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Architecture in Venice: From the Renaissance to Carlo Scarpa

From its origins the architecture of Venice has always had a highly distinctive character. It is not just that the builders of the city had to adapt their constructions to a unique environment, taking into account the different consistency of their foundations and the need for all important buildings to face the water or even to rise directly from it; there is also the fact that this very environment inspired a different aesthetic sensibility, privileging lightness and pictorial delicacy over solidity and sturdiness. This explains the almost lace-like beauty of the Doge’s Palace, when compared with the robustness of equivalent buildings elsewhere in Italy. These qualities were not confined to the Byzantine and Gothic churches and palaces, which are such a distinctive feature of the city; when Venice adopted the ideals that inspired the Tuscan Renaissance, her architects (even when Florentine of birth, like Sansovino) adapted the classical forms to the particular requirements of the Venetian environment – and Venetian tastes. Our tour will take in 15th- and 16th-century masterpieces, like the church of the Miracoli, San Giovanni Crisostomo, San Zaccaria, and the Scuola di San Marco, where Codussi and the Lombardo family used marble with the delicacy and skill of great sculptors. We will examine the great works of Palladio; his classical buildings were to inspire later generations of British and American architects, but his greatest creations are in Venice, where he made the most of the extraordinary lagoon setting. Venice’s finest Baroque buildings, like the church of the Salute, Santa Maria del Giglio and San Moisè, for all their elaborate marblework, still share those Venetian qualities of exuberant buoyancy. The tour will also include the recreated 19th-century opera house, La Fenice, and the intriguing buildings of Venice’s 20th-century architectural genius, Carlo Scarpa. Even if you already know Venice, this tour will reveal new and splendid aspects of the city’s singular beauty.

6 days from £3,345pp Departure Dates

Your Tour Includes

  • Return economy flights from London to Venice
  • 5 nights accommodation at Hotel Saturnia International
  • Two dinners and two lunches
  • Private transfers by coach or water-taxi
  • Services of your expert lecturer and Tour Manager
  • Detailed programme and study notes
  • All entrance fees, taxes and gratuities for taxi drivers and waiters
Dr Marie-Louise Lillywhite

Dr Marie-Louise Lillywhite

Marie-Louise Lillywhite is a research associate at Keble College and a member of the History Faculty at Oxford University. She is a specialist in Northern Italian Renaissance Art and lived for many years in Venice, where she taught at the University of Warwick. Marie-Louise has published on topics that include aspects of confraternal artistic patronage in early-modern Italy; seventeenth-century drawings of women and children; the limits of artistic liberty in post-Tridentine Venice; and twentieth-century garden design in Sri Lanka. She is currently putting the finishing touches to a book called 'Reforming Art in Renaissance Venice', to be published by Cambridge University Press next year. This explores how artists articulated belief in the decades following the Reformations, at a time when the significance and power of the sacred image was highly contested by both Protestants and Catholics.


Mid-morning flight from London to Venice. Transfer by water-taxi from the airport to the four-star Hotel Saturnia in the heart of Venice. After settling in our rooms, we will set out on a short orientation-walk around the hotel and St Mark’s square.

Included Highlights

St Mark's Square

We will start our journey through the history of Venice’s architecture from its origins to the 15th century. Our morning visits will include the Corte del Milion and the byzantine-style buildings known today as the house of Marco Polo. We then walk on to the Rialto district to visit the charming San Giovanni Crisostomo, a Greek-cross church designed in 1480s by the architect Mauro Codussi in the new Renaissance style. After lunch we continue to visit the precious marble church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli, built in the 1480s to house a miraculous image of the Virgin, and the façade of the Scuola di San Marco, a masterpiece of Venetian Renaissance art by Pietro Lombardo and Codussi.

Included Highlights

Marble Church of Santa Maria dei Miracoli

In the morning we will explore the district of San Marco starting with the Piazza and focusing on the Torre dell’Orologio, the Procuratorie Nuove, the Loggetta and the Marciana Library by Jacopo Sansovino. A short walk will take us to the Church of San Zaccaria by Codussi, one of the earliest architects of the Serenissima in the new Renaissance style. After lunch we continue to Palazzo Grimani, one of the jewels of Renaissance Venetian architecture. A short walk within the district of Castello will lead us to admire the entrance arch of the Arsenale, the very first public monument in Renaissance style in Venice, which became a manifesto of the architecture and a status symbol of the Serenissima. Return to the hotel for some free time before regrouping for an exclusive private evening visit to the Basilica di San Marco.

Included Highlights

Church of San Zaccaria

The Counter-Reformation found its perfect expression in Venice in the monumental and serene ecclesiastical architecture of Andrea Palladio: at San Giorgio Maggiore and at the Redentore, Palladio provided harmoniously designed churches catering for the requirements of the Catholic Church in the wake of the Council of Trent. In the former Monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore, enjoy a private visit to admire the cloisters designed by Palladio and the double staircase by Longhena. In the afternoon, our journey continues through the Baroque period of Venice’s architecture with visits to the Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, the masterpiece of Baldassare Longhena. A short boat trip across the Grand Canal will take us to Santa Maria del Giglio, with its extraordinary Baroque façade glorifying the patrician Venetian Barbaro family. On our way back to the hotel we will walk past San Moisè with its elaborate and controversial Baroque façade.

Included Highlights

Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute

Our morning visits through Venice’s 18th century architecture will take us by Giannantonio Selva’s Teatro della Fenice, one of the Serenissima’s last public building projects, originally constructed in 1792, and twice destroyed by fire, most recently in 1996. Only the original façade survived, and the opera house was rebuilt and opened once again to the public in 2004. In the afternoon, at the Museum Querini Stampalia we will visit the garden and the ground-floor Portego, designed by Carlo Scarpa, the famous Venetian architect of the mid-20th Century. We then continue to the Negozio Olivetti in St Mark’s Square, another of Carlo Scarpa’s creations.

Included Highlights

St Mark's Square

On our last morning we will go to The Punta della Dogana (originally the Customs House of the Serenissima), built between 1677 and 1682 and in use until the end of the 19th century. In 2008 the Japanese architect Tadao Ando was commissioned to renew it without altering the exterior and to ensure that the interior space would be preserved. Using original materials and technological advances Ando adapted the building to its current use, housing the private contemporary art collection of François Pinault. After lunch we will transfer by water taxi to Venice airport for a late afternoon flight to London.

Included Highlights

The Punta della Dogana

Please note that it is necessary to have a good level of fitness as there will be at times extensive walking and inevitably some long periods of standing.


You will stay for 5 nights at the 4-Star Hotel Saturnia International.

Hotel Saturnia & International

Hotel Saturnia & International is a renowned luxury hotel located in the heart of Venice, Italy. It is situated in a prime location just a few steps away from the famous St. Mark's Square and the Grand Canal, making it an ideal choice for visitors who want to explore the city's rich history and culture. The Hotel boasts elegant and stylish rooms and suites, each uniquely decorated with traditional Venetian furnishings and fabrics. The rooms are well-appointed with amenities such as air conditioning, satellite TV, minibar, Wi-Fi, and luxurious marble bathrooms.

Hotel Facilities

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  • 4 Star
  • Bar
  • Restaurant
  • Lift
  • TV
  • Hairdryer
  • Safe Box
  • Air Conditioning
  • Fridge
  • Telephone
  • Free Wifi
  • Laundry Service
  • Gym
  • Bar
  • Restaurant
  • Lift
  • WiFi Available