Unpack your bags for 15 days and discover the city that ruled the Mediterranean for 1,000 years. From a family-run four-star hotel just a few minutes from St Mark’s Square, this tour explores the art, history and culture of Venice, and uncovers the depth of Venice’s influence with day trips to Ravenna, Padua and the Palladian villas of the Veneto. The tour also takes in quiet lagoon islands, including Byzantine Torcello and Armenian San Lazzaro, and dines at some of Venice’s best restaurants. The off-season travel period means fewer crowds and cruise ships.
A legendary lunch at Locanda Cipriani on the island of Torcello
Glittering 5th- and 6th-century mosaics in Ravenna, echoes of the Ostrogoths and of Byzantium
The baroque surrounds of opera at Venice’s rebuilt La Fenice
The colours of Carpaccio, Bellini, Titian and Veronese in palaces and churches
The most complete cycle of Giotto’s work, in Padua’s Scrovegni Chapel
Outstanding modern art at the Ca’ Pesaro and Peggy Guggenheim Collection
Harmonious Palladian villas of the Renaissance in and around Vicenza
Days 1–3: Orient yourself with a trip around the lagoon, to Burano and Torcello, and visits to key state history museums.
Day 4: Day trip to Ravenna.
Day 5–7: Explore medieval and early Renaissance Venice – the world of merchants and Crusades. Tour the Ghetto’s synagogues, admire fine art in the Accademia, Frari and Scuola di San Rocco.
Day 8: Day trip to Padua.
Days 9–10: Baroque exuberance in fine house museums.
Day 11: Day trip to Vicenza and Palladio’s villas.
Days 12–15: Modern art at the Guggenheim, glass on Murano. The islands of San Lazzaro and San Giorgio Maggiore.
The tour begins and ends at Hotel Al Codega, Venice. Emirates and Qatar Airways offer the best connections between Australian cities and Venice. Contact us for bookings and quotes.
Included meals are shown with the letters B, L and D.
Wednesday 9 March: Arrive Venice, orientation
Flights with Qatar and Emirates arrive into Venice in the mid-afternoon. A transfer to the hotel by water taxi is available for those arriving with these flights. After check-in there will be an orientation stroll of the district around our hotel followed by an early, light dinner in a local restaurant. (D)
Thursday 10 March: Venice and the lagoon
Today we gain a sense of the geography of the Venetian lagoon and the city’s appearance in its earliest days. We travel by ferry to the peaceful lagoon islands of Burano and Torcello. On Torcello we view the 6th-century basilica with its mosaics and Byzantine decorations, as well as the small museum of the Venetian lagoon. We then enjoy a relaxed welcome lunch at the legendary Locanda Cipriani on Torcello before returning to our hotel, where there is an evening talk. (B, L)
Friday 11 March: San Marco and the trading empire
This morning we take a vaporetto to the Castello district, where Venice’s historic Arsenale is located, and we track the growth of the trading empire and shipping industry which developed to support it. We continue on to the district which has been the centre of Venice’s Adriatic and Greek communities for centuries. These communities helped maintain Venice’s stranglehold on the Eastern Mediterranean, and have left important monuments to their status in the city, including the only cycle of Carpaccio paintings still in situ. At the icon museum of San Giorgio dei Greci, we admire the significant collection of works created by Venetian, Cretan and Cypriot artists, and at the church of San Zaccaria, the extraordinary altarpiece by Giovanni Bellini. After a break for lunch, we visit the Scuola degli Schiavoni, the Slavic confraternal headquarters with a wonderful cycle of paintings by Carpaccio. This evening we have a private viewing of St Mark’s, so that we can enjoy the spectacular mosaics lit up without the bustle of the usual crowds. (B)
Saturday 12 March: Venice and the east
Today we travel to Ravenna, the Byzantine capital of Italy in the 5th-8th centuries. It is in Ravenna, after the fall of the Roman Empire, that the Byzantine visual style of gold-ground mosaics first developed. Here we view the UNESCO World Heritage-listed churches of Sant’Apollinare in Classe, San Vitale, and Sant’Apollinare Nuovo. We also examine evidence of the Gothic kingdom in Italy in the late 5th and early 6th century, including the Palace of Theodoric and the Neonian baptistery. (B)
Sunday 13 March: State-sponsored art
This morning we take a guided tour of the Doge’s Palace, whose layout reflects the complex structure of the Venetian government itself. The palace is decorated with large canvases by Tintoretto, Veronese and others. We then continue to visit the tombs of Venice’s doges at Santi Giovanni e Paolo and Verrocchio’s magnificent equestrian statue of Bartolomeo Colleoni. In the afternoon, there is the option of visiting the Museo Correr, with its collection of artefacts relating to the history of Venice and a number of significant works by Bellini, Antonello da Messina and Canova. This evening we hope to attend a performance at the historic Fenice theatre (subject to the season’s program). (B)
Monday 14 March: Venetian fine art
This morning we visit the Galleria dell’Accademia, the main gallery of Venetian painting from the Middle Ages to the 18th century, displaying important works by Bellini, Carpaccio, Giorgione, Titian, Tintoretto, Tiepolo and others. After a break for lunch, we visit the church of the Frari, with its outstanding collection of painting and sculpture, including Titian’s Assumption of the Virgin, and Tintoretto’s virtuoso performance in the nearby Scuola di San Rocco. The evening is at leisure after a talk in our hotel. (B)
Tuesday 15 March: Merchants of Venice
This morning we visit the Rialto Markets, once Europe’s premier trade and finance hub, and take a private tour of Venice’s ghetto district and its synagogues. The Jews of Venice played an important role in the city and the ghetto has a fascinating history. After enjoying lunch together at Osteria da Rioba, a typical Venetian trattoria, we visit the Ca’ d’Oro, a 15th-century merchant’s palace on the Grand Canal, which is now a museum. The later afternoon is at leisure, with an early evening talk in our hotel. (B, L)
Wednesday 16 March: Padua
We spend the day exploring the nearby town of Padua, a prosperous centre since the Middle Ages whose university was the intellectual base of Venetian society. Highlights of the day include the flourishing produce markets, our guided visit to the anatomy theatre at the university, the monumental medieval Palazzo della Ragione and of course Giotto’s extraordinary fresco cycle in the Scrovegni Chapel, undertaken in the early 1300s. (B)
Thursday 17 March: Free day
Today is free for you to relax or to explore some of Venice’s myriad of other sites independently. Your tour leader is happy to assist with advice. There is a talk in our hotel in the evening. (B)
Friday 18 March: Art and life in the Baroque
We begin with a visit the Querini-Stampalia Museum, with a fine collection of Pietro Longhi and Gabriele Bella paintings that show us how Venetians lived from the Renaissance through to the Baroque. It also preserves a wonderful painting from the Bellini workshop. We break for a group lunch in the area before visiting the restored Ca’ Rezzonico, a lavish patrician’s palace from the 18th century. There is a talk this evening. (B, L)
Saturday 19 March: Palladio on the terrafirma
In the 16th century, amid declining trade, the Venetian aristocracy sought to recreate the life of the ancients in the countryside. We travel to the mainland today to enjoy a full day visiting some of Palladio’s fine country villas, elegant variations in the classical style. We begin the day at the Villa Capra La Rotonda, Palladio’s celebrated centrally-planned pleasure villa, then continue to the Villa Valmarana. We pause for lunch in Vicenza, with its important civic buildings by Palladio and enjoy a visit to the Teatro Olimpico, before moving on to the Villa Barbaro at Maser. We return to Venice in the early evening. (B)
Sunday 20 March: Modern Art in Venice
Venice in the 20th century became an international centre of modern art. Today we visit Ca’ Pesaro, containing the city’s collection of modern art, much of it collected at biennales from 1896 onwards. The collection includes works by Klimt, Chagall, Modigliani, the Italian Futurists and many others. After lunch, we continue on to the extraordinary Peggy Guggenheim Collection, located in one of the heiress’s residences, the 18th-century Palazzo Venier. The collection includes outstanding works by Dalí, Kandinsky, Pollock, Magritte, Mondrian and Picasso. There is a talk in our hotel this evening. (B)
Monday 21 March: Glass in Venice
Venetian glass has been highly prized since the Middle Ages. This morning, we explore this art in Venice by visiting Murano, whose fascinating history extends beyond glass-making. The afternoon is at leisure, before an optional visit to the house and studio of a Venetian printmaker. (B)
Tuesday 22 March: The islands of San Lazzaro and San Giorgio
This morning we travel to the island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni, where we visit the convent of the Armenian monks, a centre of learning and enlightenment for Venice for hundreds of years. Byron stayed on the island for a time, compiling an English-Armenian dictionary, and the monastery contains an eclectic collection including some very rare manuscripts. On our way back to Venice, we stop at the island of San Giorgio, home to a major Benedictine monastery since the early Middle Ages, and also Palladio’s most magnificent church. We enjoy the panoramic view from the belltower before meeting in the early evening for a farewell dinner. (B, D)
Wednesday 23 March: Departure
Today we depart Venice. A group transfer by private launch to Venice’s Marco Polo airport is available for those taking mid-afternoon flights back to Australia.
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.”
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