Italian Renaissance Tour: Art, Architecture & Landscape

A 9 day trip to Italy 
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The principles of the Renaissance continue to thrive in the vibrant marble palaces of Venice and the breathtaking colors of Giotto’s frescoes that changed the idea of art in the Western World. History lives and breathes in the in the artistry of the preserved castles and decadent churches, enchanting glassworks, and inspiring landscapes. Your custom tailored tour will immerse you in the elegance of the Renaissance and the grandeur of the old noble families of Venice to Florence to let you bask in the decadent past, embrace the contemporary luxury, and discover all of the hidden pleasures between. 

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General Information

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Detailed Itinerary

Places Visited 

Venice, Murano, Burano, Torcello, Torri del Benaco, Lake Garda, Padua, Verona, Ferrara, Mantua, Florence 

Departure Dates 

Departure dates are flexible and customizable for private departures.

Detailed Itinerary 

Day 1: Venice – Arrive in Venice and Enjoy a Remarkable Grand Canal Tour

Venice conjures up images of moored gondolas as they float alongside cobblestone streets lined with café tables. Bulbous domes and marble palaces add to the luster of the imperial atmosphere as mosaics, frescoes, and imaginative glass decorates the architecture. Your flight will land at Marco Polo Airport where your private transfer will await your arrival. Step onto the shores of the Grand Canal to find gondolas and vaporettos cruising along the two and a half mile long waterway, which continues to act as the city’s main boulevard.

The creamy yellow and green hues of Byzantine and Romanesque structures lead to the brilliant red and white marble facades of the Renaissance palaces. Board your private boat for an introductory exploration of the Grand Canal and your eyes will open to the beauty of the architecture and the splendid audacity of constructing a city on a lagoon.  The continued traditions of culture are connected to Italy as a whole, yet are distinctively Venetian. Old women open their shutters and watch the boats pass down the river as craftsmen replace wooden mooring piles. Church steps lead down to the edge of the canal to offer entrances directly to boats from the water.

The gorgeous Palazzo Corner della Ca’Grande was built in the mid 16th-century with a High Renaissance design. The structure was constructed with the intent of impressing passersby as the architect lined the first floor with Ionic columns, and used Corinthian columns to decorate the upper story. Your introduction to the wonders of Venice begin with the lavish architecture and continue in the comforts of your accommodation, which was once an opulent palace with its own private dock to the canals.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, dinner

Day 2: Venice – Discover Renaissance Artistry on a Half-Day Guided Tour

The contemporary life of Venice connects to the city’s common roots in the Rialto Market. Vendors fill their stalls with produce grown on the farming island of Sant’Erasmo. The red and purple hues of radicchio contrast with the deep green of baby artichokes. Marble plaques set into the buildings show regulations crafted centuries ago as the fish market brims with locals in search of goods for dinner. Fishermen highlight their fresh, locally caught seafood, from octopus to squid. After breakfast, your guide will meet you at the hotel and escort you along the cobbled lanes of the city to pass through the Rialto Market, and through neighborhoods of typical Venetian homes erected between the 14th and 16th-centuries, and into the heart of St. Mark’s Square.

The piazza remains a stalwart of communal Venice and once stood at the heart of religious and civil life. Gorgeous arcades frame the piazza on three sides and guide your eyes to the Basilica of San Marco. The Byzantine domes and gilded arches create a riot of color as the foundations of the church were laid in the 9th-century. The nave and chapels glow with radiant gilded mosaics that encompass nearly 45,640 square feet. The delicate pearled Istrian pillars of the Doge’s Palace supports the upper façade that is crafted with rosy Veronese marble that looks like beautiful latticework.

After you explore the iconic architecture and artwork of St. Mark’s Square, your guide will lead you to the Palazzo Mocenigo, a palace erected in the Gothic style that contains a textile and costume museum. Exhibits derive from artifacts of the Venetian Republic dating back to early 15th-century and the fabrics, garments, furnishings, and accessories provide a rare glimpse into the lavish lifestyle and personal tastes of the times. For a unique full-sensory excursion, you can enter into the newer galleries dedicated to perfume and the role Venice has played in the tradition of accentuating fragrance.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 3: Venice – Visit the Stunning Islands of Burano, Murano, and Torcello

Contemporary Venice is bursting with cafes and the aroma of roasted beans from all around the world and pay tribute to the city’s history as a center for international trade. The scent of rich and refreshing coffee spills out onto the streets in the morning. After breakfast, you will step onto the hotel’s dock to meet your private guide through the islands of Burano, Murano, and Torcello.

The island of Murano is famous for its art and has specialized in glassblowing since the 13th-century. The Venetian government moved the kilns to Murano, along with the craftsmen, to keep the city safe from fires. You will travel along the Rio dei Vetrai, a small canal that bisects the island. A stone-arched bridge connects the narrow cobbled streets, and the shops and studios showcase the island’s art in the windows, crafting decadent displays out of glass figurines, plates, and vases. Local produce vendors fill their boats with bananas and oranges to sell the fruit along the canal.

Wander through the history of glassmaking and glassware in the region at the Palazzo Giustiniani, home to the Museo del Vetro. The galleries exhibit more than 4,000 pieces of glassware collectively, including ancient vials from Rome and the styles, shapes and colors found through the ages. The first recorded mirror crafted in Murano dates to the 1360s. You will make your way to a traditional glassblower workshop for a demonstration in the once coveted techniques of mirror making, from crafting the glass to decorating its edges and turning the glass into a reflective surface.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 4: Torri del Benaco – Explore Padua and Verona en route to Lake Garda

The gilded statue of the archangel Gabriel adorns the bronze pyramidal spire of St. Mark’s Campanile. The bell tower reaches a height of more than 320 feet, to make the figure visible from around the streets of Venice. In the morning, you will find the familiar and inviting aroma of fresh espresso drifting out of the traditional and more contemporary cafes of the city. Your private transfer will meet you at the hotel dock and lead you away from the captivating lagoon en route to the enchanting shores of Lake Garda.

You first stop will be in the city of Padua, known for its 13th-century university and the Renaissance majesty of the piazzas. Your guide will lead you through the opulence of the often-overlooked city as the historic cobblestone streets contrast with the youthful ambiance lent by the student population. Piazza dei Signori stands out with the architecture of the early Renaissance embodied in the late 15th-century edifice of the Loggia del Consiglio. Walking along the lively streets of the city tells as much about the culture and history of Padua as any museum could.

The 13th-century Palazzo Bo, attached to the campus of the University, looks over the banks of the Brenta River. Your guide will lead you to the 14th-century Cappella degli Scrovegni, a private chapel patronized by the Scrovegni family, whose paterfamilias commissioned Giotto to decorate the interior. The artist draped the walls with frescoes that depict the life of Mary and Jesus and humanizes the heavenly figures with natural characteristics. The poet Dante and artist da Vinci attribute Giotto and his paintings in the chapel as the beginning of an artistic renaissance.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 5: Torri del Benaco – Revel in Artistic Beauty and Landscape at Lake Garda

The 14th-century Scaligero castle rises over the lapping water of Lake Garda a the cool morning air fills with the scent of pine and oak trees. The foothills of the Alps rise in the north, and the hills of Emilia Romagna roll to the south. The 10th-century walls of the city continue to surround the historical town center as boats linger in the small harbor and ivy drapes across the facades of 16th-century palaces that line Corso Dante. After breakfast, venture next to the shores of the lake to discover the splendors of the water with a surface area of more than 140 square miles. The town of Sirmione has roots in the Bronze Age and dates back to the 18th-century BC.

The fortifications around town were erected in the 4th-century AD and then embellished by the castle constructed in the 15th-century under the patronage of the Scaligeri family. The town stands at the edge of a thin peninsula that juts out into the lake, which offers a terrific panorama of the shores that face towards the Alps. The fresh water laps against the smoothed pebbles of the beach and you can walk along the battlements of the castle to immerse yourself in the fairytale décor. However, the looming purpose of the edifice is never far from your mind as you notice the walls that reach into the lake for more than half a mile to offer both you and the past sentries a spectacular view.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 6: Ferrara – Visit the Town of Mantua and Tour the History of Ferrara 

At breakfast, you can listen to the sounds of the water splashing against the pebbled shores of the Torri del Benaco. The breeze carries the fresh scent of the mountains, which blends with the herbaceous aroma of the vineyards on the southern hills. After your meal, your private transfer will escort you southeast towards the city of Ferrara with a stop en route in the majestic town of Mantua. Ducal palaces shape the atmosphere, accentuated by serene piazzas paved with cobblestone. Etruscans settled in the area in the 10th-century BC, and Verdi places his celebrated opera Rigoletto inside the stunning streets. The city maintains its connection to its Renaissance grandeur once cultivated by the ruling Gonzaga family.

Artificial lakes crafted in the 12th-century encircle the city on three sides and what was once used as a defense system now adds to the luster of the serene landscape. Palazzo Te was erected in the 16th-century and maintains stunning frescoes filled with encoded symbols as crafted by Raphael’s apprentice, Romano. The trompe l’oeil technique steps beyond the classical representation of the world and into a unique distortion of perspectives to place the spectator inside the artwork. The Chamber of Giants includes a large dome draped in frescoes, and each painting depicts a rebellious giant attempting to claw to the top of Mt. Olympus. Once again, the grand style places you in the action of the painting as you watch the gods on Olympus stare back at you.

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 7: Florence – Venture to Florence for an Exploration of the Renaissance

Wake up in the grandeur of Ferrara, home to the magnificent Castello Estense, a historical center that embodies the principles of the Italian enlightenment. The preserved palaces and gardens whisk visitors and locals back in time to the power and wealth of the noble families who resided in the Po Valley. The brick fortress of Castello Estense was erected in the late 14th-century to protect the ruling family from civil unrest as the moat offered an added layer of security amidst the walls and towers. The rosy bricks of the lower story, which supports the recessed marble arches that adorn the façade of the cathedral, combine Romanesque architecture of the 12th-century with an early Gothic design of the 16th-century.

The Palazzo dei Diamanti contains 8,500 faceted marble blocks along the exterior and fashion a unique texture to the façade as the interior exhibits artwork that focused on painters between the 13th and 17th-centuries. After discovering Ferrara, your private transfer will escort you to the Renaissance city of Florence, which proudly embodies the Renaissance in the art and architecture of the historical city center. You will become acquainted with the cobbled streets during a walking tour and see Piazza della Signoria, the political heart of the city, and the Palazzo Vecchio, which towers over the edge of the square adjacent to the Loggia dei Lanzi, a 14th-century arcade that exhibits the stunning sculptures of Greek mythology. 

What’s Included: accommodation, transfer, tour, breakfast

Day 8: Florence – Delight in an Extra Day of Florentine Renaissance Immersion

The shops along the Ponte Vecchio, the oldest bridge in the city, open their doors in the morning and the gold and silversmiths highlight their jewelry selections in their gleaming window displays. The iconic image of the city, the Ponte Vecchio was erected in the 14th-century and was the only bridge to remain after the Nazi occupation in World War II. The colorful edifice reflects in the Arno River’s calm waters as the city goes about daily life, and your guide will meet you at the hotel to lead you through the splendors of the city, beginning with the Uffizi Gallery, which is secretly connected to the Ponte Vecchio. The edifice was designed as the magistrates’ offices under the control of the Medici family in the 16th-century.

The narrow, exterior gallery leads to the banks of the Arno River and offers a glimpse of the Classical sculptures that depict famous Florentines. The polished marble floors welcome you to the interior and lead to a grand staircase that guides you to the second-story hall. The sunlight pours through the windows and glints against the gilded window frames, and the first rooms of the museum are organized with paintings in order of chronology, with the latter rooms organized by the artistic school, region, and country. Having visited the chapel in Padua, your guide will lead you to another of Giotto’s work, Madonna Enthroned, painted in the 14th-century, to reconnect with the realistic approach that inspired artists across the Western World.

The paintings will continue to captivate you, from Botticelli’s Birth of Venus to Michelangelo’s Holy Family. Your guide will lead you through the secret passage known as the Vasari Corridor. The hall led out of the Uffizi, over the Ponte Vecchio, and into the Palazzo Pitti on the opposite banks of the Arno River. 16th and 17th-century paintings, many of which are artist self-portraits, hang on the walls. The seclusion and exclusive atmosphere of the gallery will turn intrigue into charm as you come upon the hidden view of the Church of Santa Felicita.

What’s Included: accommodation, tour, breakfast

Day 9: Florence – Depart for Home

The antique homes and towering palazzos along the Via dei Calzaiuoli hide the quiet beauty of the Bargello Palace. The structure was erected in the 13th-century and acted as the home of the city’s court and prison body in the 16th-century. Today the palace hosts the Bargello Museum, the first of Italy’s national museums outside the Vatican. Three arcades frame the courtyard with round arches and octagonal columns as a stairway borders the fourth side of the courtyard for entry to the stunning galleries, along with an aerial view of the coats-of-arms and pillars that surround you, ready for your wandering and enjoyment.

The elegance and opulence of Florence, along with the Renaissance cities of Italy, will always have more to enchant you.  As you are ready, your private transfer will meet you at your hotel ready to escort you to Florence Airport for your flight home.

What’s Included: breakfast, transfer

Price

Price 

Please inquire for a custom quote. The price is customized based on final hotel choices, travel dates, and other custom preferences.