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Artistic Treasures of Northern Italy

A 5-day cultural itinerary from Emilia
Romagna to Veneto


Arrival at Bologna airport and transfer by private bus to Ferrara. Check-in at the hotel, welcome dinner and overnight in Ferrara.


After breakfast at the hotel, meeting with the local guide for a full day of visits to Ferrara, the ancient capital of the Este dynasty, and today a UNESCO city.

Ferrara has a rich history of art and architecture, and is often referred to as the “first modern city in Europe”, thanks to its unique urban structure.

Our morning will begin at the magnificent and imposing medieval fortress, the Castello Estense, located exactly in the center of the city, and surrounded by a moat. The castle was built in 1385 to protect the Este family, although many family members were imprisoned and executed here.

The dungeons housed Ferrante and Giulio d’Este for decades, who planned to overthrow Alfonso I d’Este. The castle houses a large collection of 15th and 16th century art, including frescoes by Camillo, Cesare and Sebastiano Filippi. We will also visit the suggestive Cathedral of San Giorgio and the Museo del Duomo, housed in the Church of San Romano.

The cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century, is a symbol of Romanesque-Gothic architecture, and the detailed façade depicts the Last Judgment. The cathedral museum has a wonderful collection of marble reliefs of the Labors of the Months and organ doors painted by Tura.

Free time for lunch.

In the afternoon we will visit the Palazzo dei Diamanti, a magnificent palace that takes its name from the diamond motifs on its facade and contains several art collections. Located on the first floor of the building, the Pinacoteca Nazionale houses an important collection of Renaissance works from the schools of Ferrara and Bologna from the Middle Ages to the 18th century. There is also a modern and contemporary art collection, and a gallery that tells the story of the Risorgimento and the Resistance.

Our final visit will be Palazzo Schifanoia, the summer residence of the Este family, built in 1385. The most famous room in the palace is the “Sala dei Mesi”, whose frescoes depict scenes from each month of the year.

Free evening and overnight.


After breakfast at the hotel, departure to Ravenna, the ancient capital of Byzantine Italy, famous for its wealth of artistic treasures and magnificent mosaics, which will be the main focus of today’s visits. Many of the monuments we will see are listed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. Our first visit of the morning will be the octagonal Basilica of San Vitale, which dates back to 548 and was built by Giulianus Argentarius. The basilica houses examples of early Christian Italian art along with many ornate mosaics with considerable oriental influence. The basilica also boasts frescoes by Caféozzi and Gandolfi of Bologna.

We then continue towards the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, which contains the first wall mosaics of the city. Galla Placidia (386-452) was the sister of the Roman emperor Honorius, who moved the Western Empire from Milan to Ravenna. This Latin cross mausoleum was built in honor of her sister.

The exterior is remarkably plain and gloomy in stark comparison with the lavish and ornate interior, which is covered in beautiful mosaics representing the victory of life over death. Our final visit will be the extraordinary Domus dei Carpets di Pietra, which are located 3 meters below street level. It is a magnificent collection of 14 highly decorative mosaics from the 5th and 6th centuries from a Byzantine palace.

Return to Ferrara in the late afternoon, free evening and overnight stay.


This morning we will leave the hotel in Ferarara after breakfast and travel to Mantua which was one of the greatest Renaissance courts in Europe. The Mantua we see today is a pleasant provincial town surrounded on three sides by lakes. Ruled by the Gonzaga family from 1328 to 1708, the city was at the height of its power and influence in the 16th and early 17th centuries.

The historic centre, with its three interconnected squares and porticoed palaces, has changed little, and the vast Palazzo Ducale still gives a vivid idea of the wealth of the Gonzaga court. We will explore the lavish Palazzo Ducale, which covers the entire north-east corner of the city and incorporates the 14th-century fortress of Castello di San Giorgio and a basilica. It is one of the largest museum complexes in Italy.

The palace houses many seminal works of art, including a portrait of the ducal family by Rubens and an unfinished series of 15th-century frescoes by Pisanello, depicting the Arthurian legends. There are also superb frescoes by Mantegna and a delightful trompe l’oeil ceiling.

Free time for lunch.

This afternoon we will visit the Palazzo Te, a grand early 16th century suburban villa designed by Giulio Romano for Duke Federico Gonzaga II as a base from which the Gonzaga family could explore the surrounding countryside. The Palazzo remains one of the best-preserved examples of 16th-century Italian architecture, and Giulio also executed many of the frescoes that adorn the lavish interior. The works of art and the architecture merge to produce surprising effects such as those of the frescoed Sala dei Giganti and the Camera di Psiche, and consequently the palace is considered among the most important architectural expressions of Mannerism. We continue by bus to Vicenza, where we will stay for the last 2 nights.

Dinner and overnight in Vicenza.


After breakfast, we will meet our local guide for a morning of sightseeing in Vicenza – the great city of Palladio, celebrated worldwide for its splendid and varied architecture. We will start with a private visit of Palazzo Thiene, originally designed for Marcantonio and Adriano Thiene, by Giulio Romano, the 16th century villa was revised during construction by Andrea Palladio and shows characteristics of both architects.

Following, walking tour of the city, during which we will visit the Teatro Olimpico, a fascinating structure that represents a square and streets in perfect perspective. The Teatro Olimpico is the oldest surviving covered theater in Europe, designed by Palladio in 1579 for the Accademia Olimpica in Vicenza to stage plays.

This was Palladio’s last project, which was inaugurated soon after his death, with a performance of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. Perfectly preserved, the semi-circular covered theater recalls the design of ancient Greek places. Completed by his pupil, the theater is a substantial structure built largely of wood and plaster and painted to give the appearance of marble.

We will also visit the Gothic church of Santa Corona, which was built in the mid-13th century to house a thorn from Christ’s crown. The church displays several important works of art, including Bellini’s Baptism of Christ and Veronese’s Adoration of the Magi.

Free time for lunch.

In the afternoon we will visit Villa Capra and Villa Valmarana ai Nani. Villa Capra called “La Rotonda”, one of Palladio’s masterpieces, was built as a belvedere overlooking the city. This perfectly symmetrical villa is the epitome of Palladian architecture. A pleasant contrast exists between the white walls, terracotta tiles and green lawns. Instantly acclaimed for the way the villa blends into its surroundings, it was much imitated with copies as far away as St Petersburg, London and Delhi.

From La Rotonda we will travel the short distance to the seventeenth-century Villa Valmarana ai Nani, whose interiors are frescoed by Tiepolo and his son Giandomenico. The villa is a perfect example of how Palladio’s villas established an enduring tradition. The wall alongside the villa is surmounted by figures of dwarfs, which give the building its name “ai Nani”.

Return to the hotel, free evening and overnight.


After breakfast, we will transfer by bus to Padua. Guided tour of the city with the Scrovegni Chapel, one of Giotto’s most famous works. Enrico Scrovegni, the artist’s Paduan sponsor, was extremely wealthy and ambitious, and in 1300 he bought the Arena area to build a palace with a chapel. Giotto painted a number of frescoes, including Scenes from the Life of Joachim, Scenes from the Life of the Virgin, and Scenes from the Life of Christ. On the back wall, the Florentine artist also painted a single grandiose scene, The Final Judgment.

We will also do a walking tour of the historic centre, during which we will also visit the Basilica of Sant’Antonio (‘Il Santo’). The construction of the basilica, in the shape of a Latin cross, began shortly after 1232 and the project was completed in 1263 when the body of St. Anthony was translated and buried in the center of the Latin cross in front of the high altar. The oldest works in the basilica are the Passion of Altichiero and the Life of San Giacomo di Avanzo. Adjacent to the Basilica is the Scuola del Santo, flanked by the Oratory of San Giorgio. The Scuola del Santo has several 16th-century frescoes, including early works by Tiziano Vecellio.

Farewell lunch in a typical restaurant, before leaving for the Venice airport for the return flight.

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