Exclusive Small Group Tour Led by Author Susan Van Allen

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.

Attention:  All You Wonderful Women!

Golden Week in the Italian Lakes: For Women Only led by Author Susan Van Allen.

It’s Time to Treat Yourselves to the Pleasures of The Italian Lakes! Lake Maggiore View Rooms in 5-Star Historic Hotel / Marvels of Milan / Extraordinary Gardens in Springtime Bloom / Secrets of Risotto Cooking Class / Artisan Shopping / Best of Bellagio / Private Boat Tours

What is a Golden Day?

Golden Days are easy to come by when you’re in Italy. They’re those days when Italy’s sensual pleasures harmonize, and you just bask in the golden glow of it all.

Go ahead and search your location and discover advice for Golden Days wherever in Italy you may be wandering…


Trip Dates: Saturday, May 27th to Sunday, June 4th, 2023

Day 1: Depart USA to Milan, Italy

Day 2: Welcome to Stresa, with Cocktails and Dinner

Day 3: Fun Cooking Class

Day 4: Lake Maggiores’ Splendid Islands

Day 5: Marvels of Milan

Day 6: Mystical Lake Orta

Day 7: Wonders of Lake Como

Day 8: La Dolce Vita / Farewell Dinner in Stresa

Day 9: Transfer to Milan, Flight Home


GOLDEN DAY 1: Saturday, May 27th – Buon Viaggio!

Today you will take the overnight flight to Milan, full of joyful anticipation.

GOLDEN DAY 2: Sunday, May 28th

Welcome to Stresa!

Benvenuta! You’ll be met by our driver at the Milano Malpensa 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 Included: D

GOLDEN DAY 3: Monday, May 29th Delicious Tastes of The Lakes

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 Included: B, L

GOLDEN DAY 4: Tuesday, May 30th Lake Maggiore’s Splendid Islands

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 Included: B, L

GOLDEN DAY 5: Wednesday, May 31st Marvels of Milan

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 Included: B

GOLDEN DAY 6: Thursday, June 1st Mystical Lake Orta

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 Included: B

GOLDEN DAY 7: Friday, June 2nd Wonders of Lake Como

Today we’ll enjoy the enchantments of Lake Como, a playground for aristocrats since the days of the Roman Empire. We’ll begin in the charming village of Cernobbio, to enjoy the gorgeous views from the lake promenade and a caffe stop. Next, 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!

We’ll land in 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 panoramic 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!).

Then we’ll take a private boat from Bellagio to our last stop: 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.

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

Meals Included: B

GOLDEN DAY 8: Saturday, June 3rd

La Dolce Vita / Farewell Dinner

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

GOLDEN DAY 9: Sunday, June 4th – Arrivederci…

You’ll transfer to Milano Malpensa airport by private driver, with happy memories of your Golden Week.

Meals Included: B

**Itinerary subject to change. If because of weather or unforeseen circumstances changes need to be made, replacement events will be equally as awesome as above.

Activity Level: We explore at a leisurely pace, always leaving time to stop and taste the prosecco. Comfortable walking shoes are necessary, as the villages we visit and the historic center of Milan are pedestrian only, and we will be touring gardens that are terraced and have steps. Also be advised that there are ferry and private boat rides, so precautions should be taken for those with motion sickness.

  • $5,590 per person sharing a double room
  • $6,590 per person in single room

The itinerary includes:

Entertaining hosting by author Susan Van Allen, focusing on Italy’s celebration of all things female

  •  7 nights at 5* Grand Hotel des Iles Borromees & Spa in Stresa in lake view rooms
  • Transportation by private minibus, including roundtrip transfers from Milan Malpensa airport
  • Daily buffet breakfast at the hotel
  • 2 multi-course dinners, with wine
  • 1 cooking class followed by lunch
  • 1 lunch at a local restaurant
  • Private Boat tour of Borromeo Islands on Lake Maggiore, including guided visit to villa and gardens of Isola Bella, and lunch on Isola Pescatori
  • 1st class train tickets: Stresa-Milan-Stresa
  • Guided tour of Milan, including visit to the Last Supper, Galleria, Duomo and its rooftop, with charming local expert, whisper headsets included
  • Guided tour of Lake Orta and Arona
  • Private Boat tour of Lake Como, including visits to Villa Carlotta gardens and Bellagio
  • Entrance fees to museum and monuments
  • Travel journal and optional writing workshops
  • Gratuities for all group activities
  • Charitable donation of $25 to UNICEF

The itinerary does NOT include:

  • Airfare
  • Meals not specified in itinerary
  • Gratuities for private transfer drivers and hotel staff
  • Optional travel insurance
  • Arrival and departure transfer from Milano Linate airport or Milan train station
  • Everything not mentioned under “the itinerary includes”

At the time of booking, please have the following information ready for all members of your party:

  • Tour Name and Departure Date
  • Traveler’s Name: First and last names as they appear on your passport 
  • Passport copy – First page
  • Traveler’s Address
  • Email Address
  • Traveler’s Phone Number 
  • Emergency Contact Information: Please provide the name and phone number of a relative or friend (not travelling with you) whom we could contact during the tour in the unlikely event of an emergency
  • Purchasing a travel protection plan (US and Canada)

Call to find out more about the initial deposit requirements and cancellation policy. 

What are you waiting for?