DAY 1: We depart from London with British Airways and on our arrival transfer by private coach to our elegant 4-star hotel in Verona for five nights. The hotel is very comfortable with excellent facilities, and perfectly appointed on a quiet street in the historical centre of town, less than 5 minutes’ walk from the beautiful Piazza Bra (home to the famous Roman amphitheatre) and close to the delightful Piazza del’Erbe.
DAY 2: We enjoy a full day’s walking in the company of Dr Andrew Duncan who has prepared two tailor-made walking tours for us. Andrew has for many years worked as an independent historian, author and walking guide. We are delighted that he is able to join Art History in Focus for his second tour with us this year. In the morning we enjoy a city walk which takes in many beautiful monuments such as the amphitheatre and the Romanesque church of San Zeno, famous for its sculpted bronze doors and a magnificent altarpiece by Andrea Mantegna. After lunch we head towards the remains of the Roman theatre and along to the Castel San Pietro which provides spectacular views over the city. The walk continues along the old city wall, descending to the Giusti Gardens and Veronetta, then back across the river to the city centre.
A delicious dinner with wine is included this evening in one of our favourite local restaurants.
DAY 3: We enjoy a trip to nearby Mantua, which was ruled for 300 years by the Gonzaga family. This important dynasty commissioned works by the greatest artists, architects and musicians of their day, from Titian and Leonardo to Rubens and Monteverdi. We discover the many treasures on display in the Ducal Palace including the exquisite Camera degli Sposi, decorated with frescoes by Mantegna depicting Ludovico Gonzaga and his family, and then take a short walk through the charming city centre. After a light lunch in one of medieval squares, we will see the Basilica of Sant’Andrea designed by Alberti as well as the delightful Palazzo del Te, a pleasure palace designed by Giulio Romano in the 1520s for Federico Gonzaga and his mistress
This evening there will be an introductory lecture in the hotel’s conference room on Giotto, in preparation for our visit to the Scrovegni Chapel tomorrow.
DAY 4: Today we drive to Padua where our visits include the Basilica di Sant’Antonio known as Il Santo, built to house the relics of Saint Anthony of Padua whose miracles are recorded on Donatello’s superb sculpted reliefs on the high altar. We will also see some wonderful little-known early frescoes by Titian next door, and then stroll towards Palazzo della Ragione, the town’s medieval law court, which is surrounded by loggias which shelter shops, restaurants and cafes. The Lords of Padua in the 14th century were the Carraresi, and we will discover an important series of frescoes by Giusto de Menabuoi in Padua Baptistery commissioned, unusually, by a female member of the family - Fina Buzzaccarini, the wife of Francesco il Vecchio Da Carrara.
After lunch we have reservations to see Giotto’s magnificent frescoes which cover the walls of the Scrovegni Chapel. Dedicated to the Virgin Mary, the chapel was commissioned by a local merchant Enrico Scrovegni to atone for the sins of his father, and the patron himself appears prominently in an act of dedication on the west wall. A specially arranged ticket will allow us to spend extra time in the chapel.
Dinner is arranged this evening in Verona at a well-known restaurant famous for its excellent wines.
DAY 5: We depart this morning for Parma, an important Renaissance city state which was once the stronghold of the Farnese family. Here our visits include the National Gallery with its fine collection including works by Correggio, Leonardo da Vinci and Holbein, as well as the huge Teatro Farnese. Built in 1618-19, it is often called the first modern theatre, since it was the first to use a permanent proscenium arch. After lunch we visit the Romanesque Baptistery; the Cathedral with its impressive frescoed dome of the Assumption by Correggio, and the church of San Giovanni Evangelista which contains works by Parma’s other great Renaissance artist, Parmigianino.
A special tasting menu has been arranged this evening for dinner (optional) at a local restaurant popular with singers during the opera season.
DAY 6: We check out of the hotel this morning and drive to Modena where we enjoy a tour of the splendid aristocratic picture gallery which once belonged to the Este family, followed by a visit of the magnificent Romanesque cathedral. After some time for lunch in the charming city centre we continue to Ravenna. We stay for two nights in a charming and tranquil country villa, set in splendid grounds with a swimming pool, and with a small number of elegantly furnished rooms. Set just a few minutes outside the city centre, it provides a peaceful location perfect for relaxation. Our driver will be on call to take us into the city centre, where we have dinner this evening.
DAY 7: We spend the day exploring the many extraordinary buildings of Ravenna, once the capital of the Western Roman Empire and then of Byzantine Italy. The city is world famous for its unique collection of early Christian mosaics and monuments, and our visits will include the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo, the Church of San Vitale and the Basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe.
DAY 8: After some time for relaxation at the villa we depart to catch our flight with BA from Bologna to London.