Renaissance Florence - Art and history in the time of the Medici

Prices from £2,480


17 Oct 2018 - 23 Oct 2018
Duration: 6 nights
Ref: 18FLOR
With: Nigel McGilchrist


Prices from £2,480
Single Supplement: from £180
Deposit: £200

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Florence has been hailed as ‘the cradle of the Renaissance’ – birthplace of a re-awakening 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 in the course of the fourteenth and fifteenth 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 fifteenth and sixteenth centuries.

Powerful statesmen, enlightened patrons and avid collectors, they and their contemporaries stimulated a unique rebirth of Classical culture, from Brunelleschi’s overwhelming cathedral dome to Botticelli’s intriguing painted poem of the Primavera, from Donatello’s vigilant St George to Michelangelo’s awe-inspiring David.


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:

Early morning flight with BA from London Heathrow to Pisa. Transfer to Florence by private coach. After arrival at our four-star hotel, an initial walk will take us across the Ponte Vecchio with its goldsmiths’ shops, and to the Piazza della Signoria where the mediaeval severity of the Palazzo Vecchio and the contrasting Renaissance clarity of the Loggia dei Lanzi frame a unique outdoor sculpture gallery.

DAY 2:

Across the River Arno, Brunelleschi’s serene church of Santo Spirito best expresses the architect’s idea of an ideal building, even though its façade remains unfinished. Continue to the Brancacci Chapel at S. Maria del Carmine with its hugely influential fresco cycle by Masaccio and Masolino. 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.

DAY 3:

In the morning we visit the complex of San Lorenzo, the parish church of the Medici family, with Brunelleschi’s harmoniously proportioned church and Michelangelo’s ground-breaking Biblioteca Laurentiana which adjoins it. We continue our study of Michelangelo with the magnificent Medici Chapels. The afternoon visit includes the Cathedral of S. Maria del Fiore, begun at the end of the 13th-century by Arnolfo di Cambio, while Brunelleschi completed it with his spectacular dome a century and a half later, and the adjacent and substantially older Romanesque Baptistery. 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.

DAY 4:

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, with 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. After lunch, we visit Palazzo Medici, with its enchanting frescoed chapel depicting the Procession of the Magi by Fra Angelico’s pupil, Benozzo Gozzoli.

DAY 5:

Morning visit to Vasari’s monumental complex of the Uffzi, 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. Enjoy a delicious lunch in the village of Arcetri, followed by a visit to the tranquil mediaeval church of San Miniato with precious marble revetments. Nearby Piazzale Michelangelo affords a panoramic view of the city.

DAY 6:

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 monsatery. We continue by visiting the refectory of Sant’Apollonia with its remarkable fresco of the Last Supper by Andrea del Castagno. In the afternoon, enjoy some free time for further exploration of the galleries or to take a break.

DAY 7:

A short morning walk past Alberti’s Palazzo Rucellai will take us to the church of SS. Trinita, with Ghirlandaio’s accomplished frescoes in the Sassetti Chapel and the same artist’s altarpiece in a Netherlandish manner. After an early lunch, transfer to Pisa for an afternoon flight with BA to London Heathrow, arriving at c. 2pm.

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 is an intensive study tour, focusing on a theme in detail. There is a fair amount of walking in the city centre. Extended museum and site visits require prolonged periods of standing without the possibility of a rest.

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: £2480 per person
Double room for sole use supplement: £400
Single room supplement: £180
Tour without flights cost: £2300
Deposit: £200 per person


  • Scheduled return flights (Economy class) with British Airways between London Heathrow and Pisa
  • Transfers and excursions in Italy by private coach
  • Six nights bed & breakfast in the four-star Hotel Berchielli
  • Three dinners and one lunch
  • 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
  • Small group between 12 and 20 participants


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

Hotel Berchielli****

Overlooking the Arno River, just a short distance from the Ponte Vecchio and Piazza della Signoria. Hotel Berchielli is a recently renovated 4-star hotel where the charm of the historical hotel has been maintained and has had the honour of hosting such figures as Pablo Picasso and Vasco Pratolini.


  • Satellite TV
  • Air conditioning
  • Radio
  • Minibar
  • Telephone
  • Free WiFi
  • Safe
  • Hairdryer
  • (Tea and coffee making facilities if available are on request)


The hotels roof garden offers guests an enchanting panorama of the rooftops of Florence. Breakfast is served in the 2nd floor dining room.