Countries Italy Florence Cultural Tours

Florence: The Power & Patronage of the Medici

All those works of art have given me the greatest satisfaction and contentment because they are not only for the honour of God but are likewise for my own remembrance.

Cosimo 'Il Vecchio' de' Medici
with
Charles Barber
Having graduated with a Bachelors of Law from the University of Edinburgh, Charles Barber embarked on what became a twenty-year career in business at the Reed Travel Group, LexisNexis and The Economist. Charles received his MA in Renaissance Studies from the University of London. He is currently studying a Masters' in early Netherlandish art and its impact on the art of Renaissance Italy at the Courtauld Institute of Art. His areas of interest include the visual, material and social culture of Northern Italian courts, 15th-century Florence and the art and architecture of Rome from 1500-1700.
What's included...
  • Return flights on British Airways (economy) to Bologna
  • 4 nights in the 4-star Hotel Degli Orafi
  • 4 breakfasts, 2 lunches and 3 dinners (lunch and dinner with wine, water and coffee included)
  • All church, museum & gallery entry tickets
  • The services of your lecturer and tour manager
  • A tour-guide headset system to make hearing the lecturer easier
  • Transport by luxury coach, as the itinerary requires
  • All tips and taxes
Hotel
Hotel Degli Orafi
Getting about
Participants should be reasonably fit. There is a significant amount of
walking, standing and use of stairs.
Inspirational tours frequently booked together
To visit Florence in Italy is to walk in the footsteps of the Medici. This small group cultural tour of Florence is not to be missed!

The Medici family have long been heralded as ‘Godfathers of the Renaissance’ and their cultivation of pre-eminent artists including Botticelli and Michelangelo place them amongst the most renowned art patrons in history. Aside from their artistic legacy, the Medici family’s rise to power in Florence, peaking in the 15th and 16th centuries, is littered with dramatic events including assassinations, uprisings and political intrigues, and provides an illuminating insight into the Renaissance world in which they lived.
 
To this day the Medici coat of arms, featuring six red balls (palle) on a gold shield, is a stamped across buildings throughout Florence as a constant reminder of their former influence. Its origins are associated with the mythical founder of the Medici dynasty, Averardo, a knight in the retinue of Charlemagne, who received six round dents in his golden shield as he fought a giant in the region of Mugello, from where the family originate. Also believed to represent medicinal pills (‘Medici’ literally meaning ‘doctors’), it seems more probable that the palle represent coins, alluding to the Medici’s original occupation as moneylenders. By the early 15th century the Medici Bank, founded by Giovanni di Bicci de’Medici in 1397, had international branches extending from Naples to London and its successes brought huge wealth, ensuring the Medici’s political influence over Florence’s republican ruling council, the Signoria. Giovanni’s descendants, including Cosimo ‘il Vecchio’ known as Pater Patriae (‘Father of the Country’) and Lorenzo ‘il Magnifico’, were instrumental in developing Florence as a centre of Italian Renaissance culture in the 14th and 15th centuries. 

Finally granted the official hereditary title of ‘Dukes of Florence’ in 1532, the second duke, Cosimo I, initiated a further ‘Golden Age’ of Medici cultural patronage, involving notable artists such as Vasari who designed his ‘offices’, now the Uffizi Art Gallery. Although the Medici’s fortunes declined during the 17th century, we owe the preservation of many of Florence’s surviving splendours to the last Grand Duchess, Anna Maria Luisa who died in 1743. In her Will she instructed that all ‘the Medici galleries, paintings, statues, libraries, jewels and other precious things’ be kept within Florence, ‘for the benefit of the people and for the inducement of the curiosity of foreigners’.
 
Sarah McBryde will lead us on this tour, which follows in the footsteps of the Medici, from their beginnings outside Florence, through their glory days and finally their demise. Surviving plagues, plots and politics, the story of the Medici gives a unique perspective on the quintessential Italian Renaissance city.
After our arrival at Bologna, we will drive to the Villa Medici at Cafaggiolo, in the Mugello region of northern Tuscany, home of the dynasty’s founders where Sarah McBryde will give an introductory lecture. We then transfer to the luxurious Hotel Degli Orafi situated in the heart of Florence, for four nights.
After breakfast we will visit the Palazzo Medici-Riccardi, the Medici base in the city centre, to see their private chapel with Benozzo Gozzoli’s frescoes of the Magi (Three Wise Men), believed to depict members of the family. We then walk to the Duomo, scene of the Pazzi conspiracy during which Lorenzo il Magnifico’s brother Giuliano was murdered. After coffee, we spend time in the Museo del Bargello. The afternoon is devoted to exploration of the Palazzo Vecchio, centre of civic government throughout the Florentine Renaissance. 
Our morning is spent inside the Uffizi, where Sarah leads us on a curated tour focusing on the portraits of the Medici family and artworks they commissioned. We then enter the Vasari Corridor, the secret route built by the Medici in 1565 to allow safe passage to the Palazzo Pitti. After lunch we will explore the Boboli Gardens leaving the rest of the afternoon for personal sightseeing. We dine together this evening.
In the morning we will visit the Laurentian Library renowned for its architecture by Michelangelo and commissioned by the Medici Pope, Clement VII, and then the Galleria dell’Accademia to view Michelangelo’s David.
After lunch we return to the Palazzo Pitti, home to the last Grand Duchess Anna Maria Luisa, where we will further explore the vast collection of artefacts bequeathed to Florence by the Medici.
Our final visit will be to the Medici family church of San Lorenzo to see the Medici Chapels, including the New Sacristy, also designed by Michelangelo, where many of the Medici are buried. The rest of the morning is free before our return to London Heathrow.
Hotel Degli Orafi was a 13th century Augustine Abbey and as such the rooms are unique in size. Sapienza Travel has reserved rooms of the same category for you. If you would like to book a higher category room, please contact us for a quote.

Flights - The outward flight departs London Heathrow at 8am. The return flight departs Bologna at 6.50pm arriving in London Heathrow at 8.10pm.
If you would like to fly BA Club class, please contact us and we will provide a price for the upgrade.
Hotel accommodation can be arranged at Heathrow on request. Please, contact us.

Travel advice - Please refer the Foreign Office's website to make sure you are comfortable with the travel advice they provide for the destination(s) you are visiting. www.fco.gov.uk 

Activity level - Our tours involve a lot of walking, climbing stairs and standing still for periods of time. The historic centres of cities are often uneven and cobbled requiring everyone to be confident walking across them.

 
with
Charles Barber
Having graduated with a Bachelors of Law from the University of Edinburgh, Charles Barber embarked on what became a twenty-year career in business at the Reed Travel Group, LexisNexis and The Economist. Charles received his MA in Renaissance Studies from the University of London. He is currently studying a Masters' in early Netherlandish art and its impact on the art of Renaissance Italy at the Courtauld Institute of Art. His areas of interest include the visual, material and social culture of Northern Italian courts, 15th-century Florence and the art and architecture of Rome from 1500-1700.
Hotel Degli Orafi
The building the Hotel Degli Orafi is housed in incorporates an ancient tower, presumably part of the clique of the Importuni family, which had their properties in this neighborhood. In 1515 the building was bought by the Augustinians, who continued to manage the property until 1783. In the 19th-century, it became the boarding house Quisisana, popular amongst English and American intellectuals and artists visiting Florence.

The building had remained almost unchanged up until the early 1980s and because of this was chosen by the director James Ivory as the set for some of the scenes of the movie version of the novel by EM Forster's "A Room with a View."

Then, after undergoing some necessary restoration works and a major renovation, the building became home to Hotel Degli Orafi. Externally the building overlooks the Lugarno degli Archibusieri.

Breakfast is served in what was once a ballroom, decorated with original 19th-century frescoes overlooking the Arno. From the beautiful rooftop terrace of the American Bar, there is a breathtaking view over the river Arno, Palazzo Vecchio, Brunelleschi's magnificent Dome and the hills which surround Florence.
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