Experience the rich tapestry of Italian culture in a journey like no other with our meticulously curated art tours of Tuscany and Umbria. Tuscany, the cradle of Renaissance, arguably one of the most influential eras in Western Civilization, lies at the heart of Italy.
It’s in this remarkable region where art, architecture, religion, and politics converged, giving birth to a timeless cultural legacy that continues to inspire and fascinate.
Embark on a memorable 12-day expedition tracing the evolution of art and architecture in the evocative landscapes of Tuscany and Umbria. Our Tuscany and Umbria tour will transport you to an epoch of grandeur and refinement.
Our journey is led by none other than Professor William R. Cook, renowned academic and sought-after lecturer for ‘The Great Courses’. His insightful commentary and deep knowledge will enrich your understanding of the timeless treasures found in these regions.
Our tour commences in the iconic cities of Florence, Siena, and Assisi, which are brimming with architectural and artistic masterpieces. From the tranquil corridors of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence to the serene Basilica of Saint Francis in Assisi, every location is a testament to the artistic prowess of the past.
The expedition doesn’t end there. We will also be venturing to charming hilltop towns like San Gimignano, Spoleto, and Orvieto, among others. These places, steeped in history and culture, are like frozen snapshots of an era gone by, yet they still vibrate with the hum of contemporary Italian life.
Join our art tour of Tuscany and Umbria for an intimate group tour (max. 14 guests), that guarantees a personalized experience. Together, let’s retrace the history of art and culture in these remarkable regions, on a journey that promises to be as enlightening as it is unforgettable.
If you have any questions, please get in touch.
Depart on a flight bound for Italy
Arrive into Florence, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In the evening, enjoy a walking tour before heading out to our Welcome Dinner. Overnight for four nights at an elegant, centrally located hotel. (D)
Begin today in the heart of Florence with a visit to the famed Galleria degli Uffizi. This 16th century palace once housed government offices but is now home to the world’s greatest collection of Renaissance art. Savor this opportunity to admire Botticelli’s ‘The Birth of Venus’, Michelangelo’s ‘Holy Family’, da Vinci’s ‘Adoration of the Magi’ and Raphael’s ‘Madonna and the Goldfinch’ and many more. Next, we peek at the Vasari Corridor, built on the order of Grand Duke Cosimo de’ Medici so that he could pass from the palace to his government offices without being exposed to the threat of the public. Continue through the Piazza della Signoria to the Galleria dell’Accademia where we take in Michelangelo’s David along with many other impressive Renaissance sculptures and paintings. This evening dinner is on our own. (B/L)
This morning venture into the Tuscan countryside to the small village of Sant’Andrea a Percussina to visit the picturesque Villa Machiavelli. It is here that Machiavelli wrote his treatise ‘The Prince’. In the Osteria of the Albergaccio, where Machiavelli spent much of his time, we enjoy a lunch of traditional Tuscan fare. Return to Florence beginning at the Basilica di Santa Croce. The largest Franciscan church in the world, it is also the burial place of many illustrious Italians including Michelangelo, Galileo and Machiavelli. Next, examine the many historical layers of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. Originally begun in the 13th century in the Gothic style of Arnolfo di Cambio, the structure was not completed until the 15th century with the placement of the dome engineered by Brunelleschi. The façade, however, was decorated during the Gothic revival of the 19th century. Also view the Battistero di San Giovanni and the Campanile di Giotto. These three structures make up a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Continue on to the Loggia del Bigallo a late Gothic structure built in the mid 14th century. We conclude the day at San Martino del Vescovo the parish church of the Aligheri and Donati families constructed in the 986 AD. The walls are decorated with breathtaking frescos by Ghirlandaio. (B/L/D)
Today we delve further into the ecclesiastic architectural wonders of Florence. Start at the Convent of San Marco which now houses the Museo Nazionale di San Marco. With an entranceway frescoed by Bernardino Poccetti, this unique museum boasts a wide collection of the works of Fra Angelico including ‘Deposition’. There are also a great number of small frescos by the artist and his assistants in the monastic cells within the complex. Next, we proceed to Sant’Apollonia. Once a Benedictine convent, the structure has been converted into an art museum. Here we view the Andrea del Castagno’s breathtaking fresco, ‘The Last Supper’. We continue on to the Basilica della Santissima Annunziata. The interior is of Baroque design dating to the mid 17th century. Move on to Brunelleschi’s Ospedale degli Innocenti. More than an architectural milestone, within this structure infants and children have been cared for for more than five centuries. Not far is the Gothic Basilica di Santa Maria Novella. Building of this Dominican church began around 1246 and was completed in the mid-14th century. Next we visit one of the first examples of Baroque architecture to penetrate this iconic Renaissance city, the Franciscan Chiesa di San Salvatore di Ognissanti. The neighboring Basilica di Santa Trinita is known for its Sassetti Chapel which contains impressive frescos by Ghirlandaio which date to the 15th century. Continue on to the Chiesa di Orsanmichele, the exterior of which presents fourteen external niches which house intricate sculptures, all produced by local guilds. Basilica di Santa Maria del Carmine home to the Cappella Brancacci which has been pinpointed as the starting point of the new Renaissance style painting, evidenced by the frescos housed within. We also see the Basilica di Santo Spirito designed by Brunelleschi and constructed by his followers after his death. This church displays a large fresco portraying the crucifixion over the last supper and is one of the rare examples of late Gothic art which can still be seen in Florence. We conclude the day at the Basilica di San Miniato al Monte. San Miniato is recognized as the first Christian martyr of the city. He was an Armenian prince serving the Roman army. The Emperor ordered him thrown to the beasts; the panther, however, refused to devour him. He was subsequently beheaded and is said to have picked up his head, crossed the Arno and walked up the hill to his hermitage. A shrine was constructed on this spot, followed by a chapel. Here we listen to mesmerizing Gregorian Chants. Tonight dinner is on our own. (B/L)
This morning we venture once again into the Tuscan countryside, this time to San Gimignano. In the historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, visit the Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta. Here we see fresco cycles which include works by the Renaissance artists Ghirlandaio and Taddeo di Bartolo amongst many others. Within the church we find the Cappella di Santa Fina, an early Renaissance chapel built to enshrine the relics of Santa Fina, known for her devotion and curative powers. Proceed to the Chiesa di Sant’Agostino, a 13th century building with a seventeen-panel fresco cycle painted by Benozzo Gozzoli on ‘The Life of Saint Augustine’. We then head to Siena and overnight for two nights at the Hotel NH Siena. (B/L/D)
Today we explore the architectural and cultural wealth of Siena. Begin at the Cattedrale Metropolitana di Santa Maria Assunta. The façade alone is one of the most inspiring in Italy, displaying French Gothic, Tuscan Romanesque and Classical architectural styles. Also see the Santuario di Santa Caterina which honors Caterina Benincasa, the daughter of a local dyer, who is said to have had visions of Christ and received the stigmata. She is credited with convincing the Pope to leave Avignon and restore the seat of the papacy to Rome. Nearly a century after her death she was canonized and was later named the patron saint of Italy. The sanctuary we visit is the house where she was born. The kitchen was converted into an oratory and ornately decorated with paintings by Il Pomarancio, Il Riccio, Francesco Vanni. Move on to the Ospedale Santa Maria della Scala, one of the first hospitals in Europe and one of the oldest still surviving. This structure holds great cultural importance, once an important hospital dedicated to caring for abandoned children, the poor, the sick and pilgrims, it is now a museum. Another museum, the Pinocateca Nazionale di Siena, is home to an impressive collection of Medieval and Renaissance art of the Sienese school. We also enjoy a visit the Contrada Capitale di Onda museum and church, not open to the public. This contrada is one of the 17 contrade that compete in the Palio. Now serving a less administrative role, the contrada has become more of an event planning committee for the community and is held together by the sincere emotion and devotion of the people. Dinner tonight is on our own. (B/L)
We begin the day heading south to the quaint hilltop town of Pienza, home to one of the most important monuments of the Italian Renaissance. The Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta displays architectural influence from the Franciscan Gothic style and the German hall churches. Not far we find La Pieve dei Santi Vito e Modesto a Corsignano, a Romanesque construction with a simple interior that contrasts greatly with the exterior portals which are surrounded by beautiful reliefs, including a unique zig-zag pattern. Continue on to the Abb azia Sant’Antimo. This former Benedictine monastery boasts a breathtaking Carolingian chapel adorned with colorful frescos and intricately carved capitals. Move on to Montalcino and overnight for one night. (B/L/D)
Explore La Rocca, a ruined 14th century castle. On the road again, we head towards Assisi, stopping along the way in Montefalco. The Complesso Museale di San Francesco is a testament to 15th and 16th-century Renaissance painting. Next, Spoleto awaits! Built in the 12th century after the destruction wreaked by Barbarossa’s troops, the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta is Romanesque in essence. Although modifications have been made throughout the centuries, the cathedral maintains the original Cosmatesque floor of the central apse. The nearby Basilica di San Salvatore was already a paleo-Christian place of worship in the fourth and fifth centuries, well before the Lombards heavily renovated the structure in the 8th century. Though the interior is now sparsely decorated one can still appreciate the detailed Doric capitals and friezes. Next, we visit the unassuming Chiesa di Sant’Eufemia. The eye-catching alter has a marble antependium with Cosmatesque inlay work as well as bas reliefs. Continue on and overnight for two nights at the Hotel Giotto in Assisi. (B/L/D)
As Assisi is where Saint Francis spent his life, today we immerse ourselves in Franciscan lore. The Chiesa di San Damiano is, according to legend, where the icon of the crucified Jesus Christ came to life and said to Francis, “go and repair my house”. The future Saint took the command literally and restored the small ruined church in the woods nearby. This tiny place of worship became a favorite place of prayer and reflection for the saint. In fact, it is here that the Franciscan movement is said to have been founded. This 9th century church which became known as La Porziuncola is now situated inside the Mannerist Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli. The true highlight of the day, however, is the incomparable Basilica Papale di San Francesco d’Assisi. The interior serves as a testament to the development of Italian art and is covered with brightly colored frescos done by artists from both the Roman and Tuscan schools including Cimabue and Giotto. The architectural style itself is a synthesis of Renaissance and Gothic tendencies. Time permitting, we continue on to the Basilica di Santa Chiara d’Assisi, dedicated to Saint Claire a follower of Saint Francis and founder of the Order of the Poor Ladies, and the Eremo delle Carceri, a small hermitage to which Saint Francis and his followers would retreat and dedicate themselves to prayer and meditation. (B/L/D)
For our last adventure, we head to the delightful mountain town of Orvieto. Rising above the town, the Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta displays design elements from the 14th to the 20th centuries. The building’s façade is done in the Tuscan Gothic style and presents an imposing rose window, glittering mosaics and elephantine bronze doors. Enjoy some time this afternoon to wander the cobblestone streets. We gather this evening for our Farewell Dinner. Overnight for one night at the Hotel Palazzo Piccolomini. (B/L/D)
Transfer to the airport in Rome for the flight home. (B)
Price is based on double occupancy and includes:
Trip prices are based on a minimum number of participants. If this minimum number is not met, trip prices are subject to change. Should the prices need to change, Far Horizons will reach out to registered guests to discuss directly.
Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement must be charged.
As a tour company that benefits from the cultural and natural riches of our destinations, we have a policy of donating to the scientific and cultural sites and projects which we visit. This has created a bond between Far Horizons and the academic and local communities that has helped us establish an extensive list of lecturers and contacts in each of our destinations. We ask that each participant donate to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person. Note that the donation is required as part of your registration for the trip and that it is non-refundable.
Prices are based on currency exchange rates keeping below a projected level. While it is unlikely, if the exchange rates should change substantially, Far Horizons reserves the right to charge an additional amount to the trip cost.
A deposit of $1000 per person is required along with your registration & health forms, which will be linked in the email confirmation you receive once you pay your deposit on our booking platform. Final payment is due 120 days before departure. Prior to departure, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information.
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $500 per person administrative fee. Cancellations received less than 120 days before the departure date will not receive a refund. If for any reason you are unable to complete the trip, Far Horizons will not reimburse any fees. Upon registering for the tour, the purchase of travel protection with both trip cancellation and emergency evacuation is strongly advised. Links to recommended insurance policies will be included in the email you receive confirming receipt of your deposit.
International round trip flights are not included in the cost of the trip. If Far Horizons must change the trip dates or cancel the trip for any reason, Far Horizons is not responsible for any air ticket you may have purchased. Please send your complete air schedule as soon as you have it. NOTE: Please contact Far Horizons if you would like for us to handle your air ticketing.
The private tours of archaeological sites and talks by specialists are scheduled in advance and include a donation to each. Specialists working at these sites are excited about showing their work to interested enthusiasts. However, please be aware that there may be times when the director or a member of the staff may not be on site when our groups arrive due to other commitments.
Far Horizons expects all participants to be physically active and able to walk and climb independently throughout the full touring days. This includes walking over uneven terrain (uphill and downhill) for a mile or more at each site. You should expect to be on your feet for much of each day, averaging 3-4 miles of walking. As such, each participant should be able to walk unaided at a pace of 3 miles per hour for at least half an hour at a time, and to stand unsupported for at least 30 minutes. Bearing this in mind, we suggest that, if you have not already done so, you begin walking for a mile or two every day. We feel that this preparation will increase your enjoyment of the trip. If you have questions about your ability to keep up with the group or the strenuous nature of this trip, please contact the Far Horizons staff.
This tour is designed for flexible, energetic people who like to be active, have a spirit of adventure and a positive attitude. We have designed this trip to be as comfortable as possible, while also aiming to visit some remote or unique sites that other companies do not attempt to include in their itineraries. There may be days where we have very long drives and the conditions of the roads may vary. Hotels and transportation in some remote areas may not be up to western standards. There may be times when no bellhops are available; please pack with the understanding that you need to be able to handle your own luggage at times. At times we may be walking over uneven trails for a mile or more; hiking boots are strongly recommended. Not every meal will not be haute cuisine and several lunches may be picnics or box lunches. By maintaining a flexible attitude we will soon be captivated by the beauty of the natural scenery, the hospitality of the local people, and the fascinating sites we will see. Your flexibility and patience will be appreciated.
Changes in our itinerary, accommodations, and transportation schedules may occur. While we are committed to keeping as close to the published details as possible, sometimes it is simply not possible. Weather events, government affairs, or other factors out of our control sometimes come into play. A good book to read as well as patience, flexible attitude, and a sense of humor are essential.