Venice: Jewel of the Adriatic 2024

Status: limited

26 Sep – 10 Oct 2024

Other Departures

Venice: Jewel of the Adriatic 2024
Tour Highlights

“It is the city of mirrors, the city of mirages, at once solid and liquid, at once air and stone.”
 Erica Jong, Shylock’s Daughter (1987)

Learn about the history of Venice from a highly experienced tour lecturer, David Henderson. David, is an award-winning artist & Royal Academy graduate who paints half the year in Italy. He has been leading ASA tours since 1996. David will be assisted by Ali Oveissi who has been working with ASA as a tour manager since 1998.

  • Spend 15 days based in the 4-star Avani Rio Novo Venice ideally located in the heart of the Dorsoduro district – a neighbourhood renowned for showcasing the ‘real Venice’ and bustling with restaurants, shops, and artisan boutiques.
  • Chart the development of Venetian painting through visits to the Gallerie dell’Accademia and a number of churches; view works by Giovanni Bellini, Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, Veronese and Tiepolo.
  • Enjoy a private reception at the sumptuous Palazzo Mocenigo, where in conversation with owner Francesca Bortolotto Possati we gain a deeper understanding of efforts to restore and preserve Venice’s artistic and architectural heritage.
  • By special appointment, visit the historic Bevilacqua textile workshop and the prestigious Rubelli Textile Collection to learn about the development of Venice’s inimitable luxury textiles.
  • Dine in some of Venice’s best restaurants including John Ruskin’s abode, Pensione La Calcina.
  • Attend a performance at Teatro La Fenice, evening mass at St Mark’s, and a private recital by acclaimed soprano Rosemary Forbes-Butler in her palazzino.
  • Visit Ravenna, the capital city of the Western Roman Empire from 402 until 476, to view its magnificent Byzantine mosaics.
  • In Padua, view Giotto’s masterly frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel and take a tour of Palazzo Bo’s 16th-century anatomical theatre.
  • Meet Italian author Roberto Plevano, who will give an exclusive talk to our group.
  • Study the superb architecture of Andrea Palladio during visits to his Venetian churches, the Teatro Olimpico and Villa Rotonda (Vicenza), the Villa Barbaro (Maser) with exceptional frescoes by Veronese, and an exclusive visit to the gardens of the Bauer Palladio hotel.
  • Discover Venice’s very early history on the lovely islands of Torcello, Burano and Murano.
  • Learn about fresco technique during a live demonstration with artist Claudia Piasentin.
  • View modern art at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and visit the Biennale Arte 2024 – the 60th International Art Exhibition.

Lecture by David Henderson: ‘The Art of Venice’


The great thing about ASA tours is that they scratch below the surface – you experience things you can’t access alone – the Venice tour was like that. I got a real appreciation for Venetian life in past centuries.  Marion, WA.

This was a wonderfully well-balanced tour. The content was perfect, the timing excellent, the tour leader had an excellent balance of expertise, personality, presentation, humour and care for us all as a group and individually. The whole tour will stay with me as very treasured memories.  Susan, TAS.

A wonderfully varied program from churches and art galleries, to tours of private palaces and trips outside Venice. A must for lovers of art, its history and the history of Venice.  Pauline, VIC.

This tour delivered a wonderfully encompassing yet detailed experience in Venice and the Veneto region. It gave unusual opportunities such as visits to the fascinating Rubelli and Bevilacqua textile workshops and showrooms. Little touches like the leisurely long table lunch in the gorgeous gardens of Locanda Cipriani on Torcello and a gourmet farewell dinner served beautifully at Alle Corone, all added to the Venetian experience. Our tour leader, Bernard Hoffert, was exceptional, displaying great knowledge and unflagging energy while also being organised, calm and keeping a sense of humour.  Heather, NSW.



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. Please note that the daily activities described in this itinerary may be rotated and/or modified 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=dinner.

Venice - 14 nights

Day 1: Thursday 26 September, Arrive Venice
  • Tour commences at 6.00pm in the foyer of the Avani Rio Novo Venice
  • Welcome Meeting & Orientation Walk
  • Welcome dinner at local restaurant

Meeting Point: The tour commences at 6.00pm in the foyer of the Avani Rio Novo Venice. We commence our program with a welcome meeting followed by a short orientation walk in the area around the hotel. We then dine together at a local restaurant. (Overnight Venice) D

Day 2: Friday 27 September, Venice
  • Piazza San Marco, the Doge’s Palace & Basilica San Marco

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.

We shall take a tour of 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.

Following some time at leisure for lunch, we will explore the ethereal interior of the great church of San Marco, with a focus on the evolution of the mosaics which cover its domes, arches and walls and how they echo a medieval vision of heaven. (Overnight Venice) B

Day 3: Saturday 28 September, Venice
  • Private reception at Palazzo Mocenigo hosted by Francesca Bortolotto Possati (to be confirmed in 2024)
  • Ca’ Rezzonico
  • Lunch at Pensione La Calcina
  • Evening Performance “Le Roi David” at Teatro La Fenice

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”. (Overnight Venice) BL

We finish our day with the performance “Le Roi David” by Arthur Honegger at Teatro La Fenice. The work has 27 musical movements consisting of voice solos, choruses, and instrumental interludes. A narrator unifies the work by providing spoken narration of the story of King David. (Overnight Venice) BL

Day 4: Sunday 29 September, Venice – Conegliano – Treviso – Venice
  • Sala dei Battuti, Conegliano
  • Fresco live demonstration with artist Claudia Piasentin 
  • Conegliano Castle and Civic Museum
  • Treviso old town

This morning we drive north to the small town Conegliano, whose natural landscape is characterized by the ciglioni, ‘hogback’ hills, small plots of vines on narrow grassy terraces. For centuries, this rugged terrain has been shaped and adapted by man. Since the 17th century, the use of ciglioni has created a particular chequerboard landscape consisting of rows of vines parallel and vertical to the slopes. In virtue of this unique interaction between man and environment in 2019 the hills of Conegliano, also well known for the production of prosecco wine, have been nominated world heritage site by UNESCO.

Upon arriving in Conegliano, we will explore the Sala dei Battuti, distinguished by its rectangular layout, wooden ceiling, and frescoes primarily crafted by Francesco da Milano. The pictorial cycle within the hall narrates events from the creation of the world to the Universal Judgment.

In Conegliano, our group will meet the multifaceted artist Claudia Piasentin, who works with fresco, acrylic, watercolour and egg tempera. Claudia is also a talented sculptress with clay and ceramic. For our group, Claudia will give a live demonstration of the fresco techniques, a form of mural painting developed in Italy from about the 13th century and perfected during the Renaissance period.

We will then visit Conegliano Castle, founded in the 11th century with an innovative fortified settlement, similar to towns like Bassano and Marostica. Situated atop a hill, it overlooks the village below along the Monticano River. The old castle, featuring towers and moats, housed the prison, town hall, and the local authority’s palace from the 12th century. Today, only the main tower stands as a symbol of Conegliano, visible from the flatland. Since 1946, the tower has housed the Civic Museum of Conegliano, exhibiting frescoes, a lapidarium, and works by Giovanni Antonio Pordenone and Palma il Giovane. Lunch will be served at the Castle’s restaurant, Castel Vecchio, which offers a panoramic view of the entire valley of Conegliano.

After lunch in Conegliano, we shall travel to Treviso, a walled city characterised by narrow arcaded and cobbled streets and a network of picturesque canals, where we will visit its medieval centre. BL

Day 5: Monday 30 September, Venice
  • The Venetian Ghetto
  • Bevilacqua Tessuti (Textile Workshop)
  • Afternoon at leisure
  • Literary Talk with author Roberto Plevano

We begin this morning with 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 the memory of one of Venice’s most important minorities, represented by Shakespeare’s unforgettable character, Shylock.

We then visit 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 3500 pattern-designs, all Bevilacqua originals, and there are warehouses and showrooms.

The afternoon is at leisure for you to enjoy Venice at your own pace; we will reconvene in the late afternoon at the hotel, where we shall meet the author Roberto Plevano. After graduating in Literature from the University of Pavia, he collaborated with universities and academic institutes all over the world. He taught medieval studies at the University of Toronto, worked as a researcher at St. Bonaventure University (NY) and as Associate Professor at the Catholic University of America (Washington, DC). In 2015  he was awarded the prestigious Neri Pozza National Literature Prize for his novel “Marca gioiosa”. (Overnight Venice) B

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 – 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 8: Thursday 3 October, Venice
  • Ca’ Pisani Rubelli: Rubelli Textile Collection
  • Museum of Palazzo Mocenigo
  • Ca’ d’Oro (Galleria Giorgio Franchetti)

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 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.

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 then visit 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. (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

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. (Overnight Venice) B

Day 10: Saturday 5 October, Venice
  • Basilica of Santa Maria Assunta, Torcello
  • Archaeological Museum, Torcello
  • Lunch at local restaurant
  • 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). 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 artefacts, 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 church and the archaeological museum we shall eat at a local restaurant.

In the afternoon, we will explore 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 11: Sunday 6 October, Venice – Vicenza – Maser – Venice
  • Teatro Olimpico, Vicenza
  • Palladian Palaces, Vicenza (exteriors)
  • Villa Rotonda, Vicenza
  • Villa Barbaro, Maser

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. Palladio is considered by many the most influential individual in the history of Western villa 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.

We leave Venice in order to spend a day exploring Palladio’s villas, palaces and civic buildings. 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.

On the outskirts of Vicenza we shall 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.

In the afternoon, we shall visit one of his most important villas, the Villa Barbaro in Maser. 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. (Overnight Venice) B

Day 12: Monday 7 October, Venice
  • San Giorgio Maggiore
  • Il Redentore
  • Afternoon at leisure
  • Evening Concert & Supper at the palazzino of Rosemary Forbes-Butler

Palladio (1508-1580) 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.

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.

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 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.

This afternoon we 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 di Bondone (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

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 18th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale die Venezia 2023 curated by Ghanaian-Scottish architect, academic, and novelist Lesley Lokko.

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
  • Tour concludes in the morning
  • At leisure/Check out

Our tour ends in Venice after breakfast. In the morning you will be required to check out of the hotel. Please contact ASA if you require assistance with a transfer to the Venice Marco Polo Airport. B



Avani Rio Novo Venice
Calle Larga Ragusei, Dorsoduro 3489/E-C, Venice 30123, Italy

The 4-star Avani Rio Novo Venice opened its doors to guests in late 2018. It is located in the heart of the Dorsoduro district – an neighbourhood renowned for showcasing the ‘real Venice’ and bustling with restaurants, shops, and artisan boutiques as well as important sites like Ca’ Foscari University and the Ca’ Rezzonico. The hotel is located just far enough from San Marco to escape the busiest of the tourist hotspots at the end of your day, but its central location in Venice makes it easy to get to the rest of the city and the main sites on foot or by vaporetto. The stylish hotel building, which dates back to the 1950s, is built in Razionalismo Italiano style, featuring sleek lines and geometric shapes.

The Avani rio Novo Venice offers 144 modern, air-conditioned rooms with equipped with en suite bathroom, mini-bar, LCD TV and free Wi-Fi.

Single Supplement

Double rooms for single occupancy may be requested – and are subject to availability and payment of the Single Supplement. The number of rooms available for single occupancy is extremely limited. People wishing to take this supplement are therefore advised to book well in advance.

Mix with the locals in Campo Santa Margherita! (4 minutes’ walk from Avani Rio Novo Venice)
Image from Wikimedia Commons

How to book

How to Book


Please complete the ASA RESERVATION APPLICATION and send it to Australians Studying Abroad together with your non-refundable deposit of AUD $1000.00 per person payable to Australians Studying Abroad.

Practical Information

Practical Information

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, seven 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 15-day Cultural Tour of Venice involves:

  • Exploring Venice on foot.
  • Extensive walking (up to 5km per day) and standing during museum and other site visits.
  • Using Venice’s public vaporettos and motorboats.
  • Transportation by coach between Venice and destinations as detailed in the itinerary.
  • You must be able to carry your own hand luggage. Hotel porterage includes 1 piece of luggage per person. You may be required to transport your own luggage between the hotel and water taxi stop.

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.

Tour Price & Inclusions

Tour Price & Inclusions

AUD $9880.00 Land Content Only – Early-Bird Special: Book before 30 Sep 2023

AUD $10,080.00 Land Content Only

AUD $2980.00 Double (as single) Supplement

Tour Price (Land Content Only) includes:
  • Accommodation in twin-share rooms with en suite bathroom in the 4-star NH Rio Novo
  • Breakfast daily, lunches and evening meals as indicated in the itinerary where: B=breakfast, L=lunch and D=dinner
  • Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included.
  • Transportation by air-conditioned coach between cities and use of public transport in Venice
  • Lecture and site visit program
  • Porterage of one piece of luggage per person
  • Tour Reference book
  • Entrance fees
  • Evening Performance at Teatro La Fenice (Opera program & schedule to be confirmed in late 2023. Please note that, in the event there are no suitable performances scheduled at Teatro La Fenice, this may be replaced with a performance at Teatro Malibran or another venue.)
  • 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-Venice, Venice-Australia
  • Personal spending money
  • Airport-hotel transfers
  • Luggage in excess of 20kg (44lbs)
  • Travel insurance
Tour Map

Tour Map

Terms & Conditions

A non-refundable deposit of $1000.00 AUD per person is required to reserve a place on this ASA tour.

Cancellation Fees

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

  • More than 75 days before departure: your initial deposit of $1000.00 is non-refundable.**
  • 75-31 days prior 50% of total amount due
  • 30-0 days prior 100% of total amount due

**$500.00 of this amount (ie 50% of your deposit) 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 receive 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 cancel 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.

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