Around the Italian Lakes

Trip Highlights

Northern Italy’s fabled Lake District beckons with its sublime landscapes of shimmering glacial waters, soaring Alpine peaks and bijou towns. Immerse yourself in the distinct bella figura Italian style that has inspired poets, composers, artists and philosophers for centuries. Stay for one week in the heart of the quintessentially Italian città di Como, at the lakeside, belle-époque Palace Hotel, just steps from the local market. Cruise by private boat on Lake Como, Lake Maggiore and Lake Orta. During expert-guided excursions, explore authentic villages and cultural treasures. Visit Bellagio, Villa del Balbianello, Stresa, Isola Bella, San Giulio and Sacro Monte di Orta, a UNESCO World Heritage site. In Milan, visit the Duomo and Teatro alla Scala, and enjoy a specially arranged viewing of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Enriching lectures and the exclusive Village Life® Forum with local Lombardy residents provide personal perspectives of daily life and cultural heritage. This intimate and comprehensive soggiorno, at just the right pace, includes exceptional accommodations, specially arranged meals and all excursions. Verona and Venice Post-Program Option available. 


  • Comprehensive Italian soggiorno (sojourn) in the fabled region that has inspired renowned writers and artists for centuries.
  • Accommodations for seven nights in the charming Palace Hotel in the heart of medieval Como—just steps away from historic monuments, family-owned negozi (shops) and old-world ambiance.
  • This small group program allows for an authentic experience of life in the Italian Lake District in the foothills of the majestic Alps.
  • Private boat tours on Lake Como, Lake Maggiore and Lake Orta, an undiscovered gem.
  • Enriching lectures by local Como resident and by a resident art historian.
  • Visit the stunning 18th-century Villa del Balbianello and gardens and time at your own pace in the renowned lake town of Bellagio.
  • Full-day excursion to Milan featuring the impressive Duomo, the exquisite Teatro alla Scala and the UNESCO-inscribed Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie, for a specially arranged viewing of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper.
  • Exclusive excursion to Lake Orta featuring Orta San Giulio, one of Italy’s most beautiful villages and the 16th-century chapels atop the Sacro Monte di Orta, a UNESCO World Heritage site.
  • Exclusive Village Life® Forum featuring local residents.
  • Verona and Venice Post-Program Option. 


Post-Program Option – Tesori Di Verona e Venezia

Few cities have the power to enchant quite like Verona and Venice. Verona is renowned for its well‑preserved Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals, delightful piazzas and magnificent Roman monuments and is the legendary setting for Shakespeare’s timeless romance, Romeo and Juliet. See star-crossed Juliet’s famous balcony and the spectacular 2000-year-old Roman Arena. Discover the glories of centuries woven through a romantic tapestry of shimmering waterways crisscrossed by stone bridges that lead to Venice’s extraordinary confection of architectural treasures, including the Gothic-style Doge’s Palace. Admire one of the finest collections of Renaissance art in the world on a specially arranged guided tour of the Gallerie dell’Accademia, and trace the development of Venetian art. Cross the lagoon to the charming archipelago’s island of Burano, known for its skilled fishermen and colorful houses. Enjoy three nights in the Hotel Bonvecchiati, an 18th‑century palazzo ideally located just a short walk from Venice’s famous Piazza San Marco.


The Post-Program Option is available at additional cost. Details will be provided with your reservation confirmation.


Shared departure: This departure is shared with other universities.


Day 1 – Depart Gateway City

Depart for Italy.

Day 2 – Milan, Italy/Como

Arrive in Milan, Italy, and transfer to Como, the perfect “home” for our soggiorno (sojourn) in the spectacular mountainous Italian countryside. Check into the charming Palace Hotel on the shore of Lake Como, and enjoy ideally located accommodations for the entire week in the centro storico (old town) of this timeless Italian città. Join your traveling companions for a Welcome Reception and dinner in the hotel. 

Meals: Reception, Dinner

Day 3 – Como

Founded by the Romans in 196 B.C., Como has been internationally known for its silk‑weaving industry since silkworms were first imported here in the 14th century. At one time, Como was the largest European silk producer—dyeing, weaving and designing fabrics to be shipped to the fashion houses of Milan, Paris and London. Stroll beside medieval towers and walls, Renaissance palaces and churches, neoclassical 19th-century villas and small family-owned negozi (shops) leading to the Piazza Cavour and the tranquil lakeside promenade.

See the magnificent Duomo di Como, considered the most beautiful cathedral in Lombardy, which took nearly 400 years to complete, reflecting a seamless blend of Gothic and Renaissance styles. Visit the 12th-century Romanesque Basilica di San Fedele, with stunning frescoed naves and apses and an exquisitely sculptured choir, carved by Comacini masters. Peruse the fresh fruit and vegetables in the tri‑weekly outdoor market, a local tradition for centuries.

A resident art historian and a local scholar of Como from the Roman era to the present will each present private, expert lectures. 

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 4 – Lago Maggiore/Borromean Islands/Stresa

Beloved by Lombardy’s nobility, Italy’s second-largest lake is a natural boundary between the regions of Lombardy and Piedmont. A close rival to Lake Como as the most spectacular in the Lake District, Lake Maggiore’s mild climate allows gardens to grow rare and exotic plants beneath the high Alps, particularly on the remarkable Borromean Islands. Enjoy a private boat cruise amidst its charming islands that inspired Flaubert, Wagner and Goethe.

Cruise among Lake Maggiore’s enticing islands, graced with elegant villas and striking natural beauty. Isola Bella, Isola di San Giovanni, Isola Madre and Isola dei Pescatori are collectively known as the Borromean Islands, named after the powerful and influential Borromeos, a dynasty of counts, cardinals and warriors.

Visit the crown jewel of the Borromean archipelago, Isola Bella, occupied by the 17th-century Palazzo Borromeo. Walk through its splendid Italianate gardens, a baroque botanical masterpiece ablaze with roses, gardenias, azaleas and rhododendrons, described by Edith Wharton as a work of “Renaissance poetry.” Commissioned by Count Carlo Borromeo III in 1632, this secluded Baroque retreat is dedicated to his wife, Isabella, and its extravagant halls and opulent salons are filled with priceless masterpieces by old masters such as Rubens, Titan and Van Dyck. See the Sala di Napoleone, where Napoleon and Josephine slept in 1797, and the unforgettable grotto, decorated entirely with marble- and lava-studded mosaics of marine life.

An 18th– and 19th-century “Grand Tour” of Europe was considered incomplete without a visit to Stresa to experience its spectacular mountain views, tropical gardens and the sparkling waters of Lake Maggiore. A young Ernest Hemingway, recuperating in Stresa during World War I, was inspired to make it the setting for Frederic Henry and Catherine Barkley’s famed reunion in A Farewell to Arms.

Meals: Breakfast

Day 5 – Milan

The recognized capital of the design and fashion worlds, Milan has an ancient cultural heritage that blends its ornate palaces, Gothic churches and venerable museums with vibrant contemporary life, a wealth of modern art, an abundance of haute cuisine, and outstanding operatic traditions. Visit Milan’s exquisite late-Gothic Duomo, which dates to 1386, and the world-famous Teatro alla Scala opera house, a neoclassical jewel of gilt boxes and glittering chandeliers.

By special arrangement, visit the UNESCO World Heritage site of Santa Maria delle Grazie to experience the enduring genius of Leonardo da Vinci’s masterpiece, The Last Supper.

Meals: Breakfast

Day 6 – Lago Como/Villa del Balbianello/Bellagio

Composer Franz Liszt romanticized, “When you write the story of two happy lovers, place them on the shores of Lake Como.”

Cruise by private boat across the sparkling waters of Italy’s deepest—and perhaps most spectacular—lake while learning about its fascinating history and allure. Perched on a promontory punctuated by stands of cypress trees, Bellagio has been a favorite retreat since the time of the Caesars and is one of the Italian Lake District’s most internationally well-known villages. In the 18th and 19th centuries, Milanese nobility flocked here to build elaborate villas and cultivate subtropical gardens. Enjoy time to explore Bellagio at your own pace.

Across Lake Como from Bellagio, visit the magnificent Villa del Balbianello and its unique terraced gardens. Built in 1787 by Cardinal Angelo Maria Durini, this consummate Italian lake villa was renovated in the early 20th century by an American veteran of World War I and then purchased by Italy’s first explorer to summit Mt. Everest, Guido Monzino, who bequeathed it to the Italian National Trust. It remains a paragon of authentic Italian luxury, the villa is a repository of 18th-century French and English furniture and an exquisite collection of Monzino’s Chinese, pre-Columbian and African art.   

This evening, during the Village Life® Forum in Como, residents will discuss contemporary life in the extraordinarily beautiful and historic Italian Lake District. Savor the delights of a northern Italian dinner in a local ristorante.

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 7 – Lago Orta

Serene Lake Orta, nestled in the captivating Piedmont region of northwestern Italy, is the Lake District’s best-kept secret. Enjoy a walking tour to the heart of Orta San Giulio’s medieval village center, a cinematic tableau of gracefully aging ochre-hued houses woven with arabesques of decorative wrought-iron and flamboyant Baroque palazzos built by Italian nobility.

Atop the summit of Sacro Monte di Orta—one of nine sacred mountains in northern Italy and a UNESCO World Heritage site—amidst a picturesque landscape of forested hills, visit several small chapels dedicated to St. Francis of Assisi, decorated with elaborate frescoes and built between the 16th and 18th centuries.

Cruise across the cobalt-blue water in a private boat to diminutive Isola San Giulio, taking in stunning views of picture-perfect Italian villas and gardens along the way. Robert Browning, Honoré de Balzac and Lord Byron all wrote of this intimate island’s sublime beauty. Visit the 12th-century Romanesque-style Basilica San Giulio, whose opulent interior is adorned with richly detailed frescoes painted upon the nave, chapel, vaults and aisles; then, stroll the monastery’s lush grounds. Return to Orta San Giulio for time at leisure in this beguiling village. 

Meals: Breakfast

Day 8 – Como

The day is free for independent pursuits. You have the opportunity to peruse the fresh fruits and vegetables in Como’s outdoor market, a local tradition for centuries.

This evening, join your travel companions for the Farewell Dinner in the hotel.

Meals: Breakfast, Dinner

Day 9 – Como/Milan/Arrive Home

After breakfast in the hotel, continue on the Verona and Venice Post-Program Option, or transfer to Milan for your return flight home. 

Meals: Breakfast


Show Full Itinerary

Your Journey

Around the Italian Lakes

By participating in an Alumni Association of the University of Michigan travel trip, you have stated that the Alumni Association has the exclusive right to use video and other visual/audio portrayals of You or Your likeness taken during Your trip in any medium of any nature whatsoever for any purpose, including advertising or promoting the services of the trip without any compensation being paid to You. Any such portrayal or likeness shall be the exclusive property of the Alumni Association of the University of Michigan.

(9 days)
Starting price: $3,895
+ air
Deposit per person: $800
Gohagan & Co.
Type: Cruise, Ocean Cruise, Shared Departure

You must be an Alumni Association member to travel with us. Questions? Call Michigan Alumni Travel at 855.764.0064.

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