Gardens of Piedmont itinerary
Starting with the glories of the House of Savoy in Turin, this two week walking tour takes you to the finest vineyards in Italy, the foothills of the Alps and finishes on Lake Maggiore and the stunning Borromeo Islands.
Day 1: Turin and the Savoy
Our tour begins at the 'Polo Reale', the cluster of museums and gardens that now occupies the former palaces of the Royal House of Savoy in the heart of Turin. Here we’ll explore the magnificent Galleria Sabauda, set in a beautifully restored wing of the Royal Palace, the Royal Gardens and the Archeological Park, which forms the eastern boundary of the 'Quadrilateral' the area of Turin that now stands on the ruins of the old Roman settlement. We’ll dine this evening at a restaurant popular with artists and writers, overlooking the scenographic Piazza Vittorio Veneto.
Day 2: Turin and the Savoy
This morning we’ll walk through Piazza San Carol, the ‘sitting room’ of Turin, to the riverside Parco del Valentino with its fine Botanic Garden founded in 1729. We’ll have a guided viewing of the garden and its library, a collection of 7,500 botanical drawings dated 1752 to 1868. On the way, you'll visit another of the city's treasure, Turin’s most famous museum, the Museo Egizio, whose exceptional collection is comparable to those of Cairo and London. Lunch today is at new small restaurant in the heart of old Turin renowned for its cool, contemporary cuisine.
The afternoon is free to rest up or make the rounds of Turin’s elegant shops. You'll also have the option of visiting a magnificent Savoy hunting lodge built for Vittorio Amedeo II in 1729–30 by Filippo Juvarra southwest of Turin.
Day 3: Turin and the Savoy
Turin is surrounded by a ‘crown’ of six royal retreats dating from the 17th and 18th centuries. Today we visit two of the finest. In the morning, we drive 13 kms north of Turin to visit a royal hunting palace, the first and most magnificent of the Savoy country residences, which was a model for the royal palace at Versaille. Its formal gardens, originally laid out by Amedeo di Castellamonte, are exquisite. On the way, we stop at a pretty town with a splendid castle to visit one of the most impressive museums of contemporary art anywhere.
Lunch will be on the top floor of the hunting palace. Afterwards we will walk off the meal, strolling through a large park that was once the royal hunting demesne (1 hour). After returning to Turin, the evening is free.
Day 4: Le Langhe and the vineyards
Today we head south to the green, rolling hills of the Langhe, one of Italy’s most celebrated wine producing areas, where we’ll spend the next three nights. On the way out of Turin we will visit another of the UNESCO-listed Savoy ‘pleasure palaces’ that ring the city, one of the most famous castles in Piedmont, with extensive romantic gardens designed by the German landscape architect Xavier Kurten. After an independent lunch, we’ll go for a stroll along country lanes for to a nearby pleasant village, known for its splendid park and castle. We then drive to our lovely accommodation, set in one of the most prestigious vineyards in Piedmont, complete with our own personal chef. (1 hour). Dinner will be at our hotel.
Day 5: Le Langhe and the vineyards
We spend this morning exploring Alba, the delightful de facto ‘capital’ of Le Langhe, one of the oldest towns in Piedmont, its pretty medieval centre following the original Roman layout. It is also one of the culinary capitals of northern Italy. After an independent lunch, we’ll take a walk through the heart of one of Piedmont’s finest winemaking districts. The walk follows lovely trails through vineyards and forest. At the end of the walk, we’ll enjoy an introductory tasting to some of the area's celebrated wines (including Barolo and Arneis) followed by a light dinner before driving back to our base. (3 hours)
Day 6: Le Langhe and the vineyards
This morning we’ll walk down the hill to the neighbouring village. After visiting this pretty town, we’ll follow well-marked trails through vineyards and woodlands to a very pleasant small village situated on a lovely natural balcony overlooking Dolcetto country, where we’ll have a picnic lunch.
After lunch we return our base where we’ll spend the afternoon with the vineyard’s own oenologist, who will take us through a hands-on seminar examining all aspects of their wine production: working in the vineyards; working in the cellar and the finally a comprehensive tasting of their fine wines. We’ll finish our visit to the Langhe with a delicious dinner prepared by our chef.
Day 7: The Canavese and the Alpine foothills
Today we drive north to the foothills of the Italian Alps to an area known as the Canavese. Our base for the next three nights is a magnificently restored and converted former Carmelite convent, on a hilltop with a garden and fine views.
On the way to our new base, we’ll stop to visit two of the finest gardens in Piedmont. The first around a castle founded in the 11th century, an attractive formal garden from the 17th century and vast surrounding English parklands, laid out in 1840, designed by Paolo Peyrone. We have an independent lunch at the castle’s café.
In the afternoon we drive on to visit one of the grandest of the Savoy country residences, which has Italian gardens and a large Romantic park designed by Xavier Kürten between 1830 and 1840. In contrast to the aristocratic grandeur of the castles, we will finish the day visiting a charming little villa, the home of poet Guido Gozzano (1883-1916). It is a short drive to our third home in Piedmont, where dinner will be awaiting us.
Day 8: The Canavese and the Alpine foothills
North-western Piedmont’s economy is tightly bound to the wool industry, and particularly to the Ermenegildo Zegna woolen mill. From 1932 until his death in 1966 the visionary industrialist poured money and imagination into his community. His most ambitious venture, however, was the construction of the scenic parkway that still bears his name, a vast program aimed at ensuring the ecological, social and cultural sustainability of a remote corner of the Italian Alps.
We’ll explore this immense oasis, then enjoy a private luncheon as guests of the Zegna family. After lunch we’ll visit the family’s museum, a wonderful collection of 19th-century fabric samples, a permanent exhibition telling the story of the Zegna firm from its origins to the present day.
Day 9: The Canavese and the Alpine foothills
This morning we’ll drive into the Alps, to one of the most famous resorts of the Western Alps which was the favourite summer retreat of the royal family and their court in the late 19th century and serves as the gateway to the Gran Paradiso National Park, Italy’s oldest and largest nature reserve.
All around tower the vertical rock walls that make the area a favourite destination of serious hikers, but for the less adventurous the streams, waterfalls and flowering meadows are just as attractive. We’ll take a full day to explore the park, enjoying a lake side picnic lunch we carry in our backpacks (5 hours) before returning to our hotel in the evening.
Day 10: Lake Maggiore and Borromeo Islands
For the last three nights we will stay in a charming family-run hotel on one of the Borromeo Islands off-shore from Stresa on Lake Maggiore. On the way there we will visit Lake Orta, probably the most beguiling and prettiest of the lakes, taking a delightful lake side path left round the headland, to the oldest town in area, the most beautiful place on the lake. Independent lunch.
In the afternoon we drive on to Lago Maggiore and Pallanza in a charming position in full view of the Borromeo Islands. The town’s mild climate makes the flora particularly luxuriant; the lake front is planted with magnolias. We will visit the botanical gardens of a 19th-century villa with an outstanding collection of exotic plants from all over the world created by the Scotsman Captain Neil Mc Eacharn in the 1930s. From here we take a boat to our lovely hotel on one of the Borromeo Islands, dining on the garden terrace overlooking the lake.
Day 11: Lake Maggiore and Borromeo Islands
This morning is spent island-hopping, first taking a boat across to the neighbouring Isola Bella. It was just a barren rock with a small church and a few cottages before the huge palace and terraced 17th century gardens were built by Count Carlo III Borromeo. It is inhabited by white peacocks. After our visit, we cross over to another island, which is entirely occupied by another Borromeo villa and a botanical garden, laid out in the English manner and then replanted in the 1950s by the botanist Henry Cocker.
We then take the boat back to the mainland to Stresa, nestled in a charming position on the south shore of the gulf of Pallanza. After an independent lunch, we’ll explore the gardens and parks of this charming, if slightly tired, lakeside resort town. We’ll boat back to our base for dinner.
Day 12: Lake Maggiore and Borromeo Islands
At the top of the mountains (at 1491m) is a botanical garden founded in 1933, with over five hundred species of alpine plants. This morning we take a cable car up to the botanical garden and then hike to the summit of Monte Mottarone from where, on a clear day, you can see three countries (Italy, France and Switzerland), seven lakes and the wide Po Valley, before returning to Stresa by cableway. The afternoon is free to explore Stresa or head back to our island home.
In the early evening we’ll transfer by boat to a private villa on the lake, where we will be met by the owners and their friends for cocktails and a private dinner.
Day 13: Milano Malpensa
Tour ends with a transfer to Milano Malpensa airport arriving at 12.00 (trains from here run regularly to Milan Centrale).
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Gardens of Piedmont tour 2019
22 May to 3 June, 2019
2020 tour dates: 20 May to 1 June 2020.
Tour Size7 - 15
Single supplement $850 (double room for single use)
- 12 nights’ accommodation (see the itinerary for details) in boutique hotels
- All breakfast, and all lunches and dinners listed in the itinerary
- All transfers during the tours and all paid admissions during the tour
- All taxes and service charges at the hotels and restaurants as well as all gratuities during the tour
- Services of two full-time professional tour guides.
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We experienced one of the best guided (if not the best) tours of Tuscany. The guide Paul Blanchard was superb: such a fun, informative and caring man, passionate about his subject and fantastic on imparting his knowledge.What an amazing trip we had.
– S and JR