le Marche - Venetian painters abroad

Prices from £2,950


14 May 2020 - 21 May 2020
Duration: 7 nights
Ref: 20MARC
With: Nigel McGilchrist


Prices from £2,950
Single Supplement: £295
Deposit: £200

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As the name suggests le Marche are a border area, and for centuries their territories were fiercely contested. At the end of the Middle Ages this remote region of Italy was incorporated into the Papal States, though local lords and prelates were nominally left in charge. This manoeuvred Le Marche — especially their southern reaches — into an off-piste position in comparison with its more easily accessible neighbours of Tuscany and Umbria. Nonetheless, this land of ‘Sleeping Beauties’ is home to some great art and architecture, ranging from the extraordinarily elaborate pilgrimage site of Loreto, containing a Holy House miraculously transported to the town by angels, to the intensely mystical paintings of Lorenzo Lotto, who was invited to the Marche by the Dominicans. Lotto was in fact just one of a number of major painters from the Veneto who worked in the region at some point during their lives; these include such great names as Giovanni Bellini, Carlo Crivelli and Titian, who were often attracted by the opportunities offered by the region’s numerous small courts. Each hilltop town has its own distinctive atmosphere and beauty, ranging from the steep stony streets of Fermo to the grandeur of many-towered Ascoli Piceno, from the solid bastions of Jesi to the melancholy charm of Recanati, home to Italy’s greatest lyrical poet, Giacomo Leopardi. No-one gazing upon the delicate beauty of these hills crowned by their mediaeval towns and villages can be in any doubt as to the source of the poet’s inspiration.


"The tranquillity of the long maritime valleys of the Marche is distilled in the exquisite paintings of Lotto and Crivelli, found in its churches and palaces, and reflected in the understated music of Pergolesi and Rossini. Quiet, dignified, cultivated and with a richness of architecture, history and cuisine, the Marche region has come to be known as a ‘Tuscany without the tourists and the razzmatazz’."

Nigel McGilchrist is an Oxford graduate who lived and worked in Italy (in Rome and in Orvieto) for thirty-five years before he moved to the island of Kythera in Greece where he now lives. He taught for the University of Rome, worked as an external Consultant to the Italian Ministry of Arts, and has lectured widely for museums and universities in Europe and the USA, in both Ancient and Renaissance Art. He contributed to several of the Blue Guides on Italy and spent nearly a decade walking, exploring and documenting the monuments and curiosities of the sixty inhabited Greek Aegean islands, preparing a new survey-guide of their archaeology, history and art – published in a complete version of twenty volumes as McGilchrist’s Greek Islands. He has been a lecturer for Art Pursuits Abroad in Italy for seven years.


Morning flight from London Heathrow to Bologna. By coach along the Via Flaminia to Rimini. A walk through the town to visit Tempio Malatestiano by Leon Battista Albert. Continue to Recanati, our base for four nights.


Full-day coach excursion to Jesi and Pergola. The former is a town circled by impressive mediaeval walls. The Emperor Frederick II was born in an imperial tent in the central square in 1194. The Civic Art Gallery contains a number of fine works by Lorenzo Lotto, and an extraordinary Rococo Gallery, one of the longest and most splendid of its kind in Italy. After lunch continue to Pergola to admire the monumental Bronzi Dorati da Cartoceto di Pergola. Discovered nearby in 1946 and possibly depicting members of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, they are the only surviving gilt-bronze equestrian ensemble to survive from Roman Antiquity. Overnight in Recanati.


Ancona, capital of the Marche, has been a major port since its foundation by Greek settlers in 387 BC. The Arch of Trajan commands over the harbour, while the Romanesque cathedral devoted to St Cyriacus towers on the hill above. In the Pinacoteca Civica we will study Titian’s enchanting Gozzi Altarpiece of 1520 and a Madonna and Child by Carlo Crivelli. San Francesco alle Scale contains an Assumption by Lorenzo Lotto, while San Domenico houses another Titian masterpiece, a sombre Crucifixion of 1558. After lunch in a beautiful spot along the coast, continue to the singular Basilica della Santa Casa at Loreto, a Renaissance shrine containing the house of the Virgin Mary, miraculously transported from the Holy Land by angels at the end of the 13th century. Frescoes by Melozzo da Forlí and Luca Signorelli decorate the sacristies. Third night in Recanati.


Visit some of the Marche’s charming hill towns, each with its own individual appeal. Monte San Giusto acquired its own Renaissance court under the Bonafede family; the church of Santa Maria della Pietà has a fine Crucifixion by Lotto. In Belforte the church of Sant’Eustachio contains a splendid International Gothic polyptych by Giovanni Boccati. Tolentino’s principal church is dedicated to the local saint, St Nicholas (d.1305). The great chapel of the church contains a cycle of frescoes by the 14th century painter Pietro da Rimini. Back in Recanati, an evening visit to the Museo Villa Colloredo Mels will conclude with a recital of opera arias in the museum’s beautiful surroundings.


By coach to Fermo whose Duomo though modernised in the 18th century, reveals Roman and Paleo-Christian elements, including remains of a basilica dating from the 6th century A.D. and mosaics in the apse reminiscent of those in Ravenna. The Museo Diocesano has Thomas Becket’s Cassock, a gift of the saint’s mother to the Church of Fermo in 1116. The Art Gallery in Palazzo dei Priori hosts the paintings by the Venetian Jacobello del Fiore depicting scenes of the life of St. Lucy. After lunch in the mediaeval borgo of Torre di Palme, continue to Ascoli Piceno, principal town in the southern Marche, for the first of three nights.


Ascoli Piceno once situated on the major trading route between the Adriatic and Rome, has an unspoilt handsome historical centre lined with magnificent, white Travertine-faced buildings. A morning walk across the Roman Ponte di Solestà will lead us to the splendidly austere Romanesque Baptistery, once probably part of a Roman temple, and the Duomo with an altarpiece by the Venetian Carlo Crivelli, who set up shop in Ascoli, where he developed a distinct and most enjoyable decorative Late Gothic style. More works of him are on show in the Pinacoteca Civica. Some free time in Ascoli.


Full day excursion across the Monti Sibillini to Norcia, the birthplace of Saint Benedict. On the way there we’ll stop for a coffee break at Castelluccio, a tiny village with breath-taking panoramic views over the valley. Castelluccio was badly hit by the earthquake of 2016 and is internationally renowned for its multicoloured fields of flowers in spring and summer. Return by coach to Ascoli Piceno for our final dinner in a local restaurant.


By coach to Spoleto at the foot of the Umbrian Appennines. The Cathedral has outstanding frescoes by Filippo Lippi and Pinturicchio. After lunch continue to Rome Fiumicino airport for an early evening flight back to London Heathrow.


Specific fitness requirements for this Study Tour:

Please note that this tour involves a fair amount of walking across uneven ground. You must be fit and surefooted to make the most of this tour. If you would like to find out more about the physical ‘difficulty level’ of the tour, please ring or email us.

Please note that all our Study Tours involve a significant amount of standing and walking, often across uneven ground, over cobbled streets, or up and down steps and inclines. While we do not have an upper age limit for participants, we require you to have a level of fitness which does not spoil other participents' enjoyment of the holiday and you should be able to walk at a reasonable pace and / or stand for at least thirty minutes without aid or requiring a rest.

If you are in any doubt as to whether a particular tour is suitable for you, please ring us to check before placing your booking.


Twin/double share: £2950 per person
Double room for sole use supplement: £295
Tour without flights cost: £2750 per person
Deposit: £300 per person


  • Flights with British Airways from London Heathrow to Bologna and return flights from Rome Fiumicino to London Heathrow
  • Private coach transfers and excursions
  • Four nights’ bed and breakfast in the 4*Hotel Gallery in Recanati and three nights’ bed and breakfast at the 4* Hotel Palazzo dei Mercanti in Ascoli Piceno
  • Four dinners and two lunches
  • Guided visits to monuments and museums listed in the programme
  • Services of the Lecturer and Tour Manager
  • Detailed programme and study notes
  • All entrance fees, taxes & gratuities for coach drivers & waiters

Hotel Gallery, Recanati ****

Fronting a cobbled lane, this elegant hotel with valley views is 9 km from the Basilica della Santa Casa and 17 km from Conero Golf Club. Featuring classic decor, the relaxed rooms provide flat-screen TVs and room service is available 24/7. The air conditioned rooms are fully equipped with a TV, minibar, safe and complimentary Wi-Fi.

Hotel Palazzo dei Mercanti, Ascoli Piceno ****

Just a few steps away from Piazza del Popolo, beating heart of the town since the Middle Ages, this historic residence faces onto Corso Trento e Trieste, an important street of the old town centre which crosses Corso G. Mazzini, the old “decuman”. Shops, restaurants and cultural centres are all just a short walk away. Rooms are fully equipped with a hairdryer, safe and complimentary Wi-Fi.