The Secret Gardens of Venice and Verona
September 17 - 23, 2022
Huron Tours has arranged an intimate and outstanding addition to our “Italian Lakes” garden tour, extending this spectacular visit to two more wonderful cities.
We’ll start in charming and romantic Verona where we’ll stay in luxury, in the medieval old town, built along the meandering Adige River. We’ll stroll the city together, visit Juliette’s balcony, marvel at the Roman arena and ruins, and experience some amazing gardens.
We’ll then make our way to Venice, one of the world’s most iconic cities. Ask any traveler about their travel bucket list and 'ia serenissima' (the most serene) is sure to be near the top. Venice deserves more than an afternoon stop from a cruise ship or a quick day trip from other Italian locales, especially for garden lovers
This unique itinerary will focus on unrivaled access to private gardens but will also include all the reasons Italy is such a storied travel destination: history, architecture, food & wine.
This small Group tour will be accompanied by exceptional and experienced Italian guides as well as two full time Huron tours tour managers to make sure every second of this luxury tour runs smoothly.
This “Secret Gardens” itinerary is designed to match perfectly with the “Italian Lakes” tour, but can be taken independently as well (limited availability - please get in touch for full details).
With Huron’s extensive planning and experience, you will be in such good hands that all you have to do is sit back, relax and enjoy a glorious succession of incredible gardens while you chat with your fellow garden-loving traveling companions.
Please read on, and consider joining us on this memorable journey through a very special region in Italy.
Happy Travels! - Katie and John Kosta
Saturday, September 17
Grumello Castle and Verona Welcome Dinner
After a morning at leisure we’ll meet in the lobby of our Bellagio hotel and begin our exclusive tour to Verona and Venice. If you are not joining our Lake Como tour and are planning to take the secret gardens tour as a stand alone trip, please get in touch to discuss arrival and transfer arrangements.
Set high on a cliff-top against the stunning backdrop of the Rhaetian Alps, there stands a 13th-century fortress that constitutes a rare example of a “twin” castle – two mirror-image buildings united by a section of wall. The Castello De Piro al Grumello, generally known as Grumello Castle, is named for the rocky hill (grumo) on which it is located. It was built between the end of the Thirteenth and the beginning of the Fourteenth century by the Ghibelline De Piro family. Originally built as a military fortress, it later became an aristocratic manor house that still preserves the tower with Guelph battlements, the Knights’ hall and the wine cellars. The house and the chapel date back to 1700.
The Castle has belonged to the Reschigna Kettlitz family of Milan since 1953 and they have given a new impetus to the wine-making tradition of the territory of Grumello, producing several prestigious wines.
We’ll tour the castle, walk the vineyards and enjoy a light lunch together including the wines of the Grumello estate.
This afternoon we’ll check into the 5-Star Due Torri Hotel in Verona. Located in the historic center of Verona and a stone’s throw from Juliet’s famous balcony, the property occupies a historic 14th-century palace. The panoramic rooftop terrace bar is a breath-taking place for an aperitif or light lunch and at dinner guests can also dine al fresco at the casual grill and bistro. The candlelit ground-floor restaurant serves traditional Italian cuisine with beautiful views out onto the square. Rooms are appointed with period furniture, hand-crafted marble and mosaic decorations, and refined textiles. Due Torri is Verona's most prestigious five-star hotel and you will love every minute of your stay.
Tonight we will raise a toast to our garden travels with a welcome cocktail and multi-course dinner.
(Breakfast, Lunch, Welcome dinner included.)
Sunday, September 18
Giardino Giusti, Valpolicella and Pojega Garden
(In fair Verona, where we lay our scene) - William Shakespeare
We’ll begin today with a private tour of Verona featuring the main highlights of the city. Verona is perhaps best known for its Shakespearian connections as ‘Two Gentlemen of Verona’ and ‘Romeo and Juliet’ were set here but it is so much more than the city of the Bard's tragic love story. Verona has preserved a remarkable number of monuments from antiquity, the medieval and Renaissance periods, and represents an outstanding example of a military stronghold.
Next, we’ll visit one of Italy’s greatest gardens. With the growth in popularity of the “Grand Tour” Giardino Giusti became an obligatory stopping off point for travelers visiting Verona, including poets, artists, and crowned heads of Europe.
Created at the end of the 15th century, the garden now presents itself as planned in 1570 by Agostino Giusti, a knight of the Venetian Republic and courtier of the Tuscan Grand-Duke. It was designed as scenery to Palazzo Giusti, taking advantage of the terraces which reveal the city to the gaze a little at a time.
Besides the collections of flowers there are important Roman ruins and the garden preserves all the original sixteenth-century features: fountains, acoustic caves, pergolas, Italian-style boxwood, mythological statues and a small yet complex maze, known as one of the oldest in Europe.
We’ll have lunch together in a central Verona restaurant beloved by locals.
This afternoon we’ll transfer to the well-known wine region of Valpolicella and the Garden of The Pojega at Villa Rizzardi. The complex is best known for its extraordinary garden. Designed by Luigi Trezza between 1783 and 1796, it is formally-inspired, rich in scenic effects with sudden views opening up, and enchanting outlooks over the wondrous landscape of terraced vineyards. Situated on three levels, the garden’s best known feature is a 'green theatre' with box and cypress hedges. There is a belvedere, a hornbeam alley, a stalactite temple, fountains, statues and beautiful parterres.
On our return to Verona the evening is free for your own explorations and be sure to consult our well researched restaurant list.
(Breakfast and lunch included.)
Monday, September 19
The Gardens of Valsanzibio, Villa Emo and Venice Arrival
‘The sun is not the brightest star in the sky if it is not alone’ – most of the noble Venetian families made their sumptuous homes on the Brenta Riviera, but with so many stars they began to blur each other out. In Valsanzibio there was only the Barbarigo family and for this reason their star was unrivaled and in the sky was the brightest.
Built between 1665 and 1696 by one of the richest and most important families in Venice at the time, the gardens of Valsanzibio at the Villa Barbarigo Pizzoni Ardemani are truly spectacular. One of Europe’s most important historical gardens, the grounds are a Baroque wonderland. There are more than 70 statues, mostly by Marengo, sculpted in Istrian stone. A number of fully operative water features, trees between 300 and 900 years old and centuries-old specimens from four continents (Asia, America, Africa and Europe) are stand out attractions. Absolutely magnificent!
After our tour, we’ll be treated to a private lunch in the garden.
This afternoon we’ll arrive via private water taxi to our home for the next 3 nights, The Hotel Londra Palace, a member of Relais & Châteaux. This 5 Star property is in the very heart of Venice with all major sights nearby and views that are the envy of other Venice hotels. The Londra has been welcoming guests since 1853. Tchaikovsky stayed here in 1877, and wrote his fourth symphony as he surveyed San Giorgio Maggiore across the water. One hundred windows look out over the San Marco basin and the lagoon, with the views over the roofs and church towers from the other side of the building being no less beautiful. Inside, fine furniture, tapestries and brocades adorn the elegantly decorated rooms; and the restaurant adds a creative touch to the great classics of Venetian cuisine.
We’ll enjoy a nice welcome cocktail and dinner this evening in one of the hotel’s gorgeous dining rooms.
(Breakfast, lunch, dinner included.)
Tuesday, September 20
The Secret Gardens of Venice
Venice has many small gardens hidden behind the walls of its palaces, some belonging to religious orders or inserted in the cloisters of the churches. We’ll begin our tour of these secret gardens at St. Mark’s square.
First is Palazzo Malipiero Barnabò, a secret garden at the Grand Canal. Located in the heart of Venice, in one of the most fascinating and prestigious areas, the site is not normally open to the public. The palace is famous as the residence of Giacomo Casanova when he was still a teenager. In the chambers of this palace the Venetian lover learned his art that he will practice so tenaciously later. The palazzo and now-famous garden are owned by Countess Anna Barnabò who has invited us to tour the property.
Our next stop is Palazzo Nani Bernardo, designed by Architect Vittoria, on commission from the Bernardo family. Built in the period between the Renaissance and the Baroque, the palace overlooks one of the most beautiful parts of the Grand Canal. The current owner’s ancestors added an Italian garden to the Palazzo over 200 years ago which is famous for being Venice’s largest private garden, a Venetian treasure rarely seen by tourists, but opening just for us.
We’ll have lunch today in a celebrated Venetian osteria.
Next, a very special garden opportunity just for Huron Tours. A great many gardens in Venice are secret – that is, invisible to the normal passer-by. The garden of Palazzo Soranzo Cappello is probably the most famous secret garden in the city. The oldest evidence of the garden’s current layout is represented by an engraving made by Vincenzo Coronelli in 1709 and the current creation is the result of a careful restoration carried out by the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities.
With a good deal of advance planning, a little luck and a local friend named Claudio, the municipality of Venice has accepted our request to visit.
We will end our day with an aperitiv in the garden of the Palazzo Rizzo Patarol. This 17th century palace, now a 5 Star hotel, features the first garden of Venice, and its past uses include a monastery as well as an embassy. This glorious day of exclusive access to Venice’s most beautiful private gardens and palaces will be one of the highlights of your travels.
(Breakfast and lunch included.)
Wednesday, September 21
Venice and the Lagoon
Today after breakfast we will enter the world of the famous Venetian gondola builders to discover how these symbols of Venice are manufactured, a process that has remained intact over centuries. The techniques will be explained by the carpenters and we’ll get to know the history as well as the traditions of the master boat builders.
Our private boat then takes us to Giudecca island to visit the garden in the cloister of the Church of the Santissimo Redentore. One of the most famous and venerated churches in Venice is home to Capuchin friars, a branch of the Franciscan order, who have inhabited this island and tended the church gardens for the last five centuries. We’ll be surrounded by the silence of this majestic place and all the beauty and peace it exudes.
Lunch today is on the island of Torcello, a thriving port and fishing community that predates Venice by hundreds of years.
Our last discovery in the lagoon will be the Orto vineyards on the island of Sant’Erasmo. Orto is the home and the life’s work of Michel Thoulouze, a well-known french entrepreneur and wine-lover. The wine is made from antique Italian grape varieties from vines cultivated with traditional, earth-friendly techniques. The wine is sold at some of the best restaurants in the world.We return to the hotel by boat and later celebrate our garden travels and new friendships with an intimate farewell dinner.
(Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner included)
Thursday, September 22
Free time in Venice and Transfer to Malpensa Airport
After a morning at leisure in Venice, we’ll depart by water-taxi to Venice Tronchetto with continuation by coach to Hotel Sheraton Malpensa where we will stay overnight. The Sheraton is attached to the Malpensa airport which makes for a very comfortable and convenient departure the next morning.
Friday, September 23
Even dreamy garden tours come to an end and you will head home today with cherished memories of travel experiences most can only dream of and a longing to join another Huron tour.
A $1,000 per person deposit will hold your space. Please use the link above or below to access our online shopping cart. If you'd like to reserve over the phone, we'd be happy to talk to you and can be reached at either (504) 267-2057 or (800) 734-1192.