Italian Lakes and Bernina Express Tour with a Mediterranean Cruise
The romance of the Italian lakes. The thrill of the Swiss Alps. The legends of the ancient world. This cruise and tour holiday is a whirlwind of cultures that will take you to Italy, Switzerland, Turkey, Greece and Croatia. Youll take to the waters of Lake Maggiore and Lake Garda, glide through snow-capped peaks on the Bernina Express before embarking on a Mediterranean cruise, taking in UNESCO-listed Ephesus, and the Peloponnese, home to Olympia. Istanbul and Venice are two highlights, so youll have an overnight stay in each to explore to their fullest.
4 excursions and visits
Day 1 UK – Milan – Lake Maggiore
Titans VIP door-to-door travel service collects you from home for your flight to Milan. On arrival we transfer to Lake Maggiore – the most tranquil and undiscovered of Italys lakes. Well stay in one of the Zacchera hotels situated here, with lakeside views to enjoy. The specific hotel will be confirmed closer to departure
Day 2 Lake Maggiore
Lake Maggiore is edged by charming towns with twisting cobbled streets and family-run trattoria. Its backed by prominent snow-capped peaks in every direction. Its wind-ruffled waters are dotted with three tiny islands, the Borromean Islands, and today well explore each of them.
Isola Bella (beautiful island) lives up to its name with the dominating 17th-century Palazzo Borromeo and sprawling gardens. Isola Madre is noted for its beautiful botanical gardens, rich in rare plants. Then well enjoy some free time on picturesque Isola dei Pescatori.
Day 3 Lugano – St Moritz
We leave Italy behind and head for the soaring alpine peaks and timber villages of Switzerland. Well learn about the sweetest of Swiss traditions at a chocolate factory – therell be plenty of opportunity for a tasting, too.
We arrive at lakeside Lugano, where the maze of cobblestoned streets untangle by the tranquil lakeshore to reveal a long, flowery promenade fringed with waterside eateries and cafs. The Mediterranean-style squares and vast parkland are a delight to explore. We then continue to St Moritz this afternoon – the picture of Swiss alpine perfection.
Day 4 St Moritz – Bernina Express – Lake Garda
An express train ride doesnt usually conjure images of gentle journeys through snow-covered peaks, admired through panoramic windows. But the Bernina Express is not your usual express train journey. Today youll wind through the magnificent Swiss Alps, crossing borders and cultures as you travel from St Moritz to Tirano in Italy. Youll pass over 196 bridges and climb the incredible Brusio Spiral Viaduct, which was built to limit the railways incline to 7%. On arrival in Tirano, we transfer to our hotel in Lake Garda for the evening.
Day 5 Lake Garda – Sirmione
Visitors have been captivated by the beauty of Lake Garda for centuries – and its easy to see why. The largest of Italys lakes, the north offers mesmerising views of the Alps tumbling into the lakes waters and its shoreline is a mix of waterside towns and cliff-hanging villages. The south is splendid with sprawling vineyards and olive groves – and some of the lakes prettiest towns, not least of which is Sirmione.
Well take to the crystal-clear waters this morning for a cruise on the lake and spend some time exploring Sirmione. Here, the medieval Rocca Scaligera looms over the charming twists of the old town. It was originally a Roman fortification, but it was rebuilt in the 13th century and affords beautiful views of Sirmione from the tower.
Day 6 Lake Garda – Venice
We journey to Venice harbour where we embark our ship for a late afternoon sailing.
Day 7 At sea
A day at leisure to spend as you please on board the ship.
Day 8 Katakolon (Olympia), Greece
Katakolon is the gateway to the Peloponnese, Greeces most legendary lands and home to Olympia. It is at the Temple of Zeus where gods once gathered to meddle in the affairs of mortals. But mythological charms aside, the region reveals what it means to be Greek through its dedication to tradition. It feels removed from the fame of Athens or the islands yet boasts so many of the same charms – the very first Olympic games were held here some 2,000 years ago – making this part of Greece truly special. Youll revel in natural wonders and gain an insight to the rural way of life.
Day 9 Piraeus (Athens)
No modern metropolis is more steeped in myth and legend than Athens and Piraeus is our gateway to the wonders that await. The heritage of the city is still very much alive for modern visitors sightseeing in Athens. Ancient stadiums and temples dwell alongside apartment blocks. Modern performances are staged in the marble amphitheatres where Greek drama was born. Millennia-old monuments are scattered in the archaeological park that circles the Acropolis. Wandering the streets and taking it all in is a pinch-me experience.
Day 10 Kusadasi (Ephesus), Turkey
Ephesus is one of the most legendary cities of the ancient world. It is the grandest and best-preserved of Turkeys ancient cities. St Paul preached in its Great Theatre and even today the faade of the Celsus Library still stands, as a testament to the citys one-time role as a centre of learning and culture.
Day 11 Cruising the Dardanelles – Istanbul, Turkey (overnight)
On the far northwest coast of Turkey, the 60km-long Dardanelles divides the continents of Europe and Asia. This historic waterway once acted as a strategic gateway for both shipping trade and military to Istanbul and the Black Sea region. Well enjoy a day of scenic cruising as we glide towards Istanbul.
Day 12 Istanbul
Awake to enjoy the day in Turkeys capital to discover the sights and sounds of this magnificent city. Travel back thousands of years at the Sultanahmet Meydani, once the sporting and social heart of Constantinople; admire the incredible tiles adorning the Blue Mosque; and gaze up at the domes and minarets of UNESCO-listed Hagia Sophia.
The colourful Grand Bazaar is also a must-see. With almost 4,000 shops of antiques, carpets, jewellery and more, its the biggest souk in the world. After all the browsing, perhaps call in at one of the bazaars historic coffee roasters for a cup of authentic Turkish coffee, prepared and poured the traditional way.
Day 13 Mykonos, Greece
Once a favourite holiday destination of Jackie Kennedy Onassis and her entourage, Mykonos has been associated with wealthy jetsetters for decades. But glitz and glamour aside, this island is teeming with Greek charm. A walk around Mykonos Town will capture your heart. Its a maze of whitewashed buildings with blue doorways and draping pink bougainvillea. The iconic windmills stand tall, the swathes of beach are golden and inviting and the dolmades are fresh and delicious.
You might like to get a flavour of the whole island on a panoramic tour taking in Ioannis, Ornos, Kalafatis and ending in Ano Mera, perhaps the most traditional of the islands villages.
Day 14 Souda (Chania), Crete
In Chania, the pretty Venetian quarter is a tangle of narrow lanes and colourful buildings. Set your compass to the magnificent waterfront where old townhouses have been transformed into atmospheric restaurants. Walk along the breakwater to the restored 500-year-old lighthouse – the sunset views here are second to none.
You could easily spend the day exploring the delights of the city, stopping periodically for a taste of bouyatsa (custard pastry) or a glass of Cretan red wine. Or you might like to venture into the countryside on an excursion.
Day 15 At sea
A day at leisure to spend as you please on board the ship.
Day 16 Korcula, Croatia
Korcula is a true gem of Dalmatia. Steeped in history, dense pine forests and glorious little towns, this island has it all. In Korcula Town, the Adriatic Sea laps at the shore on three sides and sprawling groves of palms and evergreens border the other. You may feel as though youve awoken in a Croatian paradise this morning.
Korcula Old Town is the islands treasured highlight. Its stone architecture and historic ambience is reminiscent of the one-time Venetian rule with towered gates, lion statues, magnificent palazzos and elaborate stonework decorating the streets. Youll feel completely transported as you wander the walkways here.
Day 17 Venice, Italy (overnight)
Youll have the day to discover an Italian icon today. Marshland-turned-masterpiece, Venice has a rich history of art and wealth that has made it world famous. Its a wonderland of winding canals, higgledy bridges and tangled spaghetti backstreets and its as much a pleasure to explore the big-name sites like St Marks Square as it is uncovering hidden churches, where washing lines hang between homes.
Perhaps opt for the classic Venetian experience and take to the waters on a romantic gondola ride, feast on pizza sold by the slice, sip thick hot chocolate and pose for a photo at Rialto Bridge. The day is yours to spend as you please.
Day 18 Venice – UK
We transfer to the airport for your return flight to the UK. Upon arrival, your Titan vehicle will be waiting for the journey home.