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Best of Italy pre-tour advice

We just booked BOI tour for fall 2024 and are curious what worked well for others pre-tour. We are flying from Atlanta to Milan and plan to build in a few extra days just in case of travel delays. We were thinking spend 2 nights in Milan and then take the train to Como the morning the tour starts. Or is it better to go to Como a day before?

What has worked well for others who have done this trip?

Posted by
10505 posts

Interesting to note that for 2024 this tour starts at " Our village home on Lake Como ", whereas this year and previously, it started in "The sleepy Lake Como village of Varenna "

If you have spent one ( or more) nights i Milan, going to the start point the day the tour starts is fine.

It is what we did.

Posted by
6445 posts

That’s great that you’re planning some extra days pre-tour. It’s nice to begin the tour ready to go without any jet lag, plus it’s fun to experience a little of Italy on your own as an initial adventure.

Milan is easy because you will land at Malpensa, Milan’s airport. There’s a train at the airport that goes into Milan. If you purchase a paper ticket at the station (very easy), be sure to validate the ticket which means you place it in a small machine to date stamp it. Keep your train ticket because a conductor may come by on the train and want to see that you validated it. No ticket or not validating results in expensive fines.

There’s lots of options pre-tour. My husband & I landed in Malpensa, and we took the train to Verona for three nights. We really loved our time in Verona! Then we took the train back to Milan & up to Varenna (Lake Como). We didn’t stay in Varenna ahead of time. Have a great time! It’s a fantastic tour!

Posted by
1583 posts

No need to arrive in Varenna the day before. There are trains from Milan that take about 1 hour. If you have an interest, try to book a tour of the Last Supper in Milan. If you can't get tickets on your own, they are hard to get, search tours and find the cheapest which includes the Last Supper. Milan is a nice place to stay before your trip. If you have the time I would also consider extra days in Rome because the tour just skim's the surface of Rome. Enjoy.

Posted by
4077 posts

I think your plan for 2 nights and a full day in Milan is a good one. I enjoyed being there after an RS Village Italy tour in 2017 so much, that if anything, I'd add a night so that you'd have 2 full days.

I can highly recommend the Hotel Berna ( It has lovely rooms. Mine even had a mini-fridge, a rare amenity anywhere in Europe. The breakfast buffet was great and they had a good room service menu that was from a restaurant nearby. It's an easy walk from and to Milano Centrale where you will arrive from Malpensa and where you'll leave from to join the tour in Varenna.

Milano Centrale is also where you can take the metro to other destinations in town. Click on the Where We Are link at the Berna's website for a little more information.

There are many things to do and see in Milan. I made a point of going to the cathedral, Duomo di Milano ( I got a ticket that included it, the Archeological Area ruins below and for the elevator to the roof. It doesn't go all the way up, so there are a few steps to the main level and more all the way to the top. I stayed on the main level with the buttresses and the gargoyles. The views were great, but my favorite part was being up close to the architecture.

The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II ( and the Duomo are next to each other on the Piazza del Duomo. The metro arrives right there.

I wish Stanley Tucci had done his series before I was there. I would've definitely gone to the Osteria del Treno ( if he had. I'd go back to Milan just to have a meal there.

You are very smart to start your planning for the fall of 2024 now, especially if this is your first trip to Italy or Europe. You have lots of time to research, and there are some good resources right here to do that.

Travel Tips for all aspects of European travel:

Having found the forum for Rick Steves Tours, you probably already noticed that there are many forums related to the Travel Tips under the Travel Forum Tips & Trip Reports menus.

Explore Europe for Italy:

Travel Forum for Italy:

Posted by
8196 posts

tjbayne, what time of day does your flight arrive in MXP? If morning, then you might not be able to check in (and drop bags off) at a Milan hotel until the afternoon. So my reasoning is usually to keep on moving, and getting to your actual destination, since that travel day is pretty much used up anyway.

But when getting train tickets, keep in mind Como, a city on Lake Como, is not the same thing as Lake Como, so you have to not use the names interchangeably.

Posted by
13196 posts

I did the Best of Italy last October.

I did what you are contemplating and stayed 2 nights in Milan after arriving at Malpensa. I, too, wanted to build in time in case of travel delay. On my full day I got tickets for The Last Supper (edited a very silly typo, lol!!) and also for the Duomo from the rooftop lift down to the excavation under the piazza out front.

In between the two I managed to duck in to the Pinacoteca Ambrosiana, a museum right across from my hotel which was also near the Duomo. I particularly wanted to see the "cartoon" or drawing Raphael did for his fresco the School of Athens which I knew we would see in the Vatican Museum tour. It was wonderful! They also have Leonardo da Vinci's Codex Atlanticus which they have displayed into about a dozen pages of his drawings and writings. So cool!

I stayed at the Hotel Gran Duca di York which is 5 minutes from the Duomo. I'd stayed there a number of years ago and liked the area a lot. The hotel staff are warm and welcoming, excellent breakfast and very convenient. I walked from there to the Last Supper which was about 30 minutes away (28 I think, lol), did the English tour of the Last Supper, walked back, comfort stop, did the museum and then went over to the Duomo for my Fast Pass to the roof lift.

I also went 2 nights ahead to Varenna. I get anxious about train strikes in Europe so I like to be in place before a tour starts. Your call on this one but if you are not restricted on time you will appreciate a few slower days before the fast pace of this tour. It poured down rain the whole extra day I had so I wandered a little in Varenna but not as much as I'd planned.

At the end I stayed one extra day in Rome. I made reservations for the Domus Aurea (our tour ended on Sunday AM and this venue is only open Friday/Saturday/Sunday) in the AM and Borghese Gallery in the afternoon. Worked out great for me!

Here is a link to my Trip Report from last Fall if you are interested.

Posted by
301 posts

Milan- Hotel Gran Duca du York
Varenna- Hotel Du Lac
Both great hotels pre tour!
Have fun, such an amazing tour. We just did it last September!

Posted by
2445 posts

I did this tour in 2016 and spent 2 nights in Milan. I flew Atlanta to JFK to Milan. Stayed at the Hotel Berna, a 10-15 minute walk from the Central train station. I took 2 Walks of Italy tours, one including The Last Supper and a climb to the top of the Duomo. Spectacular views.
I took the train on the first day of the tour and arrived at the tour hotel one hour before our initial meeting! I was the last person to arrive! I don’t recommend doing this. Probably a good idea to arrive one day prior. I didn’t know about train strikes in 2016 so I was lucky. Our tour began in Varenna, a lovely quaint town. You will love this tour.

Posted by
221 posts

Just got back from Milan 2 days ago. We went with another couple who had not been there prior. We arrived at Centrale train station from Cinque Terre and it was a very easy walk to Hotel Berna where we dropped our bags and took the Metro to the Last Supper. We had stayed there prior. We were told They had been closed during Covid and had updated. Our room was beautiful (better than my memory of 2019). There was a mini fridge in our room and in our friends. I’d recommend the hotel for its comfort and breakfast. It is a metro ride or a mile walk to the Duomo.
We took the train to Lake Como. It was an easy, though crowded ride to Como. We tried to take the train to Varenna (we had done this previously) but apparently the line was shut down due to a rock slide which may have explained why so many travelers we’re going to Como—the only way to get to Varenna or Bellagio was via boat from Como. (Warning if you’re going in the near future to check on this). Hopefully by next year it will be fixed as the train to Varenna is very popular.
Enjoy the tour as it sounds fabulous. I have never had a bad day in Italy. And if things are messed up (our day trip to Lake Como) have a gelato, then lunch and enjoy Italy.