Florence has the world’s greatest concentration of masterpieces from the late Middle Ages and Renaissance, when it was one of Europe’s largest and most dynamic cities. Settle in and relax on this residential tour as we discover the unique amalgam of commercial enterprise, republican government, dynastic ambitions and individual virtuosity that shaped some of the world’s most revolutionary artists, writers and scholars: Dante, Giotto, Masaccio, Donatello, Michelangelo, Machiavelli and Galileo. Our visits to diverse collections are balanced with day trips to medieval towns in the beautiful Tuscan countryside, tours of Florence’s artisanal culture, wine tastings and fine dining.
Italian art and culture in Florence, far beyond what most tourists see
The history of Florence, one of the most dynamic cities of the Middle Ages and Renaissance
Beautiful medieval towns, including Siena, San Gimignano and Pistoia, 2017’s Capital of Italian Culture
The world of the Renaissance genius: Michelangelo, Donatello, Botticelli and Bronzino
Florence beyond the Renaissance: Etruscans, villas and gardens
Tuscany’s gastronomic delights and artisanal traditions
Two weeks in Florence exploring the society, history and art of the Renaissance
Extraordinary galleries and museums, including the Uffizi and the recently renovated Museo dell’Opera del Duomo
Day trips in Tuscany: Siena, San Gimignano, Volterra and Pistoia
Private tours of the cathedral terraces and the Secret Passages of the Palazzo Vecchio
Tuscan cuisine, wine tastings, and Florence’s artisanal traditions
Day 1: Arrive in Florence.
Days 2–4: Discover how Florence became the centre of the Renaissance; excursion to the medieval towns of San Gimignano and Volterra.
Days 5–9: Artisans and Renaissance masterpieces in Florence; Pistoia, a Renaissance jewel in Tuscany.
Days 10–13: Renaissance heritage in art, science, letters; the gardens of Florence, including Villa Gamberaia and Villa Medici; day trip to Siena.
Day 14: Depart Florence.
A detailed itinerary for this tour is available. Click on the link above to view or download.
We recommend flights into and out of Bologna with Emirates. Contact us for competitive quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the letters B, L and D.
Day 1 | Saturday 22 September: Arrival
The Emirates flight arrives at Bologna in the early afternoon, where you will be met by your tour leader. We then join our coach and transfer directly to Florence, a trip of approximately 2 hours. After time to check in and freshen up, we meet for an orientation walk and dinner in a local restaurant near our hotel. (D)
Day 2 | Sunday 23 September: Palaces and Paintings
Today we explore the art of Renaissance Florence in its context by looking at how art and architecture were used by those who commissioned them. After a talk in the hotel, we visit Palazzo Davanzati, a beautifully restored patrician palace, and Palazzo Strozzi, one of Florence’s grandest Renaissance palaces, which speak volumes about how the city’s elite impressed themselves on their neighbours and visitors. After a welcome lunch at an excellent local restaurant, we look at masterpieces in situ in Santa Maria Novella by Ghirlandaio, Filippino Lippi and Masaccio, who revolutionised western European art with their “vanishing point” perspective, careful depictions of Renaissance life and subtle storytelling. (B, L)
Day 3 | Monday 24 September: Sculpting Public Image
From the 13th to 16th century, Florence was governed by its guilds – powerful professional bodies that regulated industry and commerce. The guilds were also responsible for overseeing (and paying for) many of Florence’s monuments, and were highly competitive in the lengths they would go to outdo one another. This morning we visit Orsanmichele, a church-come-granary whose Renaissance sculptures by masters including Donatello, Ghiberti and Verrocchio, Leonardo’s teacher, were commissioned by the guilds. After a break for lunch, we visit the recently renovated Museum of the Opera del Duomo, the institution that has overseen the building, decoration and maintenance of the cathedral for 700 years. It has accumulated an extraordinary collection of works, including a Pietà by Michelangelo, several key works by Donatello, and the original Doors of Paradise by Ghiberti. In the late afternoon we have a private visit to the terraces of the dome of Florence’s Cathedral, with its extraordinary views across the city and surrounding countryside. Evening at leisure. (B)
Day 4 | Tuesday 25 September: San Gimignano and Volterra
Florence’s medieval towers, a symbol of the conflict between the city’s warring factions, were forcibly cut down by the government in the 13th century. The towers survive, however, in San Gimignano, a celebrated town that paints a vivid picture of medieval Tuscany and preserves beautiful frescoes by masters such as Benozzo Gozzoli. Our excursion today takes us to San Gimignano and then on to the town of Volterra, famous for its production of alabaster, which has a stark Romanesque beauty. Its regional museum contains the startling Deposition altarpiece by Rosso Fiorentino. Lunch today is in a simple country restaurant. Returning to Florence, the evening is at leisure. (B, L)
Day 5 | Wednesday 26 September: Artisans
Florence’s wealth and fame are built on the skill of its artisans, many of whom we have come to regard as artists of the highest standing. This morning we tour the Oltrarno, home to a large population of humble artisans and immigrants in the Renaissance and now the district where many of Florence’s artisans have set up shop and practice crafts that are rapidly disappearing. After visiting the Brancacci Chapel for Masaccio and Masolino’s extraordinary depictions of episodes from the life of St Peter set in the poorer streets of Florence, our tour takes us to the workshops of local artisans. The afternoon and evening are at leisure. (B)
Day 6 | Thursday 27 September: Florence’s art treasures – Sculpture
The sculptors of Florence revolutionised the art in the first half of the 15th century, achieving feats that had not been done since the fall of the Roman Empire, and developing the highly realistic aesthetic that defines our idea of the Italian Renaissance. Today we trace the development of sculpture in the Etruscan and Roman periods in the Museum of Archaeology, through to the stunning Renaissance works of Donatello, Michelangelo and Giambologna in the Bargello. Our tour also takes us to the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, the headquarters of the city’s art restorers which has a fine museum of inlaid semi-precious stonework, a Florentine speciality. Evening at leisure. (B)
Day 7 | Friday 28 September: Florence’s art treasures – Painting
After a talk in the hotel, we spend the morning at the Uffizi galleries, taking in masterpieces by Giotto, Botticelli and Leonardo. Here we chart the genesis of Renaissance Italian art, from its origins in the Byzantine “darkness” of the Middle Ages to the exaggerated and emotional extremes of 16th-century Mannerism. The afternoon is at leisure, and you may wish to further explore the vast collections of the Uffizi, whose renovation over the past decade has doubled its exhibition space. (B)
Day 8 | Saturday 29 September: Pistoia
Pistoia – the Capital of Italian Culture in 2017 – was one of medieval Florence’s rivals. Following its conquest by Florence the medieval city was well-protected and its late medieval and Renaissance gems have been very well preserved. This morning we travel the short distance to Pistoia, where our guided tour of the city includes the beautiful Romanesque cathedral and baptistery, with sculpture, gold and silver- smithing and paintings by medieval and Renaissance masters. After a break for lunch, we visit the Medici’s Renaissance villa at Poggio a Caiano and Carmignano, in the hills outside of Florence, where we see the extraordinary Visitation by Pontormo and enjoy a wine tasting. Evening at leisure. (B)
Day 9 | Sunday 30 September: Medicean Florence
The Medici are Florence’s most famous dynasty, growing in strength from medieval bankers with houses throughout Europe, to hereditary dukes of 16th-century Tuscany. Today, after a morning talk, we take the family as a case study for Florentine art patronage, seeing works they commissioned from Benozzo Gozzoli in the Chapel of the Magi in the Medici Palace. After a break for lunch in the area, we visit the Medici Chapels, designed by Michelangelo, and San Lorenzo, the Medici’s neighbourhood church, where Cosimo the Elder is buried beside the artist whose career he fostered, Donatello. Evening at leisure. (B)
Day 10 | Monday 1 October: pantheons of Science and Letters
Florence’s achievements extend well beyond the visual arts and the city has played a similarly important role in other fields. This morning, we visit the Galileo Galilei Museum, the city’s science museum, dedicated to Galileo, who lived and worked in Florence under the protection of the Medici Dukes. We then visit Santa Croce, a large Franciscan basilica that conserves precious frescoes by Giotto and other late medieval masters. It became a pantheon for Florence, and later Italy’s great men, with Dante, Michelangelo, Machiavelli, Galileo and Rossini all honoured here. In its peaceful cloister is Brunelleschi’s Pazzi Chapel, a Renaissance triumph of carefully calculated and deceptively simple architecture. After a break for lunch, we visit the Stefano Bardini Museum. Bardini was one of Florence’s most important antiquarians in the 19th and early 20th century, and amassed an extraordinary collection of art. His contacts made him a mover and shaker in the art world, and he wasn’t beyond commissioning forgeries to meet the market’s demand. (B)
Day 11 | Tuesday 2 October: Siena
Today we take a private coach to Siena. The city was Florence’s main rival and, before the devastation of the plague in 1348, even eclipsed it in power and glory. Siena’s strong economy, founded on its position as papal bankers, and distinctive form of government sponsored a flourishing culture and ushered in a new chivalric mode of painting. We will see Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s frescoes of Good and Bad Government and Simone Martini’s Madonna in Majesty, both in the Palazzo Pubblico. After a break for lunch, we visit the cathedral and its museum, with sculptures by the Pisano family and Duccio di Buoninsegna’s monumental Maestà. On our way back to Florence, we stop for dinner at a country restaurant. (B, D)
Day 12 | Wednesday 3 October: San Marco and Antinori
This morning we visit San Marco, a convent that encapsulates Florence’s history, from the private patronage of Cosimo de’ Medici to the turbulence of Savonarola, and the extraordinary art this society produced. The convent and its museum contain masterpieces by Fra Angelico, an artist whose subtle compositions and exquisite use of colour have inspired visitors for centuries. After a break for lunch we travel by private coach to the spectacular Antinori winery in the Chianti region. The contemporary building, partially enclosed by a hill, and surrounded by the Tuscan countryside, is a testament to the combination of innovation, respect for traditions and confidence that have made Italy what it is. After a tour of the winery, we taste the wines of one of Tuscany’s oldest wine producing families. Returning to Florence, the evening is at leisure. (B)
Day 13 | Thursday 4 October: San Miniato Al Monte and Villas
Florence is surrounded by villas, green spaces and places offering panoramas over the city and the surrounding countryside. These locations have often been highly sought after, and their gardens have helped define what an Italian garden should look like and how one ought to live. We begin our tour this morning with a visit to San Miniato al Monte, a tranquil monastery-church above the city with exquisite views. We continue our tour by private coach to Fiesole to visit the Villa Medici, a 15th-century villa built according to the principles of Roman authors. After our farewell lunch at the exclusive Villa San Michele, with its excellent views over Florence, we visit the magnificent gardens of Villa Gamberaia. Nestled in the hills outside of Florence, the gardens have had an enduring influence on garden design and are lovingly restored and conserved today. Evening at leisure. (B, L)
Day 14 | Friday 5 October: Departure
There is an early morning coach transfer to Bologna Airport to meet the departing Emirates flight. (B)
Dr Nick Gordon
Has a University Medal and a PhD in History and lectures on European art. Nick is also a practicing painter and brings this passion to the visual arts.
Dr Nick Gordon is a cultural historian and artist, with over 10 years of experience leading tours to Europe. He has strong interests in art, history, philosophy and architecture, from the ancient world to the present.
Nick holds a University Medal and PhD in history from the University of Sydney. He taught medieval and Renaissance history at the University of Sydney, the history of political thought at the University of Western Sydney, and architectural and Australian history elsewhere. He continues to teach at the Centre of Continuing Education, and gives occasional lectures on topics ranging from Classical Rome through to Australian and contemporary art. Nick has lead tours for Academy Travel since 2007, and designs study tours, residential tours and art-focussed tours, such as the Venice Biennale, Art Along the Rhine, Art Basel, and Amsterdam to Paris: Van Eyck to Van Gogh.
Nick is also an artist and his firsthand experience of art complements his academic expertise, through his knowledge of materials and the processes behind how an artwork is made, and his well-practiced eye for reading art.
We asked Nick, what do you enjoy most about tour leading?
“One of the things I enjoy most about touring is helping people understand more about what they’re seeing. This happens through a combination of background lectures exploring different contexts, cultural commentary on the road, and especially by being able to explain what is going on in an artwork with the artwork in front of us.”
“The aim of all of this is to help people see more for themselves, independently, both on tour and beyond. Some of the best moments for me on tour are when this happens, and you get to be part of something bigger as people start adding their own knowledge and experience to what we’re looking at. It makes each experience unique.”
The 4-star Berchielli is a modern luxury hotel overlooking the Ponte Vecchio on the banks of the Arno. The hotel’s central location makes it the perfect base for our extended stay with many museums, restaurants and shops an easy walk away. Rooms are well-sized and elegantly furnished with all modern inclusions including air conditioning, satellite TV, minibar, internet access and a safe.
What is included in the tour price? Unless otherwise stated in the itinerary, our tours include the following:
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Where appropriate public transport is also used for short distance travel on some tours
All accommodation in hotels or apartments as stated in the itinerary
Breakfasts, lunches and dinners specifically stated as included in the itinerary
Drinks at welcome and farewell meals. Other meals may not have drinks included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
Tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
Tours begin either at the arrival airport or the first hotel, depending on the itinerary. If you have booked your international flights with Academy Travel and arrive before the tour commences, we will provide airport to hotel transfers to the closest main city on your arrival, and to the closest airport at the end of the tour. These may be either individual or group transfers.
What is not included in the tour price? Open-age tours do not include the following:
Return international/domestic air travel unless those flights take place during the tour
Special taxes and airport levies that can only be paid in cash at the destination. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required
Travel insurance. We require all participants to have comprehensive travel insurance. A typical policy for one of our tours will cost from $160 upwards, depending on your age, pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the overall length of your trip
Lunches and dinners not specifically mentioned as included in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity
You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement of these conditions when you book a place on a tour.
A deposit of $500 per person is required to confirm your booking on a tour. Final payment of the tour fee, insurance and any additional travel will be due 60 days before departure.
If you decide to cancel your booking the following charges apply:
More than 60 days before departure: $500*
60-45 days before tour start: 25% of total amount due
44-15 days before tour start: 75% of total amount due
14 days or less before departure: 100% of total amount due
*This amount may be credited to another Academy Travel tour within 12 months of the original tour you booked.
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.
Academy Travel requires all participants to obtain comprehensive travel insurance. We offer a comprehensive policy with a reputable insurer if required.
Passport and Visa
A valid passport is required for all international travel. If you do not hold an Australian passport you may require a re-entry permit. Some countries require a visa to be issued before you depart Australia. We will advise you of all passport and visa requirements, but it is your responsibility to ensure that you meet passport and visa requirements before you depart.
Will the tour price change?
If the number of participants in a tour is significantly less than budgeted, or if there is a significant change in exchange rates Academy Travel reserves the right to amend the advertised price. If this occurs you will be given the option of cancelling your booking and obtaining a full refund. If an Academy Travel tour is forced to cancel you will get a full refund of all monies paid.
Will the itinerary change?
Occasionally circumstances beyond the control of Academy Travel make it necessary to change airline, hotel or to make slight amendments to daily itineraries. We will inform you of any changes as soon as they occur.
Full and final payment for the tour, airfare travel, insurance and any additional travel you book is due 60 days before departure. Payment may be made by bank deposit, cheque, cash or credit card. Please note there is a surcharge for payments made by credit card.
Academy Travel reserves the right to decline the booking or terminate the holiday of any traveller.