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Florence: Living in a Renaissance City

A small group tour with like minded people, couples or solo travellers, that is based in Florence. An authentic experience of living in this Renaissance city The daily itineraries draw on local guides to share their knowledge on this unique European tour. Trips to Pisa, Lucca and Perugia are included.

From A$11,850 AUD

Available
Florence

Highlights

  1. 1. Visit the historic centre, with the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore
  2. 2. See the treasures of Tuscany, including the Botticelli, Michelangelo, and Raphael
  3. 3. Learn about the powerful Medici family by tracing their influence upon Florence
  4. 4. Explore the ouskirts of Florence on day-trips, including the picturesque village of San Gimignano

Departure Dates

Departure Date Price
02 October 2021

Ends 23 October 2021

Selected
05 March 2022

Ends 26 March 2022

10 April 2022

Ends 01 May 2022

22 September 2022

Ends 13 October 2022

23 September 2022

Ends 14 October 2022

01 October 2022

Ends 22 October 2022

04 March 2023

Ends 25 March 2023

09 April 2023

Ends 30 April 2023

30 September 2023

Ends 21 October 2023

Our small group Florence Tours allows you to live in this Renaissance City.

Florence is the capital city of the Italian region of Tuscany. It is Tuscany's most populous city, and attracts millions more people each year as tourists who come to this Renaissance city. It has been ranked as one of the most beautiful cities in the world, owing in part to its artistic and architectural heritage. Florence was a centre of medieval trade in Europe based on wool, and is considered the birthplace of the Renaissance .

Odyssey's Florence tours are multiple departures for a small group tour, typically with a maximum of 12 mature and senior travellers, couples or single travelers based in the city for 21 nights. The small group tour studies the history of this Renaissance city often on foot with a guided walking tour each day through the historic quarters inside the city walls, as well as the great museums and galleries such as the Uffizi, the accademia gallery ( galleria dell'accademia ) or Bablo garden. There are also a day trip series into the Tuscan countryside to learn more about the regional history as the period of Renaissance art flourished, for both men and women beyond Florence. During the period of your stay, there is an opportunity to re-visit Michelangelo's David or see the Caravaggio's in the Uffizi, more than once.

Your tour guide will share the history of a city that was ruled by for a considerable period of time by the successive generations of the powerful Medici family. This family left a significant imprint, and several generations feature in the city's political history. The Medici where key benefactors to many great artists byond Leonardo Da Vinci and Michelangelo. Funding many its numerous galleries such as the Uffizi and the museums that today draw art and history lovers, particularly those interested in the Renaissance period to explore Florence. Florence is also a key city for fashion in Italy, ranked among the fashion capitals of the world, it was where Gucci and Ferragamo started. After 3 weeks this Florence tour this small group tour of picturesque Florence will have you feeling like you have stepped back in time particularly in the evening when the Florentines reclaim the city once the day trip coaches and groups have departed on their Italy tour after a few hours in this Renaissance city.

Small group Florence tour

Our guided tour examines the heritage, culture, and history of this beautiful city. From our base in self-contained studio apartments in the city's centre, we explore a different aspect of the city each day. On the first day, our expert tour guide provides a walking tour of the city, situating you within the world of Dante Alighieri, the Medici family, and Leonardo Da Vinci. We visit medieval basilicas and churches, and view archaeological ruins. We view some of the most impressive artworks in the world, contained within the many galleries including the Accademia and Uffizi. During the tour we also take day trips to Florence's diverse surrounds, visiting vineyards and museums in order to gain a greater appreciation for this beautiful region of Tuscany. Our program leader and local guides are passionate about these places and are delighted to share their enthusiasm with you.

Highlights of our Renaissance Florence tours

Our fully escorted small group tour of Florence features guided discoveries of the best the city has to offer. Our extended stay here will allow us to really uncover the city's secrets. We:

  • view priceless works of art in the Uffizi Gallery and the Galleria dell'Accademia (Accademia Gallery), home to the famous statue of Michelangelo's David.
  • learn about the history of science at the Museo Galilei, and gain insight into the life of Leonardo Da Vinci.
  • taste regional delicacies from the surrounds of Florence, with day trips to San Gimignano and Monterrigioni for a private tour of a wine and olive oil producer, including a wine tasting; and trips to the nearby cities of Siena and Lucca.
  • experience panoramic views of Florence from the Piazzale Michelangelo, Rose Garden, and Abbey of San Miniato al Monte.

You can read more about Italy with our country profile. We also listed 10 books about Italy to read before your departure.

This extended stay program of Florence is paired with a further optional tour, Odyssey's Following Caravaggio, should you wish to extend your holiday.

For more details about this tour click the ‘Top 5’ or ‘Itinerary’ buttons above. If you would like to learn more about this tour, please call or send an email. Or, to book, simply fill in the form on the right hand side of this page.

Enjoy Odyssey's long stay tours to explore city programs

Since 2012 Odyssey has offered long stay tours based in some of the greatest cities of the world. It began with exploring French history by rail inspired by Ina Caro's book.

Since that first long stay city tour Odyssey had added the following great cities to the list:

There are more programs to follow that have a similar style. They are centred on cities where you have indicated that you would like to return to explore further. They are places of cultural and historic importance where in a different life or different time you would have enjoyed a period of living in these cities. So whilst you may not be able to live here today, you can spend 3 weeks living as a local exploring with a local guide all that each city has to offer. A chance to return to explore some of the greatest and truly fascinating cities of the world.

Itinerary

22 days

Day 1: Florence

Overview: Upon arrival in Florence, we will make our way individually to the long stay apartments where we are based for the 3 weeks. In the evening, we will meet up to walk to a local restaurant for a briefing on this Florence tour and enjoy a welcome dinner.

Day 2: Florence

This morning, we enjoy a guided walking tour of the city to learn more about its culture and history. We’ll view some of the city‘s main sights, and check out the local outdoor food markets. The afternoon is free to explore Florence at your leisure, and come to know the city that will be home for the next three weeks.

Day 3: Florence

Today, we focus on history and settlement in Florence. We visit the historical centre, including the iconic Duomo, or dome of the Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. The stunning dome of Brunelleschi should be appreciated from all angles. We have an entrance to the cathedral, and it is even possible to climb the Cupola. The cathedral complex features the Baptistery, one of the oldest buildings in Florence. Adjacent to this is Giotto’s Campanile, a sculptural tower in the Gothic style which we also visit.

Later, we visit the National Archaeological Museum of Florence.

Day 4: Florence

Today we learn all about the influential Medici family. We visit the Piazza della Signoria to view the statue of Cosimo I. The bourgeois Medici family ruled Florence for the most part of 1434 to 1737. This equestrian statue depicts Cosimo de Medici. An authoritarian ruler, he is perhaps best known for the creation of the Uffizi (or offices) which now house a large collection of art commissioned or owned by the Medici family. The statue of Cosimo I was created by the sculptor Giambologna.

Next, we visit the Palazzo Medici Riccardi – the Medici’s first grand palace. This impressive building, commissioned by Cosimo il Veccia, is said to convey the Renaissance spirit of rationality, order and classicism. We also visit the Medici Chapels – considered the official church of the Medici family. The Basilica of San Lorenzo is the burial place of all principal members of the Medici family.

Day 5: Florence - Fiesole

Today, we transfer to Fiesole for a half-day excursion. We visit the Villa Medici, which was built for the Medici family between 1451 to 1457. The villa is set in beautiful gardens that are arranged in three verdant terraces. We then view Florentine and Tuscan medieval art in the Bandini Musuem, before checking out the archaeological area.

Day 6: Florence

Today we enjoy a full guided tour on Art in Florence. We visit the Bargello Museum, a former barracks and prison which now houses a remarkable collection of Renaissance sculpture and art. We then visit Palazzo Pitti and Boboli Gardens. This impressive palace is one of Florence’s largest architectural monuments. On the first floor of the Palazzo Pitti is the Palatine Gallery, with its 16th and 17th paintings, including works by Raphael. On the ground floor is the Treasure of the Grand Dukes, featuring a collection of Medici household treasures. Just past the Palazzo is the Boboli Gardens – a stunning open-air musuem. Centuries old oak-trees and fountains dot these grounds, along with impressive sculptures. Wander through the picturesque ampitheatre while you’re here.

Day 7: Florence - San Gimignano

Today’s excursion, is we venture by coach to San Gimignano for a day tour. We view the main sights of this charming Tuscan hill town. It is a small, walled village with impressive medieval architecture. It was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 1990. We visit the Collegiate Church, a minor basilica located at the heart of the village. Its Romanesque architecture dates to the 12th and 13th centuries.

Next, we learn about Vernaccia wine at the Museo del Vino. The variety grown in and around San Gimignano is distinctive. Made from the Vernaccia grape, this white wine is described as having a crisp acidity, followed by a bitter finish. Today, you will have the opportunity to taste for yourself.

We then travel to Monteriggioni and continue our winery tour. We visit a local wine and olive oil producer for a vineyard tour and tasting. Later, we return to our apartments in Florence.

Day 8: Florence

This morning, we visit the famous Uffizi Gallery. Few people know that this huge building was originally commissioned by Cosimo I de’ Medici to house administrative offices. Uffizi translates to “offices”. Georgio Vasari was called upon to design the u-shaped building. He included a secret corridor that leads to the Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens. The Medici family were great patrons of the arts. The collection was enriched by every member of the dynasty until they died out in the 18th century. A Family Pact, signed by Anna Maria Luisa de’ Medici (the last of the dynasty) ensured that all treasures would remain in Florence. Most of the collection was bequeathed to the Tuscan state upon her death, and the Uffizi gallery was made a public space.

Some of the masterpieces contained in the gallery are priceless. They include the Ognissanti Madonna by Giotto (1310), Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus (1482-5), plus stunning pieces by Raphael, Michelangelo, Titian and Caravaggio. Following this enriching experience, the afternoon will be spent at leisure.

Day 9: Florence - Lucca

Today we continue our appreciation of Art in Florence with a morning visit to the Accademia Gallery. This is home to Michelangelo’s David. Here, we can also visit the Luigi Cherubini Music Conservatory and Musical Instruments Collection. Three very significant musical instruments are conserved here: a 1716, Stradivari violin and two instruments that once belonged to the Medicean Quintet. You will also learn here that the piano was invented in Florence!

We take a train to Lucca for the Piazza dell’ Anfiteatro, and the Puccini Museum. We then return to our apartments in Florence.

Day 10: Florence

Today, we visit the Basilica di Santa Maria Novella. This is the city’s principal Dominican church, and, chronologically, the first great basilica in Florence. We then view the twentieth century art housed at the Museo Novocento. Finally, we explore the Museo di San Marco – a complex made up of a church and convent. This museum is worth visiting for its stunning architecture alone, but also boasts Fran’ Angelico’s frescoes and panels.

Day 11: Florence

Today we enjoy a full day of leisure, with no scheduled activities. We meet for dinner at a local restaurant.

Day 12: Florence - Vinci

Today we learn about all things Leonardo Da Vinci. In the morning we pay a visit to the Leonardo Da Vinci Museum. We then travel by coach to Vinci, birthplace of the Renaissance polymath. We gain entry to the Museum Leonardino, where we learn about Leonardo’s scientific studies and view his models. We also visit the Casa Natale di Leonardo – his birthplace. Further insights into the man can be obtained here. We return to Florence by coach.

Day 13: Florence

Our focus today will be Politics and History. We visit the Palazzo Vecchio – Florence’s town hall. We explore the Museum and Tower here, before moving on to the Museo degli Innocenti. Six centuries of history are contained within these walls. The Museum is housed within the Institute for the Innocent – a charitable public institution that originated in the 14th century. It was devoted to the hospitality, care and education of children. Once known as an orphanage for children who were often left there anonymously, it now provides services for children and pregnant mothers. UNICEF’s Research Centre is also located here. It’s a fascinating part of history.

Next, we visit the Dante House Museum – Dante Alighieri’s birthplace. Born in Florence in 1265, this Italian poet wrote in the Late Middle Ages. His Divine Comedy is considered one of the greatest works of the Italian language.

Day 14: Florence - Siena

Today, we take the train to Siena to explore its distinctive brick, medieval buildings and fan-shaped central square. This square is called the Piazzo del Campo, and is the site of the Palio di Siena: a horse race that runs twice per year. Afterward, we return to Florence by train and spend the remainder of the day at leisure.

Day 15: Florence

The Basilica di Santa Croce is Florence’s principal Franciscan church. It was built in 1294 by Arnolfo di Cambrio, and is the burial place of many key figures in Florentine history. This includes Michelango, Machiavelli and Galileo Galilei. A memorial to Dante is also housed here, though because of his exile from Florence, the sarcophagus is empty. Sixteen chapels compose the Basilica di Santa Croce, and we explore some of these today. We then visit Piazzale Michelangelo, which is a monument on a hill that offers breathtaking, panoramic views of the city.

The Rose Garden offers equally impressive views. Over 350 varieties are planted here, which bloom during May and June. But any time of year is ideal to wander through this garden, which offers a quiet rest from the museums and galleries of Florence. We visit the Rose Garden today, in addition to the Abbey of San Miniato al Monte – a basilica atop one of the highest points of Florence.

Day 16: Florence - Montelupo-Capraia

This morning we take the train to Montelupo-Capraia for the Ceramics Museum. This surprising Museum should not be missed on your trip to Italy. Over 1000 pieces are on display, with another 5000 housed in storage for safe-keeping. They date from the end of the 1200s to the 1700s, with almost all of those on display obtained from archaeological digs around the historic centre of Montelupo. It is understood that most were collected from furnaces – ancient waste dumps where defective pieces were disposed of. These now form the core of the Museum’s Renaissance collection. Glazed ceramics from the display give an indication of the various decorative styles throughout the eras.

Afterward, we return to Florence by train for an afternoon at leisure. We meet for dinner tonight at a local restaurant.

Day 17: Florence

Today we enjoy a day at leisure in Florence.Time to relax and continue should you wish to explore the historic centre.

Day 18: Florence

Today we indulge in Florence’s world-famous fashion and design. We visit the designer boutiques on Luisa Via Roma. We then attend the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum. This was opened by the family of the shoe and fashion designer’s family in 1995. Born in Bonito near Naples in 1898, Ferragamo’s passion for shoes was evident from his childhood. He opened a small store in his parent’s home. Then, he spent time in Boston and California, where he really began to achieve success. But it was on his return to Florence in 1927 that Ferragamo came to design shoes for some of the wealthiest and most powerful women of the twentieth century. The Museum is housed in his former headquarters and workshop.

Pending availability, we will participate in a silk printing workshop at the Antico Setificio Fiorentino.

Day 19: Florence - Prato

Today we enjoy a day at leisure in Florence.

Day 20: Florence

The theme of today is Science and Technology. We visit the Museo Galileo to learn about the history of science, followed by La Specola – the Natural History Museum. This is one of the oldest science museums in Europe.

Day 21: Florence - Prato

We take the train to Prato and visit the Museo del Tessuto: an impressive textile museum. We then sample the local delicacies at the famous Biscottificio Mattei, before returning to Florence by rail. We enjoy an afternoon at leisure before meeting for a farewell dinner in a local restaurant.

Day 22: Florence

Our tour will conclude after breakfast.

Tour Notes

  • Depending on the size of the group for the Florence tours, travellers may be split between different properties.
  • As we're using long-stay apartments, minor variations in style and sizes are to be expected.

Includes / Excludes

What’s included in our Tour

  • 21 nights accommodation.
  • Welcome food hamper plus 6 dinners.
  • Transport and field trips as indicated.
  • Services of a Tour Leader.
  • Applicable entry fees and services of local guides.
  • Service charges and gratuities.
  • Touring by comfortable and modern coach.
  • Detailed tour information booklet.

What’s not included in our Tour

  • Items of a personal nature such as telephone calls and laundry.
  • Any international or domestic flights.
  • Comprehensive travel insurance
  • Airport transfers.
Level 1 - Introductory to Moderate

Participants must be able to carry their own luggage, climb and descend stairs, moderate walking on uneven surfaces between 3 - 5 kilometers per day. Suitable for most fitness levels

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Departure

02 October 2021

Available

Ends 23 October 2021 • 22 nights

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Room Type

Single room
A$14,250
Twin room
A$11,850 pp

Payment Type

You can reserve your spot by paying a A$500 deposit, pay the rest 90 days before departure (excludes AU/NZ tours).

Pay Deposit
A$1,000
Pay Full
A$23,700

Prices are per person and valid until 30th December 2021.

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If less than 30 days before your tour starts you are unable to travel as a result of Government travel restrictions, Odyssey Traveller will assist you with a date change, provide you with a credit or process a refund for your booking less any non-recoverable costs.

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Peace of Mind Travel

The safety of our travellers, tour leader, local guide and support staff has always been our top priority and with the new guidelines for public health and safety for keeping safe for destinations around the world, we’ve developed our plan to give you peace of mind when travelling with us.

See Peace of Mind Travel for details.

Reading List Download PDF

The Italians

Sublime and maddening, fascinating yet baffling, Italy is a country of endless paradox and seemingly unanswerable riddles.

John Hooper's marvellously entertaining and perceptive new book is the ideal companion for anyone seeking to understand contemporary Italy and the unique character of the Italians. Looking at the facts that lie behind - and often belie - the stereotypes, his revealing book sheds new light on many aspects of Italian life: football and Freemasonry, sex, symbolism and the reason why Italian has twelve words for a coat hanger, yet none for a hangover.

By John Hooper

The Pursuit of Italy: A History of a Land, its Regions and their Peoples

Visiting a villa built by Lorenzo de Medici outside Pisa, David Gilmour fell into conversation about the unification of Italy with a distinguished former minister: '"You know, Davide," he said in a low conspiratorial voice, as if uttering a heresy, "Garibaldi did Italy a great disservice. If he had not invaded Sicily and Naples, we in the north would have the richest and most civilized state in Europe." After looking cautiously round the room he added in an even lower voice, "Of course to the south we would have a neighbour like Egypt."'

Was the elderly Italian right? Was the unification of Italy a mistake? The Pursuit of Italy traces the whole history of the Italian peninsula in a wonderfully readable style, full of well-chosen stories and observations from personal experience, and peopled by many of the great figures of the Italian past, from Cicero and Virgil to Dante and the Medici, from Cavour and Verdi to the controversial political figures of the twentieth century. The book gives a clear-eyed view of the Risorgimento, the pivotal event in modern Italian history, debunking the influential myths which have grown up around it.

Gilmour shows that the glory of Italy has always lain in its regions, with their distinctive art, civic cultures, identities and cuisine. The regions produced the medieval communes and the Renaissance, the Venetian Republic and the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, two of the most civilized states of European history. Their inhabitants identified themselves not as Italians, but as Tuscans and Venetians, Sicilians and Lombards, Neapolitans and Genoese. This is where the strength and culture of Italy still comes from, rather than from misconceived and mishandled concepts of nationalism and unity.

This wise and enormously engaging book explains the course of Italian history in a manner and with a coherence which no one with an interest in the country could fail to enjoy.

By David Gilmour

Florence: The Biography of a City

This book is as captivating as the city itself. Hibbert's gift is weaving political, social and art history into an elegantly readable and marvellously lively whole. The author's book on Florence will also be at once a history and a guide book and will be enhanced by splendid photographs and illustrations and line drawings which will describe all teh buildings and treasures of the city.

By Christopher Hibbert

Rome: The Biography of a City

This beautifully written, informative study is a portrait, a history and a superb guide book, capturing fully the seductive beauty and the many layered past of the Eternal City. It covers 3,000 years of history from the city's quasi-mythical origins, through the Etruscan kings, the opulent glory of classical Rome, the decadence and decay of the Middle Ages and the beauty and corruption of the Renaissance, to its time at the heart of Mussolini's fascist Italy. Exploring the city's streets and buildings, peopled with popes, gladiators, emperors, noblemen and peasants, this volume details the turbulent and dramatic history of Rome in all its depravity and grandeur.

By Christopher Hibbert

The Popes: A History

John Julius Norwich examines the oldest continuing institution in the world, tracing the papal line down the centuries from St Peter (traditionally - but by no means historically - the first Pope) to the present. Of the 280-odd holders of the supreme office, some have unquestionably been saints; others have wallowed in unspeakable iniquity.

One was said to have been a woman, her sex being revealed only when she improvidently gave birth to a baby during a papal procession. Almost as shocking was Formosus whose murdered corpse was exhumed, clothed in pontifical vestments, propped up on a throne and subjected to trial.

From the glories of Byzantium to the decay of Rome, from the Albigensian Heresy to controversy within the Church today, The Popes is superbly written, witty and revealing.

By John Julius Norwich

The Borgias

The name Borgia is synonymous with the corruption, nepotism, and greed that were rife in Renaissance Italy.

The powerful, voracious Rodrigo Borgia, better known to history as Pope Alexander VI, was the central figure of the dynasty. Two of his seven papal offspring also rose to power and fame - Lucrezia Borgia, his daughter, whose husband was famously murdered by her brother, and that brother, Cesare, who served as the model for Niccolo Machiavelli's The Prince. Notorious for seizing power, wealth, land, and titles through bribery, marriage, and murder, the dynasty's dramatic rise from its Spanish roots to its occupation of the highest position in Renaissance society forms a gripping tale.

Erudite, witty, and always insightful, Hibbert removes the layers of myth around the Borgia family and creates a portrait alive with his superb sense of character and place.

By Christopher Hibbert

SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome

Ancient Rome matters.

Its history of empire, conquest, cruelty and excess is something against which we still judge ourselves. Its myths and stories - from Romulus and Remus to the Rape of Lucretia - still strike a chord with us. And its debates about citizenship, security and the rights of the individual still influence our own debates on civil liberty today.

SPQR is a new look at Roman history from one of the world's foremost classicists. It explores not only how Rome grew from an insignificant village in central Italy to a power that controlled territory from Spain to Syria, but also how the Romans thought about themselves and their achievements, and why they are still important to us. Covering 1,000 years of history, and casting fresh light on the basics of Roman culture from slavery to running water, as well as exploring democracy, migration, religious controversy, social mobility and exploitation in the larger context of the empire, this is a definitive history of ancient Rome.

SPQR is the Romans' own abbreviation for their state: Senatus Populusque Romanus, 'the Senate and People of Rome'.

By Mary Beard

The Roman Forum

There are few more historic and evocative places in the world. Caesar was cremated there. Charles V and Mussolini rode by it in triumph. There Napoleon celebrated his festival of liberty. In this radical reappraisal David Watkin teaches us to see the Forum with new eyes and helps us to rediscover its rich history. This is as stimulating to the armchair traveller as it is useful as a guide to the Forum itself.

'With verve, authority and no little humour, Watkin tells the detailed and complex story of this great but mutilated landmark ... it is an almost impossible task, superbly done' Peter Jones, BBC History Magazine

'In this sprightly volume ... the distinguished architectural historian David Watkin charts the shifting fortunes of the site ... he has an engagingly romantic feeling for the place... deploying a good deal of sharp wit, he reveals how the relatively recent obsession with recovering the Forum's classical past has led to much unhappy destruction and much less scarcely happy invention' Matthew Sturgis, Country Life

By David Watkin

The Rise and Fall of the House of Medici

At its height Renaissance Florence was a centre of enormous wealth, power and influence. A republican city-state funded by trade and banking, its often bloody political scene was dominated by rich mercantile families, the most famous of which were the Medici. This enthralling book charts the family’s huge influence on the political, economic and cultural history of Florence. Beginning in the early 1430s with the rise of the dynasty under the near-legendary Cosimo de Medici, it moves through their golden era as patrons of some of the most remarkable artists and architects of the Renaissance, to the era of the Medici Popes and Grand Dukes, Florence’s slide into decay and bankruptcy, and the end, in 1737, of the Medici line.

By Christopher Hibbert

The Black Prince of Florence: The Spectacular Life and Treacherous World of Alessandro de' Medici

'Nothing in sixteenth-century history is more astonishing than the career of Alessandro de' Medici' Hilary Mantel

In The Black Prince of Florence, a dramatic tale of assassination, spies and betrayal, the first retelling of Alessandro's life in two-hundred years opens a window onto the opulent, cut-throat world of Renaissance Italy.

‘Astonishing … gripping and original … a compelling portrait’ Financial Times

‘Packed with intrigue … Fletcher describes with cool menace the plotting and politicking that dominated Alessandro’s rule … brought splendidly to life in this excellent book’ Sunday Times

‘Engrossing … bursts with stabbings, poisonings, duels, eye-gougings, arquebus shootouts and people being run through with swords. Fletcher’s approach is scholarly yet dramatic, immersed in Renaissance glamour … a tremendous step forward in our knowledge of this intriguing man’ Spectator

‘Scintillating. This is everything a historical biography should be’ Ian Mortimer, author of The Time Traveller's Guide to Medieval England

The year is 1531. After years of brutal war and political intrigue, the bastard son of a Medici Duke and a ‘half-negro’ maidservant rides into Florence. Within a year, he rules the city as its Prince. Backed by the Pope and his future father-in-law the Holy Roman Emperor, the nineteen-year-old Alessandro faces down bloody family rivalry and the scheming hostility of Italy’s oligarchs to reassert the Medicis’ faltering grip on the turbulent city-state. Six years later, as he awaits an adulterous liaison, he will be murdered by his cousin in another man’s bed.

From dazzling palaces and Tuscan villas to the treacherous backstreets of Florence and the corridors of papal power, the story of Alessandro’s spectacular rise, magnificent reign and violent demise takes us deep beneath the surface of power in Renaissance Italy – a glamorous but deadly realm of spies, betrayal and vendetta, illicit sex and fabulous displays of wealth, where the colour of one’s skin meant little but the strength of one’s allegiances meant everything.

‘Bold, breathless and full of suspense’ The Times

‘Original, revelatory and gripping’ Jessie Childs, author of God's Traitors

‘Gripping … Fletcher describes in detail without losing momentum’ Economist

‘Fascinating and profound’ Paul Strathern, author of The Medici

‘Accomplished and original. A newly sympathetic portrait of a monarch whose rule in Florence was even more unlikely than Henry VII’s presence on the English throne’ Diarmaid MacCulloch, author of A History of Christianity

‘Brilliantly written and impeccably researched. A stunning book’ Tracy Borman, author of Thomas Cromwell

By Catherine Fletcher

The Land Where Lemons Grow: The Story of Italy and its Citrus Fruit

Travellers have always been thrilled by the sight of citrus in Italy, where dark leaves and bright fruit seem to charge the landscape, making the trees symbols of a sun-soaked, poetic vision of the country. Citrus also holds a special place in the Italian imagination, and in The Land Where Lemons Grow, Helena Attlee sets out to explore its curious past and its enduring resonance in Italian culture. The Land Where Lemons Grow is a heady mixture of travel writing, history, horticulture and art; a unique journey through Italy's cultural, culinary and political past. Helena Attlee is the author of four books about Italian gardens, and others on the cultural history of gardens around the world. Helena is a Fellow of the Royal Literary Fund and has worked in Italy for nearly 30 years.

By Helena Attlee

The Pursuit of Italy: A History of a Land, its Regions and their Peoples

A provocative, entertaining account of Italy's diverse riches, its hopes and dreams, its past and present. Did Garibaldi do Italy a disservice when he helped its disparate parts achieve unity? Was the goal of political unification a mistake? The question is asked and answered in a number of ways in The Pursuit of Italy, an engaging, original consideration of the many histories that contribute to the brilliance―and weakness―of Italy today. David Gilmour's wonderfully readable exploration of Italian life over the centuries is filled with provocative anecdotes as well as personal observations, and is peopled by the great figures of the Italian past―from Cicero and Virgil to the controversial politicians of the twentieth century. Gilmour shows that the glory of Italy has always lain in its regions, with their distinctive art, civic cultures, identities, and cuisines.

By Gilmour, David

The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy

For nineteenth-century Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt, the Italian Renaissance was nothing less than the beginning of the modern world - a world in which flourishing individualism and the competition for fame radically transformed science, the arts, and politics. In this landmark work he depicts the Italian city-states of Florence, Venice and Rome as providing the seeds of a new form of society, and traces the rise of the creative individual, from Dante to Michelangelo. A fascinating description of an era of cultural transition, this nineteenth-century masterpiece was to become the most influential interpretation of the Italian Renaissance, and anticipated ideas such as Nietzsche's concept of the 'Ubermensch' in its portrayal of an age of genius.

By Jacob Buckhards and Peter Murray

Art in Renaissance Italy

With a freshness and breadth of approach that sets the art in its context, this book explores why works were created and who commissioned the palaces, cathedrals, paintings, and sculptures. It covers Rome and Florence, Venice and the Veneto, Assisi, Siena, Milan, Pavia, Genoa, Padua, Mantua, Verona, Ferrara, Urbino, and Naples. Chapters are grouped into four chronological parts, allowing for a sustained examination of individual cities in different periods. "Contemporary Scene" boxes provide fascinating glimpses of daily life and "Contemporary Voice" boxes quote from painters and writers of the time. Innovative and scholarly, yet accessible and beautifully presented, this book is a definitive work on the Italian Renaissance. This revised edition contains around 200 new pictures and nearly all colour images.

By John T. Paoletti and Gary M. Radke

The Merchant of Prato : Daily Life in a Medieval Italian City

This extraordinary re-creation of the life of a medieval Italian merchant, Francesco di Marco Datini, is one of the greatest historical portraits written in the twentieth century. Drawing on an astonishing cache of letters unearthed centuries after Datini's death, it reveals to us a shrewd, enterprising, anxious man, as he makes deals, furnishes his sumptuous house, buys silks for his outspoken young wife and broods on his legacy. It is an unequalled source of knowledge about the texture of daily life in the small, earthy, violent, striving world of fourteenth-century Tuscany.

By Iris Origo

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Articles about Florence

Florence

Brunelleschi's Dome: The Amateur turned Renaissance Genius

Filippo Brunelleschi. We will look at who he was and how he came to win the competition to design the dome for Florence's cathedral.

28 Nov 19 · 11 mins read
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Tour of Italy, Renaissance Sculpture Medici Lion by Vacca in Florence

Five Women of the Renaissance period to see on tour

Five Incredible Women of the Renaissance | Small Group Tours The Renaissance is considered humanity’s greatest intellectual and artistic revolution and stories about the period is dominated by tales of famous men and their inventions,…

8 Oct 19 · 13 mins read
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Florence, Italy

History of a City: Florence, Italy

Florence or Firenze, article provides an overview of the history from inception from the Romans to Mussolini with plenty of the Renaissance covered. Includes a list of Museums and places to see in Tuscany. Background material for a small group package tour to Italy or long stay in Florence.

5 Jan 20 · 23 mins read
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Statue of Cosimo I of Medici, in front of Palazzo Vecchio, Florence

Italian Renaissance Families: The Medicis

This blog is part of a series on five influential Italian Renaissance families that shaped Italy, especially during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It is based on both our Italian Renaissance Summer School course, and…

21 Feb 18 · 12 mins read
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Urbino, Italy

Italian Renaissance Families: Urbino and the Montefeltro

This article (blog)is part of a series on five influential Italian Renaissance families that shaped Italy, especially during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It is based on both our Italian Renaissance Summer School course, and…

28 Feb 18 · 5 mins read
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Tour of Italy, Renaissance Sculpture Medici Lion by Vacca in Florence

Key Figures of Renaissance Florence

Five Key Figures of Renaissance Florence | Small Group Tours Regarded as the ‘birthplace of the Renaissance’, Florence from 1400 to 1600 was in a religious, cultural and political ferment that was crucial to shaping…

8 Oct 19 · 11 mins read
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Caravaggio tours

Piecing together the life of Caravaggio

Uncovering Caravaggio The following article picks up on, and extends, our general introduction to Caravaggio. Here, we we delve further into the details of Caravaggio’s early life and relationships and use available evidence to piece…

11 Oct 19 · 19 mins read
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Santa Maria del Fiore in Florence, Italy

Questions about Italy

Escorted small group tours for mature and senior travellers to Italy. Designed for couples and solo travellers who like to explore and enjoy learning as they travel to Rome, Florence, Genoa, Venice, Naples, Sicily or Lake Garda and beyond.

25 Feb 20 · 2 mins read
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seeking Caravaggio's Nativity

Searching for Caravaggio's 'Nativity': Where is it today?

Searching for Caravaggio’s Nativity The hunt for Caravaggio’s stolen painting of the nativity scene may just be the most high-profile art crime of the 20th century. One stormy night in October 1969, an altarpiece painted…

8 Dec 19 · 7 mins read
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Florence, Italy

Secrets of Florence: The Definitive Guide for Travellers

Secrets of Florence: Ten Hidden Gems to Visit Florence, the capital of the Italian region of Tuscany, is considered to be the birthplace of the Renaissance. Today the small city leaves behind a powerful legacy…

10 Oct 19 · 10 mins read
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Piazza della Signoria, a monument to Cosimo de 'Medici in Florence, Italy.

The Rise of the House of Medici

The House of Medici was an Italian banking family and political dynasty that de facto ruled the city of Florence during much of the Italian Renaissance.

5 Feb 20 · 11 mins read
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Italian Small Group Tours Bassano del Grapa Italy Veneto

Trip advice for Travellers going to Italy

Trip planning advice for Mature Travellers touring Italy Italy is one of the world’s great tourist destinations. This Trip planning advice for mature travellers going to Italy should assist you […]

12 Jun 17 · 8 mins read
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