Location: From Ferrara to Padua, arrival by bus or flight to Bologna and departure from Venice or Padua.
Tour Type: Art lovers’ journey with customized guided tours.
Activities: 6-day tour with private services, high-profile cultural visits.
Pace: Fast-paced, not suitable for people with disabilities or mobility difficulties.
Best Season: All year round, excluding the hottest summer months.
A journey through some of the masterpieces by Giotto, Palladio, Mantegna, from the Byzantine era to the Renaissance passing through the Middle Ages, among the artistic and architectural beauties of the UNESCO heritage. You will be accompanied by our expert guide who will be able to enthuse you during the visits, enriching you with lots of information and anecdotes.
Arrival at Bologna airport and transfer by private bus to Ferrara. Check-in at the hotel, welcome dinner and overnight stay in Ferrara.
After breakfast at the hotel, meet with the local guide for a full day of visits to Ferrara, the ancient capital of the Estense dynasty and today a UNESCO World Heritage site. 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 right in the city center, and surrounded by a moat. The castle was built in 1385 to protect the Este family, although many members of the family were imprisoned and executed here.
The underground dungeons housed Ferrante and Giulio d’Este for decades, who planned to overthrow Alfonso I d’Este. The castle hosts a vast collection of art from the 15th and 16th centuries, including the frescoes of Camillo, Cesare, and Sebastiano Filippi. We will also visit the impressive Cathedral of San Giorgio and the Cathedral Museum, housed in the Church of San Romano.
The cathedral, dating back to the 12th century, is a symbol of Romanesque-Gothic architecture, and the detailed facade depicts the Last Judgment. The cathedral museum has a wonderful collection of marble reliefs of the “Fates of the Months” and the painted organ panels by Tura.
Free time for lunch.
In the afternoon, we will visit the Palazzo dei Diamanti, a magnificent palace named after the diamond patterns on its facade and containing several art collections. Located on the first floor of the palace, 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 the Palazzo Schifanoia, the summer residence of the Este family, built in 1385. The most famous room in the palace is the “Room of the Months,” whose frescoes depict scenes from every month of the year.
Free evening and overnight stay.
After breakfast at the hotel, depart for 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, dating back to 548 and built by Giulianus Argentarius. The basilica houses examples of early Christian Italian art together with many mosaics adorned with notable Eastern influence. The basilica also boasts frescoes by Caféozzi and Gandolfi of Bologna.
We then continue towards the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, which contains the city’s earliest mural mosaics. Galla Placidia (386-452) was the sister of the Roman emperor Honorius, who transferred the Western Empire from Milan to Ravenna. This Latin cross-shaped mausoleum was built in honor of her sister.
The exterior is notably simple and dark in stark contrast to the sumptuous and decorated interior, which is covered by wonderful mosaics depicting the victory of life over death. Our final visit will be the extraordinary Domus of the Stone Carpets, which are located 3 meters below street level. This 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 Ferrara after breakfast and travel to Mantua, which was one of the largest Renaissance courts in Europe. The Mantua we see today is a pleasant provincial city 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 center, with its three interconnected squares and its porticoed palaces, has changed little, and the vast Ducal Palace still gives a vivid idea of the wealth of the Gonzaga court. We will explore the sumptuous Ducal Palace, which covers the entire northeast corner of the city and incorporates the 14th-century fortress of the Castello di San Giorgio and a basilica. It is one of Italy’s largest museum complexes.
The palace houses many fundamental works of art, including a portrait of the ducal family by Rubens and an unfinished series of 15th-century frescoes by Pisanello, depicting 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 suburban villa from the early 16th century 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 Italian 16th-century architecture, and Giulio also executed many of the frescoes that adorn the sumptuous interior. Art and architecture blend to produce stunning effects such as those of the frescoed Room of the Giants and the Chamber of Psyche, and as a result, the palace is considered among the most important architectural expressions of Mannerism. We continue by bus to Vicenza, where we will spend the last 2 nights.
Dinner and overnight stay in Vicenza.
After breakfast, we will meet our local guide for a morning of visits in Vicenza – the great city of Palladio, celebrated worldwide for its splendid and varied architecture. We will begin with a private visit to Palazzo Thiene, originally designed for Marcantonio and Adriano Thiene, by Giulio Romano, the 16th-century villa was revised during construction by Andrea Palladio and displays features of both architects.
Next, we will take a walking tour of the city, during which we will visit the Olympic Theatre, a fascinating structure representing a square and streets in perfect perspective. The Olympic Theatre is the oldest surviving covered theatre in Europe, designed by Palladio in 1579 for the Olympic Academy of Vicenza to stage theatrical performances.
This was Palladio’s final project, which was inaugurated immediately after his death, with a performance of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex. Perfectly preserved, the semi-circular covered theatre recalls the design of ancient Greek venues. Completed by his pupil, the theatre is a remarkable structure largely constructed 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 the Crown of Christ. 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, known as “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. Immediately acclaimed for the way the villa blends with its surroundings, it has been widely imitated with copies as far 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 Palladian villas established a lasting tradition. The wall next to the villa is topped with figures of dwarfs, which give the building its name “ai Nani”.
Return to the hotel, free evening and overnight stay.
After breakfast, we will transfer by bus to Padua. Guided tour of the city with the Scrovegni Chapel, one of the most famous works of Giotto. Enrico Scrovegni, the Paduan patron of the artist, was extremely rich and ambitious, and in 1300 he purchased the area of the Arena to build a palace with a chapel. Giotto painted a series 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 grand scene, The Last Judgment.
We will also take a walking tour of the historic center, during which we will visit the Basilica of Saint Anthony (‘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 Saint Anthony was moved and buried at 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 Saint James by 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 the early works of Titian Vecellio.
Farewell lunch at a typical restaurant, before departing to Venice airport for the return flight.