Explore Europe’s extraordinary history and archaeology at one of its great cultural crossroads. This new 17-day tour begins in Vienna, the heart of the Habsburg Empire, and takes you through the Austrian Alps to Slovenia – whose beauty and archaeology reveal a different side of Europe’s deep history – and onwards to the Adriatic coast: Trieste, Istria and Venice. The extraordinary history and diverse cultures of the region are everywhere apparent, from the great art and architecture of imperial capitals, to exceptional archaeology collections, the fusion of Roman and barbarian cultures, and the tragedy of World War I.
Ljubljana: a delightful European capital, with a relaxed cafe society, Art Nouveau architecture and fine art collections
The world’s oldest musical instrument: the Neanderthal flute in Slovenia’s National Museum, now 60,000 years old!
Fascinating and little-visited Friuli, from Roman Aquileia to the Lombards’ best-preserved art and architecture in Cividale
Fairytale Lake Bled and Postojna Cave, the stunning natural beauty of Slovenia
Trieste and Istria, a meeting place for Slavic, Venetian and Austrian cultures
Private after-hours visit to St Mark’s Basilica in Venice
Days 1–3: Explore Vienna, from the Habsburgs’ grand palaces to their exceptional collections at the Kunsthistorisches and Royal Treasury.
Days 4–5: Tour southern Austria, including Graz’ UNESCO-listed Eggenberg Palace, Styria’s vineyards and the Austrian Alps.
Days 6–9: Discover Slovenia, from delightful Ljubljana to Lake Bled and the Postojna Caves.
Days 10–13: Explore cosmopolitan Trieste, the Istrian coast from Piran to Poreč, and Friuli, including Cividale and the dramatic alpine border between Kobarid and Gorizia.
Days 14–17: Visit Aquileia and Grado; enjoy Venice, including a private visit to St Mark’s Basilica.
The tour starts at the Hotel Royal in Vienna and finishes at Hotel Al Codega in Venice. Qatar and Emirates offer direct flights into Vienna and out of Venice from most Australian cities. Contact us for quotes and bookings.
Included meals are shown with the letters B, L and D.
Sunday 8 September: Arrival
The tour begins in the hotel in the late afternoon, when we meet in the hotel for a stroll, followed by dinner in a local restaurant. (D)
Monday 9 September: Imperial Vienna
Vienna became the capital of the Holy Roman Empire in the 15th century and remained the capital of one of Europe’s largest empires until the end of World War I. Today we explore the history of imperial Vienna, starting with a guided walking tour of the old town, including St Stephen’s Cathedral and the Hofburg Palace complex. After a break for lunch, we visit the Imperial Crypt, where more than 100 members of the Habsburg family are buried, and then the stunning collection of decorative and fine arts in the Imperial Treasury, which has, among many other treasures, the Imperial Regalia. In the evening, we meet for a welcome dinner in a superior local restaurant. Overnight, Vienna. (B, D)
Tuesday 10 September: The Museum of Fine Arts and Klosterneuberg
The imperial ambitions of the Habsburgs are no better realised than in their extraordinary art collections and extensive building programs. This morning, after a talk in the hotel, we visit the Museum of Fine Arts, which is home to one of the world’s premier collections of Old Masters. These masterpieces reflect the cultural influences on the Habsburg dynasty, from Renaissance Italian masters, including Titian, Caravaggio and Giorgione, to Flemish and Golden Age Dutch works, by Pieter Breughel the Elder, Rembrandt and Vermeer. In the mid-afternoon, we visit Klosterneuberg. This stunning abbey-castle complex was founded in the 12th century by Duke Leopold III of Swabia, the ruler of Austria, who was later canonised and became Austria’s patron saint. We tour the abbey and its many wonders, including the extraordinary 12th-century altarpiece by Nicholas of Verdun, the finest goldsmith of the Middle Ages. Returning to the hotel, the evening is at leisure. Overnight, Vienna. (B)
Wednesday 11 September: Southern Austria
Austria’s control over its empire was always fraught, requiring careful negotiation with regional lords, maintenance of Europe’s border with the Ottoman Empire and, later, emerging nation states. Today we leave the centre of the empire and travel south to Styria, once a semi-autonomous duchy and now divided between Austria and Slovenia, and for centuries the bastion of Austria’s border with the Ottoman Empire. We explore the region’s history today, including the impressive Riegersburg Castle which dominates the plain and hills of Southern Austria, and lunch at a winery in one of Austria’s premier wine regions. In the late-afternoon, we continue on to Graz. Overnight, Graz. (B, L)
Thursday 12 September: Graz
Graz, the capital of Styria since the late Middle Ages, is one of Austria’s most beautiful cities, possessing the elegance of Salzburg, but without its perennial crowds. Today we explore Graz, beginning with a walking tour of its UNESCO World Heritage-listed Old Town, and ending with a visit to the Zeughaus. Its historical armoury is the largest in the world, and charts the development of arms and armaments from the 15th to 18th century, including numerous finely-wrought suits of armour and some of the best surviving examples of early gunsmithing. After a break for lunch, we visit the Eggenberg Palace, one of the finest examples of Austrian baroque architecture and a UNESCO heritage site. Returning to Graz, the evening is at leisure. Overnight, Graz. (B)
Friday 13 September: Gurk and Southern Austrian Alps
Today we take a scenic journey through Southern Austria to Slovenia. Our first stop is Gurk Abbey, the finest Romanesque building in Austria. The abbey was founded in the 12th century in honour of St Hemma of Gurk, who had endowed a nunnery there with some of her family’s extensive landholdings from the time of Charlemagne. We continue through the region towards the border of Slovenia, stopping to visit the alpine lakes near Klagenfurt, before continuing through the scenic mountain passes and forests into Slovenia. Arriving in Ljubljana in the late afternoon, there is time to relax before dinner at a local restaurant. Overnight, Ljubljana. (B, D)
Saturday 14 September: Ljubljana
Ljubljana is a delightful European capital, with cafes along the riverfront, playful Art Nouveau architecture and some exceptional museums. This morning we take a walking tour of the historic centre, before visiting the City Museum, which in addition to holding the city’s Roman archaeological collection also contains the world’s oldest surviving wheel. In the afternoon, we visit the National Museum, whose excellent pre-history collection includes a 60,000-year-old Neanderthal flute, the oldest known musical instrument in the world. In the mid-afternoon, there is time to visit the National Gallery, or simply relax and enjoy the atmosphere along the riverfront. Overnight Ljubljana. (B)
Sunday 15 September: Novo Mesto
Slovenia’s history as a crossroads of cultures extends well back into European pre-history, and the country has some staggering finds in its museums. Today we make a day trip to Novo Mesto, a pretty historic town nestled in a bend of the Krka River, near the Croatian border. After touring the town, we visit the museum, which preserves exceptional collections from the Hallstat culture – the pre-Celtic culture of Europe best known for its metalwork and glass and amber jewellery – along with Greek vases and helmets, and show the region’s significance as the trade nexus between the Mediterranean and northern Europe. Returning to Ljubljana in the mid-afternoon, the evening is at leisure. Overnight, Ljubljana. (B)
Monday 16 September: Lake Bled
Lake Bled is spectacularly beautiful, with the Triglav Mountain range providing an ideal setting for the lake, monastery and castle. In the late 19th century, when the Austrians built the railway from Vienna to Trieste, the quiet medieval stronghold grew into a spa town and it retains this ambience to this day. Today we take a day trip to Lake Bled, visiting the castle for its superb views and crossing the lake to the island on a traditional boat. In the afternoon we visit the Vintgar Gorge, a little north of Bled, to enjoy more of Slovenia’s natural beauty. Returning to Ljubljana, the evening is at leisure. Overnight, Ljubljana. (B)
Tuesday 17 September: Postojna Caves and the castles of Predjama and Miramare
Slovenia’s natural beauty is not limited to a single type of environment. As we travel south today, we move into a geologically very different region, known best for its karst caves. The beauty of this environment is revealed underground, when we visit Postojna cave – by cave train and on foot − with its kilometres of spectacular limestone formations and its ‘human fish’, a rare species of salamander which inhabits the caves of Slovenia. After a break for lunch, we visit Predjama Castle, which is perfectly situated halfway up a mountain at the entrance to another cave system. In the mid-afternoon, we continue to Trieste, stopping to visit Castello Miramare, a castle and garden designed for the Habsburg Prince Maximillian as a holiday residence by the sea. Dinner in a local restaurant. Overnight, Trieste. (B, D)
Wednesday 18 September: Trieste
Trieste became part of Italy after World War I; before this it had been the main Adriatic port of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The city retains its ‘Austria by the sea’ feel, although the fusion of Germanic and Italian cultures is equally present, as is the lingering sense of it as an international city, influencing generations of authors, from James Joyce to Jan Morris. Today we explore the history of Trieste on a guided walking tour of the city. In the afternoon we visit the excellent Revoltella Museum, a modern art gallery bequeathed to the city in the early 20th century and modernised by Carlo Scarpa. The later afternoon and evening are at leisure. Overnight, Trieste. (B)
Thursday 19 September: Cividale del Friuli and the Isonzo
Italy’s north-eastern border has long been contested, from the arrival of ‘barbarians’ in the late Roman Empire to the fierce fighting of the Austro-Italian front in World War I. This morning we visit Cividale del Friuli, a beautifully preserved city on the hill guarding the mountain passes into Italy, which became the first duchy of the Longobards. We visit the oldest surviving Longobard art and architecture at Santa Maria in Valle, and the National Archaeological Museum of Friuli, which has the world’s finest collection of Longobard material culture. After a break for lunch, we travel over the mountain pass to Kobarid – Caporetto, in Italian – the site of the battle that resulted in the collapse of the Italian Front in 1917, as immortalised by Hemingway. From Kobarid we travel along the Isonzo valley to Gorizia, also the location of intense fighting by alpine troops from 1915-18. On return to Trieste, the evening is at leisure. Overnight, Trieste. (B)
Friday 20 September: Istria: Pula and Porec
The strategic importance of the Istrian Peninsula has made it a lynchpin for successive empires – Roman, Byzantine, Venetian, Austrian and Italian − that have sought control of the east-west passage across the Adriatic. Successive layers of civilisation are everywhere apparent along the stunning, rugged coastline. Today we explore Istria, visiting Pula, whose extensive Roman remains are among the best preserved in the northern Mediterranean, and discovering two wonderfully preserved Byzantine monuments: the chapel of Santa Maria Formosa in Pula and the Euphrasian Basilica at Porec. These towns are not just exceptional for their Roman and Byzantine past, but also for how well-preserved the town centres are from the Venetian period, giving great insight into the expansion of the Venetian empire in the Middle Ages. Returning to Trieste, the evening is at leisure. Overnight, Trieste. (B)
Saturday 21 September: Aquileia and Palmanova
Aquileia was one of the largest cities in the Roman Empire, and it was the jumping-off point for Roman expansion towards the Balkans and the Pannonian Plain. It was, however, also right in the path of the waves of ‘barbarians’ entering Italy from the 4th-7th centuries. Today we visit Aquileia, to visit the Patriarchal Basilica with its Roman mosaic floor and the recently renovated National Archaeological Museum, which has one of the finest collections of Roman glass in the world. In the afternoon, we continue on to Venice, stopping to visit Palmanova, a 16th-century Venetian fortress town, whose distinctive star shape has been preserved. Arriving in Venice in the late afternoon, the evening is at leisure. Overnight, Venice. (B)
Sunday 22 September: Venice and the East
For most of its history, Venice has faced the eastern Mediterranean, as a source of wealth, cultural influence and migration. Today we explore Venice’s relationship to the east, with a walking tour of the Castello district, long associated with Venice’s ‘Greek’ – ie eastern Mediterranean – populations, and today home to exceptional works by Carpaccio, Bellini and Cima da Conegliano. The afternoon is at leisure. In the early evening we meet at the hotel for a private guided visit of St Mark’s Basilica, whose hectares of golden mosaic are brilliantly illuminated for us. Overnight, Venice. (B)
Monday 23 September: San Lazarro degli Armeni
This morning we have a private guided visit of San Lazzaro degli Armeni, a quiet monastery island that was given over to Armenian monks in the 18th century. Today it has an excellent collection of art and antiquities in its eclectic museum and a fabulous display of manuscripts. We then take a walking tour of the Lido, which was transformed from a beachside village into a spa town at the end of the 19th century, when it became one of the most fashionable places for Europe’s upper classes to enjoy the waters. The afternoon is at leisure, and you may want to visit the excellent, but little visited, Correr Museum, or take in the superb modern art collection at the Peggy Guggenheim Museum. In the evening, we meet for a farewell dinner in an fine Venetian restaurant. Overnight, Venice. (B, D)
Tuesday 24 September: Departure
The tour ends in the hotel after breakfast this morning. There is a group transfer to the airport available for those taking early afternoon flights. Please check your individual travel arrangements. (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.”
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.