Palaces, Power and Patronage
Explore Padua, Ravenna, Bologna and beyond as Eastern Italy reveals its Byzantine and Renaissance treasures.
Discover Padua, a city whose 14th century Scrovegni Chapel contains a masterful series of frescos by Giotto, and Ferrara, which is still surrounded by more than nine kilometres of original Mediæval walls. In Ravenna, last capital of the Western Roman Empire, admire the Byzantine mosaics of the Basilica di San Vitale. Continue to Urbino, where the 15th century palace of Duke Federico III da Montefeltro houses one of the world’s greatest collections of Renaissance art, and travel via the tiny independent Republic of San Marino to red-roofed Bologna, home of the oldest university in the world and the largest Gothic church ever constructed.
This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.
Suggested departures from Australia or New Zealand on Qantas/Emirates flights via Dubai to Venice. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements.
Arrive in Venice. For flights arriving in Venice in the morning or early afternoon, there is a group coach transfer at 2 pm from Venice airport to your hotel in Padua (included in tour price). For those arriving on other days or later flights, please make your own way to Padua. Arrive in Padua and check in to your hotel.
In the evening join Lorraine and your fellow travellers for a welcome talk followed by dinner.
Depart for a full-day tour of the magnificent Renaissance and Baroque villas of the Riviera del Brenta. The villas were once home to noble Venetian families such as the Pisani and the Foscari. Spend a morning cruising from Padua down to Stra, with a visit to the Villa Pisani, decorated with magnificent frescoes which were the final works of Giambattista Tiepolo.
After lunch, continue by coach to the Villa Foscari, known as ‘La Malcontenta’ after a bride who married into the family and found her husband less than satisfactory. Designed by Andrea Palladio, this temple-villa is nestled between weeping willows on the banks of the Brenta. In the afternoon, return to Padua for an evening at leisure.
After an introductory talk by Lorraine, enjoy a full-day tour of Padua. Begin at the Cappella degli Scrovegni with a 14th century cycle of frescoes by Giotto and continue to the 13th century Chiesa degli Eremitani (Church of the Hermits), whose convent was once a popular destination for mendicants and pilgrims.
After lunch in a local restaurant, continue to the Basilica di Sant’Antonio, which combines elements of Romanesque, Gothic, Baroque and Byzantine architecture, in front of which stands Donatello’s famous Gattamelata equestrian statue. Wander through the Palazzo della Ragione, the Duomo and the Baptistery before returning to your hotel for the rest of the afternoon and evening at leisure.
Check out from your hotel and drive to Este to explore the hometown of the eponymous Este family who went on to become the Dukes of Ferrara, great patrons of art in the Renaissance.
After lunch in Este, continue to Praglia Abbey, a working Benedictine monastery founded in 1080 at the foot of the Euganean Hills and containing works by Giovanni Battista Zelotti and Paolo Veronese.
In the late afternoon, drive to Ferrara, our base for the next three nights, and enjoy dinner in a local restaurant.
After a morning talk, take a walking tour of Ferrara. Visit the Duomo, whose 12th century Romanesque façade belies its rich 18th century Late Baroque interior. Continue to the spectacular edifice of the Castello Estense, the imposing palace-fortress of the Dukes of Ferrara constructed in the late 14th century by Niccolò II d’Este.
After lunch, travel to the Palazzo Schifanoia, the Este family’s retreat and banqueting house decorated with a series of allegorical frescoes dating from the late 15th century. After exploring the palazzo, return to central Ferrara for an evening at leisure.
This morning, depart for a full-day tour to Mantua. Surrounded by artificial lakes created in the 12th century to defend the city against the encroachment of the Holy Roman Empire, the city was home to the Gonzaga family who rose to become the Dukes of Mantua in the 16th century. Explore the Basilica di Sant’Andrea and the Gonzaga family’s Palazzo Ducale.
Enjoy free time for lunch in Mantua before continuing to the Palazzo del Te, the Mannerist pleasure palace of the Dukes of Mantua decorated with frescoes of Olympian gods and writhing giants. Return to Ferrara for an evening at leisure.
After checking out from your hotel in Ferrara, travel to Urbino via the magnificent city of Ravenna, the last capital of the Western Roman Empire and home of some of the great treasures of Byzantine Art. Gaze on the glittering golden mosaics of the Basilica di San Vitale, depicting Emperor Justinian the Great and Empress Theodora, one of the great power couples of history, and wonder at the 5th century mosaic ceiling of the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia.
After a break for lunch, explore the Basilica di Sant’Apollinare in nearby Classe, before departing for Urbino.
After a morning talk, take a guided tour of the Palazzo Ducale, the seat of the Montefeltro dynasty, the Dukes of Urbino. The 15th century palazzo houses one of the world’s greatest collections of Renaissance art, containing works by Raffaello, Tiziano, Paolo Uccello and Piero della Francesca. It also boasts twin chapels to God and the Muses, and a studiolo (study room) decorated with some of the finest examples of Italian wood inlay work.
Enjoy some free time for lunch, and in the afternoon drive into the Apennine foothills surrounding Urbino for a wine tasting.
Depart from Urbino and ascend to the Republic of San Marino, the 61 sq km micro-state centred on the three peaks of Mt Titano and surrounded entirely by Italy. Founded by the stonemason St Marinus in 301, independent San Marino has outlasted powerful duchies, kingdoms and empires over the last millennium and a half. Enjoy a guided tour of La Guaita, the oldest of San Marino’s three Mediæval towers.
After a break for lunch on your own, enjoy some free time to wander the city and soak up its quaint independent traditions – perhaps obtain a special Sammarinese stamp in your passport!
In the afternoon, drive to Bologna, the capital of Emilia-Romagna, the agricultural and gastronomic heartland of Italy.
Join Lorraine for a morning talk before embarking on a walking tour of Bologna, visiting the imposing Basilica di San Petronio, the largest Gothic church ever constructed, and the Palazzo dell’Archiginnasio, containing a carefully-preserved 18th century wooden Anatomical Theatre.
After lunch, continue your walking tour with a visit to the Quadrilatero, the Mediæval market home to jewellers, furriers and meat-curers, and the Mercato di Mezzo. Explore the Museo di San Colombano, whose collection of Baroque and Classical musical instruments encompasses harpsichords, spinets, pianos and clavichords. This evening is at leisure.
Enjoy a day in the art galleries of Bologna, experiencing art from the Renaissance to the Contemporary with a particular emphasis on works produced in the Emilia region.
Begin in the Pinacoteca Nazionale, housing a collection of altarpieces, Byzantine icons and Renaissance paintings. After lunch, explore the Museo d’Arte Moderna di Bologna (MAMbo), which specialises in modern and contemporary art from the 1940s to the present. In recent years, MAMbo has sharpened its focus on experimental art, something of a rarity in Italy, taking inspiration from the artistic foment of Bologna as a university city.
Spend a day in Modena, in the gastronomic heartland of Italy. Famous for its tortellini, zamponi (stuffed pigs’ trotters) and above all its balsamic vinegar, Modena is a food-lover’s delight. Discover the secrets of traditional balsamic vinegar, made from the crushed and heated skins and seeds of local grapes which are aged in a set of interconnected wooden barrels for at least nine years – although in some cases, more than a quarter of a century!
Enjoy a traditional lunch in Modena, delighting in regional Italian cuisine, before returning to Bologna for a special farewell dinner with Lorraine and fellow travellers.
Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.
If you are returning home today, make your way to Bologna airport for suggested flights to Australia or New Zealand on Qantas/Emirates via Dubai. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements.
Please advise at time of booking.
Final payment due
23 February 2018
Please see booking conditions for fitness level definitions.
Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.
Australian and New Zealand passport holders do not require visas for Italy.
Tour prices includes
- Accommodation in centrally located 4 and 5 star hotels with breakfast daily (B)
- Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner), including wines
- Lectures and talks with your tour leader
- Comprehensive sightseeing including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
- Transportation throughout on comfortable air-conditioned coaches
- Airport/hotel transfer on tour arrival if travelling on suggested flights
- Gratuities for local guides and drivers
- Hotel porterage (one piece per person)
Tour prices does not include
- International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
- Airport/hotel transfer on arrival if not travelling on suggested flights
- Hotel/airport transfer on departure
- Airport porterage
- Items of a personal nature, including telephone, laundry, taxis, minibar, room service etc.
- Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
Padua – Hotel Majestic Toscanelli ****
Ferrara – Hotel Orologio ****
Urbino – Hotel San Domenico ****+
Bologna – Grand Hotel Majestic *****
NB: Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.