In the evening, we’ll gather for our Farewell Dinner at a restaurant perched dramatically above Stresa, toasting as we take in a glorious sunset view, grateful for new friends, inspired, and rejuvenated from our week together.

Meals Included: B, D

Our driver will transport you to the Milan Malpensa airport, where you’ll depart with Golden Memories of our week together...

Meals Included: B