Italy in the Footsteps of Dickens
Explore Italy in the footsteps of Charles Dickens, retracing his 19th century voyage from Venice in the north, through Genoa, Florence and Rome to Mt Vesuvius in the south.
Dickens was captivated by Italy, a country which mirrored his vivacious and ebullient personality, as his popular 1846 travelogue Pictures from Italy recounts. Join Louise Owens, President of the NSW Dickens Society, to retrace Dickens’s Italian travels, visiting his beloved Venice, setting for many of the scenes in Little Dorrit, the churches and palazzi of Genoa and Florence where the Dickens family stayed, walk the Appian Way in Rome and then ascend Mt Vesuvius, the awe-inspiring highlight of Dickens’s voyage through Italy.
Along the way, enjoy readings from Dickens’s works in the very locations which inspired their creation.
Depart Australia or New Zealand in the evening on suggested Qatar Airways flights to Venice via Doha. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.
Arrive in Venice in the afternoon on suggested flights and make your way to the hotel for check-in.
At 18:00, join Louise and fellow travellers for a welcome briefing, followed by a special welcome dinner.
In the morning, enjoy a talk by Louise, and then set out on a walking tour of Venice, exploring “this strange Dream upon the water”, as Dickens described the city. Visit the Cathedral of St Mark, “gorgeous with the wild luxuriant fancies of the East”, and the Doge’s Palace, “more majestic and magnificent in its old age than all the buildings of the earth in the high prime and fullness of their youth”. Cross the Bridge of Sighs to the New Prison, where Dickens found himself struck with a profound empathy for the centuries of prisoners of the Venetian Republic who spent their last hours there.
Enjoy lunch at a local restaurant, and then visit a gondola-making workshop and discover the intricacies of the craft which, arguably more than any other, defines the romantic image of Venice. Later, visit the Giardini della Biennale and enjoy a reading from Little Dorrit, part of which is set in Venice during the now-wealthy Dorrit family’s Grand Tour.
Check out of the hotel and travel across the hinterland of northern Italy to Cremona, where Dickens stopped briefly in 1844, recalling it as a city “memorable for its dark brick churches and immensely high tower, the Torrazzo” (the bell tower of the cathedral).
After lunch in Cremona, continue to Genoa, on the coast of the Ligurian Sea. Along with Venice, Genoa was one of the Mediaeval ‘maritime republics’ of the Italian peninsula, and its seafaring tradition continues today in its bustling port, the busiest in Italy.
Enjoy a talk by Louise in the morning and then acquaint yourself with the city of Genoa on an orientation walking tour. Dickens and his family spent several months living in Genoa, “a place that ‘grows upon you’ every day. There seems to be always something to find out in it”. Discover the elegant Romanesque Cathedral of San Lorenzo with its signature black-and-white striped façade, a later Gothic addition. Visit the Palazzo Reale, the 17th century abode of the prominent Balbi and Durazzo families, and the Palazzo Podestà, seat of the Castello, Cenurione, Pallavicino, Raggi and Podestà families over the centuries.
After lunch, see the 16th century Villa delle Peschiere, where Dickens stayed during his sojourn in Genoa. Dickens was captivated by the villa and its magnificent gardens overlooking the city, declaring “There is not in Italy…a lovelier residence than the Palazzo Peschiere…It is more like an enchanted place in an Eastern story than a grave and sober lodging”. Then visit another of the villas of the Pallavicini family for a reading from Pictures from Italy.
Return to the hotel in the afternoon. This evening, there is the option to attend a performance at the Teatro Carlo Felice (to be confirmed, performance details to be announced mid-2019; not included in tour price, additional cost applies).
Begin the day with a visit to one of Genoa’s churches, the bell towers of which are thought to have provided the inspiration for The Chimes, one of Dickens’s popular Christmas stories. Enjoy a reading from The Chimes at the church.
After some free time for lunch in central Genoa, see the Villa Bagnerello in the Genoese suburb of Albaro. In contrast to his delight in the Villa delle Peschiere, Dickens took rather less joy in his stay at the Villa Bagnerello – which he humorously dubbed the ‘Pink Jail’!
Return to the hotel in the afternoon, followed by dinner in the evening.
Check out of the hotel in the morning, and travel to Carrara, famous as the source of the most prized marble in the world. During his visits in 1844 and 1845, Dickens was struck by the contrast of the rough, back-breaking labour of men and oxen needed to extract the blocks of marble from the region’s quarries, and the gentle, graceful elegance of the forms into which these blocks were sculpted in the city’s artistic studios.
Enjoy a tour of the city of Carrara with a special guest from the Dickens Fellowship of Carrara, followed by a special ‘fraternal lunch’ with members of the Dickens Fellowship.
In the afternoon, continue to Florence and check in to the hotel. The evening is at leisure.
Enjoy a morning talk by Louise, and then explore the historic centre of Florence, visiting the Palazzo Vecchio, home to the city’s republican government during the Renaissance. Beneath the Palazzo Vecchio lie the prisons, where Dickens in his day observed prisoners kept in filthy squalor, passing their time playing draughts, bargaining with passing vendors for fruit and wine, smoking and chatting with fellow inmates.
After lunch at a local restaurant, visit the Galleria degli Uffizi, displaying the opulent collection of artworks of the Medici family, the bankers and patrons of the arts who were the ‘first citizens’ of the Florentine Republic and later the Grand Dukes of Tuscany.
In the morning, visit an artisanal paper-producer. See the care and craft that goes into the making of this little wonder of art and technology which has been preserving the thoughts of the great minds of history – Dickens’s among them – for thousands of years. Enjoy a reading from Pictures from Italy at the paper-producer.
The afternoon is at leisure to enjoy the delights of Florence in the late summer, perhaps to stroll across the Ponte Vecchio for a little window-shopping with a gelato in hand.
Return to the hotel in the afternoon, followed by dinner in a local restaurant.
Check out of the hotel and travel to the hill town of Orvieto. Perched on a large butte of volcanic tuff in southwest Umbria, the city of Orvieto rises dramatically from the surrounding landscape, its buff-coloured battlements contrasting with the rolling green of fields and cypress groves. Stunning landscape aside, Dickens’s attention ran rather to the generous flasks of Orvieto wine!
After lunch in Orvieto, continue to the ‘Eternal City’ of Rome. Consummation of many a pilgrimage over the last 2,000 years, Rome was for Dickens a most affecting stop on his journey through Italy, stirring a complex mixture of emotions: awe at the scale of the ancient buildings and melancholy at the ineluctable passage of time which had swept away the empire which built them.
Arrive in Rome in the late afternoon, before an evening at leisure.
In the morning, enjoy a talk by Louise and then visit the remains of the ancient Appian Way, one of the cardinal roads of the Italian Peninsula from its construction in 312 BC by Roman censor Appius Claudius Caecus to the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD – although sections of it are still in use today. Of all Rome’s ancient ruins and extant architecture, Dickens was particularly captivated by the Appian Way: “Here was Rome indeed at last; and such a Rome as no one can imagine in its full and awful grandeur! …And with a history in every stone that strews the ground”.
After some free time for lunch, visit the Roman Forum, and in its impressive ruins “see the ghost of old Rome, wicked, wonderful old city, haunting the very ground on which its people trod”. Enjoy a reading from Pictures from Italy in the forum.
Return to the hotel in the late afternoon, followed by dinner at a local restaurant.
Check out of the hotel in the morning and travel south to Naples. The city of Naples has been one of the great cultural centres of Europe for thousands of years, from its days as the flourishing Hellenistic city of Parthenope to its period as the co-capital of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Dickens’s excitement at his first view of Naples was palpable: “the prospect suddenly becoming expanded, as if by a miracle, reveals – in the far distance, across the sea there! – Naples with its islands”.
Arrive in Naples in time for lunch, and afterwards check in to the hotel.
This evening, there is the option to attend a performance at the Teatro di San Carlo (to be confirmed, performance details to be announced mid-2019; not included in tour price, additional cost applies).
Today, enjoy a full-day tour up to the summit of Mt Vesuvius, the culmination of your journey through the Italian peninsula – just as it was for Dickens 175 years ago! When Dickens visited, the volcano was in one of its periodic eruptions, but even as it sleeps it exerts a watchful influence over the cities in its vicinity. Dickens painted a vivid picture of the sight: “Look up…to Mount Vesuvius, bright and snowy in the peaceful distance; and lose all count of time, and heed of other things, in the strange and melancholy sensation of seeing the Destroyed and the Destroyer making this quiet picture in the sun”.
Enjoy a light lunch en route, and return to the hotel in the afternoon.
This evening, enjoy a special farewell dinner with Louise and fellow travellers to celebrate your fortnight of travelling through Italy in the footsteps of Dickens.
Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast.
Make your way to Naples Airport for suggested Qatar Airways flights to Australia or New Zealand via Milan and Doha. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements, including any additional nights’ accommodation, either before or after the tour.
Final payment due
04 July 2019
*Single travellers may request to share.
Please advise at time of booking.
Please see Terms & 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 a visa to visit Italy.
Tour price includes
- Accommodation in centrally-located 4-star superior hotels with breakfast daily (B)
- Meals as per itinerary (L = Lunch, D = Dinner), including wine
- Lectures and talks throughout with your tour leader, Louise Owens
- 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)
- Hotel/airport transfers on arrival and 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)
Venice – Hotel Splendid ****+
Genoa – NH Genova Centro ****+
Florence – Hotel Brunelleschi ****+
Rome – NH Collection Roma Vittorio Veneto ****
Naples – Grand Hotel Oriente ****+
NB. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.