Florence was one of the largest cities in Europe 600 years ago – confident, economically precocious, and brimming with new ideas. A revolutionary period of artistic and architectural innovation followed, financed by some of the richest men in Europe. On this carefully-paced tour, led by Renaissance specialist Dr Kevin Childs, we discover the breadth and depth of the city’s achievements. Much of the work is still in situ – Masaccio’s endlessly influential frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel, Fra Angelico’s altarpiece in San Marco, Michelangelo’s Medici tombs – or concentrated in Florence’s unrivalled museums. Together, they offer what is probably the world’s most compelling destination for an art-history trip.
We meet at the hotel at 5pm, and walk to the Medici-Riccardi Palace. Built for Cosimo the Elder in the mid-15th century, when the Medici bank was at the height of its power, it was the city’s first Renaissance palace, and famous for its lavish decoration. The fabulously ornate chapel is the best expression of those heady days, with Gozzoli’s fresco, Procession of the Magi, a highlight. We finish the day with dinner together.
Our first lecture is followed by a morning of sculpture at the Bargello museum, which includes Michelangelo’s first major commission – a decidedly tipsy Bacchus – as well as works by Ghiberti, Donatello and Verrocchio. We will also see Ghiberti’s bronze doors at the Baptistery, Michelangelo’s Deposition at the cathedral museum, and consider Brunelleschi’s brilliantly engineered dome in the cathedral itself.
After a second lecture, we walk to Santa Maria del Carmine to see the frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel – one of the most influential works of the early Renaissance. Brunelleschi’s perfectly proportioned Basilica di Santo Spirito is next. In the afternoon, we visit Santa Croce – mausoleum of the city’s elite, and home to frescoes by Giotto – and Santa Maria Novella (works by Masaccio and Ghirlandaio).
A busy morning includes visits to the Accademia (Michelangelo’s David) and the friary of San Marco. We also see Brunelleschi’s Foundling Hospital. Then it is time for a feast of Renaissance painting at the Uffizi: Botticelli’s Birth of Venus; Raphael’s Madonna of the Goldfinch; Titian’s Venus of Urbino, are among the many masterpieces.
We return to the Medici with an in-depth tour of San Lorenzo, the family’s parish church. As well as being the setting for the Medici tombs, it is also home to Michelangelo’s Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, commissioned by Pope Clement VIII to contain the vast collection of books and manuscripts assembled by his forebears. The trip concludes at our hotel by 1pm.
Dr Kevin Childs
After graduating from Oxford, Kevin went on to the Courtauld in London, where he studied for an MA in Renaissance Art, and a doctoral degree. His research focused on the relationship between Michelangelo and his followers, but he has also written on Leonardo da Vinci in Milan, 16th-century Florentine politics and Benjamin Britten. Kevin has been a Fellow of the Dutch Institute in Florence and the British School in Rome, and blogs regularly for the Huffington Post. He’s currently writing a book on the concept of autonomous style in the visual arts.
"Dr Kevin Childs is superb. A good communicator and extremely knowledgeable." (a participant on Power and Patronage in Florence in 2018)
£1,025 per person sharing in a double room
£1,205 for one person in a double room
The price includes the speaker and a tour manager, accommodation with daily breakfasts, one dinner with wine, transport by private coach, local guides, admissions to sites as mentioned in the itinerary.
Please note flights are not included.
Hotel San Giorgio, Florence (3 stars)
We cover Florence on foot, which requires a lot of walking, often on uneven pavements and stairs. You must also be comfortable standing around for some time.
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.
"Dr Kevin Childs is superb. A good communicator and extremely knowledgable."