Need help with your booking call 01280 733 483
Situated at the borders of Italy, Austria and Switzerland, the Venosta Valley has been a major thoroughfare of the Central Alps since Ancient times. The Roman Via Claudia Augusta, built under Emperor Augustus, served as a link between the Po Plains over the Alps to the Danube. Ever since, this road has been controlled by a chain of mighty castles - some altered to veritable palaces. En route to Lombardy, Charlemagne and his entourage passed through the Val Venosta several times, founding monasteries and building churches along the way. The Val Venosta and its side valleys have always been well guarded and protected by the rugged mountain ranges of this region, thus many of these ecclesiastical foundations with all their splendid stucco furnishings and colourful fresco paintings have survived the storms of time unscathed. At the gates of the Val Venosta lies the sun-drenched spa town of Merano, the original capital of Tyrol. Its Mediterranean climate with a lush vegetation of palms, cypresses and cedars along with its fresh, clean air made it a favourite summer retreat for the Habsburg, Russian, French and British aristocracy in the 19th century. The spa atmosphere is reflected in the town’s urban architecture with wide, shady promenades, splendid hotel buildings and grand residences; an ideal base for this Art Pursuits tour.
Specialising in mediaeval art and in cultural politics of post-war Germany at the universities of Regensburg and Aberdeen, Dr Ulrike Ziegler is a well-respected member of Art Pursuits Abroad and has lectured at universities and for multiple cultural institutions, along with organising and leading many study tours in both Germany and Austria. Ulrike is now working on Art Pursuits Abroad’s German programme.
To use our NEW itinerary, simply click a day below and a detailed overview will appear.
Morning flight from London Heathrow to Innsbruck. Our coach takes us to the city centre of Innsbruck. After lunch, we visit the Museum Ferdinandeum to study the winged altarpiece from Tyrol Castle. From there, we continue to Merano and check in to our hotel.
This morning we walk through Merano, Tyrol’s old capital. Arcaded passages and imposing burghers’ houses are still the vibrant mercantile centre, while the mighty parish church and the hospital church are further testimony to Merano’s wealth. The Prince’s Castle and former seat of Tyrolean government was embellished by Count Sigmund ‘Rich in Coin’ in the 1440s for his wife Eleanor of Scotland – with many original furnishings still in place. In the afternoon, we travel to Trauttmansdorff Castle and its prize-winning gardens, a favourite retreat of Empress Elisabeth of Austria.
Towering above Merano, the ancestral castle of the Counts of Tyrol lent its name to the whole county. Admire some fine Romanesque architecture and sculpture and learn of the formidable Countess Margret Maultasch. More scandalous stories – and great architecture in a stunning setting – await in Schenna, residence with the neo-Gothic mausoleum of Archduke Johann of Austria who had married a local postmaster’s daughter. Elaborate and well-preserved frescoes in the International Gothic style decorate the walls of the round church of St George in Schenna.
Morning coach excursion to Lana where the church of St Margaret (special access) boasts beautiful Romanesque frescoes. The winged altarpiece by the Swabian sculptor Hans Schnatterpeck in the parish church of Lana (special access) is a peculiar piece of art and full of superlatives: at a height of 14 metres it is considered the largest of its kind in the Alps. Carved in chestnut wood and elaborately gilded, Schnatterpeck received the gigantic sum of 1600 Florins plus 8 cartloads of wine as payment. Later in the day we return to Merano for some free time.
Full-day coach excursion to the Val Venosta. We visit the Churburg/Castel Coira, a handsome, palatial Renaissance castle. The charming Italianate courtyard leads to richly furnished living quarters and a private armoury with 50 complete suits of armour spanning a period of 200 years. Even the most reluctant viewer will be impressed by their craftsmanship. The church of the Holy Spirit in nearby Latsch is home to an exquisitely carved polyptych by Jörg Lederer, a contemporary of Riemenschneider and Stoss. Close to Merano, the weathered church of St Patroklus in Naturns is decorated with impressive murals possibly dating back to the 7th century.
After a leisurely breakfast, we travel to Feldthurns to visit the summer palace of the prince-bishops of Brixen/Bressanone showcasing stunning Mannerist wall paintings and panelings. We break for lunch in Sterzing from where we continue to Innsbruck airport for our flight to London Heathrow.
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.
Your tour includes six nights bed & breakfast at the 4-star Hotel Bavaria.
Nestled in the Alpine town of Merano, the 4-star Hotel Bavaria offers a serene and relaxing atmosphere, with free Wi-Fi, a pool and parking included. You can unwind in the luxurious spa, savour exquisite cuisine and explore the nearby attractions, ensuring that your stay is a truly unforgettable experience.
Need further information? Fill in our enquiry form and we'll get back to you as soon as we can