Northern Lazio and Southern Tuscany

Prices from £2,390


29 May 2019 - 4 Jun 2019
Duration: 6 nights
Ref: 19NLST
With: Nigel McGilchrist


Prices from £2,390
Single Supplement: £130
Deposit: £200

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This new Art Pursuits Abroad tour is a varied and unusual journey into a part of Italy that is little known and visited — the beautiful territory which was once the heart-land of the Etruscan peoples and which lies in the volcanic landscape between Rome and Siena. Its spine is the ancient Roman Consular road, the via Cassia, later to become a pilgrim’s way to Rome in the Middle Ages; its body is a landscape of fine mountains, dense woods and dramatic volcanic lakes, strewn with Romanesque abbeys, rural Renaissance palaces, Etruscan ruins, mediaeval towns in evocative gorges, and some of Italy’s finest (and earliest) gardens.

The tour has two centres: first beside the Lake of Bolsena, and then in the Tuscan Renaissance town of Pienza, re-designed and created at the wish of the most ‘humanist’ of Popes, Pius II, Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini. This is a tour full of magic, atmosphere and great art. There will be opportunities to try the area’s famous Brunello wines, to walk in its ancient and tranquil landscapes, and to sense the deep interpenetration of art and unforgettable landscape which is the great gift of Italy.


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.

DAY 1:

Morning flight from London Heathrow to Rome with BA at c. 8.30am. En route to our first base on Lake Bolsena we will take in some of the delights of Etruria; the picturesque fortified village of Ceri and its church with 12th-century frescoes, and the Necropolis of Cerveteri, an important centre of Etruscan civilisation and now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Continue to Bolsena, via panoramic Montefiascone, to settle in to our hotel before an evening meal in a local restaurant on the shore of the Lake Bolsena. First of four nights in Bolsena in our hotel beside the lake.

DAY 2:

A morning on foot in the heart of Bolsena allows us to explore the fascinating complex of the Basilica of Santa Cristina and its adjoining Chapel of the Miracle, supposedly the site of a Eucharistic Miracle in 1263. The afternoon will be devoted to an exploration of two of the region’s most enchanting gardens: first, Villa Lante at Bagnaia is one of the first and finest early Renaissance gardens in Italy. We will then continue to the fantastical Parco dei Mostri at Bomarzo, another 16th- century garden, famous for its witty and bizarre ornaments and sculptures. The evening will be spent in the dramatic and magical setting of Civita di Bagnoregio, where we will have a light supper of simple and wholesome Etruscan food.

DAY 3:

Morning excursion to the papal stronghold of Viterbo, featuring imposing churches housing fine papal tombs, handsome palazzi and squares dominated by monumental fountains, and the remains of a grand papal palace — venue of the first papal conclave at the end of the 13th century. We will see the unusual and atmospheric painting of the Pietà by Sebastiano del Piombo. Continue to Tuscania for a visit to the fine Romanesque churches of San Pietro and Santa Maria Maggiore before transferring to nearby Capodimonte, on the shore of Lake Bolsena, where a boat will take us to see from the water the idyllic private gardens and ruins of Isola Bisentina, the lake’s largest island. Return to Bolsena. [In case of inclement weather for a boat trip, we will visit instead the interesting Roman remains at Ferentium, before returning to our base in Bolsena.

DAY 4:

Excursion from Bolsena by coach, skirting the wooded slopes of Monte Cimino, to Caprarola. Here we visit the magnificent display of Renaissance power and joie de vivre at the pentagonal Palazzzo Farnese, with handsomely decorated apartments and a beautiful garden and hunting park. Across the ridge, nearby Lago di Vico is a hidden oasis, whose slopes are still uninterruptedly forested and unspoilt. After a tranquil lunch on the lake shore, we continue to Sutri to visit its Etrusco-Roman amphitheatre, cut from local soft tufa limestone. This roughly 17 acre site is also home to the curious underground church of the Madonna del Parto, built into an ancient Mithraeum. After a walk in the cooling shade of Sutri’s Bosco Sacro we return to Bolsena for the last of four nights and some free time to relax.

DAY 5:

After breakfast we bid farewell to Bolsena and head north into the beautiful, open landscape of the Val d’Orcia and Monte Amiata, passing beneath the impressive border fortress of Radicofani. Our first destination is the villa and its spectacular 20th-century garden, designed by English architect Cecil Pinsent, at La Foce, offering panoramic views across the Val d’Orcia. After lunch we complete the short journey to Pienza, stopping just outside the town limits to visit Pieve di Corsignano, a 10th-century Romanesque church in a sublimely tranquil setting. Continue to our hotel, a former Franciscan Convent in the heart of charming Pienza, where we will check in for the first of two nights.

DAY 6:

Morning visit to the nearby town of Bagno Vignoni, renowned for its hot-water pools where Lorenzo de Medici came to cure his gout. The town became such a popular destination in Roman times that planners created a ‘vaporous piazza’, a large central pool for the town’s thermal waters, which remains today. From here we will stop briefly at S. Quirico d’Orcia on the ancient pilgrims’ way to Rome. Montalcino, a fortified hilltop town made famous by its precious Brunello wine, will be our base for the afternoon where we will taste some of the area’s wines along with its local cheeses and salumi. Optional walk (1 hour 45 minutes), weather permitting, along the pilgrim-route through the Tuscan landscape to the Romanesque Benedictine Abbey of Sant’Antimo, where we hope to hear some of the sung liturgy. [Coach transfer for those who prefer — and for all in case of inclement weather.

DAY 7:

Before checking out of our hotel, we make one last leisurely visit to the Cathedral of Pienza, which features several, fine, Early Renaissance altarpieces. En route to the airport, a final visit to Montepulciano will allow us to admire Antonio Sangallo’s Renaissance church of San Biagio, the Duomo and some of the town’s numerous handsome façades. Continue to Rome for a late afternoon flight scheduled to land at London Heathrow at c. 8.00pm.

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 involves a fair amount of walking, sometimes on uneven ground. Visits to churches and museums require prolonged periods of standing without the possibility of a rest. Apart from the airport transfers, coach journeys should not exceed one hour at a time.

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: £2390 per person
Double room for sole use supplement: £130
Tour without flights cost: £2290
Deposit: £200 per person


  • Scheduled return flights (economy class) with BA from London Heathrow to Rome Fiumicino
  • Transfers between airport and hotel and excursions (as appropriate) by private coach
  • Services of the lecturer and a tour manager
  • Detailed programme and study notes
  • All entrance fees, taxes, and gratuities for coach drivers and waiters
  • In Bolsena, four nights B&B in the four-star Hotel Royal
  • In Pienza, two nights B&B in the four-star Relais Chiostro di Pienza
  • Three dinners, two lunches and one wine tasting


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

Hotel Royal****

On the shores of Lake Bolsena with wonderful panoramic views lies the oldest hotel in the town, Hotel Royal. The character of the hotel is traditional style with the comforts of a modern hotel.


  • En Suite
  • Television
  • WiFi
  • Air conditioning


Breakfast is served in the Sala Regina Margherita with views looking out over the swimming pool and garden. Comfortable settees and armchairs can be found in the hotel’s two salon’s which overlook the promenade. Furnished with loungers tables and parasols is the hotel's swimming pool and garden area.

Relais Chiostro di Pienza****

The Relais Chiostro di Pienza is a former Franciscan Convent dating back to the 13th century, located in an enviable position, in the centre of the magnificent hamlet of Pienza, in the heart of the Val d'Orcia.


  • Tea set
  • Flat screen television
  • Free WiFi
  • Air conditioning
  • Telephone


The "La Terrazza del Chiostro" restaurant has both indoor seating and a garden terrace. The hotel boasts an outdoor swimming pool and panoramic terrace overlooking the Tuscan hills.