Many of the pleasures of Venice are simple and sensual: the clarity of the light; the smell of the sea air; the blissful absence of cars. But the longer you stay, the more beautiful and fascinating its details become. Over five days, in the company of art historian Dr Susan Steer, we enjoy its highlights and lesser known gems: the breathtaking view across the bacino towards the church of San Giorgio Maggiore; the glittering mosaics of San Marco; the delicate Gothic of the Palazzo Ducale. Thanks to our carefully-planned itinerary, free of the usual tourist hordes, piece by piece, an enthralling picture emerges.
We meet at the hotel at 2pm. Leave the hotel on foot for a tour of the Doge’s Palace, visiting the network of offices, prison cells and torture chambers which underpinned Venetian government. Dinner together.
First up today are the churches of San Giovanni in Bragora and San Zaccaria. The latter houses a celebrated altarpiece by Bellini, and 15th-century altarpieces by Antonio Vivarini and Giovanni d’Alemagna, hidden away in the San Tarasio chapel. We also visit the Scuola di San Giorgio degli Schiavoni (paintings by Carpaccio). Later, we cross the bacino to see Palladio’s masterpieces: San Giorgio Maggiore and Il Redentore.
The day begins beneath the vast and daring dome of Santa Maria della Salute, before we step into the 18th century at Ca’Rezzonico. Tiepolo’s ravishing ceiling frescoes, and Mengs’ portrait of Pope Clement XIII are among the highlights. The afternoon belongs to the city’s main art gallery, the Accademia (works by Mantegna, Bellini, Titian, Giorgione et al.).
Titian’s Assumption at Santa Maria Gloriosa dei Frari fits its architectural context perfectly, and draws the eye irresistibly towards heaven. No wonder it was almost instantly famous. Just behind the church, the Scuola Grande di San Rocco is the essential site for understanding Tintoretto – thanks to his epic cycle of more than 50 paintings. After a free afternoon, we gather for a private evening tour of the Basilica di San Marco.
We walk to the cavernous Santi Giovanni e Paolo, where we inspect the tombs of 25 doges, and continue to jewel-like Santa Maria dei Miracoli to see its richly-decorated interior. Return to the hotel where the trip ends by 12.30pm.
Dr Susan Steer
Susan is an art historian with a particular interest in Venice, whose doctoral thesis was on the city’s Renaissance altarpieces. She did her post-doctoral research at the University of Glasgow, and was Neil MacGregor scholar at the National Gallery. She also worked on the National Inventory of Continental European Painting, the online catalogue of pre-1900 European art in the UK’s public collections. For ten years, Susan has also taught History of Art for university programmes in both the UK and Italy.
"Susan Steer was exceptional; she has a vast knowledge of Venice and its art, a fine ability to talk about it, coupled with much enthusiasm. A real find."
A participant on Art Treasures of Venice in 2018.
£1,065 per person sharing in a double room.
£1,195 for one person in a double room.
The price includes the speaker and a tour manager, accommodation with daily breakfasts, one dinner with wine, Vaporetto pass, admissions to sites as mentioned in the itinerary.
Please note flights are not included.
Accommodation and meals
The hotel: Hotel Santa Marina, Venice (3 stars).
Expect a lot of walking, often on uneven surfaces. Steps and standing around are unavoidable. We use the Vaporetto several times.
Between 5 and 25 participants.
Please check www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice before you book to make sure you are happy with the advice for the places you are visiting.
"We found the whole experience wonderful and at a very low cost."