Opera Bellissima

From the north to the south, traverse Italy for peerless operatic performances in the country that can claim to have invented the art form.

Begin at Parma’s annual Verdi Festival for sumptuous operatic performances of works by the father of dramatic opera, including new productions of Macbeth and Attila. Continue to Milan’s Teatro alla Scala for Verdi’s lyric opera Ernani, and Mozart’s youthful, comic La finta giardinera. Travel south to Naples, where the Teatro di San Carlo presents Verdi’s moving tale of faith and love, Nabucco, and then onwards to Palermo in Sicily for Rigoletto under the direction of Emmy Award-winning actor John Turturro.

In addition to glorious nights at the opera, savour the passionate abundance of Italian life: art, architecture, fashion, shopping, food and fine wine. La vita bella – e l’opera bellissima!

Depart Australia or New Zealand on suggested Etihad flights to Milan via Abu Dhabi. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your travel arrangements.

Arrive in Milan. For those arriving in Milan in the early morning, there is a group transfer to Parma departing from Milan Malpensa Airport at 10:00 and the Starhotel Rosa Grand in central Milan at 11:30.

Arrive at 13:30 in Parma, the 2,000-year-old city founded by the ancient Etruscans whose great gifts to the world include prosciutto di Parma, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, and the father of grand opera, Giuseppe Verdi.

Attend a welcome briefing and early dinner with Mairi and fellow opera-lovers in a local restaurant in Parma before travelling to the nearby town of Busseto for a performance of Verdi’s Un giorno di regno in the evening. Verdi’s second ever opera, the comic Un giorno di regno tells the story of an 18th century French military officer who must impersonate King Stanislaus of Poland while the king has secretly departed from France to regain his lost throne.


Begin your exploration of Parma with a walking tour, visiting the Romanesque-style Duomo, famous for its frescos painted by Antonio da Correggio between 1522 and 1530, and the medieval Baptistery built in splendid Verona rose-coloured marble and decorated with 13th century frescoes depicting scenes from the Life of Christ and the Golden Legend.

Enjoy a guided tour of the Church of St John the Evangelist, and see the Verdi Monument, whose central altar survived the WWII bombing which led to the destruction of the remainder of the monument.

After lunch in a local restaurant, the remainder of the afternoon is at leisure to further explore the city of Parma at your own pace.


The morning and afternoon are at leisure.

In the evening, enjoy an early dinner in Parma before attending a new production of Macbeth at the Teatro Regio di Parma. Verdi was fascinated by Shakespearean drama, and his 1847 opera Macbeth marked his first foray into turning the bard’s works into operatic spectacle; decades later, he would write Otello and Falstaff, although his attempted Re Lear never came to completion. Perhaps ironically, given what Macbeth does to his liege lord, Verdi dedicated the opera to his patron Antonio Barezzi.


Journey out of the city today and experience the gastronomic heartland of Emilia-Romagna. Visit a local cheese factory to taste the famous Parmigiano-Reggiano, followed by a visit to a traditional balsamic vinegar producer.

Continue to the spectacular medieval castle of Torrechiara for a panoramic view of the region.

Following lunch at a local restaurant in Torrechiara, return to Parma, and in the evening attend a new production of Verdi’s Attila at the Teatro Regio. Attila is the opera that confirmed Verdi’s stardom within the firmament of Italian opera, and its strong patriotic themes resonated heartily with the Italian public on is premiere in 1846, during the Risorgimento.


The morning and afternoon are at leisure to enjoy the pleasures of a Sunday in Italy in the autumn. Why not take a stroll through town, and have coffee or lunch in the main square?

This evening, enjoy dinner in Parma before a performance of Le trouvère. After the success of Il trovatore in 1853, Verdi was convinced to expand the work into a grand opéra with a ballet interlude and to present it again in Paris with a French libretto. Under the French title Le trouvère, the now grand opéra premiered in Paris in 1856, and though rarely performed today, the work is notable for the high quality of its ballet music, and for the integration of opera motifs into the balletic score.


Enjoy a full day travelling ‘in the footsteps of Verdi’. Begin with Verdi’s birthplace in the village of Le Roncole, followed by Busseto where he spent much of his life. Visit the home of Antonio Barezzi, the man who supported his early endeavours and became both Verdi’s patron and his father-in-law. Continue to the Teatro Giuseppe Verdi, a small 300-seat theatre built by the Municipality of Busseto with Verdi’s financial support – although not with his approval!

After lunch, travel to the village of Sant’Agata to see Villa Verdi, the house which he commissioned in 1848 while living in Busseto, and where his parents lived until 1851, after which it became Verdi’s home for the rest of his life. Return to Parma in the late afternoon.

This evening is at leisure.


Bid farewell to Parma and return to Milan, capital of Lombardy and one of Italy’s great cultural and economic centres.

Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant in Milan before an afternoon at leisure. In the evening, attend a performance of Verdi’s Ernani at the Teatro alla Scala. Ádám Fischer conducts Verdi’s opera, based on a play by Victor Hugo, about disguises and intrigues in the election of the Holy Roman Emperor, with Francesco Meli in the title role.


Enjoy a full-day tour to Lake Como. Begin with a visit to the Villa Carlotta, a late 17th century villa and art collection set in a magnificent botanic garden overlooking the lake.

Have lunch in the spectacular setting of the Grand Hotel Tremezzo, then explore Lake Como with a boat cruise followed by free time to wander through the charming town of Como itself, a summer retreat for wealthy aristocrats since Roman times.


After a morning talk by Mairi, enjoy a guided tour of the Ansaldo Workshops, where the stage sets for all the performances at La Scala are crafted and painted, and where some 800 to 1,000 new costumes are sewn for each season. The afternoon is free to explore Milan at your leisure.

In the evening, return to La Scala for La finta giardinera. This youthful, energetic opera by an 18-year-old Mozart follows a pair of estranged lovers who find their way back into each other’s arms via the comic delusion that they are a pair of Greek gods. The conductor is Diego Fasolis, with Kresimer Spicer as Don Anchise and Hanna-Elisabeth Müller as Sandrina.


In the morning, check out of the hotel and transfer to Milan Linate Airport for a flight to Naples (included in tour price).

Transfer from Naples Airport to the hotel, before dinner in a local restaurant.


Begin the day with an orientation tour of Naples. One of the oldest cities in the world (and still the third largest in Italy), the area around Naples has been inhabited since the Neolithic period. Across the centuries, the city has been a paragon of Hellenistic culture in antiquity, the ‘intellectual capital’ of the Mediæval Kingdom of Sicily and one of the centres of the Italian Renaissance.

Visit the impressive 13th century Castel Nuovo built by the city’s Angevin rulers, the Palazzo Reale which housed the Bourbon kings in the 18th century, and the Galleria Umberto I, a UNESCO World Heritage-listed shopping gallery built in the late 19th century. Explore the Capodimonte Museum, containing 13th to the 18th century artwork by Masaccio, Botticelli, Rafaello, Bellini, Tiziano, Caravaggio, Vasari, Giordano, El Greco and Jacob Philipp Hackert.

This evening, enjoy the option of a musical performance of traditional Neapolitan song in the Festa di Piedigrotta (to be confirmed; not included in tour price, additional cost applies)


After a morning talk by Mairi, explore some of the treasures of ancient Italy in the Naples National Archaeological Museum. One of the world’s most impressive archaeological institutions, the museum contains the extraordinary Farnese Art Collection of works from Græco-Roman antiquity, as well as many poignant casts made of the victims of Pompeii and decorations removed from the Pompeii excavations. A particular highlight is the series of astoundingly lifelike mosaics of Mediterranean sea-life, waterfowl and the denizens of the Nile River, rendered in carefully-observed detail. The afternoon is at leisure.

In the late afternoon, attend a performance of

Verdi’s powerful Biblical drama Nabucco under the baton of the revered Nello ‘Papa’ Santi at the Teatro di San Carlo, the oldest continuously-operating opera house in the world (having opened in 1737).


Start the day with a guided tour of the Teatro di San Carlo and see how an opera is brought to life in this sumptuously decorated 271-year-old theatre.

After lunch in Naples, transfer to Naples Airport for an evening flight to Palermo in Sicily (included in tour price). On arrival in Palermo, transfer to the hotel.


In the morning, visit the Palazzo dei Normanni, seat of the Norman Kings of Sicily in the 11th and 12th centuries and the oldest royal residence in Europe. The focus of the palace is the Palatine Chapel, whose stunning mosaics stand out even amongst the great works of Byzantine art for the subtlety of their colours and the delicacy of their depiction of the draped robes of the saints.

After lunch, visit the Palermo Regional Archaeological Museum, one of the grandest archaeological museums in Italy, filled with artefacts from prehistoric times to the Roman era, including major Sicilian finds from the Phoenician, Punic, Greek, Roman, and Saracenic periods – a testimony to Sicily’s complex, multicultural history.


After a morning talk by Mairi, travel to the nearby town of Monreale and visit its magnificent cathedral, one of the masterpieces of Norman architecture. Inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage list, Monreale Cathedral was begun in 1174 by King William II of Sicily, and combines architecture of both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Rite traditions; the façade of the cathedral is decorated with carvings and coloured inlay, and its interior is almost entirely covered with brilliant mosaics.

Enjoy a special farewell lunch with Mairi and fellow travellers in Monreale to celebrate the conclusion of the tour.

Return to Palermo and in the evening attend a performance of Verdi’s Rigoletto at the Teatro Massimo, the largest opera theatre in Italy. The production is directed by Emmy Award-winning actor John Turturro and stars Giorgio Berrugi as the Duke of Mantua, George Petean as Rigoletto and Maria Grazia Schiavo as Gilda.


Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.


Per person, twin-share

AUD 13,950

Single Supplement*

AUD 2,850

Deposit per person (at time of booking)

AUD 1,000

*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.

Final payment due

03 August 2018

Tour code


Fitness level

Please see booking conditions for fitness level definitions.

Suggested airline

Please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for current airfares and flight reservations.


Australian and New Zealand passport holders do not require a visa to visit Italy.

Tour price includes

  • Category 1 tickets to all included performances
  • Pre-performance talks by your tour leader, Mairi Nicolson
  • Accommodation in centrally located 4 and 5 star hotels with breakfast daily (B)
  • Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner), including wine with meals
  • One-way Economy Class flights from Milan to Naples and from Naples to Palermo
  • Airport/Parma transfer on tour arrival if travelling on group transfer
  • Comprehensive sightseeing, including local guides and entrance fees as per itinerary
  • Transportation throughout on comfortable, air-conditioned coaches
  • Gratuities for local guides and drivers
  • Hotel porterage (one piece per person)

Tour price does not include

  • International airfares (please contact Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)
  • Transfer to Parma on arrival if not travelling on group transfer
  • Hotel/airport transfer on departure
  • Airport porterage
  • Items of a personal nature, including telephone, laundry, taxis, room service etc.
  • Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contract Renaissance Tours or your travel agent for assistance)


Your hotels
Parma – Palace Hotel Maria Luigia ****+
Milan – Starhotel Rosa Grand ****+
Naples – Grand Hotel Parker’s *****
Grand Hotel Villa Igiea – MGallery by Sofitel *****

NB. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted