This incredible 19-day tour will take you across the Alps: Before heading into the higher ranges bound for Italy, you travel from Munich to Salzburg via the pre-Alpine hills. After exploring Bella Italia's premier cities, the tour returns to Germany via Switzerland with a stop at stunning Lake Maggiore.
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Although it is still a relatively young city, Munich’s charisma extends far beyond the Bavarian borders. Around the 11th century a few monks settled on the Isar – hence the name (apud Munichen – with the monks).
Because of its strategic location at a bridge and also at the intersection of two trade routes, the city soon became the residence of the Wittelsbach family who reigned as dukes, electors and kings of Bavaria. The city experienced a boom in the Baroque era and finally also in the 20th century. Munich became the capital of Art Nouveau – but also of the National Socialist movement. In 1919 Hitler already tested the demonic effect of his speeches in the Hofbräukeller. Although Munich is a high-tech location today, the Bavarian folklore is lovingly cared for, especially in the last week of September when the Oktoberfest beer festival takes place.
The attractive Neo-Renaissance villa was built in 1886 next to the Nymphenburg Palace and park, one of the most famous sites in Munich.
The 17th century palace, now open to the public, has played an important role in numerous historic events. The small, family-run hotel next door prides itself on its 23 individually designed bedrooms and friendly service. Bicycles are loaned for free, for example, and tickets for the local public transportation system for the ride downtown can be purchased at the reception desk. In spite of the quiet location, Germany`s largest beer garden is just minutes away. The hotel staff will gladly provide restaurant recommendations and assist with the planning of local activities. Indeed, the little inn was recently named a Service Hotel by the travel website Venere.
A visit to the castle that Elector Ferdinand Maria once gave his wife on the occasion of the birth of the heir to the throne is a journey through time to the Bavarian monarchy. Two shady avenues lead to the castle, between them lies the Nymphenburg Canal. In summer it belongs to the swans, in winter to the ice skaters. At the end the half a kilometer wide castle rises. The 230-hectare English castle park with its streams, canals and bridges looks like a fairy tale forest. Today the castle houses four museums.
The semicircular Karlsplatz, better known as Stachus, is the gateway to Munich's trendy pedestrian zone. Here you can find several S-, U- and tram lines, cars, buses, cyclists and pedestrians. Some only want to cross the old town, others start their city stroll here in the pedestrian zone. Or go shopping in the Stachus Passagen. The large fountain with its water jets invites you to cool off on hot summer's days.
The Gothic cathedral and city parish church “Zu Unserer Lieben Frau” dating back to the 15th century is the landmark of the city. The nave is 109 meters long, 40 meters wide and 37 meters high and is said to accommodate 20,000 people. The 100 meter high towers with the so called “Welschen Hauben” are based on the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem. From the south tower of the Frauenkirche one has a magnificent view over the city. The footprint in the entrance hall is called the Devil's Step. The devil himself is said to have stood here because he had bet with master builder Jörg von Halspach for his soul. The church regularly gives organ concerts, has several choirs and its own cathedral singing school.
Broker: Sunny Cars GmbH
Vehicle: VW Golf or similar (CDMR)
Location: Munich (City Office)
The scenic route will take you through the rolling hills of the Prealpine countryside past beautiful Chiemsee. One of Ludwig the Mad's (Ludwig II) most spectacular projects after Neuschwanstein is located on the island of Herrenchiemsee: An opulent palace designed as a replica of the Palace of Versailles.
There are several quaint Bavarian towns close to the route, such as Traunstein and Ruhpolding.
Tegernsee is one of a group of pre-Alpine lakes south of Munich in Bavaria that includes Ammersee, Starnbergersee, Schliersee, Simssee and Chiemsee. Lying farther south than the others and sheltered by mountains on three sides, Tegernsee enjoys more sunshine than the neighbouring lakes – in fact, more sunshine than any other place in Germany. The lakeshores are, in contrast to many other Bavarian lakes, almost entirely accessible to the public, although partly covered with reeds. In the south there are two larger bays and a small island, the Ringseeinsel. In several surrounding villages one can rent sailing, rowing or electric boats. The pleasant climate makes Tegernsee a popular getaway for residents of Munich. Thanks to the sunshine, clean air and remarkably clean water fed by mountain streams, numerous spas have settled in the towns that dot the lakeshore. The Austrian border, marked by snow-capped peaks south of the lake, is a mere 20 km away.
The 1,838 metre high mountain belongs to the Mangfallgebirge, the eastern part of the Bavarian foothills of the Alps. It is the highest peak of the Wendelstein massif. Because of its exposed location it offers a very good view of the foothills of the Alps and at the same time can be seen from many locations. The Wendelstein cable car and the Wendelstein rack and pinion railway open up the mountain, which consists of light grey Wetterstein limestone. Around 100 metres below the summit stands the Wendelstein Church of 1889, Germany's highest church. There is also a mountain observatory. The mountain top is also easily accessible on foot. From the valley station of the Wendelsteinbahn in Bayrischzell-Osterhofen it takes about three hours to reach the summit.
In 1873 the largest of the three islands in the Chiemsee Lake was acquired by King Ludwig II. to build his Herrenchiemsee Palace. However, the reduced copy of the Palace of Versailles remained unfinished. In fine weather the serrated mountains of the magnificent Chiemgau Alps are mirrored in the lake. A passenger ferry runs to the island regularly. There one can visit the castle or stroll through the park.
The hike leads through the history of alpine farming. Three alpine pastures are on the way, where information boards provide information about the alpine pasture system. You also have wonderful views of the Berchtesgaden and Chiemgau Alps. The tour leads along paved alpine and forest paths. The alpine steep tracks require a certain amount of surefootedness. (Round trip 11.1 kilometers, 4 hours, up and down: 670 meters)
The varied hike leads along the Schattseitweg from the Gasthof Oberwirt in Ramsau to Hintersee. After a few minutes you reach the glacier springs, which are fed by the meltwater of the Blaueis glacier at Hochkalter, 1,500 metres above sea level. After you have crossed the Marxenklamm gorge, through which a torrential white water rushes, you go on a nature trail through the magical forest. Over bridges and footbridges you reach the Hintersee and go back halfway up. (round trip: 15.7 kilometers, 5:15 hours, up and down: 734 meters)
The city located at the northern boundary of the Alps is one the most beautiful in central Europe. The backdrop of the Alps to the south contrasts strongly with the rolling plains to the north.
The closest Alpine peak – the 1,972 m Untersberg – is only a few kilometers from the city center. The inner city, or old town, is dominated by baroque towers and churches. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is Salzburg's most famous son. The houses where he was born and also lived in are popular tourist attractions and there are many monuments remembering the “Wolferl” in the city. His family is buried in a small church graveyard in the old town.
The 19th century villa, converted into a boutique hotel, is located in a residential area south of the Kapuzinerberg.
Each of the 14 rooms is individually furnished and offers modern comfort. In the morning a rich Breakfast buffet with local and seasonal specialities awaits and in good weather can also be served on a terrace in the garden with a natural pond. Those who want can take a stroll along the Salzach and reach the oldtown in approximately 15 minutes; with the bus (line 7), it takes about five minutes.
The fortress from the 11th century towers high above the city. It is the landmark of Salzburg and with an area of over 7,000 square metres one of the largest castles in Europe. The location on a rock above the Salzach was ideal for monitoring a wide surrounding area. Even today you have the best views of Salzburg from there. The interior of the fortress is also worth seeing. Concerts take place regularly in the Golden Hall. If the ascent to the castle is too difficult for you, you can take the fortress railway.
The Salzach River, which divides the old town into two parts, flows right through Salzburg. To the left, i.e. west of it, lies the actual core of the city. There are the historic churches, the monasteries and cemeteries, the Salzburg Cathedral and the Getreidegasse with Mozart's birthplace. The Festspielhaus and the Residenzplatz also belong to the left Old Town. The old town on the right is younger, but is also a UNESCO World Heritage site due to the many valuable town houses and the worth seeing Mirabell Castle. Those who want to stroll through the old town should therefore visit both sides of the river.
Although the Archbishop of Salzburg lived in celibacy qua office, this did not prevent him from taking the beautiful Salome Alt as his lover. And since he was a generous man, he had a palace built for them and their 15 children, which he named after her “Schloss Altenau”. When he had to exchange his pretty residence for a prison cell in Hohensalzburg in 1612 because of this scandal, the glory came to an end. His successor as archbishop was his virtuous nephew, who expelled the illustrious family and renamed the castle. It's called Mirabell ever since. A masterpiece of architectural history is the magnificent staircase from the ground floor to the second floor. The wall niches contain marble sculptures inspired by Greek mythology.
If you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the old town, you can hike to one of the surrounding mountains. Especially recommendable is the legendary Untersberg in the south of the city. The massif between Berchtesgaden and Salzburg is full of mysterious caves, including the Schellenberger Ice Cave and the Riesending Shaft Cave. Both can be visited. From St. Leonhart, the Untersbergbahn takes you up to the ridge in ten minutes and overcomes 1,300 metres in altitude. From the mountain station you can hike to the Große Mittagsscharte. (round trip: 2 hours, 4.5 kilometers, up and down: 260 meters)
Salt has been mined here using the “wet mining” technique since 1517, making it the oldest salt mine in Germany. The mine, which is open to the public, currently employs 100 people, fifty of whom work underground. After donning miners' clothes, you will enjoy a multimedia show called the “SaltTimeJourney,” and then ride a narrow gauge train down into the mine. To reach the underground salt lake further down, you can either take the stairs or use the miners' slide. A cable ferry will pull you across the lake and back to the train. The tour lasts about an hour.
The village with almost 8,000 inhabitants lies picturesquely in a basin surrounded by high mountains. The settlement emerged in the 11th century from a monastery foundation. The monastery had forestry sovereignty and the mining rights to salt and metal, which led to an early boom. The first holiday guests arrived in the middle of the 19th century. During National Socialism Berchtesgaden was declared a “Führersperrgebiet” (restricted area for the Führer). The market square is surrounded by medieval houses with frescoes. The nearby Wittelsbach Castle now houses a museum.
Adolf Hitler began using the vacation retreat of Obersalzberg in 1923. In 1933, it was made into a security zone where nearly every important Nazi figure had a residence. Most of the buildings have since been demolished. A museum near the former Berghof will inform you about the role Obersalzberg played during the Nazi period. From here, you can follow the Kehlsteinstraße uphill to the Eagle's Nest, which was built and designed by Hitler. At the end of the road you will find a pedestrian tunnel leading to a gloomy hall deep in the mountain. Once there, take the elevators to the summit, where you can see the Eagle's Nest and enjoy the breathtaking view. This is a prime example of architecture designed to intimidate.
The great hike begins at the large parking lot at Königssee. The first highlight is the Grünstein (1304 m) with a beautiful view over the Berchtesgaden basin. From there it is possible to cross over to the Kphrointhütte. After a snack you can descend to the church of St. Bartholomä and return by boat to the starting point. The world-famous pilgrimage church, the first parts of which date back to the 12th century, is picturesquely situated on a peninsula. Adjacent to it is the former hunting lodge, which now serves as an inn. (Hin: 5:30 hours, 11 kilometers, up and down: 680 meters, only for experienced and sure-footed hikers, contains secured passages)
This centuries-old city has been declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Countless churches and palaces bear witness to the power and unsurpassed wealth of this small republic.
The lagoon city was founded in northern Italy during the troubled times of the decline of the Roman Empire. The remains of the evangelist Mark were transferred to Venice in 829. The streams of pilgrims that followed gave the city much added importance. Since then the sacred symbol of the lion has been the city's coat of arms. Venetian troops later occupied eastern Italy and, in 1204, even Constantinople. At the height of its power Venice ruled the Mediterranean. The demise of the “serrenissima repubblica” began with the fall of Constantinople and the opening of the Western Hemisphere by Spain, Portugal and Holland. Venice's political importance declined after the Congress of Vienna and it was given to Austria. Returned to Italy in 1866, Venice has inspired generations of artists, writers and musicians. More than a city, it is a symbol of wealth and beauty as well as death and decay.
This hotel features a superb location only a stone's throw away from Piazza San Marco. The building's exterior and main entrance may appear mundane, but the interior design is amazing.
This is particularly true of the rooms, which Marcella and Giuliano have tastefully furnished in the Venetian style. The ornamental wall fabrics harmonize perfectly with the curtains and the carpets. Everything from the cheerful furniture to the chandeliers is a delight to the eyes. Amenities include air conditioning, soundproof windows, a minibar in every room and modern bathrooms. The Breakfast is sweet with croissants and coffee.
The splendour of this 1000 year old church is stunning and enchanting. With five domes and decorated arches and windows, it is the result of numerous extensions and conversions. Its core is still the building erected in the 11th century above the floor plan of a Greek cross. Here also lie the bones of the Evangelist Mark, the city's relic that gives it its identity. The books about the shrine fill entire libraries. The cathedral treasury contains the richest Byzantine gold and silver treasure in the world. Most of it comes from Constantinople, which was plundered by the Venetians in 1204. The Museo Marciano has found its place in the gallery above the vestibule.
It's the Palace of Palaces. The Doge's Palace was the power centre of politics, the highest symbol of Venetian civilization and an eye-catcher on all representations of Venice. 120 Doge's have guided the fate of the maritime republic from here for almost 1000 years. In its present Gothic form, it was created in the 14th and early 15th centuries. Its lower façade is colossal: covered in marble and structured by countless columns and arches. In between there are sculptures of Adam and Eve or the drunken Noah. The tour through the interior of the Doge's Palace is overwhelming. It begins opposite the Loggetta and the Campanile at its high Gothic main portal, the Porta della Carta. On the now following path through the palace one encounters “miracle upon miracle”, as the French statesman François de Chateaubriand, blinded by so much splendour, raved.
A lift takes you up to the belfry of San Marco and on to the viewing platform with a panoramic view of a sea of gables and shingles interspersed with dozens of towers. The visit of the tower is recommended at the very beginning; because the panorama provides a first, helpful overall orientation and a feeling for the unique location and structure of the lagoon city. Originally built in the 10th century and considerably raised in the 12th, the almost 100-metre-high Campanile collapsed in 1902, but was immediately rebuilt from the original material.
According to Homer, the town 30 kilometers west of Venice was founded by sailors after the destruction of Troy. Thus it would be one of the oldest in Italy and during the times of the Roman Empire it was certainly one of the richest cities in the world. Devastation during the barbarian invasions, however, had left very little of it. In the late Middle Ages the city, which is connected by a channel system with the main rivers of the Po Valley, managed to rise once again. In part thanks to the glorious university, where Albertus Magnus and Galileo Galilei have taught. Worth seeing is the old market square, which is surrounded by water, and the Scrovegni Chapel, with frescoes of Mary and Jesus. The father of the builder, the notorious extortioner Reginaldo Scrovegni, is said to have met Dante in hell.
In the Middle Ages the city on the north banks of the Po was just as important as Florence, Milan and Venice. The old town has been preserved in its entirety and is enclosed by a nine-kilometer long city wall. The car-free Citta Vecchia surrounding the mighty moated castle is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Over the centuries, Bologna has acquired many nicknames: “Bologna the learned” (“Bologna la dotta”) is a reference to its famous university; “Bologna the fat” (“Bologna la grassa”) refers to its cuisine; and Bologna the red (“Bologna la rossa”) alludes to the supposed political bias of its citizenry. Bologna is renowned for its culinary tradition and is regarded by some as the food capital of Italy. With nearly 40 kilometers of Portici, the semicircular archways, Bologna has a unique cityscape.
The capital of Tuscany lies on the banks of the Arno between the Adriatic and Tyrrhenian seas, near the center of the Italian peninsula.
It is a city that bustles with industry and crafts, commerce and culture, art and science. The Chianti region between Florence and Siena is one of the most beautiful landscapes in Italy and a famous wine production area. Founded by the Romans in the first century B.C., Florence reached its pinnacle between the 11th and 15th centuries, when it was a free city balancing the authority of the Emperor with that of the Pope. In the 15th century it came under the rule of the Medici family, who later became the Grand Dukes of Tuscany. The city is considered the cradle of the Renaissance and humanism and was a leading center of art, culture, politics and economic power during this period. The universal geniuses Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo thrived here. Their works, along with those of many generations of artists up to the masters of the present century, are gathered in the city's many museums.
The sixteenth century villa with a beautiful garden is surrounded by olive groves, vines, rows of cypress trees and ochre-coloured farmhouses – all this just twenty minutes from Florence and a little more than thirty from Siena. It is more like a private house than a hotel: a Tuscan villa with its family antiques, an elegant but very warm ambiance, spacious and quiet bedrooms, lavish breakfasts. The latter feature a large buffet that includes Tuscan specialities such as fresh ricotta cheese, the local focaccia bread, prosciutto and home-made brioche. Whereas the loggia looks out onto a formal garden, the swimming pool is located in an olive grove. All the bedrooms are spacious – most are even enormous – some have frescoed walls and ceilings, and a couple of them have a fireplace. Each room has its own refrigerator, computer outlet, safe, air conditioning, an electric kettle and a tea and coffee tray. The view is of the garden, the olive grove or the central courtyard with the old well and fragrant creeping vines. The bathrooms have been decorated with thorough attention to detail, each with handmade tiles and some with original frescoes.
Getting to Florence from the hotel is quite easy: guests can drive into the city and park at the train station, drive to a large park & ride parking lot just outside of Florence and take the tram into town, or take the bus to Florence from a stop two miles from the hotel. A visit to a working winery, including wine tastings and a light buffet of local products, can be booked upon request.
The magnificent renaissance park at Palazzo Pitti was the most famous garden in all of Italy during the 16th century. The landscape architects have created it in such a way that Florence is always a focal point. Today visitors can explore grottos, fountains, an amphitheater and even an Egyptian obelisk on the nearly five-hectare site. The Boboli Gardens are open daily.
The palace from 1458, which belonged to the wealthy merchant family Pitti, is still one of the largest buildings of Florence. However, it only took on its current appearance a hundred years later when an even richer family, the Medici, moved in. The Pittis had been disowned after they had allegedly taken part in a conspiracy. After the Medici had lost their power, the dukes of Tuscany and later the kings of Italy resided there. In 1565 a kilometer-long corridor between the Pitti Palace and Palazzo Vecchio was built to shield the noblemen and wealthy from the plebs when they left their residence to walk to the town hall. Today dukes and kings have disappeared, so the palace only houses a few museums and exhibitions.
The basilica on the highest point of the city is considered one of the most beautiful churches in Italy. Although built around 1000 the Church is neither spectacular nor particularly large from the outside. But the interior is most convincing. The altar is in fact not on a level with the nave, but is elevated and one cannot look onto the the top of it. The unusual symbols on the portico are to this day a mystery to art historians. The ceiling has a very different style and really does not match the rest of the church. However, all elements work harmoniously with each other. There is a beautiful view over Florence when leaving the Basilica.
This medieval abbey in the vineyards southeast of Florence is today a renowned winery. It is also the starting point for a pleasant walk through a delightful cultural landscape that will lead you down to the Pesa River. (2 hrs, 30 min, 9.5 km, total vertical distance: 290 m)
This is our suggested route if you want to get to know Florence on your own. From the train station, it will take you to the cathedral, the historic center of town and then across the Arno over the Ponte Vecchio. The Boboli Gardens on the other side of the river offer the most beautiful view of the city. (3 hrs, 6 km, elevation change: 90 m)
With its patrician houses and religious buildings, the Tuscan city is a jewel of medieval architecture and culture. Heart of the old town is the Piazza Grande with the Palazzo delle Logge from 1573 and its tall, narrow residential buildings. To the west of the square stands S. Maria della Pieve, one of the most beautiful Romanesque churches in all of Tuscany.
This city was is one of the earliest examples of Renaissance urban planning. Its founder and namesake was Pope Pius II, who wanted to construct an “ideal city.” The central Piazza Comunale is framed by the cathedral, the courthouse and two Palazzi. From here, the streets fan out in all directions. Photographers from all over the world like to use the Terrapille in the southwestern part of town as a postcard motif for classic Tuscany. Part of the movie “Gladiator” was shot here in 1999. The 1969 movie “Romeo and Juliet,” which won two Oscars for best picture and best costume design, was filmed at the cathedral square and at the Palazzo Piccolomini.
The town owes its fame to the wine of the area, the Vino Nobile, which is one of the most interesting wines of Tuscany. High on a hill, Montepulciano is also architecturally worth seeing. Gothic and Renaissance buildings form a unified and closed townscape, which is also special for central Italy. Piazza Grande with its 16th century cathedral is one of the most beautiful squares in Italy.
Monticchiello is a medieval village located off the beaten path and offering an panoramic view to the north. The best way to enjoy the town's beauty is to approach it on foot via the old Strada Panoramica, which is now a hiking trail from Montepulciano to Pienza. The best place to stop for a bite to eat is in Monticchiello at the osteria there. (3:30 hrs, 12 km, elevation change: 290 m)
The western world was ruled from the city built on the legendary seven hills for 1,500 years. Rome was the stage for many historic events of worldwide significance during that era.
After the collapse of the Roman Empire the city became the seat of the Catholic Church. During the zenith of its power (the second century A.D.) Rome's population numbered more than a million, making it the world's first metropolis. However, only 25,000 people lived among the city's ruins at the close of the Roman Empire. Regrowth didn't begin until the return of the Pope from Avignon in the fifteenth century. Today the Italian capital ranks amongst the premiere cities of Europe with regard to art, culture and a fast-paced lifestyle. Millions of tourists visit Rome annually to take in the sights, shop and enjoy the cuisine.
This centuries-old building is located in the city centre, between the Spanish steps and the Via Veneto. Marco and Giulia, the enterprising proprietors who have roots in the hotel business, have completely restored the property and now offer modern, comfortable accommodation in a historical building.
Marco can suggest the best sites to see – he is an accredited Rome tour guide. The building offers many practical conveniences. An elevator takes guests to the air-conditioned rooms on the three upper stories. The upstairs suites have a view extending over the roofs of the old city to the dome of St Peters. You're guaranteed a good night's rest here (a valuable commodity in Rome), as the guesthouse is next door to a convent! The subway station Barberini is only a few steps away.
Villa Borghese is not a building, but a green area in the middle of Rome. It was built at the end of the 16th century on the vineyard of the Borghese noble family. In 1901 the state bought the estate and opened it to the public. Today there are numerous museums on the site, including the Galleria Borghese and the Museum of Etruscan Art. On the north side lies Bioparco, the Roman zoo with over 200 animal species. Villa Borghese is also a popular place for joggers and walkers; on a small lake you can rent rowing boats and watch the ducks. A beautiful place to rest after strenuous sightseeing.
The impressive rotunda with its columned façade was erected 25 B.C. as a temple for all gods and converted into a church over 600 years later. The dome is particularly impressive: it symbolizes the sky, the opening in the middle stands for the sun and the contact with the stars. With a diameter of 43 metres, the dome of the Pantheon was the largest in the world for 1700 years until St Peter's Basilica was built. Visitors to the Pantheon enjoy the meditative atmosphere inside and the delightful play of sunlight that falls through the openings in the roof and “wanders” along the floor. The Pantheon became the architectural model for domed buildings worldwide, such as the Capitol in Washington DC, the Berlin Cathedral or the Invalid Cathedral in Paris.
A closer look at the huge square in the heart of the city reveals much about its origin: the long, almost oval surface resembles a track in the stadium. In fact, Piazza Navona was originally an arena. Emperor Domitian had it built. More than 30,000 people found a place here. In the Middle Ages the spectator stands were gradually converted into houses. In the 15th century, the stadium first became a park and then a square by paving. The most important monuments are the church of Sant Agnese, built in honour of the martyr Agnes, and the 17th-century four-stream fountain: On it four male sculptures symbolize the four continents known at that time in the form of the rivers Danube, Nile, Ganges and Río de la Plata.
If you would like to explore Rome on your own, our recommended route starts at the Roma Termini train station and takes you to the key sights in the Eternal City. On your way past the opera house, you will come to the Palazzo Berberini, the Fontana di Trevi, the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon and finally the Colosseum and the Forum Romanum. (4 hrs, 8 km, elevation change: 70m)
The “Theatre of Unity” of Monte Castello di Vibio is considered the smallest theatre in the world with 99 seats and a stage area of 50 square metres. It was built at the beginning of the 19th century for nine wealthy families. Decorations and scenery were executed by a painter from La Spezia. The frescoes were painted by his son, who was 15 years old at the time. In the 20th century the theatre fell into disrepair until it was restored in the 1980s. Since then there have been regular performances again.
This scenic and culturally fascinating region between Florence and Sienna is considered to be classic Tuscany.
Vineyards, cypress trees, forests, idyllic wine villages and castles are nestled in the gently rolling hills. During the Middle Ages, Chianti was the scene of heavy fighting between the Tuscan cities of Florence and Sienna, a conflict that ended in 1559 with the annexation of Sienna by Florence. Since the best wines in Italy are made here, the name “Chianto Classico” has been a protected trademark since the 18th century. It initially included Radda, Castellina and Gaiole. Other areas to the East were added later.
A cypress alley will lead you to 800 acres of majestic hill country in Dievole, a private Chianti Classico estate near Vagliagli, where you can enjoy Italian nature, art, fashion and La Dolce Vita. Siena is only eight miles south of Dievole and Firenze just forty miles north.
Dievole, once home to Florence nobility, is now one of the most elegant guesthouses on a working wine estate in Tuscany. Some of Italy's best and most famous wines are being produced here. Guests are either accommodated in the sixteenth century Villa, the private guesthouse Casa Dievolino or rooms with a kitchenette in Casa Olivo.
In the early 1990's Piero and Rosalba Giadrossi discovered this seven-hectare oak forest near Pievasciata. It offered the ideal conditions for their project – to present modern art in a natural context. The park opened its doors after five years of hard work. More than 20 artists from all over the world exhibit their work here. The peaceful surroundings lend their art a unique charm.
According to legend, Siena was founded by Senio, the son of Romo, who was one of Rome's founders. Siena is the most important city of art in Tuscany after Florence. The city's main period of development was the Middle Ages, when the town expanded in various directions. Siena reached its full splendor in 1300, when most of the civil monuments were constructed, and an attempt was made to build the new Duomo. Siena was pre-eminently a Ghibelline town, and its rulers often “crossed swords” with the Florentine Guelphs in epic and bloody battles that shaped the history of the Italian Middle Ages. One of the most famous battles took place in Montaperti on 4 September 1260, when the Sienese defeated the Florentine army. A tragic plague epidemic in 1348 marked a very difficult period for Siena that led to its annexation into the Grand Duchy of Tuscany and the loss of its independence.
This wine center with a vivacious downtown is nestled among forests and gently rolling hills where Romanesque churches, medieval hamlets and a castle are tucked away. This magnificent hike will lead you around the Monte Marcoli. On the way, you can stop for a bite to eat at the Ristorante L'Alto Chianti or afterwards in Gaiola. (3:50 hrs, 12.8 km, elevation change: 350 m)
On a mountain path just a few kilometers from the cultural center of Sienna, you can enjoy some relaxation and a view. The cathedral of Sienna is visible for the entire walk. The goal of this leisurely stroll is a 14th century Carthusian monastery, the Certosa die Pontignano. Afterwards, you can stop for a bite to eat at the Osteria La Piccarda. (2 hours, 8.5 km, total vertical distance: 140 m)
This wine-growing village is among the most beautiful towns in Chianti. This goes for the surrounding area as well. Here, roads lined with cypress trees lead to vineyards, scrubland and olive groves. The crowning feature of the landscape is Castelvecchi, a former castle town with a lovely park. After a short yet richly varied walk, you can relax in one of the local restaurants. (2 hrs, 6.5 km, elevation change: 220 m)
Parmesan cheese and Parma ham have made this city in the Po Valley famous. In fact, Parma has many culinary delights to offer, of which the many trattorias in the old town bear witness. In the center of the city is the 2,000 year old Piazza Garibaldi with the palace for the governor, the octagonal Baptistery of pink sandstone and the Romanesque cathedral. For art historians the fresco in the dome's interior is especially interesting, where Mary’s rising to heaven is depicted with perspectival tricks so that it seems almost three-dimensional from a particular viewing angle.
In Roman times the city on the Po River was located on the intersection of two major through roads and has been an important center for trade and crafts. The small but attractive old town is surrounded by a fortress wall. Palazzi dating back to the 16th to 18th centuries line the streets that converge on the Piazza del Cavalli. From this central square, which is dominated by two equestrian statues, a car-free shopping street leads to the Romanesque cathedral.
The monastery, originally built for the Carthusian order, is one of the most important historic sights of northern Italy. The Carthusians earned their livelihood with the prayer for salvation of others. This was of great interest to the despotic Counts of Visconti as they feared eternal damnation. With the money of the noble family, a splendid Renaissance building was created, their mortal remains still kept in the south aisle until today. A garden was established between the Certosa and Pavia Castle situated nearly ten kilometers away.
The hike from Santa Lucia to Montauto is one of the most beautiful in southern Tuscany. Starting point is the pleasantly quiet Piazza of Santa Lucia. From there it goes through a typical Tuscan cultural landscape with vineyards, olive groves and cypresses to Molino di Foci, where you can stop in a German-speaking garden restaurant. The highlight awaits you in Montauto: a great view of the towers of San Gimignano. (round trip: 11.6 kilometers, 3:30 hours, up and down: 370 meters)
The circular walk is particularly recommended for the view of San Gimignano and its surroundings. Less appealing is the fact that it travels across wide, unpaved slopes, which are little used, but sometimes dusty. (there and back: 9 kilometers, 2:30 hours, up and down: 210 meters)
In a part of Switzerland renowned for its warmth and Mediterranean light, Lake Maggiore has been attracting visitors for over 100 years.
While its northern tip is part of the Swiss Ticino, it reaches as far south as the Po Valley. The walks above the lake offer views which remind one of the Côte d'Azur near the heart of Europe, with the Alps as a backdrop. There is everything here: unspoiled nature, spectacular scenery, the best climate in Switzerland, major cultural events, beaches, lakeshores, an early spring, a golden autumn, wine and food specialties, and an infinite number of possibilities for excursions and every kind of leisure activity, from golf to extreme sports like canyoning.
The villa in a large park overlooking Lago Maggiore is an island of tranquility. Situated about 30 minutes from Ascona, the hotel stands on the Italian side of the border, which is less frequented by tourists.
Each of the 18 bedrooms is uniquely and individually decorated. The restaurant specializes in dishes made of fresh local products. Weather permitting, meals are served on the seaview terrace. A swimming pool is available during the warmer months.
The picturesque township on the western shores of Lake Maggiore has a beautiful waterfront, where a market is held every Sunday. It has a beach, a church from 1571 and a historic center. Located just west of the city, the Cannobino, a rushing mountain stream, has dug a deep gorge.
The heyday of this town on the shores of Lake Maggiore began when the Simplon railway line connected it with the north. The promenades along the shoreline, with their magnificent views, still attest to that era. A number of boats will ferry you from Stresa to the Borromean Islands and to other sights on Lake Maggiore. The Villa Pallavicino and its botanic gardens are only a short distance to the south.
The Ticino valley stretches from Intragna on Lake Maggiore to Camedo in the west at the Swiss-Italian border. It owes its name to the numerous side valleys. There are not 100 but more than 150! Hiking trails along former mule tracks lead through the chestnut forests and on to ancient old villages, which are mostly deserted or inhabited by artists. The romantic valley is made accessible by the Centovalli Railway, which travels over 83 bridges and through 34 tunnels.
North of Lake Maggiore rises the Cimetta. Via the Cardada, the local mountain of Locarno, the 1,671 meter high peak is easily accessible by cablecar and hiking trails. From the top you have a sensational view over the lake and the Maggia Delta. On a good day you can see Ascona, the lowest point in Switzerland, and the Monte Rosa, the highest point of Switzerland. Those who still have energy, can continue to Cima della Torosa and descend over the lake of Verzasca.
A thousand steps lead to the pilgrimage chapel in Hergiswald, which was consecrated in 1662. It is simple on the outside, but unique on the inside. The picture of the Black Madonna and a vaulted wooden ceiling with 324 sections amaze and enthuse art historians. Kaspar Megglinger, the creative artist, was particularly known in the Baroque period for his Marian symbolism. After all, the more than 300 images of the Virgin Mary are regarded as the only cycle in the world to have been designed in this form.
High above the right bank of the Rhine lies the medieval town, framed by a city wall with two magnificent gates. On the cobblestone streets between the town houses, the 800-year-old past still seems alive: the foundation by the Habsburgs as a “forest town” in the 13th century, the plague and the Jewish pogroms of the 14th century, the marauding mercenaries and guilds, the turmoil of the Reformation and the 30-year war. The facade paintings in Kaiserstraße are particularly beautiful and seem to outdo each other. The 15th century Greiffenegg-Schlössle is also worth a visit.
This easy hike between Wutach and the Rhine leads through the foothills of the Black Forest to the Küssaburg, the striking fortress high above the Rhine Valley. The starting point is in picturesque Tiengen. The way back leads through romantic river valleys.
Despite its two thousand year history the city on the southern shore of Lake Constance is vibrant. This is due to the University, which attracts many young people, to the theaters and concerts.
Since 1993 the harbor is dominated by a massive statue that rotates once around its own axel every four minutes. A nine meter high female figure with a plunging neckline holds two gnomes in her hands. This is the legendary prostitute Imperia and the two gnomes are the Emperor and the Pope. During the Council of Constance 1414-1418 she slept – and played – with both. Jan Hus, who criticized the power and demoralizing influences of concubines within the Roman Church most violently, was burned at the end of the Council in Constance at the stake.
The old town around the cathedral and the town hall is especially beautiful and interesting.
The attractive villa built in 1872 in the late-Empire style is a registered landmark on the shore of Lake Constance.
The nine bedrooms featuring lake views have been lovingly decorated and furnished with antiques. Guests can stroll along the shore promenade directly in front of the building, relax in the large garden behind it, or take cruises to various destinations around the lake. Downtown Constance is just a 15-minute walk across a bridge over the Rhine in one direction, the beautiful island of Mainau a few minutes' drive in the other. The charming hotel is also perfectly situated for day trips to Switzerland.
This town on the northern shore of Lake Constance named after the first King of Württemberg was only established in 1811. Because of free trade privileges with Switzerland the city grew rapidly and attracted industrialists and tourists, including the Russian Tsar Alexander II. In the early 20th century the Graf von Zeppelin from Konstanz set up his airship factory in Friedrichshafen. This was converted into arms factories in the Third Reich, but today they belong to Airbus.
Due to its magnificent gardens and parkland the 45-hectare island at Konstanz is also known as “Island of Flowers”. The favorable climate contributes to the thriving of palm trees and other tropical plants. In March the flower season opens with an orchid exhibition. Thereafter blossoming tulips, narcissi and hyacinths have a turn to show off their beauty before being replaced by rhododendrons and azaleas. Summer is the time for roses and in autumn the dahlias develop their splendor. In the all-year-open butterfly house one can stroll around at 26 degrees and 90 percent humidity, marveling at the exotic vegetation and cascading waterfalls.
At the transition between Obersee and Überlinger See lies the small town between forests and vineyards. The former fishing settlement experienced its heyday as the residence of the bishops of Constance between the 16th and 18th century, in which today's townscape was shaped. The New Palace east of the Schlossplatz was also built for the bishops. Today, Balthasar Neumann's impressive building houses the Dornier Museum. The Meersburg castle rises above the city. It is considered to be the oldest castle in Germany, which was inhabited throughout. The writer Annette von Droste-Hülshoff spent her last years here.
The picturesque old town of Lindau is located on an island in Lake Constance. It is connected with the mainland by a sea-bridge. Maximilian Street leads past patrician houses from the Gothic and Renaissance era, finally ending at the harbor, which is dominated by a lighthouse and a six meter tall Bavarian lion. A beautiful riverside walk with views of the Alps skirts around the old town.
The capital of Vorarlberg lies on the south-eastern shore of Lake Constance at the foot of its local mountain, the Pfänder. More than 2,000 years ago there was already a Celtic settlement in the area of the historic old town, which was fortified with a wall and is now called the “Oberstadt” (upper town). The much younger Unterstadt (lower town) lies on the lake shore, along which a wide promenade runs with beaches at its ends. In front of the promenade floats a stage, which is used at the Bregenz Festival. The grandstand is on land and holds more than 4,000 visitors. The centre of the lower town is the Kornmarkt with the Kunsthaus (house of arts) and Vorarlberger Museum.
The 1,064 metre high mountain above Bregenz is the most famous vantage point in the region with its unique view of Lake Constance and 240 Alpine peaks. When the weather is clear, the view reaches from the Allgäu and Lechtal Alps in the east over the Bregenzerwald, the steep peaks of the Arlberg region and the Silvretta, further over the Rätikon to the Swiss mountains and the foothills of the Black Forest in the west. Lake Constance lies at our feet, framed by the Rhine valley and the Upper Swabian hills. From Bregenz, a cable car takes you close to the summit, where some restaurants await. Several marked hiking trails start at the top station.
Northeast of Sonthofen, the Starzlach has dug a wild and romantic ravine for many thousands of years. The torrent rises at an altitude of 1070 metres and then rushes through the picturesque gorge. It plunges over several waterfalls, which provide coolness in summer and freeze to bizarre ice curtains in winter. Wooden footbridges, rock stairs and even shorter tunnels have made the wild gorge accessible. (return 2:30 hours, 3,6 kilometers, up and down 250 meters)
The Allgäu between Lake Constance in the west and the Lech River in the east is considered one of the most beautiful destinations in southern Germany.
Extended moors and forests cover the north, while the southern part, sculptured by the ice age, is hilly and fertile. In the south the Allgäu borders the Alps with soaring mountain peaks and deep valleys. The Upper Swabian Baroque Road (Oberschwäbische Barockstraße) will lead you to marvellous churches and castles which harmonize wonderfully with the countryside.
On a lofty summit originally selected by King Ludwig the Mad for the site of another fairy-tale castle after completion of Neuschwanstein sits a hotel which is like no other.
Newly arrived guests are first struck by the endless vistas of mountains, green valleys, lakes, and forests at their feet. Then comes the hotel itself, in which every room was individually and imaginatively decorated by the owners themselves, resulting in living quarters that are not mere guest rooms but distinct creations that exude luxury, taste and comfort. Next to the hotel the ruins of Ludwig's final project still stand, within whose tranquil walls the visitor may better sense the lingering spirit of the eccentric ruler than at tourist-plagued Neuschwanstein, clearly visible in the distance. Travellers who brave the narrow road leading up to the castle will be richly rewarded.
The town is located in the Eastern Allgäu on the river Lech, which exits spectacularly from a gorge between Ammergauer and Allgäu Alps into their foothills. That's why it has its name. The Romans called the settlement on the Via Augusta “Fauces”, which means “gorge”. Today Füssen marks the southern end of the Romantic Road and is a good starting point to visit the Bavarian royal castles. Worth seeing is the old town with its gabled houses and the High Castle, which lies on a steep rock high above the city.
The health resort on the northern edge of the Allgäu Alps is crossed by the River Vils and consists of 13 individual villages. The landmark is the late baroque church of St. Nicholas in Pfronten-Berg. From Pfronten-Steinach a cable car takes you to the Hochalpe (1502 m) and from there a chairlift goes on to the Breitenberg (1838 m). From there you have a beautiful view in all directions.
Hohenschwangau Castle, then also known as Schwanstein Castle, was first mentioned in documents in the 12th century. It was owned by the Knights of Schwangau until the 16th century, after which it changed hands several times and was severely damaged in various wars. In 1832 the later King Maximilian II, father of King Ludwig II, acquired it and had it rebuilt in the neo-Gothic style according to original plans. The Bavarian royal family used Hohenschwangau as a summer and hunting residence. King Ludwig II spent his childhood here and used it as his summer residence until his death in 1886.
On the border between Germany and Austria lies the 1,986 meter high Aggenstein. From the Breitenbergbahn base station you can hike along a scenic trail to the Bad Kissinger hut. The last part to the summit is a secured climb. You can take a break at the Bad Kissinger hut. The ascent to the summit requires sure-footedness and concentration. At the top you have a panoramic view over the Tannheimer mountains. On your way down you pass the Hochalphütte, where you can stop again. (return: 10.7 kilometers, 5 hours, up and down: 1172 meters)
The waterfall near Füssen is a unique natural monument of the Bavarian Alps. The water masses of the River Lech, fed from the Alps, plunge over five steps twelve metres into the depth. Below the Lech Falls, the river narrows and enters the Lech Gorge. It is the only one in the entire Bavarian Alpine region through which a larger Alpine river can still flow freely and unimpeded by man. From the Lechfall car park you can take a tour of the royal castles, which leads to Neuschwanstein and Hohenschwangau through magnificent landscape. (return: 13 kilometers, 6 hours, up and down 522 meters)
Much of this journey follows a scenic stretch of road that connects some of the most enchanting villages, churches and landscapes in southern Germany.
A few places worth noting along the way are the Pilgrimage Church of Wies, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the towns of Wildsteig, Rottenbuch, Peiting, Schongau and Hohenfurch.
On June 14, 1738, the farmer's wife Maria Lory saw tears in the eyes of a wooden figure depicting the suffering Jesus at the scourge column. This miracle soon attracted thousands of pilgrims. For the"Pilgrimage to the Scourged Saviour on the Meadow" a new church became necessary: the Wieskirche. From 1745 to 1754 Dominikus Zimmermann created the oval church, which nowadays is regarded as Rococo of the highest perfection. Today the Wieskirche is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attracts one million visitors from all over the world every year, especially on the Festival of the Tears of Christ on the Sunday following 14 June. Concerts take place during summer.
From the Wieskirche the Brettlesweg runs through the Wiesfilz. The boardwalk leads through a moist bog with many ponds. After a few minutes you reach the Schönegger Käsealm, where you can buy several dozen kinds of cheese, sausage, fresh hay milk and farmhouse bread. Everything is from their own production. Or you can enjoy a Schönegger Brotzeit (snack) at one of the sunny tables. (There and back: 3.4 kilometers, 1:30 hour, up and down 52 meters)
Location: Munich Airport (Desk at Airport)