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Florence has been hailed as ‘the cradle of the Renaissance’ – birthplace of a re-wakening of a Weltanschauung with man at the centre of the cosmos. In this ‘città a misura d’uomo’ – a city made to human measure – Greek and Roman Antiquity were rediscovered during the 14th and 15th centuries, and the Florentine elite endeavoured to revive Classical statesmanship, society, and art. As a result of this movement, Florence produced an extraordinary wealth of outstanding works of art: to this day, its lavishly endowed churches and treasure-crammed galleries bear witness to the Tuscan capital’s enduring creative prowess. Much of this was created under the auspices of the Medici family who gained control over the city’s political, financial, and cultural fortunes during the 15th and 16th centuries. Powerful statesmen, enlightened patrons and avid collectors, as well as their contemporaries, stimulated a unique rebirth of Classical culture, from Brunelleschi’s overwhelming cathedral dome to Botticelli’s intriguing painted poem of the Primavera and Donatello’s vigilant St George.
Fly from London City Airport to Florence with BA and transfer to our hotel by private coach.
After arrival at our four-star hotel, an initial walk will take us to the Piazza della Signoria where the mediaeval severity of the Palazzo Vecchio (exterior only) and the contrasting Renaissance clarity of the Loggia dei Lanzi frame a unique outdoor sculpture gallery.
In the morning, we go to the complex of San Lorenzo, the parish church of the Medici family, with Brunelleschi’s harmoniously proportioned church. Next, visit Michelangelo’s magnificent Medici Chapels and the New Sacristy.
The afternoon tour includes the Cathedral of S. Maria del Fiore, begun at the end of the 13th century by Arnolfo di Cambio and completed with Brunelleschi’s spectacular dome a century and a half later, and the adjacent, substantially older Romanesque Baptistery (exterior only). At the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, we study Ghiberti’s gilt bronze panels from the Baptistery Doors, Donatello’s haunting Penitent Magdalene and Michelangelo’s unfinished Pietà.
The Bargello was built in the 13th century as the stronghold of the leaders of Florence’s militia. In 1865, the year Florence briefly became capital of Italy, the building opened as a National Museum of Sculpture, featuring works by Ghiberti, Donatello, Verrocchio and Michelangelo. Beyond the Bargello rises the great Franciscan church of S. Croce: murals by Giotto and his pupils cover the walls of its chapels, while in one of its cloisters stands Brunelleschi’s exquisite Pazzi Chapel. Donatello’s St Louis of Toulouse in the refectory was originally made for the Orsanmichele, Florence’s guildhall.
This afternoon, we visit Palazzo Medici, with its enchanting, frescoed chapel depicting the Procession of the Magi by Fra Angelico’s pupil, Benozzo Gozzoli. The church of Santa Trinita features Ghirlandaio’s accomplished frescoes in the Sassetti Chapel and an altarpiece created in a Netherlandish manner.
Today, we take a morning visit to Vasari’s monumental complex of the Uffizi, studying its unrivalled collection of Florentine Renaissance pictures, including works by Gentile da Fabriano, Piero della Francesca, Botticelli, Mantegna, Leonardo and Raphael — to name just a few. We walk across the River Arno to the Brancacci Chapel at S. Maria del Carmine with its hugely influential fresco cycle by Masaccio and Masolino.
The Dominican friary of San Marco is filled with works by Fra Angelico. The colour, elegance and humility of his work is visible both in his beautiful altarpieces and in the frescoes painted on the walls of the friars’ cells in the monastery.
In the afternoon, we will explore the Dominican complex of S. Maria Novella, with Masaccio’s Trinity, a magisterial demonstration of mathematical perspective in art. At the end of the day, we will walk past Alberti’s Palazzo Rucellai (exterior only).
There will be time for an extra visit this morning before a final group lunch and coach transfer to Florence airport for the return flight to London City Airport.
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 5-star Hotel Regency, Florence.