Venice is a city with a unique history, rich in art and local traditions. Most visitors stay only to see the main sites – enough time to admire the beauty, but insufficient to truly understand this great city. Much more time is required to fully appreciate the complex history, society and culture of a city that ruled a Mediterranean trade empire for more than 1,000 years.
This 15-day journey gives you the chance to explore Venice in a way that few tourists do. Walking and boat tours each day explore Venice’s history, its role as an economic and cultural link between Europe and the East, the significance of shipping and the navy and its painting, architecture and music. Day trips to Ravenna, Padua and the Renaissance villas of Palladio reveal how the city’s influence extended to the terrafirma.
As well as structured visits and background lectures, the itinerary has built-in free time for individual sightseeing and relaxation. All participants will have a pass to the city’s transport system, giving the freedom to roam at leisure.
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.
Wednesday 30 March – Arrive Venice, orientation
Flights with Qatar and Emirates arrive in 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 31 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 for an evening talk. (B, L)
Friday 1 April – 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 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 2 April – 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 3 April – 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 4 April – 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 5 April – 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 6 April – 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 7 April – 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 8 April – 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 9 April – 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 10 April – 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 11 April – 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 glassmaking. The afternoon is at leisure, before an optional visit to the house and studio of a Venetian printmaker. (B)
Tuesday 12 April – 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 13 April – 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.
A cultural historian and founding director of Academy Travel, with a strong interest in visual arts, architecture and music.
Robert Veel is a cultural historian with over 20 years’ experience leading tours to Italy, the USA, Scandinavia and Turkey. He has a strong personal interest in the visual arts, architecture and music, and is a founding director of Academy Travel.
Robert holds a BA, Dip. Ed and M.Ed, all from the University of Sydney. He worked as a lecturer at the University of Sydney before a long stint at the University’s Centre for Continuing Education, lecturing in Italian history and culture and working as Assistant Director. Robert continues to teach occasionally in Continuing Education courses.
Robert’s historical and artistic knowledge stretches from the Middle Ages through the early 20th century. In Italy he has led many tours focusing on the Medieval and Renaissance periods. In the United States he likes to focus on the founding of the Republic and the Gilded Age of the early 20th century. In Scandinavia he is particularly interested in national identity and its role in Scandinavian literature, design and architecture. Robert speaks fluent Italian.
Robert led his first tour to Italy in 1990 and has not looked back! He has led more than 50 tours and designed many of Academy Travel’s most popular tours, including Sicily, New York, Rome and Venice residential tours, and our Scandinavia tours. More recently Robert led the first offering of Academy Travel’s tours to Tasmania and New Zealand.
We asked Robert, what do you enjoy most about leading tours?
“I really enjoy travelling with like-minded, interested travellers who are up for a bit of an intellectual adventure. It’s often the unexpected things that create the ‘shared joy’ of group travel”, says Robert “a wonderful, but little-known painting, a great performance or a fabulous meal. These are the things we travel for.”
“Over the years travellers have commented on my seemingly boundless enthusiasm. It’s true that I am curious about most things – people, places, history and artistic expression. There’s a kind of alchemy when this enthusiasm rubs off on others – hopefully with a bit of useful information as well!”
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:
All accommodation at properties mentioned in the itinerary
Land travel by private air-conditioned coach. Taxis may also be used for short trips on some tours. Some city stay tours may involve local transport
Lunches and dinners indicated with the letters L and D in the itinerary
Beer, wine and soft drinks at sit-down lunches and dinners. Picnic and light lunches may not include alcoholic drinks
Services of tour leader throughout tour
All entrance fees to sites mentioned in the itinerary
Local guides at some sites
All tips for drivers, local guides and restaurants for included meals
On international tours only
Costs involved in obtaining visas for countries visited, where required, and when stated as included
Background talks on tour, site notes and online resources
Any flights mentioned in the itinerary that take place during a tour
Some trips may be made by public transport such as high-speed train and subway
What is not included in the tour price?
Our tours do not include the following:
Air or land travel from your home city to the tour start/end points
Local taxes and airport levies that we are not able to prepay on your behalf. We will advise you of these charges (if any) before you depart
Lunches and dinners not specifically indicated with the letters L or D in the itinerary
Personal expenses such as passports, laundry and phone calls
Costs associated with any activity mentioned as “optional” in the itinerary, or any suggested free time activity
Airport Transfers on international tours
Tours may begin at either the arrival airport or the first hotel. 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
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, 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.
We require all tour participants to have adequate insurance coverage.
For domestic tours, Medicare and your private medical insurance should be used to cover any medical expenses.
Domestic travel insurance is available and strongly recommended to cover non-medical expenses such as cancellation.
For international tours, we require you to have comprehensive travel insurance. Prices vary according to your age, your pre-existing medical conditions, the countries you are visiting and the length of your journey abroad.