During the Biennale, the fine Renaissance palaces of Venice open as centres of modern and contemporary art, showcasing many of the world’s best artists in a kind of ‘Art Olympics’. We explore the 2019 Biennale from our quiet hotel in the heart of the city, exploring art exhibitions by day and visiting the International Film Festival in the evening. The tour also coincides with Venice’s annual gondola race along the Grand Canal – an event by and for Venetians – and is rounded out with fine dining, Venice’s less-visited gems and tranquil islands.
The best of today’s art in one extraordinary city, including visits to the Giardini Biennale, Arsenale, and exhibitions in historic buildings throughout the city
Excellent modern art collections, including the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and Ca’ Pesaro
Four evenings at the Venice Film Festival, arriving in style by private launch
Tranquil lagoon islands, including lunch at Torcello’s legendary Locanda Cipriani
The glorious pageantry of Venice, a stage for social performance from the Middle Ages to today
Special exhibitions and retrospectives coinciding with the Biennale
Days 1–3: Settle in to our hotel in central Venice, explore the national pavilions in the Giardini Biennale and Arsenale, visit the best exhibitions throughout the city, and visit the Venice Film Festival.
Days 4–6: Witness the Regata Storica; visit special exhibitions timed to coincide with the Biennale; take in films in competition at the Film Festival; and discover Venice’s less-visited gems, including San Lazzaro degli Armeni.
Days 7–9: Continue exploring the Biennale, Film Festival and Venice’s modern and contemporary galleries. Visit Torcello, one of the oldest settlements in the lagoon, and enjoy lunch at Locanda Cipriani.
The tour begins and ends at Hotel Al Codega, Venice. Emirates and Qatar Airways offer the best connections between Venice and most Australian cities. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.
Thursday 29 August: Arrive
The tour starts in the hotel this afternoon. Please consult your individual travel documents for advice for arriving at the hotel. After a stroll around our neighbourhood, there will be a light dinner in a local restaurant. (D)
Friday 30 August: 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 Exhibition curated by Biennale Director Ralph Rugoff, the Australian Pavilion, and enjoy time to explore the other national pavilions. After a welcome lunch in an excellent Venetian restaurant, we continue exploring the National Pavilions in the Giardini and exhibitions in the Castello district. In the early evening we meet to talk about the day’s art over an aperitif. (B, L)
Saturday 31 August: The Biennale and the Film Festival
This morning we take a walking tour of Biennale exhibitions in the Cannaregio and San Marco districts, some of which are in private palaces with views over the Grand Canal. In the afternoon, we take in more of the art with a visit to San Giorgio Maggiore, an iconic church designed by Palladio. Its prominent location and cavernous interior have made it ideal for displaying large sculptures and installations, which have been major, although sometimes controversial, successes at recent Biennales. The island also has a number of warehouses that have been converted into exhibition spaces, which host excellent temporary exhibitions during the Biennale. In the evening, we visit the Venice Film Festival, which takes place on the Lido, and take in some of what this year has to offer. (The line-up will be announced in July 2019. Please note that the timing of our visits to the festival may change depending on the line-up.) (B)
Sunday 1 September: Modern Art and the Regata Storica
After a leisurely start, we explore the galleries and Biennale exhibitions in the Dorsoduro district, including a visit to the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, located in one of the heiress’s residences, the 18th-century Palazzo Venier. The collection includes outstanding works by Dali, Kandinsky, Pollock, Magritte, Mondrian and Picasso. After lunch in a fine local restaurant, we visit the Punta della Dogana, a former customs house that was converted into a contemporary art space by Tadao Ando and houses works from the Pinault Foundation’s collection. The Regata Storica starts in the late afternoon, and there are many vantage points along the Grand Canal and the Basin of St Mark from which to enjoy the event, although the Punta della Dogana promontory is particularly good. (B, L)
Monday 2 September: Fortuny, Grassi & Glasstress
This morning, after a leisurely start, we visit three highlight exhibitions that coincide with this year’s Biennale. We start the morning at Palazzo Fortuny – the former residence of Mariano Fortuny, inventor of modern stage lighting and an early exponent of the modern dolce vita – which has a special exhibition of contemporary art, perfectly integrated with the Fortuny’s private collection. We then visit the annual exhibition at Palazzo Grassi, the contemporary art gallery of Francois Pinault, the French multi-billionaire, in a converted 17th-century palazzo on the Grand Canal. In the early afternoon, we visit the Glasstress exhibition, an excellent biennale exhibition of contemporary art made from glass. The exhibition is the brainchild of Adriano Berengo, who brings internationally respected artists into his Murano studio to teach them how to use Venice’s specialty art medium. The later afternoon is at leisure, before we return to the Venice Film Festival. (B)
Tuesday 3 September: The Arsenale
Today 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. The afternoon is at leisure, and you may wish to visit more of the Biennale on an optional walking tour with the tour leader. In the evening, we take in another film at the Film Festival. (B)
Wednesday 4 September: San Lazzaro and the Film Festival
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 and evening, we visit the Venice Film Festival to experience more of what’s on offer. (B)
Thursday 5 September: Torcello
This morning we visit the Ca’ Pesaro, whose collection was formed by acquiring works during the first decades of the Biennale. We then travel to Torcello. After lunch at Locanda Cipriani, we visit the magnificent mosaics in the 6th-century basilica, which are testament to the wealth of an island that is just too far from the centre of modern Venice to attract the regular crowds. Evening at leisure. (B, L)
Friday 6 September: Departure
Today we depart Venice. A group transfer by private launch to Venice’s Marco Polo airport is available for those who have booked flights through Academy 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 Al Codega hotel 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 8 nights, you will quickly get a feel for the authentic local restaurants, the best coffee and gelato and other treats that elude most tourists.
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.