Introductory Study Day on 3rd May: For those who are able to come, there will be a study morning the day before our departure at the National Gallery giving us an opportunity to explore the Spanish collection and familiarise ourselves with some of the artists whom we will encounter on our trip. We explore the visionary canvases of El Greco made for Toledo as well as masterpieces by Velázquez, Goya, Murillo and Francisco de Zurbarán.
Day 1: Depart from London Heathrow in the early afternoon with British Airways and fly to Madrid airport. We travel by private coach to the Parador in Toledo, which enjoys an outdoor pool and magnificent views of the city. Upgraded rooms with views of the city have been arranged. On arrival we will enjoy an aperitif on the terrace followed by typical regional cuisine served in the hotel restaurant – dinner with wine is included.
Day 2: We spend the whole day in Toledo, exploring its narrow medieval streets and visiting some of its most famous monuments. We will look at the co-existence of various faiths during the late medieval period and examine examples of Christian, Jewish and Moorish architecture. We will also explore the works of Toledo’s most famous painter, El Greco, such as the impressive Burial of Count Orgaz in the Church of St Tomas as well as lesser-visited works such as those in the Hospital de Tavera. Many of these works never travel out of the city. Lunch is organised for those who would like to join the group and dinner with wine this evening is included
Day 3: Today we visit the Royal Palace of Aranjuez, famous for its luxuriant gardens and beautiful palace, commissioned in the 16th century by Philip II and designed by Juan Bautista de Toledo and Juan de Herrera, architect of the Escorial. Expanded over the years, much of the decoration seen today dates from the 18th century, and we spend the morning discovering a sumptuous collection of furniture, tapestries, costume and porcelain, as well as many impressive paintings by artists such as Luca Giordano. This is followed by a stroll through the gardens and lunch nearby, and after some free time we return to Toledo. Dinner with wine this evening is included
Day 4: There is an excursion to the delightful nearby town of Chinchón, famous in particular for its beautiful central plaza with its picturesque balconies filled with flowers, from which locals and visitors can enjoy the famous bullfights which sometimes take place here. The town was also home to the brother of the painter Francisco Goya: the main altarpiece of the church of Our Lady of the Assumption still contains the altarpiece made the famous 18th century artist, who whilst staying here made the well-known portrait of the Countess of Chinchón, now in the Prado. We enjoy a delicious lunch (included) in the parador and return to Toledo where there will be some time for independent exploration. Dinner with wine this evening is included
Day 5: Today we depart in the morning for Madrid and check in at our 5-star hotel, located just 2 or 3 minutes from the Prado and Thyssen-Bornemisza Museums. We visit both museums today (reservations will be made) and Siân will lead guided tours selecting highlights from both collections.
The Prado contains one of the most extraordinary collections of art in the world, with masterpieces including Velazquez’s La Meninas, Goya’s Naked Maja, Bosch’s Garden of Earthly Delights and van der Weyden’s Descent from the Cross. The Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum is also an outstanding collection, sold by Baron Hans Heinrich Thyssen-Bornemisza to the Spanish Government in 1993. It is a joy to find so many familiar and exquisite works here, from Ghirlandaio's portrait of Giovanna Tornabuoni, Holbein’s only surviving autonomous portrait of Henry VIII, Caravaggio’s Catherine of Alexandria and Dalí’s wonderfully titled Dream caused by the Flight of a Bee around a Pomegranate a Second before Waking up. This evening dinner tonight is arranged for those who would like to join the group.
Day 6: This morning we visit the third in the Golden Triangle of art museums, with a tour of the Reina Sofia Museum which is dedicated to Spanish 20th century art. Its most important work is without a doubt Picasso’s great mural Guernica, created in response to the bombing of the small Basque town during the Spanish Civil War. We spend time in particular learning about the dramatic history behind this seminal work, followed by a tour of further highlights including paintings by Joan Miró, Eduardo Chillida and Salvador Dalí. After some free time for lunch we depart in the mid afternoon for Madrid airport, arriving into London Heathrow in the early evening.