01692 580623/4

Italy | Lombardy Alps & Apennines

An 8-day birdwatching tour to Northern Italy, focusing on the Alps and Oltrepò Pavese

Limosa’s birdwatching tour to northern Italy will take you from the beautiful foothills of the Apennines south of Milan, north across the Po plain of Lombardy and high into the Italian Alps, close to the border with Switzerland. After seeking Moltoni’s Warbler, Black-headed Bunting and Lesser Grey Shrike in the hills, it's the turn of Lammergeier, Nutcracker and Snowfinch amid the alpine landscapes of scenic Stelvio National Park. And with a host of wonderful butterflies - including Southern White Admiral, Escher’s Blue and Great Banded Grayling - also on the wing, June is a delightful time to visit. Join us for our sixth northern Italy birding tour with resident English-speaking bird and wildlife expert Dr Michele Viganò, who lives in Lombardy.

Tour Dates



Richard Thaxton
Michele Viganò

Max Group Size: 10
Duration: 8 Days

Ask About Tour

Cost: £1995

inc return flights from London Heathrow-Milan Linate, nonstop with British Airways

Deposit: £300

Single Supp: £145
Land Only: £1825

Book This Tour

Ask About Tour

If you have any questions about our tours or require further information, we are always happy to hear from you.
Feel free to contact us by email, fax or telephone to discuss any aspect of our tours. We look forward to hearing from you!

  • Click here to read our Privacy Policy


W Bonelli's Warbler 1 Italy 2015

The mountains and valleys of Stelvio National Park in Northern Italy are famous for their wild and dramatic landscapes, and home to some wonderful birdlife - including the lovely Western Bonelli's Warbler © Brian Small, Limosa

Limosa has travelled to Italy on many occasions, but this super summer trip to Northern Italy offers something different - taking you to the scenic Lombardy region, from the vineyards and fields of the rolling Oltrepò Pavese to the south-facing slopes of the high Italian Alps. With only one change of hotel during the week, our June holiday will explore these two very beautiful but contrasting areas for birds, butterflies and other wildlife.

To the south of Milan lies the River Po, that rises close to the French border and heads east to Venice. After crossing the river, the attractive Apennine foothills of the Oltrepò Pavese region gradually appear - and these will be our home for a three-night stay near Varzi, where we are based in one of Italy's delightful agriturismi. The landscape here is soft and rolling, characterised by hilltop settlements and birds such as Ortolan Bunting, Red-backed Shrike, Golden Oriole, Melodious Warbler, Roller and others typical of the Mediterranean region. Nightingales sing throughout the night and one special bird that inhabits Lombardy's high hedgerows is the localised Moltoni’s Warbler – often to be found right by our hotel. We hope to see and hear them, plus the rare Black-headed Bunting, too.

Having explored the Apennine foothills, we swing north via the rice fields and scattered wetlands along the Po River valley. With local help, we will again hope to find one of the last breeding pairs of Lesser Grey Shrikes in Italy. Gravel islands on the Po River are nesting sites for Little Terns - a long way from the sea! Here we visit one of the large heronries of the region, with hundreds of nesting birds, including Squacco and Purple Herons, Cattle Egrets, Little Bittern - and a surprisingly large population of Sacred Ibis. Reed-fringed pools hold Ferruginous Ducks and Great Reed and Marsh Warblers.

The mountains and upland valleys of Stelvio National Park are rightly famous for their wild and dramatic landscapes. Perched high on the borders of Lombardy, Trentino Alto Adige and Switzerland, the park is the largest in Italy. Sculpted by glaciers and post-glacial streams, the landscape at the time of our visit in early June will be busy with breeding alpine birds.

Although rising to an altitude of 3900m (12,795 feet), we will be spending most of our time here birding between 2000 and 2800m (6,500-9,100 feet), where key alpine specialities include Lammergeier, Golden Eagle, Ptarmigan, Alpine Chough, Ring Ouzel, Water Pipit, Citril Finch and Snowfinch. Early summer is the best time to visit the Alps, bringing the prospect of fine weather, majestic scenery and wildflower meadows.

If the spring weather has been good, the upland pastures around Lago di Cancano and the Gavia Pass can be a carpet of alpine flowers in early June - with Globeflowers and a variety of deep blue gentians and primroses to enjoy. Alpine Pasque-flowers often cover the slopes, while tumbling streams hold Dippers and Grey Wagtails, and the woods echo to the calls of chacking Fieldfares, chattering Common Redpolls and chipping Common Crossbills.

This is a trip that will not only introduce you to some breath-taking Italian scenery and wildlife, but some delicious Italian home-cooking, too. Over the years, Limosa has managed to find some amazing spots in Italy, with super birds, wildlife and food - and with the help of our English-speaking local expert Dr 'Miki' Viganò, whose home is in Lombardy, we think you'll agree we are on to another winner with this delightful holiday. Our June 2020 departure will be Miki’s sixth tour for Limosa to this wonderful corner of Europe.

Purple Heron 2 Peter Farren Italy June 2015

Wetlands in the Po Plain offer an opportunity to see almost all the European species of breeding herons - including Purple Heron trailing its 'bundle of twigs' feet © tour participant Peter Farren

Day 1

Our birdwatching tour to Northern Italy begins with a British Airways morning flight from London Heathrow to Milan’s Linate airport. We will be met by our local guide Miki and make the two-hour transfer south across Italy's scenic Po Valley to our welcoming hotel in Varzi.

We'll stop along the way for lunch and maybe take a first look for Lesser Grey Shrike, a species now all but lost to Italy. Small stands of poplar are home to the last few birds left in the country – all our groups have been successful, enjoying great views of this attractive birds.

Our destination this evening is one of Italy's delightful agriturismi, situated in the rolling hills near Varzi. Here the climate is warm, with the Mediterranean influence having a huge effect on the region's fauna and flora, allowing the cultivation of a variety of different grapes that give birth to some fine local wines... which you may be temtpted to try! Night Varzi

Days 2-3

During some pleasant walks amid beautiful countryside, we’ll discover that an excellent range of Mediterranean bird specialities awaits. The localised and recently split Moltoni's Warbler is found here, easily identified in summer by its salmon-pink underparts and its unique and rattling, Wren-like call. These can often be quite common in hedges close to our hotel.

In June, the bushy hillsides are the haunt of breeding Cirl and Ortolan Buntings, Red-backed Shrike and Melodious Warbler, while in the skies high above we may be treated to the tell tale 'wing clapping' display of Honey Buzzard. On top of a beautiful small hill, we may find ourselves surrounded by hundreds of hunting Common Swifts as we search for the exotic Black-headed Bunting and, with much luck, Woodchat Shrike - two of Italy's rarest breeding species.

A visit to the hills of Momperone, which lie partly in the neighbouring region of Piedmont, adds the possibility of seeing Quail, Western Bonelli's Warbler and Stonechat along with nesting Bee-eaters, Rollers and Hoopoes, too. Moving to a drier area, we will hope to find Tawny Pipit scurrying about on the open ground, and the air can be filled with the songs of Woodlark and Skylark. Italian Three-toed Skink and Southern Smooth Snake occur - and are attractive to the local Short-toed Snake Eagles, which also spend the summer here!

The butterflies of the region can be superb and we will check warm sunny spots for the lovely Southern White Admiral, Spotted and Queen of Spain Fritillaries, and Pearly Heath. Great Banded Graylings should just be appearing and may alight on the road to gain warmth. Brilliant Escher’s and Adonis Blues inhabit the Montalto Pavese, as well as many Marbled Whites. Tall stands of Lizard Orchid can be found in scrubby patches, as can various Ophrys species including Ophrys dinarica.

Our base throughout our stay in Oltrepò Pavese will be a charming agriturismo set amidst the beautiful Oltrepò hills, forests and fields above Varzi. Homemade evening meals featuring local produce and classic Lombardy dishes are a feature of this distinctly Italian 'farmhouse hotel'. Two further nights Varzi

Day 4

We make a relatively early start today as we have a fair bit of ground to cover, swapping the gentle, rolling countryside of the Apennine foothills for the majestic high mountains of the Italian Alps - but there's plenty to see along the way! With breakfast inside us, we drop down from the hills and travel north towards Milan, crossing the Po River en route to one of the largest heronries in the region.

As the Apennine foothills of Oltrepò Pavese fade to our south, we will start to notice the large numbers of birds flying to and from the trees - like bees round a hive: Little and Cattle Egrets, Squacco, Night and Purple Herons, and surprisingly even Sacred Ibises breed in good numbers. Reedy fringes host a plethora of other wetland species, including Marsh and Great Reed Warblers, Cuckoo and Marsh Harrier.
Brightly coloured Italian Yellow Wagtails breed on the open pools nearby, where we also hope to find Red-crested Pochard, Ferruginous Duck and Garganey, while Hobbies cruise low over the water, hunting for dragonflies.

Skirting round Milan, we will plan to have lunch near one of the lakes beyond the city – perhaps famous Lake Como - before completing the last leg of our journey east into the Italian Alps.

Situated a little over 1200m (4,000 ft) above sea level, Bormio is a small alpine town on the edge of the stunning Stelvio National Park, and our base for the next four nights. We may arrive in time to enjoy some initial birding in the valley, where Black and Common Redstarts, Serin and Crag Martin breed. In the evening, we can look forward to a super home-cooked Italian meal made from fresh local produce. Night Bormio

Days 5 - 7

From our base in scenic Bormio, we will travel out to explore different valleys in this sublime national park. Visiting sites up to 3000m (9800 feet) in altitude at the Stelvio and Gavia Passes, we will enjoy a landscape that is constantly changing - from snow-capped mountains and barren 'moonscapes', to tranquil alpine forests and cascading streams. If the season has been right this year, come early June, Stelvio's alpine meadows can be spectacular with wildflowers - especially around the picturesque shores of Lago di Cancano, where Alpine Ibex and Chamois can also be found grazing.

Stelvio's birdlife is rich and varied, and home in summer to the full gamut of alpine specialists. Golden Eagle, Lammergeier, Alpine Chough and Rock Thrush frequent the open areas above the treeline, with Citril Finch, Nutcracker, Crested and Willow Tits, Firecrest and Lesser Redpoll in the pine forests lower down. We may be lucky to see a Goshawk soaring overhead, while babbling brooks hold dapper Dippers.

By June, snow is often restricted to the highest mountain peaks. In the wilder rocky places, we have a great chance of seeing the 'hoar-frosted' alpine race of Ring Ouzel, pale Northern Wheatears, Water Pipits, Whinchats and Rock Buntings. Playful schools of Alpine Chough sail across the blue upland skies as we scour the boulder-strewn slopes for a glimpse of the furtive and brilliantly camouflaged Ptarmigan, with its 'creaking door' voice. Crag Martins are often to be seen, floating effortlessly around the park's bridges, bluffs and alpine villages. In the highest spots, Alpine Accentors and Snowfinches will be nesting, too.

In such a rich environment there is also much to look for beyond the birds. On warm, sunny days in early June, the first butterflies will be out, with Alpine Grayling, Berger’s Clouded Yellow and bright Adonis Blues over the lower slopes. In small ponds and vegetated lakes, we will look for a number of special dragonflies - among them, the very rare Northern Emerald, a relict from the last period of glaciation - as well as Alpine Newt. Golden Eagles patrol the high slopes and, in response, we will no doubt hear the shrill, bird-like whistling alarm calls of Alpine Marmots and find them lolloping about the pastures of their upland home. Three further nights Bormio

Day 8

An early breakfast and departure from our hotel sees us heading back south along the autostrada today, once more past the romantic Italian lakes, to Milan.

Bidding farewell to Miki here, we catch an afternoon flight to London Heathrow, where our birdwatching tour of Northern Italy concludes.

Snow Finch 3 Peter Farren Italy June 2015

Better than having House Sparrows in the eaves... the Snowfinch is a high alpine specialist to look for at upper elevations in Stelvio National Park © tour participant Peter Farren

What To Expect

This delightful tour to Northern Italy will take you from the beautiful foothills of the Apennines south of Milan, north across the Po plain of Lombardy and high into the Italian Alps, close to the border with Switzerland.

After seeking Moltoni’s Warbler, Black-headed Bunting and Lesser Grey Shrike in the hills, it's the turn of Lammergeier, Nutcracker and Snowfinch amid the alpine landscapes of scenic Stelvio National Park.

And with a host of wonderful butterflies - including Southern White Admiral, Escher’s Blue and Great Banded Grayling - also on the wing, June is a delightful time to visit. Join us for our sixth northern Italy birding tour with resident English-speaking bird and wildlife expert Dr Michele Viganò, who lives in Lombardy.

In early June, expect largely sunshine but perhaps some showers, with temperatures in the highlands being cooler. Weather in all high mountain areas is unpredictable of course, but by early June conditions in the Italian Alps are usually settled and warming up nicely.

In the Oltrepò foothills, summer weather is typically warm and sunny with temperatures set fair at around 20-25°C (68-77F).

For the second part of our holiday, in the mountains around Bormio, daytime temperatures at this time average around 15°C (59F), though on sunny days it can feel much warmer than this. Conversely, it can be much colder at Stelvio so please come prepared for the possibility of cool or even cold conditions with some rain likely - occasionally even snow - in the High Alps. Be sure to pack warm and weatherproof clothing, just in case!

Good photo opportunities on this tour - birds, wildflowers, butterflies and other wildlife, plus some fine landscapes and scenery, too.


120-150 species


5-10 species


30-60 species (weather permitting).

Given fine weather, there should be good numbers of butterflies and dragonflies about, especially in the lower and warmer Oltrepò Pavese region to the south.

Good all-round wildlife interest on this tour, with a wealth of wildflowers to enjoy.


7 nights accommodation in Italy, based at two different but equally charming hotels - family run and each serving delicious home-cooked meals. All rooms are en suite.

Our tour begins with a three-night stay at a comfortable Italian Agriturismo - a peaceful former farmhouse restaurant - amid the rolling hills above Varzi, in the lovely Oltrepò Pavese region, south of Pavia.

We spend the next four nights at the spa town of Bormio, in a super little hotel with a great restaurant set among fantastic scenery - high in the Italian Alps (1225m/4,000ft above sea level), at the gateway to the famous Gavia and Stelvio Passes.


All main meals are included in the tour price, commencing with lunch in the Po Valley on Day 1 and concluding with lunch on Day 8.

Each morning will start with a continental breakfast of fresh homemade products from the hotel. Dinners at the hotels feature delicious  nostrano (homemade) foods, and there's also a good selection of locally grown wines to tempt you - though please note wine is not included in the tour price. Lunches will usually be picnics made with tasty local cheeses and cured meats, fresh fruit and tomatoes.


Easy. Short walks over mainly easy terrain. Comfy waterproof walking shoes with stout corrugated soles for grip are advised. Much of the Stelvio National Park is accessible by road and we will reach a maximum elevation of ca. 2900m (9500ft) and take short walks up there.


We fly from London Heathrow to Milan Linate Airport, nonstop with British Airways.

Ground Transport   By minibus.

Alpine Blue 1 Italy 2015

As well as a host of great birds, our June tours to Lombardy have now recorded more than 70 species of butterfly, including this petite Alpine Blue © Brian Small, Limosa Holidays

1 MB, Massachusetts, USA A very pleasant week, with good company, excellent leaders and great scenery. [empty string]
2 J&PF, Norfolk Both guides were exceptional in their knowledge, patience and helpfulness. [empty string]
3 MS, Italy Alps & Apennines tour Colin and Miki were great guides, helpful and fun too. A very enjoyable birdwatching and wildlife holiday - one of the best we have been on! Fabulous wildlife, scenery and food! Don't change this trip. [empty string]
4 CG, Italy Alps & Apennines tour Both leaders really good company, as well as excellent in expertise. Delightful to see their enthusiasm for the wildlife of all kinds. A super trip from start to finish. Thanks for dealing so well with the flight cancellation [Italian industrial action] - really enjoyed the 'bonus' night and time in Milan! [empty string]
CACHED false
SQL SELECT Testimonial.TestIntro, Testimonial.Author, Testimonial.Title FROM Testimonial Left JOIN TestimonialTour ON Testimonial.TestID = TestimonialTour.TestID Where DeletedAt is NULL AND TestimonialTour.TourID = ? Order By TestimonialTour.ID, Testimonial.createdAt
1 656
Request Tour Information Pack


Cookies on the Limosa Holidays Website

Our website uses cookies so that you can book tours with us and we can provide you with a better service. If you're happy with this, please continue to use the site as normal. Find out how the Limosa website uses cookies.

Accept Cookies