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. Participants should note that the daily activities described in this itinerary may be rotated and/or modified in order to accommodate changes in museum opening hours, flight schedules etc. Meals included in the tour price are indicated in the detailed itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D= evening meal.
Venice - 14 nights
Day 1: Thursday 26 September, Arrive Venice
- Welcome Reception
- Orientation Walk
Group members travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight are scheduled to arrive at Venice’s Marco Polo Airport in the mid-afternoon. On arrival you will be transferred to your hotel by private water taxi. If you are travelling independently, please meet the ASA group at the NH Venezia Rio Novo. ASA staff can also arrange an independent transfer for you. After check-in we commence our program with a welcome reception at NH Venezia Rio Novo, followed by a short orientation walk in the area around the hotel. (Overnight Venice)
Day 2: Friday 27 September, Venice
- Piazza San Marco and Basilica San Marco
- Doge’s Palace
- Afternoon tea at Caffè Florian
Our program begins in Piazza San Marco. We shall study the square and the façades of its remarkable buildings: San Marco, the Torre dell’Orologio, the Procuratie, the Campanile and Loggetta, Sansovino’s Library, the Mint and the Doge’s Palace. We shall focus on the development of the republic’s political core, its institutions and aspirations, and their expression in art and culture, from the Byzantine style of San Marco to Renaissance Classicism and Sansovino’s vision for this most beautiful of all city squares. The ethereal interior of the great church of San Marco will be explored to understand the evolution of the mosaics which cover its domes, arches and walls and how they echo a medieval vision of heaven.
Following some time at leisure for lunch we tour Venice’s magnificent Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace), which was the governmental, diplomatic, administrative and judicial centre of the Republic, as well as the Doge’s residence, for nearly a millennium, until Napoleon destroyed the Serenissima’s independence in 1797. John Ruskin called it ‘the central building of the world’, a consummate fusion of Roman, Gothic and Islamic elements that, despite constant renovation, particularly after the great fire of 1577, preserves a unique sense of unity in diversity. The palace’s canal façade constitutes a masterly balance. The great upper wall fronting the room of the Great Council is lightened by shimmering Islamic patterns of white Istrian and pink Verona stone so that visually it does not bear down oppressively upon the two stories of supporting arcades that represent the very best of Venetian Gothic. Within, the courtyard and governmental chambers add wonderful Renaissance architectural elements created by masters like Andrea Palladio. The interior presents a treasure house of late Renaissance painting, of masters such as Tintoretto and Veronese, the imagery of whose vast canvases extols the virtues of the Republic. As you walk from chamber to chamber you will become increasingly aware of the great wealth and powerful pride of the aristocratic elite that ruled Venice.
We shall finish our afternoon in grand style, taking afternoon tea at the wonderful Caffè Florian in St Mark’s Square. It is Italy’s oldest café, opened in 1720. Its interior is frescoed and it has its own orchestra, which competes with that of the Gran Caffè Quadri (1775) opposite. (Overnight Venice) B
Day 3: Saturday 28 September, Venice – Ravenna – Venice
- Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna
- Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Ravenna
- Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna
- Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna
This morning we drive south along Italy’s Adriatic coastal plain to Ravenna, which became capital of the Western Roman Empire in 402 AD, then of the Ostrogothic Kingdom of Theodoric in 493, and then was taken by the armies of Byzantine emperor Justinian the Great in the 6th century, becoming an exarchate of Constantinople. In this and the following century the city’s bishops embarked upon a major building program, which has left a priceless heritage of Byzantine architecture and mosaic. In 751 the Lombards took Ravenna, which ceased to be a Byzantine outpost, ceding this status to the emerging settlement of what would become Venice.
We begin by visiting Sant’Apollinare in Classe outside the city, located at what was once the coast; it was the port of Ravenna. Its light, airy basilica has a magnificent apse mosaic depicting the Transfiguration and a fine image of Saint Apollinaris, to whom the church is dedicated. We shall then drive into town to visit the Church of San Vitale (548) and the tiny late antique Mausoleum of Galla Placidia (430). Ravenna plays a vital role in the history and art history of the transition from a pagan to a Christian empire. When, in the 4th century, Rome became difficult to defend, the Imperial court moved first to Milan and then to Ravenna. The scintillating mosaics of the little Mausoleum, like those of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, give a marvellous intimation of the transition from antique to early medieval modes of representation.
San Vitale is adorned with the greatest of all cycles of early Byzantine mosaics from the period of Emperor Justinian (483-565), its vivid green colouring contrasting to the strong blues of the mausoleum of Galla Placidia. Among the masterpieces in San Vitale are the scintillating hieratic courtly images of Justinian and his wife Theodora on the apse walls. We shall also visit the Byzantine church of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo. It has mosaics crafted during the reign of Theodoric the Ostrogoth, an Arian, which were changed by the Orthodox Byzantines. We will explore the theological differences between the Arians and orthodox Christians that led to the Council of Nicaea (325) and its great product, the Nicene Creed. (Overnight Venice) BL
Day 4: Sunday 29 September, Venice: The Islands
- Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, & Church of Santa Fosca, Torcello
- Archaeological Museum, Torcello
- Lunch at the historic Locanda Cipriani, Torcello
- Islands of Burano & Murano
This morning we take the vaporetto to the island of Torcello; we shall return via Burano and Murano. Although Torcello is much visited it is still amazingly peaceful. Much of the island is a nature reserve, accessible only on the walking paths. First settled in the 5th century, before the local population moved to the Rivo Alto (Rialto) in the centre of the lagoon, Torcello may once have had a population of around 20,000 souls. Eventually malaria killed much of the population, and the survivors left it. Buildings were plundered for building material so that little remains of its once splendid palaces, churches, and monasteries; it is now a lovely dreamy backwater.
Torcello’s cathedral, Santa Maria Assunta, was built in 639. It has a tall 11th-century bell tower (campanile) that dominates the island’s profile. Within are stunning Byzantine mosaics from the 11th to 13th century. Above the apse is a fine mosaic image of the Virgin in a gold field and below her, the Apostles. The Last Judgement on the west wall is particularly impressive; the angels trumpeting to awaken the dead are masterful. The cathedral has a fine inlaid floor and an old iconostasis (altar screen). Next to the cathedral is the 11th-century centrally planned Church of Santa Fosca, its nave surrounded by a 5-sided portico. Across from the cathedral is the small Torcello Archaeological Museum housed in 14th-century mansions that were once the seat of the government. It houses medieval artifacts, mostly from the island, and archeological finds from the Paleolithic to Roman period discovered in the area of Venice. In the courtyard is a large stone throne known as ‘Attila’s Throne’.
After exploring the two churches and the archaeological museum we shall walk a short distance to the famous Locanda Cipriani for a lunch to welcome you to the program. Locanda Cipriani was founded by Giuseppe Cipriani and is still owned by the Cipriani family. Giuseppe Cipriani, the world-famous founder of Harry’s Bar in Venice, Hotel Cipriani (Venice) and Villa Cipriani in Asolo, fell in love with Torcello in the late 1920s. In 1934 he bought a modest wine and oil shop there. He transformed the shop into an inn (locanda) featuring just a few, beautifully appointed guestrooms and a pleasant restaurant surrounded by a garden of flowers and vegetables and boasting an unparalleled view of Torcello’s churches.
The Locanda became a literary legend after Ernest Hemingway wrote Across the River and Through the Trees during his stay there. He devoted whole pages of his novel to Torcello. As a result, the Locanda became a destination of choice for stars and celebrities in the post-war era. Right from the start Giuseppe’s wife’s sister Gabriella helped him run the Locanda. In the early 1980s Giuseppe’s daughter Carla took over the business, involving her son Bonifacio Brass in the venture. Bonifacio Brass now owns and manages Locanda Cipriani.
After lunch we shall take the ferry to the pretty island of Burano with its multi-coloured houses, and then to Murano. This island was first settled in the 6th century. It garnered wealth from selling salt and fish, but slowly developed as the Republic’s glass manufacturing centre. It is famous for its glass and for the beautiful Byzantine Church of Santa Maria e San Donato with its fine arcade surrounding the apse; it is one of the oldest churches in the lagoon, having been founded in the 7th century and rebuilt in the 9th century and again in 1040. After exploring Murano we return to Venice. (Overnight Venice) BL
Day 5: Monday 30 September, Venice
- Bevilacqua Tessuti (Textile Workshop)
- The Venetian Ghetto
- Afternoon at leisure
- Evening Concert & Supper at the palazzino of Rosemary Forbes-Butler
We begin this morning with a visit to the fascinating luxury textile workshop of Luigi Bevilacqua. One of medieval Venice’s most important manufactures was fine textiles. Luigi Bevilacqua Ltd in the Santa Croce district has maintained this tradition, using twenty-five 18th-century hand-operated looms; both looms and warpers were built in the peculiar Venetian style. The company’s famous archives hold more than 3,500 pattern-designs, all Bevilacqua originals, and there are warehouses and showrooms.
We then take a walking tour of what was once Venice’s Jewish quarter, the Ghetto. ‘Gèto’, from which the term used worldwide to describe a place where minorities live derives, originally meant ‘slag heap’ or ‘foundry’ in Venetian dialect. In 1516 the Republic forced its Jews to live in an area dominated by an ironworks. The tall residential buildings that line the narrow alleyways of this fascinating quarter reflect the incredible overcrowding that Venice’s Jews were forced to endure here. Today the quarter bears witness to memory of one of Venice’s most important minorities, represented by Shakespeare’s unforgettable character, Shylock.
The afternoon is at leisure for you to enjoy Venice at your own pace.
This evening we visit Rosemary Forbes-Butler, who has arranged a private reception and concert for us in her Venetian palazzino. Our refreshments will include prosecco (the local bubbly) and Italian canapés of the season. Rosemary, a classically trained soprano who has recorded with both Pavarotti and Michael Jackson, mingles with us and will be delighted to answer questions regarding life in Venice and as a singer. Following the reception, we enjoy a 40-minute concert entitled Venetian Days. The program is drawn from music composed over the centuries by Venetians or those who either worked in or were inspired by their time in Venice. The songs are introduced in English and are sung in both local Venetian dialect and other languages. (Overnight Venice) BD
Day 6: Tuesday 1 October, Venice
- Scuola Grande di San Rocco
- Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari
- Gallerie dell’Accademia
We begin today at the Scuola Grande di San Rocco, which was the confraternity house of wealthy Venetians who aided plague victims; San Rocco (St Roche) is the patron of plague victims. Here we shall view Tintoretto’s most complete painting cycle. The vast corpus of huge oil canvases set into its walls rivals Michelangelo’s and Raphael’s Vatican frescoes in its size, breadth and power.
Nearby we visit the great Franciscan Church of Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari, which houses some of the most significant works of the Venetian masters from the 14th to the 17th century, including Titian’s Assumption, and his Pesaro Altarpiece. Painting styles range from a decorative Byzantine influence to Renaissance classicism.
Following some time at leisure for lunch, the remainder of the day is devoted to visiting the Accademia, which holds the most extensive collection of Venetian paintings. In this gallery we can chart the continuity and change that Venetian art underwent from medieval to Rococo periods, through major works by artists such as Paolo Veneziano (c.1333-c.1358), Giovanni Bellini (1430-1516), Giorgione (1477/8-1510), Titian (c. 1488/1490-1576), Paolo Veronese (1528-1588), Tintoretto (1518-1594), Giambattista Tiepolo (1696-1770), and others. The collection includes Giorgione’s The Tempest, Titian’s Presentation of the Virgin in the Temple, Tintoretto’s Miracles of St Mark, and Veronese’s Feast in the House of Levi. We shall explore how the Venetians reinterpreted the new geometric spatial construction – perspective – and classical proportion systems developed by the Florentines. We shall see how they used the medium of oils to introduce sumptuous colour and to bathe their scenes in a golden light, derived partly from the Byzantine mosaic tradition and partly from the exquisite light of their lagoon city. While our visit is planned to conclude around 4.30pm, the museum is open until 7.15pm and you may therefore wish to continue exploring this magnificent collection at your own pace. (Overnight Venice) B
Day 7: Wednesday 2 October, Venice – Maser – Vicenza – Venice
- Villa Barbaro, Maser
- Teatro Olimpico, Vicenza
- Palladian Palaces, Vicenza (exteriors)
- Villa Rotonda, Vicenza
We leave Venice in order to spend a day exploring the villas, palaces and civic buildings of Andrea Palladio who is considered by many the most influential individual in the history of Western villa architecture. At Maser we shall visit one of Palladio’s most important villas, the Villa Barbaro. Rises in grain prices during the 16th century encouraged Venetian aristocrats to build villas on Venice’s terra firma. Villas like that at Maser were therefore working farms, unlike many of their counterparts in other parts of Italy. This beautiful house was decorated by Paolo Veronese with frescoes of theatre and pastoral scenes. Its central, residential, section echoes the style and proportions of a classical temple. Two wings that housed farm machinery and agricultural produce flank this grand central element. Two pavilions that held dovecotes in turn abut these wings, framing and thus unifying the whole façade.
At the age of 16 years Palladio, son of a Paduan stonemason, moved from Padua to the city of Vicenza, where he would reside for most of his life. The majority of his villas are located in the province of Vicenza, while his palazzi (palaces) are concentrated in the city itself. We begin our visit to the city with Palladio’s famous theatre. Palladio’s Teatro Olimpico (Olympic Theatre), constructed between 1580 and 1585, is the earliest surviving enclosed theatre in the world. Its trompe-l’œil stage scenery, designed by Vincenzo Scamozzi, gives the appearance of long streets receding to a distant horizon. It was installed in 1585 for the very first performance held in the theatre, and is the oldest surviving stage set still in existence.
The Basilica Palladiana’s most notable feature is its loggia. This loggia clothed an earlier, 15th-century Gothic building known as the Palazzo della Ragione. It was the seat of government and also housed a number of shops on its ground floor. When part of the building collapsed in the 16th century, Vicenza’s Council of One Hundred commissioned many architects to submit designs and selected Palladio to reconstruct the building in April 1549. Palladio added a new outer marble shell in the classical style; his loggia and a portico blanket the building’s original Gothic core. We shall also view a number of Palladio’s palace façades. Our time in Vicenza will include free time to allow you to explore more of its historic centre at leisure.
On the outskirts of Vicenza we shall next visit Palladio’s Villa Capra ‘La Rotonda’, built not as a functioning estate like his villa at Maser but as a retreat from the city in which theatrical entertainments took place. This strictly symmetrical villa is considered one of Palladio’s best-known legacies to the architectural world. Monumental, temple-like porticoes grace each of its four walls; these porticoes represent the four seasons, a favourite theme of Renaissance art, literature, music and architecture. The villa’s grand interior space rises to a majestic dome. (Overnight Venice) B
Day 8: Thursday 3 October, Venice
- Ca’ d’Oro (Galleria Giorgio Franchetti)
- Museum of Palazzo Mocenigo
- Ca’ Pisani Rubelli: Rubelli Textile Collection
We devote today to understanding the development of the Venetian patrician palace. The façades of these beautiful ‘houses’, many fronting the Grand Canal, provided Venetian merchant aristocrats with a vehicle to display their wealth. Over the centuries the styles of the façades changed from Byzantine through a number of stages of Gothic to Renaissance and finally to grandiose Baroque. Although their façades changed in style, the plans of these great houses changed little, due to limits imposed by their cramped sites. Most Venetian palaces were not located on large enough plots to allow the ample interior courtyards that lit their counterparts in other cities; light had to be brought to their interiors by other means. Venetian houses therefore had large windows that lit a central spinal room (androne) running through the palace on each floor, often from canal façade to canal façade.
We begin by visiting the Ca’ d’Oro (Palazzo Santa Sofia), arguably the most beautiful of all Venetian palaces. It is one of Venice’s oldest palaces with exquisite, elaborate floriated Gothic arcaded façades. It has always been known as Ca’ d’Oro (golden house) due to the gilt and polychrome external decorations that once adorned its walls. It was built between 1428 and 1430 for the Contarini family, who provided Venice with eight Doges between 1043 and 1676. Its architects (and sculptors) were Giovanni Bon and his son Bartolomeo, best known for their work on the Doge’s Palace.The palace now houses the important Franchetti art collection, which includes Titian’s Venus with a Mirror (1550) and Paris Bordon’s Sleeping Venus. The jewel of the collection is Andrea Mantegna’s San Sebastiano.
Our next visit takes in the Palazzo Mocenigo at San Stae. This late 17th-century patrician residence belonged to the Mocenigo family and was bequeathed to the city of Venice by its last descendant. The palace’s 18th century ceilings are decorated with frescoes by Jacopo Guarana and Giambattista Canal, and portraits of the Mocenigo family are found in the frieze and around the portega’s double doorway. The green sitting room features scenes of events from the Mocenigo family’s history, while the red drawing-room is decorated with allegories of the Contarini family. The palazzo houses a museum, renewed and expanded in 2013, whose exhibits explore aspects of aristocratic life in the 17th and 18th centuries. On display are valuable garments and accessories from this period. Among the new additions to the museum are five rooms dedicated to the history of perfume.
We next visit the famous Rubelli Collection of fine textiles in the Ca’ Pisani Rubelli. This fine Venetian early Gothic style house is estimated to date to the 1370s and is the traditional family palazzo of the Rubelli family. The magnificent collection displayed in the palace documents the development of rich Venetian textiles since the end of the 15th century. (Overnight Venice) B
Day 9: Friday 4 October, Venice
- Church of SS Giovanni e Paolo
- Santa Maria dei Miracoli
- Gesuiti (Santa Maria Assunta)
- Afternoon at leisure
- Evening Performance of The Barber of Seville at Teatro La Fenice
This morning we visit a number of Venice’s most important churches, beginning with the great Basilica di San Giovanni e Paolo, Dominican counterpart to the grand Franciscan Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari. One of the largest churches in the city, it became, after the 15th century, the funeral church of Venice’s doges; twenty-five doges are buried in the church. It was built on the site of an earlier church that was demolished in 1333, and took until 1430 to complete. The vast interior, lit by high Gothic windows, houses a treasure trove of Venetian art, including paintings by Giovanni Bellini, Cima Conegliano, Lorenzo Lotto, Vivarini and Veronese. Outside is the equestrian statue of the Condottiero Colleoni, a Captain General of the Republic, by Andrea del Verrochio (1483).
We next visit a small Renaissance gem, Santa Maria dei Miracoli, one of the finest examples of early Venetian Renaissance architecture, especially noted for the colored marble inlays on its walls. The exterior walls are articulated and organised by a false colonnade rising to a false arcade. A grand semicircular pediment caps its façade. This small masterpiece (1481-1489) was designed by Pietro Lombardo to house a miraculous icon of the Virgin Mary.
The last church we visit this morning, the Gesuiti (Santa Maria Assunta), is a monumental edifice constructed for the Jesuits in 1715. It contains a magnificent Martyrdom of St. Lawrence (1557) by Titian and an Assumption of the Virgin (1555) by Tintoretto.
The afternoon is at leisure so that you may relax or continue to explore the city for yourself.
This evening we attend a performance of Gioachino Rossini’s witty and vivacious The Barber of Seville, at Venice’s famous opera house, La Fenice. This masterpiece of opera buffa (comic opera), was composed in just a few weeks. It contains some of the best-known music ever written, from the lively overture to the famous refrain of ‘Figaro!’. The beautiful opera house La Fenice (1792), replaced an earlier theatre of the Vernier family that had burnt down. ‘Fenice’ means phoenix, alluding to the fact that the theatre rose again from the ashes of its predecessor. It burned again in 2006 and was rebuilt. (Overnight Venice) B
Day 10: Saturday 5 October, Literary Venice
- Literary Venice & the Ca’ Rezzonico
- Lunch at Pensione La Calcina
- Private reception at Palazzo Mocenigo hosted by Francesca Bortolotto Possati (exclusive visit to be confirmed)
- Evening Mass at St Mark’s (optional)
Today we reflect on the lives and works of some of the great authors who resided or set their works in the great lagoon city, including Ruskin, Byron, Shakespeare, Browning and Henry James.
We begin with a visit to the Ca’ Rezzonico, the grand 17th-century palace designed for Filippo Bon by the great exponent of the Venetian Baroque, Baldassare Longhena (1598-1682). In the 19th century it was home to Robert Browning who died here. At this time his only son, the painter Robert Barrett Browning, owned the palace. The American artist John Singer Sargent had a studio here for a time and in the 20th century it was rented for a while by Cole Porter. Now a museum of 18th-century Venice, this palace contains fine frescoes by Tiepolo, furnishings, paintings by Canaletto and Tintoretto and a magnificent ceremonial staircase by Giorgio Massari.
We shall have lunch at Pensione La Calcina on the Zattere, made famous by John Ruskin (1819-1900), who stayed there in 1877. Ruskin wrote to Mrs Arthur Severn: “…The Grand Hotel was really too expensive; I was getting quite ruined so I came away to a little inn fronting the Giudecca, and commanding sunrise and sunset both, where I have two rooms for six francs a day, instead of one for twelve. Also, which I find a great advantage, I look along the water instead of down on it, and get perfectly picturesque views of boats instead of masthead ones, and I think I shall be comfy”. (The Complete Works of John Ruskin).
By special arrangement we enjoy a private reception at the Palazzo Mocenigo, owned by Francesca Bortolotto Possati. Francesca, a native Venetian, is an interior designer, hotelier, author and philanthropist. She is also a board member of the not-for-profit organisation Save Venice, which is dedicated to preserving Venice’s artistic and architectural heritage. This visit gives us a unique opportunity not only to glimpse the interior of a Renaissance Venetian palace, but also to learn about current endeavours to restore and preserve Venice’s artistic treasures.
Nearby in the eponymous neighbouring palazzo, Byron lived a particularly dissolute life between 1817 and 1819. His biographer Peter Quennell describes his life there: “…among his horde of quarrelsome servants and grasping mistresses, [it] suggests a bohemianism verging on extreme disorder”.
This evening you may wish to attend Mass at Saint Mark’s. It is very moving and the great mosaics of the domes and walls are lit for the occasion, giving you a wonderful chance to contemplate peacefully these masterpieces of late Byzantine art. (Overnight Venice) BL
Day 11: Sunday 6 October, Venice – Dolomites – Venice
- Lake Misurina
- Lunch at Malga Misurina
Today we drive up into the Dolomites to explore the awesome alpine landscapes that appear as the backdrop to many Venetian paintings. Venice’s trading wealth stemmed from its location at the head of the Adriatic close to the mountain passes that led through the Alps to wealthy Central and Northern Europe; it stood at the intersection between the Mediterranean and European trade systems. We shall drive up to Lake Misurina, at an altitude of 1,754 metres, in the region of Cadore. Titian was born in Pieve di Cadore in 1477 to Gregorio Vecelli, a distinguished councillor and soldier descended from local counts, and his wife Lucia.
Two different legends are associated with Lake Misurina. In the first, made famous in a song, Il lago di Misurina by Claudio Baglioni, Misurina, a capricious, spiteful little girl lives in the palm of the hand of her gigantic father, King Sorapiss. As he tries to obtain the Queen of Monte Cristallo’s magic mirror for her, he is transformed into a great mountain. During the last stages of his transformation he sees his daughter fall and her tears flow like rivers and form the lake beneath which she will lie forever with the mirror. In a second tale, a wealthy Venetian merchant sends his daughter Misurina into the mountains in order to avoid a prophecy that she would give away all the family’s possessions. The girl dies, and her lover, who had been deceived when her father sent her away, recognises her on the point of death. (Overnight Venice) BL
Day 12: Monday 7 October, Venice
- San Giorgio Maggiore
- Gardens of the Bauer Palladio Hotel (exclusive visit to be confirmed)
- Il Redentore
- Afternoon at leisure
Venice’s greatest, most influential architect was Andrea Palladio (1508-1580). As a young man Palladio had travelled to Rome to study the architecture of antiquity. He was also deeply influenced by the writings of the Roman theorist Vitruvius. He did not, however, merely copy the proportions and decorative schemes of Roman buildings, but rather adapted these to a revolutionary spatial system that gave a new grandeur to traditional Venetian residential architecture. His designs for Venetian villas, published in his treatise The Four Books of Architecture, were emulated in myriad country houses from Europe to the Americas.
Palladio designed a number of Venetian churches, the most famous being S. Giorgio Maggiore and Il Redentore. San Giorgio sits on its own island opposite Piazza San Marco. A church was built here c.829, dedicated to the soldier saint. An old monastery on the site was demolished in 1516, and the monks considered building a new church by 1521. Palladio arrived in Venice in 1560, when the refectory of the monastery was being rebuilt. He made great improvements to this and in 1565 was asked to prepare a model for a new church. The magnificent shrine he designed reconciled the shape of an antique temple front to the massing of a Christian basilica, with its high central nave and side aisles. The church holds a magnificent Last Supper by Tintoretto.
The design of the sixteenth-century church and convent known as Le Zitelle (Santa Maria della Presentazione), on the Giudecca island, is attributed to Andrea Palladio. The convent building, once a shelter for zitelle, ‘spinsters’ too poor to afford a dowry, now houses the Bauer Palladio Hotel, and its gardens have been restored according to their original design. This morning, by private invitation, we enjoy a special visit to the gardens. We are very grateful to Francesca Bortolotto Possati for this generous invitation.
We then visit Palladio’s masterpiece, Il Redentore, a church built to celebrate Venice’s redemption from the plague, and centre of a festival in which the Doge and his court walked across a temporary bridge to the shrine. If you compare the ‘temple front’ façade of the Redentore to San Giorgio you will see how Palladio’s reconciliation of temple and church had matured. Il Redentore also has a distinctive interior with a ‘temple’ at the east end that was designed in connection with the annual festival. The rest of the afternoon is at leisure so you may explore Venice for yourself. (Overnight Venice) B
Day 13: Tuesday 8 October, Venice – Padua – Venice
- Basilica del Santo (Basilica of St Antony of Padua)
- 16th-century Anatomical Theatre, Palazzo Bo, University of Padua
- Donatello’s Equestrian Statue of Gattamelata
- Giotto’s fresco cycle, Scrovegni Chapel
Today we drive to the city of Padua. We first visit the great complex of Sant’Antonio, dedicated to St. Antony of Padua. This huge domed basilica resembles the architecture of St Mark’s; both derive from Byzantine domed churches. Sant’Antonio is a treasure trove of wonderful artworks, not least Donatello’s magnificent high altar with its illusionistic reliefs depicting events in the life of the saint. Outside the church is Donatello’s magnificent equestrian statue (1453) of the Renaissance condottiere (mercenary leader) Erasmo da Narni, nicknamed ‘Gattamelata’. He served the Republic of Venice, which ruled Padua at the time. This equestrian statue emulated the equestrian portraits of antiquity and directly or indirectly inspired all Renaissance and post-Renaissance equestrian statues, including 19th-century equestrian portraits of imperial dignitaries in Australia.
We next visit the famous University of Padua, with its magnificent early Anatomy Theatre situated in the Palazzo Bo. This wooden structure is the earliest surviving anatomy theatre in the world; scholars know of earlier theatres, but these were moveable and/or temporary. The dissection of human bodies which developed earlier in the 16th century by anatomists such as Andreas Vesalius (1514-64), author of De Humani Corporis Fabrica and lecturer at the University of Padua, not only advanced anatomical knowledge but also inspired artists like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci to dissect corpses in order to develop their understanding of anatomy.
After lunch we shall visit the Scrovegni Chapel (Arena Chapel), which derives its names from the fact that the money lender, Enrico Scrovegni, built the chapel on the site of Padua’s Roman arena (amphitheatre), whose walls still surround the precinct; Scrovegni built the chapel to atone for the sin of usury. The great artist Giotto de Bordone 1266/7-1337 decorated the chapel in 1303-1305 with one of the most important fresco cycles in Western art. The chapel has no interior architectural articulation, which suggests Scrovegni intended that it be decorated with frescoes. Giotto’s Life of the Virgin and Life of Christ and his grisaille Virtues and Vices form a watershed in the evolution of Italian art, for they are monumental and naturalistic, and in them human action takes place in three dimensional space that is energised by the gestures of Giotto’s figures. (Overnight Venice) B
Day 14: Wednesday 9 October, Venice
- Peggy Guggenheim Collection
- Venice Biennale – 58th International Art Exhibition, Arsenale
- Farewell Dinner at Alle Corone Restaurant, Hotel Ai Reali
We begin today with a visit to the Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, which holds the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Peggy Guggenheim (1898-1979), niece of Solomon R. Guggenheim, accumulated this remarkable collection of 20th-century art. The Venice Guggenheim is one of the most significant modern art galleries in Italy. Its holdings embrace Cubism, Surrealism and Abstract Expressionism. It includes notable works by Picasso, Braque, Duchamp, Léger, Dalí, Magritte, Picabia, Severini, de Chirico, Brâncusi, Mondrian, Kandinsky, Miró, Giacometti, Klee, Arshile Gorky, Alexander Calder and Max Ernst.
After viewing the Peggy Guggenheim collection we take the vaporetto to Venice’s historic shipyards, the Arsenale, and the adjacent Biennale gardens to visit the Venice Biennale – 58th International Art Exhibition. Australia is one of only 29 countries to own a national pavilion in the Biennale Gardens. Established in 1895, the Venice Biennale is the world’s oldest and most prestigious biennale of international contemporary art. Unique for its dual exhibition model, the Venice Biennale comprises of a curated show and individual exhibitions of ‘national participations’. This is an important forum for countries to affirm their nation’s artistic and cultural identity.
Tonight we meet up again for our farewell meal at the Alle Corone Restaurant – a charming restaurant overlooking a peaceful canal. (Overnight Venice) BD
Day 15: Thursday 10 October, Depart Venice
- Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight
Our tour ends today. Participants travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight will transfer by private water taxi to the Venice Marco Polo airport to take their flight home to Australia. Alternatively, you may wish to extend your stay in Italy. Please contact ASA if you require further assistance. B