Structure and Beauty: The Triumph of Italian Art

28 Dec 2014 – 12 Jan 2015

  • Region:
    • Europe
    • Italy
  • Status: closed
  • Code: 21501

Tour Highlights

This tour is limited to 18 participants

  • Gain a thorough understanding of the development of Italian art from a learned and highly experienced tour lecturer, Emeritus Professor Bernard Hoffert. Bernard an art historian and artist; former World President of the International Association of Art-UNESCO, and Associate Dean of the Faculty of Art Design and Architecture at Monash University, he established the programs in art and design at Monash’s Centre in Prato, Italy
  • Based in Rome, Prato and Venice we visit some of the greatest museums in Italy (Villa Borghese, Vatican, Uffizi, Accademia, The Peggy Guggenheim Collection) and explore different artistic periods and historical eras
  • Immerse yourself in the marvels of a myriad buildings, sculptures and paintings by Italy’s masters, just like a traveller of the Grand Tour
  • Study the work of the Italian masters: Giotto, Brunelleschi, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Raphael, Piero della Francesca, Caravaggio, Bernini, Giorgione, Tintoretto and Titian
  • Learn about continuity and change in the art and architecture of Italy from classical antiquity to the 18th century, while building your visual vocabulary and honing your analytical skills
  • Consider the contribution of religion and new political forms like the City State, the development and rise of the Comune and the influence of different environments upon regional innovations
  • Enjoy Italian food and wine in local restaurants and discover flavours and dishes from times gone by. Take the opportunity to try the coda alla vaccinara in Rome, the famous ribollita soup in Florence or have an aperitivo in a typical osteria along Venice canals with a glass of excellent Italian wine.
  • Visit Italy in winter, a time when fewer crowds allow you to immerse yourself in the Italian way of life, particularly during the Christmas period lasting until the Epiphany (6th January)
  • Enjoy the most exciting night of the year in Rome – New Year’s Eve – when the city puts on a feast of performances in places like the Forum and Quirinale
  • Discover the Roman civilization visiting the Roman Forum, the Colosseum and Pompeii­ – the wonderful site that preserves in a time capsule not only the life-style of the wealthy, but also that of everyday citizens
  • Discover Arezzo and the Church of San Francesco with the incredible Early Renaissance fresco cycle by Piero della Francesca depicting the Legend of the True Cross
  • Explore the World Heritage town of Ravenna with its early Christian buildings and the supreme artistry of the mosaic art, and the early medieval Abbey of Pomposa
  • Visit Assisi, the mystic town of Saint Francis still surrounded by ancient walls, and the Basilica of Saint Francis with its early Renaissance masterpieces by Giotto and Cimabue. See the main piazza of Assisi graced by its medieval bell tower… so amazing that Goethe detoured just to gaze on it!

Overnight Rome (6 nights) • Prato (6 nights) • Venice (3 nights)


Led by Emeritus Professor Bernard Hoffertformer Associate Dean in Monash’s Faculty of Art and Design, we explore the balance between continuity and change in the art and architecture of Italy from classical antiquity to the 18th century. In Rome, Pompeii, Assisi, Florence, Siena, Arezzo, Sansepolcro, Ravenna and Venice, we examine how the giants of Italian visual culture, such as Giotto, Brunelleschi, Leonardo, Michelangelo, Raphael, Piero della Francesca, Bramante, Bernini, Titian and Caravaggio shaped the Western tradition. In monuments and museums, we see how Roman heritage, integrated with Byzantine elements, is midwife to world shattering ideas and artistic forms. We begin with the great monuments of ancient Rome, then examine Rome’s Early Christian churches, High Renaissance and Baroque masterpieces of painting, sculpture and architecture and see one of the wellsprings of European artistic traditions in the sublime ruins of Pompeii. We examine how Michelangelo brought an exquisite monumentality to art and architecture, and how architect Borromini, painter Caravaggio, and polymath Bernini all innovated with classical antiquity. We explore the genesis of Renaissance visual clarity and proportion in Giotto’s Assisi cycles, paintings by Masaccio, Uccello, Botticelli, Fra Filippo Lippi and Leonardo, sculpture by Donatello and Michelangelo, and the architectural wonder of Filippo Brunelleschi. In Siena we contrast Florentine gravitas to Sienese grace and pay homage to Piero della Francesca through his fresco cycle of the Story of the True Cross in Arezzo and his masterful the Resurrection and Madonna of Mercy in Sansepolcro. We explore Eastern mysticism through the scintillating, brilliantly coloured Byzantine mosaics of Ravenna, and then consider how the rich impasto of Venetian masters like Giorgione, Titian and Tintoretto posed an alternative to Florentine linear clarity by reconciling classical form to the Byzantine colouristic tradition. Their paintings captured the refractive light of the lagoon, also exploited by the colourism of Venetian architects. An affordable option, our tour utilises 2 and 3-star accommodation – including the historic Convent of San Trovaso in Venice.


The detailed itinerary provides an outline of the proposed daily program. 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 are included in the tour price and are indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast and D=evening meal.

Rome - 6 nights

Day 1: Sunday 28 December 2014, Arrive Rome
  • Orientation Walk
  • Pantheon
  • Trevi Fountain
  • Spanish Steps

Participants taking the ASA ‘designated’ flight are scheduled to arrive in Rome in the early afternoon. After clearing customs we will transfer by private coach to our hotel in Rome’s city centre. After check-in we commence our program with an orientation walk, starting with one of Rome’s most significant monuments, the Pantheon. Roman monumental architecture is characterised by the modelling of vast areas of space, and exemplified by the cavernous interior of the Pantheon, which is unified by the enormous dome that springs from its circular walls. We shall then proceed to the Baroque Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, with their lively atmosphere and stunning views down into the winding alleys of the heart of the historic centre. (Overnight Rome)

Day 2: Monday 29 December, Rome
  • Vatican Museums
  • St Peter’s Basilica
  • Group Evening Welcome Meal

Today we visit the great Basilica of St Peter’s, the Vatican Museums, the Sistine Chapel, and Raphael’s Vatican stanze. We commence with a visit to Michelangelo’s great St Peter’s, to which Carlo Maderno (1556–1629) added the nave and façade, and Bernini his marvellous piazza. We shall also see Michelangelo’s early Rome Pietà and Bernini’s Baldacchino and Cattedra Petri.

The purpose of our visit to the Vatican Museums is to explore further the emergence of the High Renaissance and the Baroque styles, and we begin in the sections of the great museums devoted to antiquity where you will see the Hellenistic sculptures that inspired Michelangelo (1475–1564) and Raphael (1483–1520), such as the Laocoon and the Apollo Belvedere. The grand proportions, energetic poses and heavy musculature of these sculptures contributed to the balance of power, dynamism and unity that characterises High Renaissance figure style and composition.

Later, we shall explore the emergence of the High Renaissance in two masterpieces, Raphael’s Vatican stanze (including The School of Athens) and Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel ceiling and Last Judgement. Raphael’s works are a matchless balance of architecture and grand figure groupings. Whilst working on the Sistine ceiling, Michelangelo evolved a revolutionary new mode for decorating vast vaults. This came gradually. When he was able to examine his early essays (i.e. The Flood) from floor level when the first scaffolding was dismantled, he found his figures to be too small and the compositions too intricate and therefore his later works, such as the Creation of Adam are simpler, grander, and far more powerful. In the Sistine Last Judgement, Michelangelo moved beyond the calm balance of the High Renaissance to develop a style that presaged Mannerism and the Baroque. This evening we dine together at a local restaurant. (Overnight Rome) BD

Day 3: Tuesday 30 December, Rome – Pompeii – Rome
  • Pompeii

Today we shall drive south to the Bay of Naples to visit the Roman port and resort town, Pompeii. This city, preserved by ash from erupting Vesuvius, gives an excellent opportunity to explore the workings of a Roman town. You will visit the forum, theatre and odeon, amphitheatre and gymnasium, and study a number of houses which have well-preserved wall paintings. (Overnight Rome) B

Day 4: Wednesday 31 December, Rome
  • Villa Borghese
  • San Clemente
  • Afternoon at leisure
  • New Year’s Eve Group Evening Meal

This morning we visit the Villa Borghese, with its great collection of Caravaggio and Bernini. Here we shall trace the evolution of Bernini’s fascinating sculptural illusionism in his early monumental sculptures such as the Pluto and Proserpine (Hades and Persephone) and his extraordinary Apollo and Daphne.

Next we shall explore the development of Early Christian and medieval architecture and mosaic in one of the city’s most beautiful basilicas. San Clemente, is particularly fascinating, because below the later medieval church two earlier levels have been found, one occupied by an earlier church and one with an even earlier church next to a temple dedicated to the oriental god, Mithras, and also an ancient warehouse. At this level, which survives from antiquity, there is also a narrow street and a conduit for water that can be heard bubbling in the background.

We shall begin in the upper, medieval church where we shall view its exquisite apse mosaics. The mosaic occupying the apsidal dome represents Christ on the Cross, surrounded by a great Vine of Life, all hanging in a scintillating gold background. The upper church also has the remains of its ambo, the traditional chancel furniture of a medieval basilica, and paintings by Masaccio’s associate, Masolino (1383-1447). We shall then descend to the Early Christian church of the 4th-century. This church was constructed when Christianity became dominant in the city. It has two very early wall paintings, one of which depicts a miracle that occurred in the shrine of Saint Clement in the Sea of Azov (Black Sea). Saint Clement had been martyred by being thrown into this sea. Once a year, a particularly low tide revealed his small chapel. One year a small boy was left behind. Everyone thought him drowned until, the next year, he was found alive when the low tide again revealed St Clement’s underwater chapel. The image depicts the finding of the boy, whose name was Clement, witnessed by his family.

At San Clemente’s lowest level, the Temple of Mithras was the centre of a mystery cult that rivalled Christianity before the Emperor Theodosius declared all pagan cults illegal; Mithraism, which had developed out of Persian Zoroastrianism, was particularly prevalent in the Roman army, which they had brought back from military campaigns in East.

In the evening we will celebrate the New Year with a group dinner. After the meal, if you are feeling in the mood to celebrate, Rome is the place to be. The city’s traditional New Year’s Eve celebrations centre on Piazza del Popolo but also take place elsewhere. Huge crowds listen to rock and classical music and watch dancing and, of course, fireworks and, as you can imagine, the celebrations last well into the night. In Piazza del Popolo, next to the Church of Santa Maria del Popolo, you will be able to see an exhibit of traditional nativity scenes from many regions of Italy and other countries of the world. Rome also puts on a classical music concert outdoors on the square in front of the Quirinale, off Via Nazionale, around 11:00pm, followed by fireworks at midnight. There is also the traditional Capodanno (New Year) concert in the Imperial Forum. Sponsored by the city, this free concert usually features a big Italian name leading the show. (Overnight Rome) BD

Day 5: Thursday 1 January 2015, Rome
  • Morning at leisure (New Year’s Day Parade or Mass at Santa Maria Maggiore)
  • San Luigi dei Francesi
  • Piazza Navona
  • Sant’Ivo della Sapienza (façade)
  • Sant’Ignazio

If you wake up with enough energy on January 1, you should consider attending the city of Rome’s fantastic New Year’s Day parade. The event begins at 10 a.m. at St Peter’s Square, with the Pope’s New Year’s Day blessing. It then heads down Via della Concilliazione toward the Tiber before ending near Castel Sant’Angelo. Tens of thousands of people congregate to watch the parade, with its military, civil and school bands and pageantry. Alternatively, you may wish to attend the Mass at the suggestive Santa Maria Maggiore, which was the first great early basilica to be built inside the walls of the ancient city.

This afternoon is devoted to the development of Baroque architecture, painting and sculpture. We will examine how the Counter-Reformation conveyed religious dogma in form and space, and explore ways in which Borromini and Bernini accommodated their 17th century religious architecture to the urban spaces evolved in the 16th century by designing dramatic facades.

We begin with a visit to the French Church San Luigi dei Francesi. Here, in Caravaggio’s revolutionary St Matthew cycle, we shall explore this master’s revolutionary use of light to convey the mystical transformation of the human soul.

In Piazza Navona we view Bernini’s Four Rivers Fountain and Borromini’s dramatic façade for Sant’Agnese in Agone. We shall also see how the highly original architect, Francesco Borromini (1599–1667) dynamically manipulated classical form and proportion in his stunningly theatrical curved façade of Sant’Ivo della Sapienza (1640–1650).

Finally we shall explore how the Roman tradition of monumental architecture was revived in Renaissance and Baroque Rome. To do so, we shall compare the greatest extant monument of Rome, the Pantheon (visited on Day 1), with the architecture of Sant’ Ignazio where the same sense of huge unified space characterises the interior of this great Jesuit church. (Overnight Rome) B

Day 6: Friday 2 January, Rome
  • Piazza del Campidoglio
  • Palatine Hill
  • Roman Forum
  • Colosseum

We begin today’s visits on the Campidoglio. This was the citadel and the religious centre of ancient Rome, with a temple dedicated to Jupiter, Juno and Minerva. The Tablinarium (Rome’s ancient record office) was also here, and part of it still exists under the later Senate. Michelangelo designed the present magnificent ensemble of buildings for Pope Paul III, who wanted a symbol of restored papal Rome to impress the visiting Habsburg Emperor Charles V. This is one of the first piazzas ever designed according to the rules of perspective and was of enormous influence through the world.

We next descend to the heart of the ancient world, the Forum Romanum. The Forum was the religious and financial centre of the Imperial city, where the Vestal Virgins watched over the sacred flame, the Senate met and the Roman world was ruled. From the Forum we walk up to the massive imperial palace complex on the Palatine Hill.

To end our day we visit the Colosseum, built by Vespasian (r.69-79) on what was formerly the artificial lake of the Golden House of Nero. This is the largest amphitheatre ever built by the Romans and is a superb testament to the design, engineering and construction techniques of the 1st century AD. Beside the amphitheatre is the Arch of Constantine, a relic from the later years of the Roman Empire, constructed at a time of great political and religious upheaval. While this triumphal arch shows a continuity of the tradition whereby victorious Emperors were honoured with an elaborate celebratory arch, the Arch of Constantine is a conglomeration of relief sculpture taken from other monuments in the city and reused here. (Overnight Rome) B

Prato - 6 nights

Day 7: Saturday 3 January, Rome – Assisi ­­– Prato
  • San Francesco (Upper & Lower Church), Assisi

Today we shall drive from Rome to Prato via Assisi. We shall spend the late morning and lunchtime in Assisi visiting the Church of San Francesco to study the important fresco cycles of Giotto’s followers, of the Sienese Lorenzetti brothers (Ambrogio and Pietro) and of Simone Martini (1284–1344).

This centre of the Franciscan Order was the seedbed of the early Renaissance narrative fresco cycle. We shall explore how Giotto (1266/7–1337) and his contemporaries used gesture in space to tell the stories of Christ and the saints and inculcate faith. By comparing the works of Cimabue (1240–1302), Giotto, the Lorenzetti and Simone Martini, you will also be able to gauge the similarities and differences between the Byzantine, Florentine and graceful Sienese idioms around 1300 AD.

After spending much of the day in Assisi, we continue on to Prato, home to Monash University’s study centre in Italy. (Overnight Prato) B

Day 8: Sunday 4 January, Prato – Siena – Prato
  • Palazzo Pubblico
  • Cathedral
  • Cathedral Museum
  • Medieval Quarters
  • Group Evening Meal at Lo Scoglio Prato

Siena is the quintessential medieval city. No other place in Italy gives such a wonderful picture of what a comune was like in the later Middle Ages. Bernard will spend the morning creating a ‘mental map’ of the city, visiting Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s (1290-1348) great paintings of Good and Bad Government in the Palazzo Pubblico and Duccio’s masterpiece, the Maestà in the Cathedral Museum. We shall explore the mastery with which Duccio (c.1260–c.1319) built upon the tradition of Byzantine colour and form to present narrative in a very different way to Giotto.

In Siena’s Cathedral we shall examine the great pulpit of Nicola Pisano (1220/5– c.1284) and his son Giovanni Pisano (1250–1315). It is in their pulpits that the Pisani transmitted the monumental tradition of antique sculpture that had developed earlier in Southern Italy to the Renaissance; Giovanni also melded this tradition with the grace of French Gothic.

Before returning to Prato we also visit Siena’s medieval quarters (contrade), in which many palaces are still owned and often occupied by the families who built them. It is the contrade that, twice a year, run the famous Palio horse race. Siena is a city of symbols. It is built on three ridges, a symbol of the Trinity, has three major sectors (terzi) which each elected three members to the city council, the Council of Nine. Protected by the Virgin Mary, the city interpreted its life and its very architectural fabric in terms of religious symbols that also dominated ideas about government. Much of the philosophy that informed the city’s image was based upon the thought of St Thomas Aquinas, which also formed the basis of Lorenzetti’s Good and Bad Government. We return to Prato by coach, and in the evening we shall dine together at a local restaurant. (Overnight Prato) BD

Day 9: Monday 5 January, Prato – Florence – Prato
  • Santa Maria Novella
  • Duomo Santa Maria del Fiore
  • Baptistery of San Giovanni
  • Afternoon at leisure

Today we trace the development of civic and religious art and architecture in the centre of Florence, visiting Santa Maria Novella, Florence’s Duomo and the Baptistery. On arrival, we shall walk to Santa Maria Novella, with its striking façade by Leon Battista Alberti (1404–1472) and its important frescoes, sculptures and altarpieces. Of particular importance is the Trinitá of Masaccio (1401– 1428).

We shall also explore Brunelleschi’s masterful dome that dominates the cathedral (Santa Maria del Fiore) as well as tombs painted on its walls like the Sir John Hawkwood by Paolo Uccello (1397–1475). At the Baptistery of San Giovanni we see the lovely bronze doors by Lorenzo Ghiberti in the Florentine classical style of the early 15th-century. The remainder of the afternoon is at leisure for you to explore more of Florence. (Overnight Prato) B

Day 10: Tuesday 6 January, Prato – Florence – Prato
  • Piazza della Signoria
  • Bargello Museum
  • Uffizi

We return to Florence and begin in the Piazza della Signoria, the secular centre of the city, with its great civic palace, the Palazzo Vecchio, the beautiful Loggia dei Lanzi, Michelangelo’s David and Donatello’s Judith and Holofernes (both copies).

We next visit Florence’s sculpture museum, the Bargello, which was formerly the old government palace of Florence. It contains such masterpieces as Donatello’s David, the competition reliefs for the Baptistery doors by Ghiberti (1378–1455) and Brunelleschi (1377–1446), and Michelangelo’s Brutus.

We return to the Piazza della Signoria and walk down Via dei Calzaiuoli, passing Orsanmichele, Florence’s former granary, for the façade of which the major guilds commissioned monumental figures from Ghiberti, Donatello and Nanni di Banco (1384–1431).

In the afternoon we visit the Uffizi to study the development of Florentine painting, with special emphasis on Piero della Francesca, Uccello, Fra Filippo Lippi, Sandro Botticelli (1445-1510), Domenico Ghirlandaio (1449-1494), Michelangelo, Raphael, and the Mannerists Parmigianino (1503-1540), Angelo Bronzino (1503-1572) and Rosso Fiorentino (1494-1540).  (Overnight Prato) B

Day 11: Wednesday 7 January, Prato – Arezzo – Sansepolcro – Prato
  • San Francesco, Arezzo
  • Museo Civico, Sansepolcro

Today we travel by private coach through the landscapes that inspired Piero della Francesca (1415–1492) who reconciled stylistic elements of the Florentine and Northern Renaissance in his work.

In Arezzo we shall explore the magnificent Story of the True Cross in San Francesco. In this cycle Piero told the story of the Cross of Christ, which originated from a nut placed under the tongue of the dead Adam, grew to a tree used as a bridge by Christ’s ancestor, King Solomon, and then for the Cross, and was found by Constantine’s mother, Saint Helena, on her pilgrimage to the Holy Land. The narrative sequence of the cycle is not linear, the position of each scene being dictated by typological correspondences and the Byzantine ideal that scenes should descend from celestial scenes in the upper reaches of a wall to the terrestrial on its lower parts. The story of the cross and its discovery by St Helena and later its recovery by Emperor Heraclius from the Persian Chosroes, and the presence of battle scenes in these lower registers, alerts us to the fact that the Franciscans commissioned the cycle as propaganda to promote a Crusade to free Jerusalem from the Muslims.

In the afternoon we visit Sansepolcro’s small communal museum to see Piero’s Resurrection and his Madonna della Misericordia. Sansepolcro had a special meaning for Piero because, as its name suggests, it was a symbolic copy of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem. In all Piero’s works we shall witness a mastery of perspective and light, the former derived from Florentine innovations and the latter from Northern painting, of artists like Jan van Eyck (1395-1441) that were immensely popular in Florence in the 15th century. (Overnight Prato) B

Day 12: Thursday 8 January, Prato
  • Santa Maria delle Carceri
  • Prato Cathedral Museum
  • Prato Cathedral
  • Monash Centre

We begin the day with a visit to the basilica Church of Santa Maria delle Carceri. It  is considered one of the earliest, most notable examples of use of Greek cross plan in Renaissance architecture; an ideal Renaissance church was centrally planned, unlike an orientated medieval basilica. According to tradition, on July 6, 1484 a child saw an image of Madonna and Child, painted on a wall of the public jail (carceri) of Prato, come to life. In response to this miracle the comune of Prato decided to build a basilica on that site to celebrate the event. Lorenzo de Medici (1449–1492) pressed for a design by his favourite architect, Giuliano da Sangallo (c. 1443–1516). The latter’s proposal included a Greek cross plan inspired to Filippo Brunelleschi’s Pazzi Chapel and by Leon Battista Alberti’s theory of architecture; Sangallo used the same idea for his first project of St Peter’s in Rome (later superseded by that of Michelangelo). The same model inspired his brother Antonio da Sangallo the Elder for the Church of S. Biagio at Montepulciano.

Prato Cathedral, dedicated to St Stephen, was originally known as the Church of Santo Stefano di Borgo al Cornio (the name borne by Prato when it was a small country township). It was built by Guido da Como (1211-) on the site of an earlier parish church and was subsequently enlarged, receiving a transept with 5 chapels between 1317 and 1368.

First we shall visit the Museum of the Cathedral that contains a magnificent pulpit by Donatello and Michelozzo (1396–1472), which was originally on the façade of the Cathedral (today replaced by a replica). The opportunity to observe the original work up close allows us to appreciate Donatello’s carving technique and his ability to manipulate the perspective, expression and volume of figures to create a particularly engaging effect for the viewer.

Within the cathedral we will visit the Chapel of Our Lady of the Assumption, decorated by Paolo Uccello (c.1435) with stories from the life of the Virgin and St Stephen. We will also visit the newly restored High Altar Chapel which contains a fresco program depicting the lives of St John the Baptist and St Stephen, completed by Fra Filippo Lippi (1406–1469) between 1452 and 1464. These images, especially the Feast of Herod: Salome’s Dance, and the Death of St Stephen, are remarkable for their visual drama; they were created via the use of one point perspective combined with graceful figuration and innovative composition.

In the afternoon we view the Monash Centre in Prato, housed in the 18th century Palazzo Vaj. Here we will have the opportunity to discuss the work we have seen so far.  (Overnight Prato) B

Venice - 3 nights

Day 13: Friday 9 January, Prato – Ravenna – Pomposa – Venice
  • San Vitale
  • Mausoleum of Galla Placidia
  • Sant’Apollinare Nuovo
  • Sant’Apollinare in Classe
  • Pomposa Abbey

This morning we drive west across the Apennines to the coastal plain around Ravenna. Here we shall first visit the Church of San Vitale and the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia.

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 the Adriatic city of Ravenna. Ravenna then became the capital of the barbarian King of Italy, Theodoric the Ostrogoth (454-526) and later, after the Emperor Justinian’s 6th-century reassertion of (Eastern) Imperial control over Italy, the capital of the Byzantine Exarchate (religio-military colony) in Italy. It remained in Byzantine control until 750.

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 late antique mausoleum of Galla Placidia nearby. This mausoleum pre-dates the Byzantine invasion, and its mosaics, like those of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, give a marvellous intimation of the transition from antique to early medieval modes of representation. Among the masterpieces in San Vitale, on the other hand, are the scintillating hieratic courtly images of Justinian and his wife Theodora on the apse walls.

We shall also visit the Byzantine churches of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo and Sant’ Apollinare in Classe. The former has mosaics crafted during the reign of Theodoric the Ostrogoth, an Arian, which were changed by the Orthodox Byzantines. You will explore the theological differences between the Arians and orthodox Christians that led to the Council of Nicea (325) and its greatest product, the Nicene Creed. Sant’Apollinare in Classe lies 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.

Driving north through the delta country of the Po and Adige rivers to Venice we shall make a stop at the Abbey of Pomposa, home to some remarkable fresco cycles of the 14th century. This fine early medieval abbey has a particularly tall tower, constructed of brick in the fashion of the Lombards, who ruled Italy after the Byzantines. Lombardic brick architecture played a vital role in the emergence of Italian medieval construction methods. (Overnight Venice) B

Day 14: Saturday 10 January, Venice
  • Piazza San Marco
  • Basilica of San Marco
  • Torre dell’Orologio (exterior)
  • Procuratie (exterior)
  • Campanile (exterior)
  • Loggetta (exterior)
  • Sansovino’s Library (exterior)
  • Mint (exterior)
  • Doges’ Palace (exterior)
  • Accademia

For the next two days we study the evolution of Venice and its art and architecture from the 9th century when it was an economic colony of the Byzantine Empire to the 13th, 14th, 15th and 16th centuries when it became the wealthiest and most powerful trading city in the Mediterranean. We shall also look at the cultural consequences of its slow economic and political decline when it attracted a myriad travellers as one of the most significant custodians of beauty and humanity in the world.

Our program in Venice begins this morning with a visit to Piazza San Marco to study the square and its remarkable buildings: San Marco, the Doges’ Palace, the Torre dell’ Orologio, the Procuratie, the Campanile and Loggetta, Sansovino’s Library and the Mint. Our focus will be the development of the political core of the republic, its institutions and aspirations, and their reflection in mosaic, painting and architecture, from the Byzantine style of San Marco to the Gothic of the Doge’s Palace, the early Renaissance style of the Procuratie and the Torre dell’Orologio and Renaissance classicism in the vision of Jacopo Sansovino (1486–1570) in his contributions to this most beautiful of all city squares.

Today we also visit 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. (Overnight Venice) B

Day 15: Sunday 11 January, Venice
  • Peggy Guggenheim Collection
  • Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari
  • Scuola di San Rocco
  • Leisure time
  • Farewell Evening Meal

The formal part of the program commences 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.

This afternoon 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.

Nearby, we visit the Scuola Grande di San Rocco where we shall view Tintoretto’s most complete painting cycle. This vast corpus of huge oil canvases, set in the walls of a charitable institution that aided plague victims, rivals Michelangelo’s and Raphael’s Vatican frescoes in its size, breadth and power.

The remainder of the afternoon will be at leisure so that you can explore the city for yourself. You may wish to take a vaporetto along the Grand Canal, or visit the beautiful islands of Murano and Torcello, to see glass blowing and visit their fine medieval churches. In the evening we shall have a farewell dinner at a local restaurant. (Overnight Venice) BD

Day 16: Monday 12 January, Depart Venice
  • Airport transfer for participants departing on the ASA ‘designated’ flight

Our tour finishes in Venice. Participants wishing to return to Australia and who are travelling on the ASA ‘designated’ flight, will be transferred to the airport by private water taxi. Alternatively you may wish to continue with your own travels in Europe. B


16 Days in Italy

All hotels are rated 2 or 3-star locally and are comfortable and conveniently situated, all rooms have shower or bath and w.c. Accommodation is in twin share. Single rooms may be requested – and are subject to availability and payment of the single supplement. Further information on hotels will be provided in the ‘Tour Hotel List’ given to tour members prior to their departure.

  • Rome (6 nights): 2-star Hotel Italia – a family managed hotel, located in the historic centre, close to the Quirinale. The refurbished rooms are equipped with en suite bathroom (incl. hairdryer), satellite TV, direct-dial telephone, safe, air-conditioning and free Wi-fi. Hotel facilities include breakfast room and American bar.
  • Prato (6 nights): 3-star Hotel Giardino – a family run hotel with an excellent location in the historic centre of Prato, close to the Monash University Prato Centre. All 28 rooms are equipped with en suite bathroom (incl. hairdryer), air-conditioning, satellite TV, direct dial telephone, mini-fridge and in-room safe. Other facilities include small bar & reading room with internet access.
  • Venice (3 nights): Istituto Canossiano “San Trovaso” – located in the historic centre of Venice, in the Dorsoduro district. It is housed in a 15th century monastic building run by Eremite nuns (known as Romite) belonging to the monastic rule of St Augustine. Rooms are equipped with private bathroom, Wi-Fi and telephone (no air-conditioning). A light continental breakfast is provided.

Note: Hotels are subject to change. In this instance a hotel of similar standard will be provided.

How to book

Make a Reservation


Please complete the ASA RESERVATION APPLICATION and send it to Australians Studying Abroad together with your non-refundable deposit of AUD $500.00 per person payable to Australians Studying Abroad.

Passport Details

All participants must provide no later than 75 days prior to the commencement of the program a photocopy of the front page of their current passport.

Single Supplement

Payment of the single supplement will ensure accommodation in a single room throughout the tour. The number of single rooms is extremely limited. People wishing to take this supplement are therefore advised to book well in advance.

Gallery Tour Map
Physical Endurance & Practical Information
Physical Rating
The number of flags is a guide to the degree of difficulty of ASA tours relative to each other (not to those of other tour companies). It is neither absolute nor literal. One flag is given to the least taxing tours, six to the most. Flags are allocated, above all, according to the amount of walking and standing each tour involves. Nevertheless all ASA tours require that participants have a good degree of fitness enabling 2-3 hours walking or 1-1.5 hours standing still on any given site visit or excursion. Many sites are accessed by climbing slopes or steps and have uneven terrain.

This 16-day tour involves:
  • Extensive walking (usually 9.00am – 5.00pm), extensive use of city public transport, and extended standing during museum and other site visits
  • Walking on uneven terrain, cobbled streets, and up and down hills and/or flights of stairs
  • Note: this tour includes the use of audio headsets which amplify the voice of your guide (despite noisy surroundings). This technology also allows you to move freely during site visits without missing any information.
Other considerations:
  • Designed to be an affordable option, this tour uses 2-and 3-star hotels, including the historic Convent of San Trovaso in Venice
  • You must be able to carry your own luggage as porterage is NOT provided; there are two hotel changes
  • Travel during the Italian winter: average temperature: Rome 4-12 °C, Florence 2-9 °C, Venice 1-7 °C.

It is important to remember that ASA programs are group tours, and slow walkers affect everyone in the group. As the group must move at the speed of the slowest member, the amount of time spent at a site may be reduced if group members cannot maintain a moderate walking pace. ASA tours should not present any problem for active people who can manage day-to-day walking and stair-climbing. However, if you have any doubts about your ability to manage on a program, please ask your ASA travel consultant whether this is a suitable tour for you.

Please note: it is a condition of travel that all participants agree to accept ASA’s directions in relation to their suitability to participate in activities undertaken on the tour, and that ASA retains the sole discretion to direct a tour participant to refrain from a particular activity on part of the tour. For further information please refer to the ASA Reservation Application Form.

Practical Information

Prior to departure, tour members will receive practical notes which include information on visa requirements, health, photography, weather, clothing and what to pack, custom regulations, bank hours, currency regulations, electrical appliances and food. The Department of Foreign Affairs & Trade website has advice for travellers see:

Tour Price & Inclusions

AUD$5380.00 Land Content Only – Early-Bird Special: book before 30 June 2014

AUD$5580.00 Land Content Only

AUD$880.00  Single Supplement

For competitive Economy, Business or First Class airfares please contact ASA for further information.

Tour Price (Land Content Only) includes:
  • Accommodation in twin-share rooms with private facilities in 2 and 3-star hotels
  • Breakfast daily & 4 evening meals, indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast, and D=evening meal
  • Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
  • Transportation by A/C motorcoach between cities and use of public transport in Rome, Prato to Florence (local train) and Venice
  • Airport-hotel arrival/departure transfers if travelling on the ‘designated’ flights.
  • Lecture and site-visit program
  • Tour Handbook
  • Entrance fees
  • Use of audio headsets during site visits
  • Tips for the coach driver, local guides and restaurants for included meals.
Tour Price (Land Content Only) does not include:
  • Airfare: Australia-Rome, Venice-Australia
  • Personal spending money
  • Airport-hotel transfers if not travelling on the ‘designated’ flights
  • Luggage in excess of 20 kg (44 lbs)
  • Travel insurance
Terms & Conditions

A deposit of $500.00 AUD per person is required to reserve a place on an ASA tour.

Cancellation Fees

If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:

  • More than 75 days before departure: $500.00**
  • 75-46 days prior 25% of total amount due
  • 45-31 days prior 50% of total amount due
  • 30-15 days prior 75% of total amount due
  • 14-0 days prior 100% of total amount due

**This amount may be credited to another ASA tour departing within 12 months of the original tour you booked. We regret, in this case early-bird discounts will not apply. We take the day on which you cancel as being that on which we recieve written confirmation of cancellation.

Unused Portions of the Tour

We regret that refunds will not be given for any unused portions of the tour, such as meals, entry fees, accommodation, flights or transfers.

Will the Tour Price or Itinerary Change?

If the number of participants on a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates ASA reserves the right to amend the advertised price. We shall, however, do all in our power to maintain the published price. If an ASA tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all tour monies paid. Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of ASA make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes in due course.

Travel Insurance

ASA requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. A copy of your travel insurance certificate and the reverse charge emergency contact phone number must be received by ASA no later than 75 days prior to the commencement of the tour.

Final Payment

The balance of the tour price will be due 75 days prior to the tour commencement date.

Limitation of Liability

ASA is not a carrier, event or tourist attraction host, accommodation or dining service provider. All bookings made and tickets or coupons issued by ASA for transport, event, accommodation, dining and the like are issued as an agent for various service providers and are subject to the terms and conditions and limitations of liability imposed by each service provider. ASA is not responsible for their products or services. If a service provider does not deliver the product or service for which you have contracted, your remedy lies with the service provider, not ASA. ASA will not be liable for any claim (eg. sickness, injury, death, damage or loss) arising from any change, delay, detention, breakdown, cancellation, failure, accident, act, omission or negligence of any such service provider however caused (contingencies). You must take out adequate travel insurance against such contingencies. ASA’s liability in respect of any tour will be limited to the refund of amounts received from you less all non-refundable costs and charges and the costs of any substituted event or alternate services provided. The terms and conditions of the relevant service provider from time to time comprise the sole agreement between you and that service provider. ASA reserves the sole discretion to canel any tour or to modify itineraries in any way it considers appropriate. Tour costs may be revised, subject to unexpected price increases or exchange rate fluctuations.

Interested in this tour?
Take the next step

Make an Enquiry now