The Venice Biennale is the world’s oldest, largest and most prestigious contemporary art fair. Many of the fine Renaissance palaces of Venice, usually closed to the public, open as centres of modern and contemporary art for its duration. We explore the 2021 Biennale over nine days from our quiet hotel in the heart of the city, interspersing these visits with trips to Venice’s modern and contemporary galleries and some of the less well-known historic sites and galleries in the region, such as the Roman city of Aquileia and MART, a stunning art gallery at Rovereto.
The remarkable world of contemporary art by leading artists from around the globe, at the world’s largest and oldest art fair
The less well-known sites of Venice and its surrounds: quiet islands, hidden gems and UNESCO World Heritage-listed Roman ruins
Stunning new modern art spaces in Rovereto, showcasing Italian and international art
The backstreets of Venice, home to unofficial exhibitions
The fine collections and excellent temporary exhibitions at Venice’s modern and contemporary art collections: the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Ca’ Pesaro, Punta della Dogana and the Prada Foundation
Days 1–3: Settle in to our family-owned hotel in central Venice; explore the national pavilions located in the Giardini Biennale, an open park with architecture by Alvar Aalto, Josef Hoffmann and Carlo Scarpa, and in the Arsenale, the historic shipyard of Venice.
Days 4–6: Visit the Roman ruins at Aquileia and early medieval churches at seaside Grado. See hidden gems of Renaissance art in Venice and explore the Biennale’s numerous collateral exhibitions and unofficial events, including the fantastic exhibitions on the island of San Giorgio Maggiore and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection.
Days 7–9: Continue with the Biennale and visit Venice’s modern and contemporary galleries, including Ca Pesaro and the Prada Foundation on the Grand Canal; visit the stunning modern galleries at alpine Rovereto; enjoy dinner at Venissa, a sleek restaurant on the quiet island of Mazzorbo.
The tour begins and ends at our hotel in Venice. Qatar Airways and Emirates offer suitable connections into and out of Venice from most Australian cities. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Friday 11 June: Arrive
The tour starts in the hotel this afternoon. Please consult your individual travel documents for arriving at the hotel. After a stroll around our neighbourhood, there will be a light dinner in a local restaurant. (D)
Saturday 12 June: The Venice Biennale
This morning we visit the Giardini, the historic centre of the Biennale and the location of many of the national pavilions. We visit the Central International Exhibition, the Australian Pavilion, and enjoy time to explore the many other national pavilions in the quiet, tree lined-setting of the Biennale. After a welcome lunch in an excellent Venetian restaurant, we continue exploring the National Pavilions in the Giardini and other exhibitions in the Castello district. In the early evening we meet to talk about the day’s art over an aperitif. (B, L)
Sunday 13 June: The Arsenale and Hidden Gems
This morning we take a walking tour of the smaller exhibitions and hidden gems of Venetian art in the Castello district, including masterpieces by Bellini and Carpaccio, and the excellent Museum of Icons, with works by Cretan, Cypriot and Dalmatian masters from the 14-16th centuries. In the afternoon, we visit the Arsenale, once the powerhouse of the Venetian naval and maritime industries, and a Biennale exhibition space since the 1980s. Five hectares of shipyard have been converted into spaces that host some of the Biennale’s main exhibitions and performances. In the early evening, we have a talk in the hotel on contemporary art. (B)
Monday 14 June: San Giorgio Maggiore and the Guggenheim
After a leisurely start, we explore the island of San Giorgio Maggiore, whose warehouses have been turned into exhibition spaces. Palladio’s church, one of the most iconic building in Venice, is also given over to contemporary art and the contrast between the Palladio’s elegant classicism and often colourful contemporary sculptures is quite spectacular. While on the island, we will visit some of the other special exhibitions that take place there in its former monastic and warehouse spaces, including the Stanze del Vetro. In the afternoon, we visit the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, with a fantastic collection of Kandinsky, Pollock, Magritte, Mondrian, Picasso and others housed in the 18th-century palace that was Peggy’s home from the late 1940s until her death. In the late afternoon, there is the option to visit the Punta della Dogana, a former customs house that was converted into a contemporary art space by Tadeo Ando which houses works from the Pinault Foundation’s collection. Evening at leisure. (B)
Tuesday 15 June: Aquileia and Grado
This morning we travel by coach to Aquileia, one of the largest and richest cities in the Roman Empire before it was sacked by Attila the Hun. The city is famous for its extraordinary Roman mosaics in its cathedral, some of which date back to the 1st century CE, and for the rare Roman glassware and jewellery in its archaeological museum. After lunch in a local restaurant, we’ll travel to nearby Grado, a beautiful medieval town founded by refugees from Aquileia with well-preserved medieval churches and a peaceful waterfront. (B, L)
Wednesday 16 June: San Lazzaro and Fortuny
This morning we have a private visit of the island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni. The island was a leper colony before it was transformed into a monastery and refuge for Armenian monks. It is still a monastery today as well as a major centre of Armenian culture, holding some of the most precious texts from Armenia. In the afternoon, we visit the Museo Fortuny. The Fortuny family is most well-known for their fabrics and the invention of modern stage lighting, but they also collected an impressive range of fine and decorative art. The house museum is only open during special themed exhibitions, when modern and contemporary art is beautifully integrated into the Fortuny collection. Evening at leisure. (B)
Thursday 17 June: Rovereto
Today we travel by private coach to Rovereto, a town that grew up around a fortress on the border between the Republic of Venice and the medieval Bishopric of Trent. Today it is home to MART, an impressive new modern and contemporary art gallery with works by de Chirico, Morandi, Carrà and others. After a break for lunch in a local restaurant, we visit the house and museum of the futurist artist Fortunato Depero. In the afternoon, we return to Venice. (B, L)
Friday 18 June: Ca Pesaro & Ca d’Oro
This morning we visit Ca’ Pesaro – the oldest public gallery of modern art in Italy, which built its collection through acquisitions in the first decades of the Biennale, and includes works by Klimt, Rodin, Kandinsky, Morandi and Calder. In addition to its collection it stages excellent monographic exhibitions during Biennale years. In the afternoon, we visit the Prada Foundation, which is in a beautifully restored 17th-century palace on the Grand Canal, and the Ca d’Oro, one of the most magnificent 15th-century palaces on the Grand Canal, whose museum combines its collection of Renaissance fine and decorative arts with modern design during the Biennale. The later afternoon is at leisure, before we meet at our hotel to go to dinner at Venissa, a swanky modern restaurant on the island of Mazzorbo. (B, D)
Saturday 19 June: Departure
The tour ends after breakfast this morning. Please consult your individual travel documents for your ongoing travel. (B)
Dr Nick Gordon
A cultural historian with a PhD in History, and practicing painter who 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.”
Academy Travel has been using the charming Hotel Al Codega for many years now. It enjoys a perfect position in the centre of the city – minutes from major attractions yet on a quiet enclosed square (a ‘corte’ in Venetian parlance) with no through foot traffic and no noise from the canals or tourists.
The hotel is small, with just 21 rooms, meaning our group will occupy the majority of the rooms. Breakfasts are very good and there is a cosy bar to enjoy an evening drink. The hotel has free wifi. Staff at the hotel are friendly.
In the immediate environs of the hotel are countless cafes and simple restaurants, as well as some of Venice’s premier establishments. La Fenice opera theatre and the church of San Vidal, where there are good concerts of baroque music almost every evening, are within easy walking distance.
Venice’s best shops are at your doorstep, but there are also supermarkets, delicatessens, fruit shops and chemists for more practical needs.
As you are staying in the hotel for 14 nights, you will quickly get a feel for the authentic local restaurants, the best coffee and gelato and other treats that elude most tourists.
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, taxis or public transport are 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
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required and when stated as included
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?
Our 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
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. We aim to be fair and reasonable in all our dealings with our clients. We aim to provide full and accurate information about our tours and promptly provide information of any changes or alterations that take place before departure.