Oberammergau & Lake Garda 2020
Combining the impressive splendour of Italy with the immense theatrical spectacle that is the German village of Oberammergau's Passion play, this tour is one of natural scenery, thespian spectacle and European charm.
Days 1-2 - London to Desenzano
We meet with our Tour Manager today at London St Pancras International, where we board the Eurostar service to Paris where we stay overnight.
On day 2, we continue on to Lake Garda via Milan, where we arrive in Desenzano to check into our hotel.
Your evening is at leisure in Desenzano, before our dinner later tonight. With a host of colourful buildings lining the winding streets, Desenzano is pretty and well-suited to the relaxed atmosphere which permeates the villages around Lake Garda. At the heart of the town is a small harbour full of dainty sailing boats and looked over by a series of restaurants and bars.
Day 3 - Verona
Today we pay a visit to romantic Verona to discover its many attractions. A city of noble ruins, gorgeous monuments and fascinating history, Verona has much to offer.
Having spanned the many centuries and having played a key part in many of the most important historical eras of Italy, this extraordinary city has preserved examples of architecture from each period.
The centre of the city is rife with monuments, period buildings and buzzing plazas, dated from the beginning of the Roman civilization, through the Renaissance and into the 20th century. The city itself is known for its association with the notion of romance, with William Shakespeare famously using Verona as the backdrop for many of his plays including Two Gentlemen of Verona and the heart-wrenching Romeo and Juliet. We explore many of the attractions on a guided tour as we visit the stunning Roman arena, the impressive city gates and Juliet's balcony.
The arena is particularly noteworthy. Remarkably well-preserved, this is one of the finest examples of ancient buildings across the world. Built in AD 30, the Amphitheatre had many uses but was primarily used as a theatre to stage plays and productions. It is famous today as a top opera stage visited regularly by operatic schools and global audiences worldwide.
Later in the afternoon, we take a guided tour of a local winery, before enjoying a dinner in a Verona restaurant and an Italian wine tasting.
Day 4 - Cruise to Isola Del Garda
Our first excursion takes us on a tranquil cruise across the azure Lake Garda to the attractive island of Isola del Garda.
This tranquil island is a gem at the heart of the lake, used by a variety of different civilizations for various purposes including as a Roman burial site, a monastery and as the home for various aristocratic Italian families.
The main building is a remarkable white villa built in a Venetian neo-Gothic style from the beginning of the 20th century, and it surrounding gardens are a delight to explore. Boasting a wide array of beautiful flowers from around the world, here you can see palm trees, herb gardens and flower arrangements, set against the warm blue of the lake and the dusky backdrop of the forested mountains.
Nowadays, Lady Charlotte Cavazza and her family live here and they have opened the island to visitors. We spend some time here on a guided tour discovering the extensive history and wonderful architecture before continuing to sample some of the exceptional bruschetta and wine which are made both on the island and in the nearby region.
Day 5 - To Oberammergau
We leave Italy and Lake Garda behind today, as we make the scenic rail journey (Standard Class) up through the Brenner Pass between the Italian Alps to Germany and into Bavaria, via Innsbruck in Austria. This route takes us through heady snow-capped mountains, through valley passes and under tunnels on our way into northern Europe. We sit back and relax as we are regaled by stunning Alpine panoramas which separate Italy from Germany.
We travel to Oberammergau where we check into our hotel in or around the Ammergau region, for the next two nights. Upon arrival and after settling in, you have free time to explore or relax. Oberammergau is famous for its woodcarving heritage, with its squares and streets filled with traditional shops sourcing their produce from a variety of local carvers who use methods handed down from generation to generation.
Day 6 - The Passion Play
Today is performance day, and we make our way to the stage in Oberammergau, where we are treated to Oberammergau's brilliant Passion Play.
Detailing the death and resurrection of Christ during his final days, this production is enormous in scale and a feat of organisation. The play is a source of great pride for the villagers and local people, occurring, as it does, once every ten years. It also attracts nearly half a million audience members over the course of its run throughout the summer. Our top tier tickets provide us with excellent seats at the front and near the centre, under the impressive dome which houses the stage.
The play's origins lie in the 17th century when Oberammergau was hit by the bubonic plague which was being spread across the country. History tells of a villager returning to the village for Christmas and bringing the plague with him. The disease quickly spread from house to house, and in an effort to save the village, the townsfolk promised to God that if he spared them, then they would organize a play every year, celebrating the Passion of Christ.
After the first showing of the play, those with the plague were cured and the village was supposedly saved. Since then, the play has been shown every decade except during the Second World War, making the Oberammergau Passion Play the longest running religious play in the world.
The production we attend has two halves of three hours each with a break halfway through the performance for us to enjoy a special Passion Play dinner.
Days 7-8 - To London via Cologne
Leaving the wonderful Oberammergau behind today, we make our way by rail to Cologne. Here we spend the night before leaving Germany on Day 8, as we head to Brussels in Belgium. On arrival, we board the Eurostar service to London, where our tour concludes.