The following itinerary describes a range of museums, villas and palaces which we plan to visit. Many are accessible to the public, but others require special permission which may only be confirmed closer to the tour’s departure. The daily activities described in this itinerary may change or be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate alterations in opening hours, flight schedules and confirmation of private visits. Participants will receive a final itinerary together with their tour documents prior to departure. The tour includes breakfast daily, lunches & evening meals indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=evening meal.
Florence - 7 nights
Day 1: Tuesday 11 September, Arrive Florence
- Welcome Meeting & Welcome Drinks
- Orientation Walk
On arrival at Florence’s airport, participants taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight transfer by private vehicle to our hotel in Florence. If you are travelling independently, please meet the group at the Grand Hotel Adriatico. Note: private transfers from the airport to the hotel can be arranged through the hotel’s concierge, please contact ASA for further information. In the early evening there will be a Welcome Meeting with Welcome Drinks in the hotel bar, followed by a short orientation walk in the area around the hotel. The remainder of the evening is at leisure to relax or take a stroll. (Overnight Florence)
Day 2: Wednesday 12 September, Florence
- Palazzo Davanzati (Museum of the Ancient Florentine House) incl. special access to 2nd & 3rd floor apartments
- Piazza della Signoria
- Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore & Baptistery of San Giovanni
- Time at leisure (optional visit to the Cathedral’s cupola)
- Welcome Dinner
Florence: The Structure of Power
Underpinning every creative period is a civic structure, embracing community, government, religion and wealth. We walk among the palaces of the city, examining their scale and prominence, reflecting upon the status and wealth of their owners; we walk through the courtyard of the great Palazzo Strozzi and are given special access to the upper floors of the Palazzo Davanzati to see how wealthy merchants lived. We visit the guild church Orsanmichele, which was where the merchants who made Florence’s wealth worshipped. We take in the Piazza della Signoria, overlooked by the stern, fortified Palazzo Vecchio, town hall and seat of Florence’s government since the 13th century. We explore the Cathedral, the symbol of Florence’s power and aspirations, with its celebrated dome by Brunelleschi, and view the magnificent mosaics in the Baptistery, Florence’s most important religious building. Our program concludes mid-afternoon. The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure. In the evening we dine together at one of Florence’s local restaurants. (Overnight Florence) BD
Day 3: Thursday 13 September, Florence
- Monastery of San Marco
- San Lorenzo (Medici Chapels, New & Old Sacristy, Laurentian Library)
- Palazzo Medici Riccardi: The Chapel of the Magi
- Palazzo Corsini: Guided tour of the palazzo & gardens, and refreshments (by special appointment)
The Medici Court: An Intimate Commitment to Culture
This morning we visit the Monastery of San Marco where Dominican monks contemplated the faith in images by Fra Angelico. Here, Cosimo de’Medici had his own cell for religious retreats, and commissioned Michelozzo to design the monks’ cloister and the reading library for his manuscripts.
We take a leisurely walk to nearby San Lorenzo. The Basilica of San Lorenzo was remodelled by Brunelleschi for the Medici and his Old Sacristy, built to house the Medici tombs, is one of the earliest and finest gems of the Renaissance. In the Medici Chapel we explore Michelangelo’s masterpieces of 16th-century sculpture, which show a transition from classical High Renaissance values to a Mannerist mode, and in the Laurentian Library we see the drama and power of his architectural genius in the great sculptural forms of his flowing staircase.
We also visit the Palazzo Medici Riccardi to view Benozzo Gozzoli’s jewel-like frescoes of the Procession of the Magi in the Medici’s private chapel. The sumptuous procession, which includes Medici family members, is set in an ideal Tuscan landscape and forms a fascinating comparison to the gardens we visit and countryside through which we drive.
In the early evening we visit the magnificent Palazzo Corsini. Alessandro Acciaioli, a passionate 16th-century botanist, commissioned Bernardo Buontalenti to design the residence; the villa and garden were completed by Gherardo Silvani when the property was sold to the Corsini family in the following century. Princess Giorgiana Corsini has kindly arranged for us to take a tour of her palace, followed by refreshments. We finish our visit with a brief tour of the garden. We then take a short stroll back to our hotel, which is only a 10-minute walk from the Palazzo. The remainder of the evening is at leisure. (Overnight Florence) B
Day 4: Friday 14 September, Florence – Poggio a Caiano – Prato – Florence
- Medici Villa, Poggio a Caiano – incl. Monumental apartments
- Cathedral of Santo Stefano
- Castello dell’Imperatore (Emperor’s Castle) (exterior)
- Basilica of Santa Maria delle Carceri
Prato and the Pursuit of Wealth
In the morning we make the short journey to Poggio a Caiano, the country retreat of Lorenzo il Magnifico, designed by Giuliano da Sangallo in 1485. A highly important monument in the history of grand country houses, it presents many features of the new Renaissance architectural ideal, with its classical inspiration.
We continue to Prato, a textile city near Florence, famous for its wool trade developed in the 14th century by Francesco Datini, ‘the Merchant of Prato’, who left the greatest archive of medieval business through his letters. Prato and its textile wealth was the envy of Florence until the mid-1300s when Florence took control of the city. It then embellished the monuments of Prato with the imprint of Renaissance culture through the architecture and sculpture of Giovanni Pisano, the delicate carving of Donatello, the reliefs of the Della Robbia workshop and the fresco cycle by Agnolo Gaddi narrating the story of the girdle of Mary, the city’s greatest treasure. Prato houses two of the great masterpieces of the Renaissance, Sangallo’s architectural triumph in the church of Santa Maria Delle Carceri and the little-known fresco cycles by Filippo Lippi, recently reopened after years of restoration. (Overnight Florence) B
Day 5: Saturday 15 September, Florence
- Bargello National Museum
- Basilica di Santa Croce incl. Pazzi Chapel
- Afternoon at leisure
Politics and Patronage: The Influence of Art
The greatest embodiment of the Renaissance ideal is found in its painting and sculpture. Donatello, Ghiberti, Della Robbia and other masters set the standards of sculptural perfection in their revival of classicism based on the ideal human form. Their work transcended the majesty of the Gothic world, shaping a standard of beauty which still dominates aesthetics today. Their work also reflected the human condition, the inner life and the dramas of emotion. The Bargello demonstrates this spectacle and its impact in the work of Michelangelo, Cellini, Giambologna and the great masters of the 16th century. At Santa Croce we view the the 14th-century masterpieces by Giotto and Taddeo Gaddi, and Brunelleschi’s Pazzi Chapel. (Overnight Florence) B
Day 6: Sunday 16 September, Florence
- Uffizi Gallery
- Afternoon at leisure
Painting: The most perfect expression of the Renaissance
This morning we visit the Uffizi Gallery and begin our study of the development of Florentine painting. One of the finest extant collections of Italian painting, the Uffizi collection includes work by Piero della Francesca, Leonardo Da Vinci, Uccello, Fra Filippo Lippi, Botticelli, Ghirlandaio, Michelangelo, Raphael and the Mannerists Parmigianino, Bronzino, Rosso Fiorentino and Caravaggio. Today’s program will finish in the early afternoon and we shall then enjoy time at leisure. You may wish to remain in the Uffizi to explore its extensive collection further, at your own pace. (Overnight Florence) B
Day 7: Monday 17 September, Florence
- Old Pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella
- Basilica of Santa Maria Novella
- Museum and Monumental Cloisters of Santa Maria Novella, including the Spanish Chapel
- Walking tour of the Oltrarno, including visits to the Brancacci Chapel and Santa Trinita
- San Miniato al Monte
Florence: A Centre of Faith
We begin today’s program in the neighbourhood of Santa Maria Novella. We visit Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy, one of the oldest shops in the world still operating. Already active in Dante’s time, its perfumes and medications came from its garden and laboratory for medicinal plants to cure the sick and to supply pilgrims.
The Basilica of Santa Maria Novella contains some of the high points of Florentine painting, from the first demonstration of one-point perspective in Masaccio’s Holy Trinity to the ideal human types in Ghirlandaio’s frescoes.
We next cross the river on the famous Ponte Vecchio to explore the Oltrarno. After taking a walk past Palazzo Pitti, we visit the church of Santa Trinita before a visit of the Early Renaissance Brancacci chapel, designed by Brunelleschi in the 14th century.
Today’s program concludes with a visit to the nearby San Miniato al Monte (St Minias on the Mountain), located atop one of the highest points of Florence. One of the finest Romanesque structures in Italy, its nave is dominated by the beautiful Chapel of the Crucifix, designed by Michelozzo in 1448. It also features terracotta decorations by Luca della Robbia and frescoes by Taddeo Gaddi. (Overnight Florence) B
Siena - 4 nights
Day 8: Tuesday 18 September, Florence – Settignano – Pianella – Siena
- Villa Gamberaia (incl. special access to ground floor of villa)
- Villa di Geggiano, Pianella (buffet lunch and guided tour of the villa and winery)
The Intimate Landscapes of Tuscany
Today we drive from Florence to Siena via two famous Tuscan villas. At Settignano we visit the Villa Gamberaia, with arguably the most famous of Florentine villa gardens. The Capponi family initiated the present garden in 1718. In 1896, Princess Ghika of Serbia created the main water parterres in front of the villa. The Marchi family has recently restored the garden. It features magnificent topiary, two fine grottoes, and wonderful old cypresses and pines. By special arrangement, we also tour the interiors of the villa, which combines interesting architectural features of both an urban palazzo and suburban villa.
At lunchtime we cross to the opposite side of the Sienese hills to the enchanting Villa Geggiano. Here, centuries-old cypress, potted lemons and clipped box hedges adorn a garden boasting a unique ‘greenery theatre’, late Baroque sculptures, a kitchen garden with topiary art and a semi-circular fishpond that forms an elegant terrace overlooking Siena. The villa itself contains original 13th-century furnishings. A small chapel faces out to the garden. At Villa Geggiano we will enjoy a buffet lunch of local specialities and will sample the villa’s own highly regarded Chianti Classico. The proposed menu features crostini with porcini mushrooms and truffles, pasta, a variety of types of locally cured meat and Pecorino cheese to be followed by plum jam tart. These will be washed down with Villa di Geggiano Chianti Classico, mineral water and coffee.
In the afternoon we continue to our hotel on the outskirts of Siena. The hotel is housed in a villa and surrounded by gardens. For those wishing to dine in Siena, there will be an optional evening excursion by public bus into the town centre. (Overnight Siena) BL
Day 9: Wednesday 19 September, Siena – Chianciano Terme – Pienza – Siena
- Villa La Foce, Chianciano Terme (by special appointment – to be confirmed)
- Lunch at Dopolavoro La Foce
- Palazzo Piccolomini, Pienza
The Power of Churchmen: The Piccolomini Popes
Today we celebrate the beauty of Tuscany, as we drive south through rolling hills to the Renaissance villa, La Foce, home of Iris Origo, author of the famous Merchant of Prato. La Foce overlooks the Orcia valley and Amiata Mountains, maintaining a distinctive harmony between its spectacular landscape setting and the formal style of surrounding gardens. Terraces with cherries, pines, cypress and wild herbs gently climb its hillside setting.
After sampling local Tuscan fare for lunch, we spend the afternoon exploring the town of Pienza. Pienza was made famous by the Piccolomini family, whose most renowned son, humanist poet, diplomat and theologian, Aenius Sylvius, became Pope Pius II. Its central square was the first to be organised by Renaissance principles of design, providing a model for countless public spaces throughout the western world. The Piccolomini Palace was built in 1459 by famed architect Bernardo Rossellino, student of Leon Battista Alberti. Recent major renovation has restored its utmost splendour, both internally and externally. The true architectural theme of Palazzo Piccolomini is its relationship with nature and the landscape. From the portico on the rear unfolds an extraordinary view of the Valdorcia and Monte Amiata. Inserted into this panorama, on the ground floor of the palazzo, a square-shaped garden bound by walls with a well in the middle, is the first hanging garden of the Renaissance. (Overnight Siena) BL
Day 10: Thursday 20 September, Siena
- Walking tour of Siena, including Palazzo Pubblico, Piccolomini Library, Baptistery, Cathedral & Museum
- Time at leisure
Siena, Nemesis of Florence: Conflict and Expansion
Siena is the quintessential medieval city; its rivalry with Florence for political and artistic supremacy has left a legacy of artistic brilliance seldom matched. Lorenzetti’s brilliant interpretation of the rule of law and its impact on society in his frescoes of Good and Bad Government in the Palazzo Pubblico are the most important secular paintings of their time, providing a visual philosophical discourse on the nature of government. Duccio’s masterpiece, the Maestà, originally the centre of the cathedral altar and now in the Cathedral Museum, demonstrates the jewel-like quality of Sienese art, its colour brilliance and its delicacy of line. We examine Giovanni Pisano’s great pulpit in Siena Cathedral, visit the newly reopened crypt and visit the Piccolomini Library with its spectacle of paintings by Pintoricchio and magnificent manuscripts. We also visit the Baptistry, the medieval quarters (contrade) dominated by palaces still occupied by the families who built them. The contrade compete in the famous palio horse race twice a year. The afternoon will include some time at leisure to further explore Siena’s many monuments and museums. (Overnight Siena) B
Day 11: Friday 21 September, Siena – Arezzo – Monterchi – Sansepolcro – Siena
- Basilica di San Francesco, Arezzo
- Museo Madonna del Parto, Monterchi
- Museo Civico Sansepolcro
Piero della Francesca and the Impact of Genius
Today we explore the landscapes that inspired Piero della Francesca, who incorporated stylistic elements of the Florentine and Northern Renaissance in his work. Driving south east to Arezzo, we shall study Piero’s magnificent Story of the True Cross in San Francesco; built around a narrative from the collected story of the saints, the Golden Legend, it recounts the events surrounding the growth and fate of the cross on which Christ died. In the small communal museum of Sansepolcro, Piero’s birthplace and where he held public office, we see his spectacular painting of the Resurrection, in his view his finest work, and his Misericordia Madonna. The Romanesque cathedral in Sansepolcro had a special meaning for Piero, inspiring his painting with its imagery and its commemoration of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem, as the town’s name suggests. In the neighbouring commune of Monterchi we view the Madonna del Parto (Madonna of Pregnancy), painted by Piero around 1460. This is an iconic depiction of the Virgin Mary shown as pregnant, which was developed in Italy, mainly in Tuscany in the 14th century. It is thought to be a very personal work for Piero, which he painted after his mother’s funeral. (Overnight Siena) BD
Lucca - 3 nights
Day 12: Saturday 22 September, Siena – San Gimignano – Volterra – Lucca
- Medieval aristocratic towers, San Gimignano
- Collegiate Church of Santa Maria Assunta, San Gimignano
- Etruscan Walls, Theatre & City Gate, Volterra
- Art Gallery & Civic Museum, Volterra
The Roman Origins of Tuscany
We depart Siena this morning by private coach for a full day drive to Lucca via San Gimignano and Volterra. San Gimignano is one of the few communes in Italy which retains intact a number of its medieval tower houses. They are reminders of the period between c.1150 and c.1250, when factional violence virtually turned Tuscany’s towns into armed camps, and neighbourhood relations were determined by jealous rivalries between large militaristic clans called consorterie. San Gimignano is also renowned for its delicious, astringent white wine, called Vernaccia.
We spend the afternoon exploring Volterra, which is noted for its Etruscan walls, Roman theatre and city gate and the fact that in the Middle Ages it became one of the earliest independent Tuscan communes. It therefore has one of Tuscany’s oldest communal palaces. This bears an interesting spatial relationship to Volterra’s Romanesque cathedral, the second focus of the city’s early communal life (under restoration until 2019). We shall visit Volterra’s Civic Museum and Art Gallery, which is housed in a 15th-century palace designed by Antonio Sangallo the Elder. This museum holds a wonderful collection, of which the masterpiece is Rosso Fiorentino’s extraordinary Deposition from the Cross. Volterra is also known for its craftwork in alabaster, for which it has been famous for millennia. You will encounter small alabaster workshops in the streets of the city.
In the late afternoon we continue to Lucca and check in to the Hotel Ilaria, which occupies the restored stables of the Villa Bottini inside the city walls. (Overnight Lucca) B
Day 13: Sunday 23 September, Lucca
- Orientation tour of Lucca, incl. Cathedral of San Martino, San Michele, San Frediano and the Piazza del Mercato
- Palazzo Pfanner
- Afternoon at leisure
- Evening concert of works by Puccini and others, Church of San Giovanni
Lucca: Exploring the Planned City
Lucca is one of the most beautiful of all Italian cities, with city walls graced by grand plantations of trees and one of the finest sets of Romanesque churches in Italy. We visit the Cathedral of San Martino, with a lovely Jacopo della Quercia tomb. The church of San Michele has a spectacular façade made up of complex blind galleries with capricious sculptures of beasts. It was built in the ancient forum of the city; Lucca’s medieval street plan follows the original Roman plan. The oval Piazza del Mercato’s medieval palaces were built into the structure of Lucca’s Roman amphitheatre. San Frediano, meanwhile, has a distinctive façade mosaic and a unique baptismal font that was once a medieval fountain. Our morning concludes with a tour of the privately owned 17th-century Palazzo Pfanner, where parts of Portrait of a Lady (1996) were filmed. The palace’s owner, Dario Pfanner, will introduce his palace and its Baroque garden, a fine example of an urban garden that includes various statues of Olympian deities and a fountain pond. Inside, the palace’s piano nobile (main reception room) features Pietro Paolo Scorsini frescoes (c.1720).
The afternoon is at leisure. You may wish to walk a section of Lucca’s 17th-century city walls, the best preserved in Italy. The Lucchesi planted trees atop these walls to form a promenade enlivened by small gardens and lawns. We attend an evening concert with a selection of works by well-known classical composers including Giacomo Puccini (1858-1924), a native of Lucca, in the church of San Giovanni. (Overnight Lucca) B
Day 14: Monday 24 September, Lucca – Pistoia – Lucca
- Cathedral of San Zeno and Silver Altar
- Churches of Sant’ Andrea, San Giovanni Fuorcivitas & San Bartolomeo in Pantano
- Palazzo Comunale & Tribunale of Pistoia (exteriors)
- Della Robbia frieze, Ospedale del Ceppo (Hospital of the Tree Trunk)
- Farewell Dinner at Gli Orti di Via Elisa Restaurant
Pistoia and its Medieval Legacy
Today we visit the well-preserved and charming medieval city of Pistoia. Located in the foothills of the Apennines, halfway between rivals Pisa and Florence, it inherited Romanesque architecture and Gothic sculpture through the influence of the former, and the best of the Renaissance from its proximity, and eventual conquest by the latter. Inside the old walls lie many beautiful secular and religious buildings including Sant’Andrea, housing Giovanni Pisano’s pulpit of St Andrew; San Giovanni Fuorcivitas, with its magnificent façade and medieval pulpit, forerunner and inspiration for Pisano’s work; San Bartolomeo in Pantano; and the Ospedale del Ceppo, where we view the 16th-century polychrome terracotta frieze by Giovanni della Robbia. The Cathedral of San Zeno, with a beautiful Pisan-Romanesque façade, safeguards a lunette of the Madonna and Child between two angels by Andrea della Robbia. Inside, the right aisle was once occupied by the Chapel of St. James, built in the mid-12th century to house the relics of Saint James brought from Santiago de Compostela. The silver altar of the saint, one of the few complete examples of medieval silver work, can be seen today in the Crucifix Chapel. In the evening we dine together at Gli Orti di Via Elisa Restaurant, located near the hotel. (Overnight Lucca) BD
Day 15: Tuesday 25 September, Depart Lucca for Pisa Airport
- Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will be transferred to Pisa Airport for their return flight to Australia. B