This tour is a wonderful blend of some of the planet’s most breathtaking alpine scenery awash with vast turquoise lakes and torrential mountain rivers and studded with delightful sleepy villages. It includes a world-class scenic rail journey and the two very different but classic cities of Milan and Lucerne, together with the charming medieval streets and ambience unique to Italy, of gloriously romantic Lake Como.
Firstly we visit Switzerland, one of the most iconic and stunning countries in the world, with its pristine mountain beauty, shimmering lakes and gigantic glaciers. First time visitors are sometimes shocked by the sheer gigantean scale and ruggedness of the Alps as they punch upwards to the sky. Lower down, undulating hillsides provide the backdrop with the typical, chalet-style houses bedecked with window boxes crammed with colourful flowers: it’s a country already familiar to us, if somewhat charmingly clichéd, from countless travel posters and our childhood reading of Heidi! On one hand Switzerland boasts an exacting efficiency second to none, yet on the other, it is also home to the infamous Cuckoo clock and the honey-brown cows that gently amble across lush green meadows accompanied by the unmistakable chimes of traditional cow-bells. Reality does reflect the image, with Switzerland being truly a country of contrasts. But remarkably unknown is the fact that until unification in 1848, it was one of the most consistently war-torn areas of Europe!
Since the fall of the Roman Empire, with rugged mountains proving an impenetrable barrier to outside influences and internal migration, a remarkable country has evolved, with huge regional variations in both people and architecture. It has four official languages: a veritable mix of French speakers in the west, German in the north and centre, Italian in the south, and still in a few mountain valleys, the old dialect of Romansch - with all considering themselves Swiss! Avoiding the conflicts of the 20th century, Switzerland is today one of the world’s richest countries: simultaneously ultra-modern and delightfully medieval too, we see it all. Then, for a complete contrast, we cross into Italy and on to the shores of delightful Lake Como. Much less rugged than Switzerland, the Italian lakes are equally stunning, with Como probably the most attractive of all. We also visit Milan with its stunning Gothic cathedral, the world’s largest, plus arguably its greatest opera house, La Scala, it’s home to one of Leonardo da Vinci’s most famous masterpieces, ‘The Last Supper’ and of course perhaps the most stylish fashion in the world! Finally, blend all this with the enviable Italian zest for life, one of the world’s greatest cuisines and some its finest wines and you truly have a fascinating tour of exceptional contrasts.