The Papal States

Embark on a journey through the former Papal States of Italy, exploring the historical cities of Bologna, Perugia and Orvieto, and Rome’s Holy See, cities steeped in art, religion and culture.

The defining feature of central Italy for nearly a thousand years, the Papal States covered the modern regions of Lazio, Marche, Umbria and Emilia Romagna. Be immersed in the art and culture that flourished under papal patronage, rivalling the Venetian and Florentine courts.

Beginning in Bologna, the beautiful university town with its rich traditions of secular and religious enquiry, and ending in Rome, this tour will explore the art and architecture of the ‘Republic of St Peter’.


This tour is part of the World Art Tours program organised by the Art Gallery Society of NSW in partnership with Renaissance Tours.

Depart Australia or New Zealand on suggested Qantas/Emirates flights to Bologna via Dubai. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements.

Arrive in Bologna in the early afternoon on suggested flights and make your way to the hotel. Founded by Etruscan settlers in the 6th century BCE, Bologna was wracked with political instability in the early Middle Ages as Italy’s most powerful factions fought to gain control of the town. Despite the turmoil, the city became a thriving commercial and artisanal centre, and developed a distinctive culture which can still be felt today.

In the afternoon, attend a welcome briefing followed by dinner with Steven and fellow travellers.


This morning attend a talk by Steven, then begin your exploration of Bologna on a walking tour of the city. Commence the tour in the historic heart of the city at Piazza Maggiore. Built in the 13th century, the square is bordered by some of Bologna’s most spectacular Renaissance buildings, including the Palazzo dei Banchi and Palazzo d’Accursio. Continue to the Quadrilatero market and the Basilica San Petronio, the church of the Archdiocese of Bologna, as well as the basilicas of San Stefano and San Dominic.

In the afternoon, visit the Anatomical Theatre of Archiginasio, the lecture and display hall of the medical school at the University of Bologna, the oldest continuously operating university in the world. The hall’s lavish decorations feature exquisitely carved figures of famous physicians, including Hippocrates and Galenus. In the centre of the theatre stands a white table where dissections and anatomy demonstrations were conducted for pupils to observe.


This morning travel to the city of Ravenna in Emilia-Romagna which is known today for hosting the world’s most extraordinary collection of early Christian mosaics.

Begin with a visit to the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, an outstanding example of early Christian architecture erected in the 6th century and dedicated to St Apollinaris, the martyred first bishop of Ravenna.

After lunch visit the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, a Roman building described as having some of the earliest and best-preserved mosaics in Ravenna. Then, wander through the Arian Baptistery and the Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, both erected by the Ostrogothic king Theodoric the Great. Lastly, wonder at the mosaics in the Basilica of San Vitale, one of the most important examples of Byzantine Christian art and architecture in Europe, before returning to Bologna.


Check out of the hotel in the morning and travel to the town of Sansepolcro in the province of Arezzo.

On arrival enjoy some free time for lunch before a visit to the Civic Museum to view works by Piero dell Francesca including the famed Resurrection fresco, which was once described by Aldous Huxley as “the greatest painting in the world”. The architectural structure of the museum is the result of centuries of successive alterations and conversions built around the Palazzo dei Conservatori del Popolo, home to the Conservatori who were lords of the city in the early 14th century.

Arrive in Perugia in the late afternoon and enjoy dinner at the hotel restaurant.


Begin the morning with a talk by Steven, followed by a visit to the National Gallery of Umbria. Housed in the Palazzo dei Priori, the gallery contains the world’s greatest representation of the Umbrian School of painting, which ranges from the 13th to the 19th centuries and is displayed chronologically across forty exhibition rooms throughout the palazzo.

After lunch visit the Church of Sant’Angelo, a circular Paleo-Christian Temple dating to the 6th century which incorporates corinthian capped columns from an earlier pagan temple into the church’s central structure.

Continue to the Palazzo degli Oddi Marini Clarelli and wander through the halls of the Casa Museum, which preserves the 16th century ground-floor dining room and the remains of the early Renaissance and medieval houses which were incorporated into the main structure.


Begin today with a morning at leisure to relax or explore Perugia at your own pace. You might like to try some traditional Umbrian specialities like sheep’s cheese or sample the local truffles. Alternatively, wander over to the Etruscan Arch, one of the city’s two surviving ancient gates which was built in the 3rd century BCE and restored by the future Emperor Augustus after a military victory in the area in 40BCE.

This afternoon enjoy a scenic drive though the hazy hills of the Umbrian countryside en route to the hill-top town of Orvieto.  Arrive in the mid-afternoon and check in to the hotel. Dinner tonight will be in a restaurant near the hotel.


After a talk by Steven, enjoy some time to explore the Saturday markets at the Palazzo del Popolo. The city of Orvieto is built atop a gigantic outcrop of volcanic rock which towers over the surrounding countryside. Over thousands of years, the inhabitants of Orvieto have carved out a hidden, subterranean city which extends deep into the heart of the plateau. On a guided tour of the Orvieto Underground, wonder at the complexity of this labyrinth of over 1,200 tunnels, galleries, wells and chapels carved into the stone.

After lunch enjoy a guided visit of the Duomo of Orvieto, the most spectacular Gothic cathedral in Europe.  Begun under the orders of Pope Urban IV in 1290, the cathedral took 300 years to complete and features a truly extraordinary display of brilliantly-coloured, jewel-bright mosaics accentuated with glittering gold tiles on the façade.

Then, enjoy a visit of Palazzo Soliano, the papal residence of Orvieto, before continuing to the Archaeological Museum. Return to the hotel in the late afternoon. Dinner this evening will be in nearby restaurant.


Check out of the hotel and transfer by coach to Civita di Bagnoregio, a charming town situated atop a precipitous plateau of volcanic rock overlooking the Tiber River valley. As a result of its isolation, the city’s architecture has remained relatively unchanged over the centuries and a walk through the few winding alleys will reveal medieval remnants side by side with Etruscan ruins.

Enjoy some free time to explore before continuing to the Palazzo dei Papi di Verbito, a 13th century palace which served as the papal seat during a period of civil unrest and urban violence in Rome. Continue to a nearby winery and enjoy lunch and a wine tasting in the beautiful Italian countryside, before transferring to the Gardens of Bomarzo. Occasionally referred to as ‘the park of monsters’, the Gardens of Bomarzo is a Mannerist monumental sculpture garden created in the 16th century, featuring a cast of grotesque statues and small buildings.

Arrive in Rome and enjoy the remainder of the evening at leisure.


This morning enjoy a walking tour of the Grottaferrata area including the Greek Abbey, library and cloisters. The Abbey, which was founded in 1004, features a series of exquisite mosaics which portray the Twelve Apostles sitting beside an empty throne (a reference to Christ’s ascension) and frescoes by the Baroque master, Domenichino.

Then travel to the Frascati area for lunch, before visiting the Papal Palace of Castel Gandolfo. The castle, which was initially constructed in the 13th century, was purchased by the papacy in 1595 and since then has served as the Pope’s summer residence. Enjoy an after-hours tour of the magnificent palace and the glorious surrounding Barberini Gardens, where sections of the ruins of Emperor Domitian’s villa have been incorporated into the landscaping. Return to the hotel in the afternoon and enjoy the remainder of the evening at leisure.


Early this morning transfer to the Vatican for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Enjoy exclusive access to the opening of each of the successive doors of the Vatican Museums, culminating in a private viewing of the Sistine Chapel. Painted under the patronage of Pope Julius II, the chapel ceiling changed the course of Western art and is considered a major accomplishment of human civilisation. Today the chapel plays host to the conclave of cardinals, the process by which a new Pope is elected.

Then enjoy a walking tour led by Steven, of Celio, taking in the small but beautiful Oratory of Sant’Andrea and the church of San Gregorio al Celio. The church is part of a monastery of Benedictine monks and was the home of Saint Augustine of Canterbury before he led the Gregorian mission to the Anglo-Saxons and became the founder of the English church in the 6th century. Visit the Augustinian convent of Santi Quattro Coronati, with its cloister and vibrant frescoes in the chapel of San Silvestro, followed by a visit to Case Romane del Celio.

Return to the hotel in the late morning and enjoy the afternoon and evening at leisure.


In the morning enjoy a talk by Steven before a visit the church of Santa Cecilia in the neighbourhood of Trastevere, an extraordinarily beautiful church originally founded by Pope Urban I in the early 3rd century, which features ancient mosaics, a Gothic ciborium and a mural depicting the Last Judgement by Piero Cavallini. Then, enjoy a visit to Villa Farnesina, a 16th century villa best known for is frescoes of Cupid and Psyche and The Triumph of Calatea painted by the great Renaissance master, Raphael.

Enjoy a leisurely stroll from Villa Farnesina to the heart of Trastevere for some free time for lunch followed by a walking tour of the area. View the Basilica di Santa Maria in Trastevere, one of the oldest churches in Rome, and the Church of San Pietro in Montorio including the Tempietto di Bramante, which supposedly marks the spot of the crucifixion of Saint Peter. Return to the hotel in the mid-afternoon. This evening enjoy a special farewell dinner with Steven and fellow travellers.


Tour arrangements conclude after breakfast. Renaissance Tours or your travel agent can assist you with your flights and other travel arrangements including additional nights’ accommodation either before or after the tour.


Per person, twin-share

AUD 10,950

Single supplement*

AUD 2,450

Deposit per person (at time of booking)

AUD 1,000

Final payment due

24 July 2020

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

Room category upgrade available on request; please enquire with us.

Tour code


Fitness level

Please see Terms & Conditions for fitness levels 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 for Italy.

Tour price includes

  • Accommodation in centrally located four- and five-star hotels with breakfast daily (B)
  • Meals as per itinerary (L=Lunch, D=Dinner); including wines with meals
  • Lectures and talks by your tour leader, Steven Miller
  • Comprehensive sightseeing including entrance fees as per itinerary
  • Transportation 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)
  • Airport transfers on arrival and departure
  • Airport porterage
  • Items of a personal nature, including telephone, drinks, laundry, room service, etc.
  • Travel insurance (a condition of travel; please contact Renaissance Tours or your agent for assistance)


Your hotel
Bologna – Royal Carlton Hotel****
Perugia – SINA Brufani Hotel*****
Orvieto – Hotel Palazzo Piccolomini ***
Rome – Hotel Ponte Sisto****

N.B. Hotels of a similar standard may be substituted.