Merano and the Val Venosta - South Tyrol’s most beautiful valley

Prices from £2,790


2 Jun 2019 - 8 Jun 2019
Duration: 6 nights
Ref: 19MOST
With: Dr Ulrike Ziegler


Prices from £2,790
Single Supplement: £50
Deposit: £200

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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 the Emperor Augustus, served as a link between the Po plains over the Alps to the Danube. Ever since, this road was controlled by a chain of mighty castles. Some have been altered into veritable palaces later on. En route to Lombardy, Charlemagne and his entourage passed through the Val Venosta several times, founding monasteries and building churches along the way.

At the same time, the 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 and 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 Abroad holiday.


Dr Ulrike Ziegler studied art history and archaeology at the University of Regensburg and King’s College Aberdeen specialising in medieval art and architecture. Her PhD focused on art exhibitions and cultural politics of post-war Germany. She has taught at university and is now lecturing for various cultural institutions. She has organised and led many study trips in Germany and Austria. In addition to tour lecturing, Ulrike is developing Art Pursuit Abroad’s German programme.

DAY 1:

Early morning flight with BA from London Heathrow to Innsbruck. By coach to Merano with a lunch stop en route at Salurn, the linguistic divide between Italian and German speakers. From there continue to Merano and your four-star hotel.

DAY 2:

A morning 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 ‘RichinCoin’ in the 1440s for his wife Eleanor of Scotland— with many original furnishings still in place. In the afternoon, by coach to Trauttmansdorff Castle and its prize-winning gardens, favourite retreat of Empress Elisabeth of Austria.

DAY 3:

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 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 and the cemetery chapel of Riffian.

DAY 4:

Full-day coach excursion to the Val Venosta, starting with the weathered church of St Patroklus in Naturns decorated with impressive murals possibly dating back to the 7th century. The church of the Holy Spirit in nearby Latsch is home to an exquisite carved polyptych by Jörg Lederer, a contemporary of Riemenschneider and Stoss. Continue to St Benedict in Mals, said to have been built by a Frankish nobleman in Charlemagne’s entourage who had himself depicted in one of the wall paintings, while the murals in the crypt of the Benedictine church of Marienberg feature angelic hosts in an explosion of blues, greens and whites.

DAY 5:

Morning coach exursion to Grissian where the church of St James houses brilliantly surviving Romanesque frescoes by masters trained on Byzantine models. Legend has it that the church of St Margaret in neighbouring Lana is a foundation by Theophanu, Emperor Otto II’s Byzantine wife. The winged altarpiece by the Swabian sculptor Hans Schnatterpeck in the parish church of Lana 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. Return to Merano for some free time.

DAY 6:

By coach to Müstair in Switzerland to visit the Benedictine convent of St John, a gem of Carolingian and Romanesque art and architecture. Recent research established that its foundation was undertaken in 775 by Charlemagne himself. This fully frescoed UNESCO World Heritage listed monument houses the largest preserved cycle of early mediaeval wall paintings. In the afternoon, 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.

DAY 7:

After breakfast, coach transfer to Innsbruck airport for an early evening flight with BA, scheduled to land at London Heathrow at 6:20pm.

Please note that at this stage the programme is still provisional. Although we aim at the greatest degree of accuracy from the outset, some details, especially the order of visits, may be subject to change.


Specific fitness requirements for this Study Tour:

This tour requires a reasonable degree of fitness to walk up and down moderate hills, at times on uneven ground, and occasionally using steep steps.

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: £2790 per person
Double room for sole use supplement: £50
Price of the tour without flights: £2690 per person
Deposit: £200 per person


  • Scheduled return flights (economy class) with BA between London Heathrow and Innsbruck
  • Transfers and excursions in Italy by private coach
  • Guided visits to monuments and museums listed in the programme
  • Services of the lecturer and a tour manager
  • Detailed programme and study notes
  • All entrance fees, taxes, and gratuities for coach drivers and waiters
  • Six nights B&B in a charming 4-star hotel in Merano, Hotel Bavaria
  • Three dinners and two lunches


  • Transport between home and London Heathrow
  • Travel insurance. We strongly advise you to be covered by adequate travel insurance

Hotel Bavaria****

The 4 star hotel Bavaria is one of the most traditional hotels in the Merano region. A historic house from the Belle Epoque, today it is a true architectural jewel with impressive art nouveau elements in a unique location.


  • En suite
  • Hairdryer
  • Television
  • Free WiFi
  • Safe
  • Minibar
  • Telephone


The hotel features a Mediterranean garden with pool and a restaurant with sun terrace.