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    The towers and terracotta roofs of Urbino

  • Overview Italy boasts some of Europe’s most extraordinary art, including the World Heritage-listed mosaics in Ravenna and Leonardo’s celebrated Last Supper in Milan. Many of these masterpieces, such as Piero della Francesca’s tiny Flagellation in Urbino, are set in remote but stunning locations, with panoramic views over the Italian countryside. This 15-day tour traces the development and artistic expression of Italy’s Renaissance courts, growing from small city-states to become major cultural centres. Local dukes – rising to power and wealth from modest circumstances – sought to express princely virtue through magnificent buildings and works of art. In Urbino, we survey enigmatic works by Piero della Francesca and witness the emergence of local boy Raphael. In Mantua, Mantegna, Alberti and Giulio Romano completed masterpieces of court painting and architecture, while in Milan Leonardo da Vinci embarked on some of his most ambitious projects. Ferrara, a lesser- known Renaissance centre, was at the forefront of Italy’s adoption of the Flemish style, and in Rimini the Italian reinvention of the classical past reaches an apogee in the Tempio Malatestiano. Such artistic patronage immortalised individuals like Federigo da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, and Sigismondo Malatesta, the original ‘soldier-scholars’ of the Renaissance, as well as the great dynasties of Gonzaga (Mantua), Este (Ferrara) and Sforza (Milan). The prestige, style and taste of these Renaissance courts – perfectly preserved in the provincial towns of northern Italy – would spread throughout Europe and become the standard by which elegance and gracious living were judged.

    Your tour leader Dr Kathleen Olive has more than 15 years’ experience leading tours to Italy. She has a PhD in Italian literature, regularly presents popular lectures and courses at the Sydney WEA, Nicholson Museum, and for the Australian Decorative and Fine Arts Society. Kathleen speaks fluent Italian.

    Kathleen has a specific interest in Italian culture of the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and in 2015 her critical edition of the Codex

    Rustici – a commonplace book compiled and illustrated by a 15th-century Florentine goldsmith – was published by Olschki. It was presented to Pope Francis I as an official gift on his first trip to Florence, and the book has subsequently been launched at the Uffizi Galleries, the Vatican Museums, and even at the Custodia della Terra Santa in Jerusalem! Kathleen has led tours exclusively for Academy Travel since 2008, to Italy, Spain, France, Turkey, the USA and, most recently, Japan.

    “Kathleen is an exceptional tour leader: intelligent, extremely knowledgeable, flexible, good humoured and eternally patient. She is most adept at managing the dynamics of a varied group of people, and at catering to the needs of individuals within it.”

    – Tour participant, Art Cities of Tuscany (January 2019)


    Tour dates: September 22 – October 6, 2021

    Tour leader: Dr Kathleen Olive

    Tour Price: $9,380 per person, twin share

    Single Supplement: $2,120 for sole use of double room

    Booking deposit: $1,000 per person

    Recommended airline: Emirates

    Maximum places: 20

    Itinerary: Bologna (4 nights) Urbino (3 nights), Mantua (4 nights), Milan (3 nights),

    Date published: June 10, 2020

    Enquiries and bookings

    For further information and to secure a place on this tour please contact Hannah Kleboe at Academy Travel on 9235 0023 or 1800 639 699 (outside Sydney) or email au

  • Tour Highlights

    LEONARDO DA VINCI IN MILAN Encounter the genius at work in Renaissance Milan, from our private visit of his experimental Last Supper, to his pensive Portrait of a musician. We examine the invention showcased in Leonardo’s Codex Atlanticus, now in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, and tour his recently rediscovered vineyard, bequeathed after Leonardo’s death in France to his beloved and problematic assistant, Salaì.

    FAIRYTALE URBINO Perched in the rolling, lush landscape of Le Marche, Urbino is a legend come to life. Small and perfectly preserved, it boasts a stunning Renaissance palace, a number of significant works by Piero della Francesca, and the jewel- box of Federigo’s studiolo (study) in inlaid woodwork. To walk its cobblestoned streets is to step back into the world of the Renaissance.

    MANTEGNA IN GONZAGA MANTUA Elegant Mantua brims with the art and architecture commissioned by its cultured patrons, the Gonzaga dynasty. Andrea Mantegna, uniting Renaissance classicism with a northern sensitivity to colour and detail, was the family’s most astute portraitist. His frescoes in the Palazzo Ducale’s Camera degli Sposi celebrate their magnificence in the 15th century – before the dynasty’s long and spectacular decline.

    THE GASTRONOMY OF NORTHERN ITALY Northern Italy is home to some of Italy’s most vibrant food cultures, with varying terrain – the flat plains of the Po delta, the mountains of Le Marche – ensuring a diverse gastronomy and wide selection of local wines. In Bologna, Urbino and near Parma, we meet passionate providores and restauranteurs, who introduce us to the food heritage of these regions.

    UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE IN RAVENNA Ravenna, variously capital of the Western Roman Empire, the Ostrogothic kingdom of Italy and a Byzantine exarchate, preserves Western Europe’s most stunning and complete Roman mosaics. From Sant’Apollinare in Classe’s aqueous light, to imperial splendour in San Vitale and the glowing intimacy of the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, the rich colours and glittering gold of Ravenna’s monuments are astounding.

  • Detailed itinerary Included meals are shown with the symbols B, L and D.

    Wednesday 22 September Arrival

    Your tour leader, Dr Kathleen Olive, will meet the group in the hotel lobby at 5.00pm, and there will be a light dinner in a restaurant near the hotel after a tour briefing and orientation stroll. Overnight Bologna (D)

    Thursday 23 September Bologna in the Middle Ages Today we explore the medieval and Renaissance heritage of Bologna, witnessing the transition between styles in the city’s centro storico, from the splendid complex of the Sette Chiese based on Jerusalem’s Holy Sepulchre, to the medieval theology of San Petronio’s frescoes and the drama of Christ’s Passion in Santa Maria della Vita’s famed terracotta sculptures. After lunch at leisure, there is the option to continue to San Giacomo Maggiore, in the university district, where we see how rulers in less-important centres, such as Bologna’s Bentivoglio family, used artists like Lorenzo Costa to strengthen their local profile through explicit reference to their grander connections in Ferrara and Milan. This evening we have dinner in one of Bologna’s excellent restaurants. Overnight Bologna (B, D) Friday 24 September “Dark Age” Glory in Ravenna

    Today we travel to Ravenna, capital of the Byzantine Empire in Italy from the 5th to 8th centuries AD. The churches and baptisteries of this town are decorated with the finest Late Roman mosaics, gorgeous compositions reflecting a variety of religious and imperial themes, and we spend a full day exploring their contexts. We return to Bologna in the late afternoon, and the evening is at leisure. Overnight Bologna (B)

    Saturday 25 September In Modena

    Today we make the short journey to Modena, once a trading outpost on a significant medieval road and the eventual base of Ferrara’s Este dynasty. Our walking tour of the historic centre includes the cathedral, where we survey Wiligelmus’s sculptural reliefs on its façade, one of Romanesque art’s most important achievements, and also enjoy a tasting of the certified

    Above: Bologna’s elegant portici have protected citizens from sun and rain for centuries Below: the Wise Men – with Phrygian caps and eastern trousers! – bring gifts to Christ, in 6th-century Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna

    Tour start & finish time

    The tour begins at 5.00pm in the lobby of our hotel in Bologna, on Wednesday 22 September.

    The tour concludes after breakfast in our hotel in Milan, on Wednesday 6 October.

  • local product: balsamic vinegar! After lunch in a fine restaurant, we return to Bologna. The later afternoon is at leisure. Overnight Bologna (B, L, balsamic vinegar tasting)

    Sunday 26 September On the Via Emilia

    Today we follow an ancient Roman road from Bologna to the Adriatic, stopping in the small town of Cesena along the way to tour an extraordinary monument of the Italian Renaissance. Cesena, now a sleepy provincial town, is part of the region known as the Romagna, hotly contested in the Renaissance by the papacy (particularly Alexander VI’s son, Cesare Borgia) and local lords from the Malatesta and Montefeltro dynasties. In Cesena, the Biblioteca Malatestiana is an extraordinary monument to the humanism of these provincial figures. After visiting the library, we continue to Urbino where we enjoy a group meal near our hotel. (B, D)

    Monday 27 September The Republic of San Marino