Italy’s Tuscany & Umbria: Art & Architecture Tour
Admire Italy’s Renaissance heritage in Florence, Siena, Assisi, Orvieto and many more charming hill towns of Tuscany & Umbria
with Professor William R Cook
May 15 – 26, 2023
Why Take This Tour?
- Led by William Cook, lecturer for The Great Courses
- Visit five UNESCO World Heritage Sites: the historic centers of Assisi, Florence, Pienza, San Gimignano, and Siena
- Spend three full days exploring picturesque Florence
- Enter the Onda Contrada Chapel and Treasury in Siena, not open to the public
- Step back in time listening to medieval Gregorian Chants by Monks
- Limited to 14 people
Day 1: Depart the USA.
Day 2: Arrive Florence.
Day 3: Tour Florence.
Day 4: Tour Florence.
Day 5: Tour Florence.
Day 6: San Gimignano. Siena.
Day 7: Tour Siena.
Day 8: Montalcino. Pienza.
Day 9: Montefalco. Spoleto. Assisi.
Day 10: Tour Assisi.
Day 11: Orvieto.
Day 12: Transfer to Rome. Fly back to the USA.
Join only 13 others on this in-depth 12-day exploration of the evolution of art and architecture in Tuscany and Umbria. Led by renowned Professor William R. Cook, popular lecturer for The Great Courses (formerly The Teaching Company), we will discover fascinating sites in the iconic cities of Florence, Siena and Assisi as well as in the quaint hilltop towns of San Gimignano, Spoleto, and Orvieto, along with many more!
William R. Cook earned his B.A. from Wabash College, graduating cum laude. Shortly thereafter he received the Woodrow Wilson and the Herbert Lehman fellowships to study Medieval History at Cornell University where he completed his Ph.D. He is a lecturer for “The Great Courses” and is currently the Distinguished Teaching Professor of History at the State University of New York at Geneseo, where he has taught since 1970. His publications include Images of St. Francis of Assisi and Francis of Assisi: The Way of Poverty and Humility. He also currently edits and contributes to The Art of the Franciscan Order in Italy. Dr. Cook’s passion and enthusiasm for medieval art and architecture make him both an informed and lively trip leader.
“Our expectations were to have an experience similar to what Dr. Cook presented in his Great Courses series. This trip far exceeded our expectations. We learned a lot more medieval and Christian history than expected. Dr. Cook was also far more engaging than we could have hoped. Not only does he love to teach, but he was genuinely interested in what our experiences were and how we perceived things. This was a wonderful trip mostly because Bill Cook is a work of art himself. The trip was stunningly good.” – Jeff Koester
Day 1: Depart the USA.
Day 2: 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)
Day 3: 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)
Day 4: 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)
Day 5: 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)
Day 6: 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)
Day 7: 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)
Day 8: 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)
Day 9: 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)
Day 10: 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)
Day 11: 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)
Day 12: Transfer to the airport in Rome for the flight back to the USA. (B)
CALL (per person, double occupancy) includes all ground transportation; all hotels; most meals (as noted in brochure); gratuities to guides and drivers; and entry fees. Price is based upon the exchange rate for the Euro not going over 1.28. If the value of the Euro increases, the price of the trip may go up.
Single Supplement: CALL. Should a roommate be requested and one not be available, the single supplement will be charged.
Cost does not include: International airfare, a separate $150 per person donation check as noted below; airport transfers for flights other than designated group flights; meals other than those listed in the itinerary; food, alcoholic and other beverages not on set menus; passport and visa fees; airport fees and taxes; excess baggage charges; email, telephone, and fax charges; necessary vaccines and tests; laundry or other items of a personal nature.
Fuel Surcharges: Far Horizons must pass on price increases when additional fuel charges are levied.
Donation Checks: 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 projects and museums we visit. We ask that each participant write a check to the noteworthy project we designate. The donation amount is $150.00 per person and is made by check directly to the donation project. Note that the donation is required as part of your registration for the trip and that it is non-refundable.
A deposit of $750 per person is required along with your registration form. Final payment is due 120 days before departure. Upon receipt of your deposit and completed registration form, you will be sent a reading list and a tour bulletin containing travel information. Prior to the trip, we will send links to various websites of pertinent interest. Click here to download our Registration Form.
Cancellations and Refunds
Cancellations received in writing at least 120 days before departure will receive a refund less a $450 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. Insurance recommended by Far Horizons can be reviewed by clicking HERE.
International flights are not included in the cost of the trip. If you do not arrive or depart on the scheduled days, you are responsible for all transportation (including airport transfers) to join the group. 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.
Private Tours of Archaeological Sites
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.
Walking and Standing
The group will be walking into and around cities and archaeological sites extensively. All participants must be physically active and able to walk independently for distances that may exceed three miles or more each day. Keeping up with the group is each participant’s responsibility; please do not expect assistance from the other group members or staff. You will be on your feet for much of the day. Remember that hill towns are on hills and have streets that can be quite steep. Most of the hotels on this itinerary are located in predominately pedestrian areas and thus there may be times when the group has to walk a short distance to/from the meeting location. If you have questions about your ability to participate on this trip, please contact Far Horizons directly.
This Archaeological Tour to Italy is limited to 14 participants