Tuscany: Rise of the Renaissance April 21 - 29, 2017 or May 1 - 9, 2017
Stay in lovely accommodations at the four-star Hotel Athena located on a quiet street in Siena’s historic center. Enjoy the leadership and scholarship of Professor George Bent whose expertise in Renaissance art enlivens visits throughout Tuscany. Spend a full day in Arezzo to see the hidden masterpieces by Piero della Francesca including his famed Legend of the True Cross. Traverse the classic rolling hills of the Chianti, sipping on the region’s best Chianti Classicos and Super Tuscan wines. Visit the private 16th-century Renaissance villa and resplendent garden built by the Sienese banking family Chigi. Meet with a Sienese artist in his private studio to experience the techniques and skills used to restore and replicate historic artworks and artifacts. Dine with a Sienese noblewoman in her splendid 15th-century palace surrounded by frescoes by the great Mannerist artist Domenico Beccafumi. Enjoy an elegant farewell dinner with a noble in his historic baroque villa overlooking the picturesque hills of Siena.
Friday, Day 1 - Departures
Depart on independent flights arriving the next morning at Florence Peretola Airport (FLR).
Saturday, Day 2 - Arrivals in Tuscany
Hotel Athena, Siena (D)
Arrive at Florence Airport and meet your tour director and depart for your four-star hotel inside the historic walls of Siena. Enjoy some time at leisure at the hotel before you meet your local Sienese guide for an introductory tour of Siena’s medieval streets, winding past old cantinas, hidden oratories, and historic noble palaces. This evening we gather for a festive welcome dinner at a fine restaurant in the heart of this historic city.
Sunday, Day 3 - Siena, ‘Queen of the Hill Towns’
Hotel Athena, Siena (B, L)
This morning we begin with an in-depth exploration of the maze of narrow streets and alleys around the Piazza del Campo in Siena, one of Europe’s oldest and most spectacular public squares. The main building, Palazzo Pubblico, houses a wonderful collection of public artwork including Lorenzetti’s famous Allegory of Good and Bad Government. This afternoon we enjoy lunch inside a private 15th-century Renaissance palace hosted by a young Sienese noblewoman who will prepare a delicious spread of local specialties and afterward describe to us her home’s remarkable interiors frescoed by the important Sienese painter, Domenico Beccafumi. After lunch we take a leisurely walk to the sun-drenched Duomo with its sublime combination of deep green and peach-colored marbles punctuated by sculptural Gothic pinnacles. We enter the dramatic interior with its delicate inlaid marble works, “zebra-striped” cluster columns, and sculptures by Michelangelo, Donatello, and Bernini. Across the piazza is the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo where we stand before Duccio’s Maestà masterpiece, regarded as the Sienese School’s finest work. Late this afternoon we return to the hotel for an evening and dinner at leisure.
Monday, Day 4 - The Ideal Renaissance Town of Pienza
Hotel Athena, Siena (B, L)
This morning we depart through the striking clay hills of the crete senesi arriving at the Benedictine abbey of Monte Oliveto Maggiore. Founded in 1313, the abbey is a remarkable contemplative paradise in the wilderness with colorful cloister frescoes by Renaissance masters Luca Signorelli and Sodoma. Lunch today is at a 15th-century villa overlooking the iconic cypress-tree-spotted hills of southern Tuscany as special guests of a delightful local aristocratic family. We continue on to Pienza, the small hometown of Pope Pius II, who had it redesigned by Bernardo Rossellino in the late 15th century as a sort of ideal Renaissance village. We enter Palazzo Piccolomini for breathtaking panoramas of the picturesque Val D’Orcia and to see its pure 15th-century interiors. Enjoy some time at leisure exploring the Renaissance streets of Pienza, filled with charming boutique shops and cafés, then return to our hotel in Siena for an evening and dinner at leisure.
Tuesday, Day 5 - Private Sienese Gardens
Hotel Athena, Siena (B, L)
This morning we are invited by one of Rome’s preeminent aristocratic families to their magnificent castle estate perched on top of a strategic hillside in the Montagnola woodlands outside Siena. Upon arrival we promenade through the formal gardens that surround the impressive, formidable turrets stemming from its ivy-covered façade, then tour the estate’s Renaissance chapel and reconstructed limonaia both designed by famous Renaissance architect Baldassare Peruzzi. We then depart for a historic villa owned by the Chigi family for a guided tour of the estate’s tiered gardens filled with fragrant wisteria, which are in full bloom during our visit. We enjoy an elegant luncheon featuring seasonal Tuscan flavors and, after coffee, talk with the owner about the revival of Renaissance garden practices and design in the 19th and 20th centuries. Early in the afternoon we return to our hotel, and the remainder of the day is at leisure.
Wednesday, Day 6 - Piero della Francesca in Arezzo
Hotel Athena, Siena (B, D)
Today we journey to the adjacent province of Arezzo for a day discovering the masterful paintings of early Renaissance innovator Piero della Francesca. Our first stop is the tiny hamlet of Monterchi for the chance to admire Piero’s shocking Madonna del Parto, one of the most powerful perspective paintings of the 15th century. We then move into Arezzo itself, one of Tuscany’s wealthiest art-filled cities. Though parts of Arezzo’s historic center were destroyed during World War II, fortunately Piero della Francesca’s work survives, most famously in the church of San Francesco where we view his outstanding fresco cycle, The Legend of the True Cross, completed in 1466. Other highlights in Arezzo include the Palazzo della Fraternità where we once again encounter Bernardino Rosselino and the Duomo with Piero della Francesca’s Magdalene. Enjoy lunch at leisure around the city’s Piazza Grande designed by Giorgio Vasari, then later visit the Casa di Vasari to see works by the artist and famous contemporary chronicler of Renaissance art history. We return to Siena for a casual dinner at a neighborhood trattoria.
Thursday, Day 7 - Hidden Masterworks of Siena and the Contradas
Hotel Athena, Siena (B, L)
We begin our second full day in Siena with an in-depth exploration of the history of the contradas, or historic neighborhoods of Siena. Our guide reveals the fascinating history of the Palio horse race steeped in centuries-old rivalries that are ever-present within the city walls. View baptismal fonts, chapels, and museums celebrating individual contradas. This afternoon our group is invited to dine exclusively with a noblewoman from a historic aristocratic family from Siena and notably the first female captain ever of a contrada. We learn about the history of the Palio and the different contradas dating back to medieval times. Afterward, walk to an unassuming medieval building where we meet with an artist in his studio who will demonstrate historic painting techniques and mediums used to restore works on wood panel as well as canvas. Enjoy the remainder of the day and dinner at leisure.
Friday, Day 8 - Villas and Wineries of the Chianti
Hotel Athena, Siena (B, D)
Our day in Chianti begins with an exploration of Badia a Coltibuono, the former abbey founded in the 11th century and expanded under the patronage of Lorenzo di Medici. The garden is an important example of Renaissance aromatic and medicinal gardens that appear in Renaissance landscapes and portraiture. Stop in the pretty market village of Greve in Chianti for an independent lunch. Heading back toward Siena we stop at picturesque vineyards owned by the same Sienese family who hosted us in their home a few days ago. A tour through the cantina is followed by a delicious high-end tasting of their Chianti and Super Tuscan wines. Finally we arrive at a magnificent baroque villa to meet our host, a nobleman who invites us to dine with him as we say arrivederci to Tuscany. Before we depart, we take a privileged tour through his art-filled home as he recounts fascinating familial history that ties into important political events of the 20th century.
Saturday, Day 9 - Departures for the U.S.
Take an early morning group transfer from the hotel to Florence Pertola Airport (FLR) for independent flights home.
Price and Details
Package Includes: Accommodations in hotels as outlined in the itinerary, based on double occupancy; breakfast daily, four (4) lunches, three (3) dinners including two glasses of wine at each dinner; and one (1) aperitif; leadership of Professor George Bent; services of an experienced ISDI Tour Manager; land transportation by deluxe air-conditioned motor coach; all sightseeing and admission charges as outlined in the itinerary; one group transfer upon arrival and one upon departure to the FLR airport; porterage of one piece of luggage per person at the hotels; bottled water during daily excursions, service charges, taxes, and basic gratuities for meals included in the itinerary; gratuities for guides and bus drivers. Complete pre-departure documentation and materials, including recommended reading list, destination information and luggage tags.
Our study leader, Professor George Bent, spent years living in Florence and still often conducts research in Tuscany’s capital, the “Cradle of the Renaissance.” He will lead this in-depth three- night exploration of Florence, a carefully planned combination of can’t-miss famous landmarks and secret cultural treasures both public and private. Your luxurious base in Florence is the five-star Hotel Lungarno, perfectly located next to the Ponte Vecchio. During your stay, discover the Uffizi Gallery, the Pitti Palace, and Michelangelo’s David – learning from Dr. Bent and expert local art historians all along the way. Beyond those classic sites, we will open the doors of many little-known gems: tiny chapels with great paintings by Lippi, Masaccio, and Ghirlandaio; studios of renowned traditional artisans; a museum of the Florentine Renaissance house; the lovely city garden of an extroverted princess; lunch with a local count at his stunning private villa in the hills overlooking Florence. Climb up to the picturesque Etruscan hill village of Fiesole for a delicious Tuscan dinner under the stars. Undoubtedly these three days will be a fantastic complement to the main tour whether you’ve been to Florence a dozen times or never at all!
Package Includes: Accommodations in hotels as outlined in the itinerary, based on double occupancy; breakfast daily, two (2) lunches, one (1) dinner, one (1) reception; leadership of Professor George Bent; services of an experienced ISDI Tour Manager; land transportation by deluxe air-conditioned motor coach; all sightseeing and admission charges as outlined in the itinerary; one group transfer upon arrival and one upon departure to the FLR airport; porterage of one piece of luggage per person at the hotels; bottled water during daily excursions, service charges, taxes, and basic gratuities for meals included in the itinerary; gratuities for guides and bus drivers. Complete pre-departure documentation and materials, including recommended reading list, and destination information.
The Fine Print
Deposit & Final Payment
A deposit of $1,000 per paying participant will be required to guarantee participation in the program. This may be paid by check, Visa or MasterCard. Final payment will be invoiced and is due on January 6, 2017. Final payment must be made by check payable to International Seminar Design, Inc. Registrations will be accepted beyond January 6, 2017 on a space-available basis.
International and U.S. domestic airfare are not included in the package cost.
For more information on Travel Insurance, please contact the W&L Traveller at the Washington and Lee University Office of Special Programs at (540) 458-8723.
Terms & Conditions
International Seminar Design, Inc. (“ISDI”) and Washington & Lee University reserve the right to cancel any tour prior to departure for any reason including insufficient numbers of participants, as well as the right to decline to accept or retain any person as a member of the tour at any time. If bookings fall below the minimum required, passengers will be advised of additional costs or itinerary alterations before departure date. All cancellations must be received in writing by ISDI, and charges are calculated as of the day notification is received in writing by ISDI. If a tour member cancels, the following scale of charges is incurred: There is a non-refundable administrative fee of $500 per person. The costs associated with any tickets purchased for planned activities (as indicated in the itinerary) are non-refundable. Written cancellation received by ISDI before or on January 6, 2017: full refund minus $500 per person administrative fee. Written cancellation received by ISDI on January 7, 2017 through February 28, 2017: 50% of total tour costs. Cancellations received on or after March 1, 2017: no refund. After the tour has commenced, it is not possible to issue any refunds. No refunds for any unused portion of the tour including, but not limited to, occasional missed meals or any missed sightseeing tours. Costs for promotion, staff, and other group expenses are not refundable. In the case of cancellation, substitutions are not acceptable. The tour cost is non-transferable. A package of cancellation, baggage, and medical insurance is strongly recommended.