The great names of the Florentine Renaissance need no introduction: Giotto, Masaccio, Brunelleschi, Michelangelo. This new 14-day study tour provides a detailed examination of their works and of Tuscany’s cultural rebirth in the Middle Ages. Chart the impact of technology, luxury trade, self-government and a renewed interest in classical learning, and admire lesser-known masterworks in Pisa, Lucca, Prato and Fiesole. Explore the recent revival of Florence beyond mass tourism, with the redesign of iconic museums, and visit new collections of modern art and design.
While study tours are full of group activities, a reasonable degree of independence is also required. You will need to make trips to the neighbourhood laundromat, and there is a nearby supermarket and grocery stores for any “hotel picnics”. We also use local public transport and there is a significant amount of walking. However, your tour leader will of course show you around the neighbourhood and will provide full assistance if you encounter any difficulties.
World-famous collections: the renovated Uffizi Galleries, Brunelleschi’s dome, the new Museo degli Innocenti
Florence’s lesser-known gems, from superb Last Supper frescoes to pietra dura mosaics and Galileo’s telescopes
Excursions to Fiesole, Pisa, Prato and Lucca
The Medici’s Florence: Fra Angelico at San Marco, Benozzo Gozzoli in the Medici Chapel, Michelangelo at San Lorenzo
Detailed lecture series providing you with extensive knowledge of the city and its past
Modern Florence: Italian modernists at the Collezione Casamonti, contemporary art at the Museo Ferragamo
Days 1–3: Explore medieval innovation: superb sculpture at Orsanmichele and the Bargello, Brunelleschi’s dome and Giotto at Santa Croce.
Day 4: Excursion to Pisa.
Days 5–7: The Uffizi, and admire the Etruscans at archaeological museums in Florence and Fiesole. Investigate the Medici’s rise and their early patronage of Brunelleschi, Benozzo Gozzoli and Fra Angelico.
Days 8–11: Explore the Brancacci and Innocenti museums. Marvel at grand ducal commissions, from pietra dura, to Michelangelo’s Night and Day and Galileo’s discoveries.
Days 12–14: Florence’s new museums of art and contemporary design. Excursion to elegant Lucca.
The tour begins and ends at the Hotel Pendini, Florence. Lufthansa and Swiss Air offer flights into and out of Florence; Emirates and Qatar offer direct flights into and out of Rome, with a fast train connection on to Florence. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Wednesday 13 November: Arrival and orientation
The tour begins this evening, with an orientation walk of our neighbourhood. Dinner tonight is in a local restaurant. Overnight Florence (D)
Thursday 14 November: The urban core of Florence
One of the best ways to understand the early history of Florence is to follow the 13th-century processional route from the city’s Baptistery down to the Palazzo Vecchio. Florentine citizens were keenly aware of their urban centre as a kind of stage for civic rituals, and the sculptures, architecture and art that we see in the Baptistery (now cleaned and looking better than it has in centuries), Orsanmichele and at the Palazzo della Signoria are an artistic journey back to the medieval world view. After free time for lunch, there is the option of continuing to San Miniato al Monte, perched above panoramic Piazzale Michelangelo. Its stark Romanesque architecture, apse mosaic and Renaissance chapels are testament to its long, pivotal role – it celebrated its 1000th anniversary in 2018. This evening there is a talk in our hotel. Overnight Florence (B)
Friday 15 November: The innovations of the Middle Ages
Increased trade, sophisticated accounting, luxury imports, self-government, a renewed interest in classical learning: many causes have been advanced for the cultural explosion of the Renaissance. Today we track its origins in medieval innovations, beginning at Santa Croce, where Giotto, Donatello and Brunelleschi experimented in art and architecture for wealthy private patrons. Continuing to the Bargello sculpture museum, we examine Ghiberti and Brunelleschi’s landmark competition panels for the baptistery doors, Donatello’s David (the first freestanding statue of a male nude since Antiquity) and the playful Mannerism of Michelangelo and Giambologna. Lunch is at leisure, and you may wish to use your combined baptistery ticket to book a climb of Brunelleschi’s dome. After lunch, we continue to Santa Maria Novella, where in the 15th century Masaccio, Paolo Uccello and Ghirlandaio used linear perspective to push Giotto’s experiments even further. There is a talk in the hotel this evening. Overnight Florence (B)
Saturday 16 November: Pisa’s miracles
In recent years, scholars have suggested that the origins of the Renaissance are to be found in 12th-century Pisa. Today we have a full-day excursion to Pisa by train. We begin our day with a visit to the Museo Nazionale di San Matteo, a little-visited museum that quietly conserves an outstanding collection of painted crucifixes, stunning Sienese altarpieces and works by Fra Angelico, Donatello and Ghirlandaio. After time for lunch, we continue with our local guide to the so-called Square of Miracles: Pisa’s cathedral, baptistery, cemetery and tower were a monumental statement of the city’s pre-eminence, thanks to its role in the Crusades. Overnight Florence (B)
Sunday 17 November: The Renaissance in painting
The Galleria degli Uffizi is one of the most important collections of Western painting in the world, assembled thanks to the good taste (and forced acquisitions) of the Medici Grand Dukes of Tuscany, and recently renovated to double the size of its gallery space. The works exhibited here are the foundation of many of our ideas about what constitutes “great art”. After a morning together exploring the collection, the afternoon is at leisure, with the option to remain in the Uffizi as desired. After an evening talk, we share our impressions of this memorable museum over dinner. Overnight Florence (B, D)
Monday 18 November: The Etruscans
From the 16th century, the Medici were keen to showcase their Tuscan conquest as the reunification of a proud, ancient state: indeed, Cosimo I was “Magnus Dux Etruriae”, or Grand Duke of Etruria. Today we explore the Etruscan roots of Florence and nearby Fiesole, Florence’s earliest rival but now a pleasant town with panoramic views. At Florence’s Museo Archeologico we admire the wonderful Arezzo Chimera and Aule Metele (Orator), fine examples of Etruscan bronze casting. After a brief exploration of nearby Santissima Annunziata, we take a local bus to Fiesole, where there is time for lunch. At Fiesole’s Museo Archeologico there is evidence of the long settlement of this hillside, from an Etruscan necropolis through to the Roman forum and later Lombard conquest. We return to Florence by bus, although there is the option to stay on if you wish. There is a talk in the hotel this evening. Overnight Florence (B)
Tuesday 19 November: The rise of the Medici
If any family embodies the grand ambitions of Renaissance dynasties it is Florence’s Medici. Originally rural folk, their 13th-century move to Florence was followed by a meteoric rise as wealthy bankers, holders of lucrative papal contracts, cardinals and popes. This morning we explore the origins of the family, beginning at their neighbourhood church of San Lorenzo. Here, their patronage of Brunelleschi, Filippo Lippi and, eventually, Michelangelo at the Laurenziana Library, was a powerful sign of growing visibility. In the nearby family palace, we admire Benozzo Gozzoli’s frescoes in the Cappella dei Magi, a private chapel that glorifies the cultural contributions of Cosimo the Elder and Piero the Gouty. At the Museo di San Marco, the Medici financed the entire rebuilding of the monastery, paying for Fra Angelico’s workshop to fresco every cell. After lunch, we take a tour of the Museo Galileo Galilei, Florence’s science museum, where artefacts, instruments and even relics attest to the Medici dukes’ interest in astronomy, medicine and science, and to their sponsorship of Galileo. There is a talk in the hotel this evening. Overnight Florence (B)
Wednesday 20 November: Prato optional excursion / Science in the Grand Duchy
This morning there is the option to join your tour leader for an excursion by train to nearby Prato. We explore its long and continued history as a centre of textile production at the Museo del Tessuto, as well as the frescoes of Filippo Lippi in the cathedral – the artist met his great love in Prato when she was a Dominican novice and he a Carmelite friar. In the afternoon, the group reassembles in Florence to visit the Museo La Specola, a little visited, eccentric and fascinating museum of natural history and medicine. Here too the Medici dukes’ interest in scientific innovation is evident, in the observatory founded in 1790 and the Wunderkammer-like collection of specimens and of staggering models in wax. You might wish to book a visit of one of the Palazzo Pitti’s museums for the late afternoon. This evening there is a talk in the hotel. Overnight Florence (B)
Thursday 21 November: How the other half lives
Today we turn our attention to the less-privileged people of Renaissance Florence: the women, children, modest clerics and even paupers who made up the great number of Florence’s population, but whose lives have only been of serious interest since the 1960s. We begin with an optional visit of the Buonomini di San Martino and the Museo degli Innocenti, the former a lay society that cared for middleclass Florentines suffering financial ruin, the latter an orphanage that raised the city’s unwanted children for honest trades or good marriages; both these 15th-century institutions have been recently restored. After lunch, we meet to visit the Cappella Brancacci, a tour-de-force in fresco by Masolino and Masaccio that documents the precariety of the Renaissance city’s poor. We continue on to explore the Oltrarno, visiting Santo Spirito and Santa Felicita. There is a talk this evening in our hotel. Overnight Florence (B)
Friday 22 November: Pietra Dura and Ancient Citrus
This morning we explore a beloved medium of the Medici Grand Dukes with our local guide. Pietra dura, or Florentine mosaic, is the careful arrangement of semi-precious and precious stones into intricate decorative forms. At the Cenacolo di Sant’Apollonia, we spy precious stones in Andrea del Castagno’s little-visited Last Supper, and continuing on to the Opificio delle Pietre Dure, we see the original workshop of the Grand Dukes’ mosaicists and splendid examples of their work. There is a visit of a modern workshop before lunch. In the afternoon, there is the option to take a local train with your tour leader to the Villa Medicea di Castello, a favoured summer retreat of Cosimo I. Here Cosimo made visible his philosophy of power in the garden’s many fountains. It was also here that the Medici began to indulge their obsession with collecting exotic varieties of citrus. Some of the hundreds of exemplars here date to the 17th century, as outlined by Helena Attlee in The Land Where Lemons Grow. Overnight Florence (B, D)
Saturday 23 November: Decline and Rebirth
Florence was spared many depredations in the 16th and 17th centuries thanks to grand ducal diplomacy, but a feeble bloodline and a shift in European politics precipitated a long decline. We begin the morning with Michelangelo’s glorious Night and Day in San Lorenzo’s Cappelle Medicee – his wonderful Mannerism is seen as a last hurrah for Florentine art. At the Casa Martelli, the grand home of an ancient family, we admire the distinguished history behind their sculptures by Donatello and enviable art collection – from Piero di Cosimo to Luca Giordano and, at one point, Caravaggio. But in the 20th century, when the last Martelli women died without heirs, the palace was inherited by the Florentine Curia and a number of significant artworks disappeared. The museum was only recently opened after a forced acquisition by the State. There is more murky modern history after lunch, at the Museo Stefano Bardini, the personal collection of a 19th-century art dealer, who wasn’t afraid to invent an attribution (or even assemble a new “masterpiece”) if necessary. Bardini’s designs for his collection directly inspired Isabella Stewart Gardner in Boston. There is the option to visit the panoramic garden of the nearby Villa Bardini. This evening we meet for a talk. Overnight Florence (B)
Sunday 24 November: Florence and the notion of Modernity
Modern and contemporary art is not what comes to mind in Florence, but since the 1960s the city has actively worked to show that its cultural power continued beyond the Renaissance. We begin with the Museo Ferragamo, a small museum established at the Ferragamo headquarters. It tracks the history of Salvatore Ferragamo’s career – and his celebrity clients – but also stages regular and thought-provoking exhibitions of contemporary art. We then cross the road to the newly-opened Collezione Roberto Casamonti, a small private collection in an exquisite palace, which includes works by Cubists and Futurists such as Braque, Boccioni and Balla, and Surrealists De Chirico, Ernst and Dalì. After lunch there is the option to visit the Museo Gucci with your tour leader. This eclectic and fun collection explores the Florentine fashion house but again incorporates strong elements of contemporary design. The later afternoon is at leisure and you may wish to book a visit to the Accademia, which houses Michelangelo’s David. Overnight Florence (B)
Monday 25 November: Lucca
For the final day of our tour, we take an excursion by private coach to the Tuscan town of Lucca. A medieval centre of silk production, Lucca today is still the headquarters for businesses operating textile and paper mills in the region, but its patrician palaces – encased by a celebrated circuit of Renaissance walls – give the town an atmosphere far removed from industry. We begin our day with a walking tour of Lucca’s churches, fine exemplars of the refined Pisan Romanesque, from the cathedral of San Martino to San Frediano, the latter’s baptismal font a fine piece of medieval sculpture, and the former housing Jacopo della Quercia’s moving tomb of Ilaria del Carretto. At San Michele in Foro and the remains of the amphitheatre we survey Lucca’s Roman origins. After a farewell lunch together, there is free time to browse the town’s elegant shops before we return to Florence. Overnight Florence (B, L)
Tuesday 26 November: Departure
Our tour concludes after breakfast in our hotel. Please check your individual travel plans for information about transfers. (B)
Dr Kathleen Olive
A literary and cultural historian with a PhD from the University of Sydney, with particular expertise in Italy, Spain and Japan.
Dr Kathleen Olive is a literary and cultural historian with close to 15 years’ experience leading tours to Italy, Spain, France, Turkey, Japan and the United States. She has a strong personal interest in the visual arts, interior design, fashion history and contemporary fiction.
Kathleen holds a BA with first class Honours and a PhD, both from the Department of Italian Studies at the University of Sydney. For a number of years she worked as a lecturer at the University of Sydney and the University of Technology, Sydney, teaching Italian language, literature and history. Kathleen continues to teach, as a national lecturer for the Australian Decorative and Fine Arts Society (ADFAS), and in adult education courses in Sydney. In 2015, her edition of the Codex Rustici (a 15th-century commonplace book that Kathleen worked on with Nerida Newbigin, for her doctoral studies and for publication) was presented to Pope Francis on his first official visit to Florence.
Kathleen’s historical and artistic knowledge stretches from the Middle Ages through to the early 20th century. In Italy she has led numerous tours focusing on the medieval and Renaissance periods. In Spain she has a particular concentration on the “Convivencia” of Islamic, Christian and Jewish cultures in the south, and on the medieval pilgrimage routes of the north. Her tours of the USA’s north-east have focused on American collectors and their Gilded Age reinventions of European glory days, and in Japan she is particularly interested in contemporary design, from fashion to architecture. Kathleen speaks fluent Italian, is conversant in Spanish and understands French.
Kathleen was first involved on a tour to Italy in 2003 and it sparked her passion for on-the-spot communication of art and history. Since 2010 she has worked exclusively for Academy Travel, leading 6 tours a year. She has designed a number of our popular tours, from the Florence residential, to surveys of the courts of Renaissance Italy and of central Italy’s villas and gardens, as well as “twin city” tours to Palermo and Naples and to Florence and Rome. Closer to home, Kathleen is leading Academy Travel’s inaugural tour to Japan and our popular tours to Tasmania.
We asked Kathleen, what do you enjoy most about leading a group tour?
“I really enjoy travelling with groups who share interests in the history, culture and even food of a destination. It means that those personal connections are there right from the beginning, just waiting to be made.”
“There’s nothing I enjoy more than finding out the particular interests of my fellow travellers – an artist, a dish they love eating, their memories of a particular place – and finding a way to make an experience happen for them. That might mean recommending a particular wine bar, directing them to a museum that features artists they already like, or suggesting the best time of day for a view over a town. It’s so satisfying to be involved in making these kinds of memories for people.”
“Many of the people I travel with comment on my passion for the places I visit. It’s not just that I know my names and dates – it’s that I really enjoy bringing out the connections between history and art, for example, or between landscape and food. I never grow tired of injecting this kind of life into ‘dry’ academic knowledge.”
For the duration of the tour we stay in the exceptionally well-located Hotel Pendini, a recently renovated 3* hotel located in the city’s heart. This 19th-century palace above Piazza della Repubblica offers simple but stylish rooms, that are well-sized for the centre of the city. We have booked classic rooms for our stay in Florence, offering free wifi access, air conditioning and daily breakfast. Classic rooms look out to the historical via degli Strozzi or to the quiet inner courtyards of the hotel. Breakfast is held in an elegant room overlooking the square and guest can unwind in the hotel’s Tea Room in the early evening.
Room Upgrade – Deluxe Room:
We are also holding a limited number of deluxe rooms, available for upgrade for the duration of the tour. Deluxe rooms are situated on the higher floors of the hotel, offering views over the main Piazza della Repubblica, towards the Cathedral and across the city. Rooms are more spacious and include a small sitting area.
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.