Countries Italy Florence Cultural Tours

Florence: Birth of the Renaissance

You will begin to wonder that human daring ever achieved anything so magnificent.

John Ruskin, Mornings in Florence 1875
Sarah McBryde
Sarah has a degree in three-dimensional design: Ceramics from Central Saint Martins. Sarah completed a Masters in the History of Art at Birkbeck, The University of London, graduating with distinction and winning the Murray Prize for her outstanding dissertation which reassessed the representation of dwarfs in 16th-century Italian court culture. Prior to her career as an art historian, Sarah worked in film and television production, most notably in the production team for Mr Turner, the award-winning film directed by Mike Leigh.
What's included...
  • Return flights on British Airways (economy) to Bologna
  • 4 nights in the luxurious 4-star, Grand Hotel Baglioni
  • 4 breakfasts, 1 lunch and 2 dinners (lunch and dinner with wine, water and coffee included)
  • All church, museum & gallery entry tickets
  • The services of your tour 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
Grand Hotel Baglioni
Getting about
You should have a reasonable level of fitness. There is a lot of walking, standing and climbing stairs on this tour. The ground underfoot is often cobbled and uneven.
Inspirational tours frequently booked together
with £1,705 per person
with £1,450 per person
Palazzo Davanzati was built in the14th-century by the Davizzi family, who were wealthy members of the wool guild. It was bought by the Davanzati family, also rich merchants in 1578 and who owned it up until 1838.

The architectural style represents the transition between the closed, vertical structure of the medieval tower-house and the more spacious Renaissance palazzo, arranged around a central courtyard. On the ground floor, the façade features three large wooden gates, once used as an open loggia to host chats, commercial trading, waiting room and playground for family children. Leading up from the courtyard, supported on projecting flying buttresses, is the staircase: in stone up to the first floor and made of wood further above. Each floor features spaces dedicated to the private life of the family.

The Palazzo Davanzati gives great insight into the lives of wealthy Florentine families during the Italian Renaissance with many of the rooms retaining the richly frescoed walls of yesteryear.

Fra Angelico lived in the Dominican convent of San Marco where the frescoes on the walls of the priory of San Marco mark a high point in Fra Angelico's career. The frescoes were intended not as means of instruction, still less as decoration, but as aids to contemplation and meditation for the brother who inhabited each cell was to have a vivid yet chaste reminder of an event in the life of Christ.
Santa Maria Novella was called Novella (New) because it was built on the site of the 9th-century oratory of Santa Maria delle Vigne.  The vast interior is designed as a Latin cross and is divided into a nave, two aisles with stained-glass windows and a short transept. The Rucellai, Bardi, Tornabuoni, and Strozzi all have family chapels within Santa Maria Novella. The church is adorned with artworks by Botticelli, Masaccio's famous, Trinity, Ghirlandaio, Filippino Lippi, Brunelleschi, Ghiberti, and Duccio.
The Basilica of Santa Croce is the largest Franciscan church in the world. Its most notable features are its sixteen chapels, many of them decorated with frescoes by Giotto and his pupils, and its tombs and cenotaphs. Giants of the Renaissance who are buried here include Michelangelo, Leon Battista Alberti, Ghiberti, and Machiavelli.
David is Michelangelo's 17ft tall marble sculpture that vies with Leonardo's Mona Lisa to be the most famous artwork of the Renaissance. Sculpted over three years (1501-1504), it was originally situated at the entrance to the Palazzo Vecchio where it was unveiled in September 1504. The statue represents the Biblical hero David, a subject favoured in the art of Florence.  

The remains of the Roman settlement of Florentia have been found under the modern city of Florence and the ‘grid-plan’ layout of the old city centre streets reflects the small size of the original town on the banks of the River Arno. From these relatively humble beginnings, by the early 14th Century, Florence had become a major European centre of trade and commerce, with a population considerably larger than that of London at the time. Based on the wealth created by a burgeoning textile industry and the Florentine banking businesses whose influence extended from Naples to London, the republican city became a cradle for the development of Italian Renaissance Culture. Despite the ravages of plague, particularly the Black Death in 1348, violent popular and religious uprisings, military incursions by foreign powers and infighting between its own political factions, Florence fostered many of the most famous artists and intellects of the 14th to 16th centuries; including Dante, Giotto, Leonardo da Vinci, Botticelli, Machiavelli, Michelangelo and Galileo.
Sarah McBryde will lead us on this tour, which provides an introduction to Renaissance Florence. We will explore various aspects of the city: its civic heart, grand religious institutions, major palaces and galleries, and will also examine the influence of some of its most prolific cultural patrons, such as the Medici family. Many of the sites we will visit house vast art collections.We have carefully chosen a cross-section of works from selected artists to focus, aiming to give you a foundation of knowledge of Florence, of its culture, its history, its art and its people.
After our arrival at Bologna, we will drive into Florence, stopping at the Romanesque Basilica of San Miniato al Monte; one of the oldest churches in Florence with dramatic views across the city and reputedly the final resting place of the city’s Roman martyr St Minias. Sarah McBryde will give an introductory lecture before we transfer to the luxurious Grand Hotel Baglioni, situated in the centre of Florence. We dine together in the hotel's marvellous roof top restaurant.
In the morning we will traverse the civic heart of the city, starting with the Baptistery and Duomo and then walk through the Piazza della Repubblica, site of the city’s original Roman Forum, to the Palazzo Davanzati, a 14th-century merchant’s house. After lunch together, we will visit Orsanmichele. Originally the city’s municipal grain-store, this building was gradually enclosed as a religious sanctuary and became a focus for the city trade guilds, whose patron saints are represented in the building’s exterior niches. We will then walk through Piazza della Signoria to end the day at the seat of government and former Medici palace, the Palazzo Vecchio.
Having now explored the main civic axis of Florence, we will spend this day taking a circular route around the old city perimeter visiting some of the main churches founded by various religious orders. We will start by visiting the Church and Convent of San Marco to view the frescoes by Fra Angelico, which decorate the cells of the friars’ dormitory. After coffee, we will continue to another Dominican church of Santa Maria Novella to see the works of Giotto, Masaccio and Ghirlandaio. In the afternoon we will head across the River Arno to Santa Maria del Carmine to view more of Masaccio’s work in the Brancacci Chapel, before taking a pleasant stroll along the banks of the Arno, stopping at Florence’s oldest gelateria, Bar Vivoli (founded 1930) on the way, before we visit the Franciscan Basilica of Santa Croce, where along with Giotto’s frescoes we will see the tombs of many notable Renaissance figures including Michelangelo, Machiavelli and Galileo. 
We will begin this day with a visit to the Museo del Bargello. Originally the seat of the city’s magistrate, the Podestà, this museum houses fine examples of Renaissance art including works by Michelangelo and Donatello. We will then continue to the Galleria degli Uffizi where Sarah will lead a curated tour of selected highlights of the collection. After lunch in the gallery café, we will then enter the Vasari Corridor, the secret route built by the Medici in 1565 to allow safe passage the Palazzo Pitti, and end the day in the Boboli Gardens.This evening, we dine at a fine restaurant, possibly with a member of the Florentine nobility as a guest.
After breakfast our final visit will be to the Galleria dell’Accademia to see Michelangelo’s David, possibly the most famous and iconic artwork of the Italian Renaissance. The rest of the morning is free. 
Grand Hotel Baglioni was built in the 19th-century as a family palazzo 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 - If you would like to fly BA Club class, please contact us, and we will provide a price for the upgrade.

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. 

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.

Sarah McBryde
Sarah has a degree in three-dimensional design: Ceramics from Central Saint Martins. Sarah completed a Masters in the History of Art at Birkbeck, The University of London, graduating with distinction and winning the Murray Prize for her outstanding dissertation which reassessed the representation of dwarfs in 16th-century Italian court culture. Prior to her career as an art historian, Sarah worked in film and television production, most notably in the production team for Mr Turner, the award-winning film directed by Mike Leigh.
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 the media and publishing business at Butterworths Tolley and The Economist. Charles has a History of Art qualification from Birkbeck, University of London, where he also received his MA in Renaissance Studies. Charles is studying continuity and innovation in Italian Renaissance Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art. His areas of interest include the visual, material and social culture of Northern Italian courts and the art and architecture of Rome from 1500-1700.
Grand Hotel Baglioni
The Grand Hotel Baglioni is a structure that is part of the history of Florence. Officially opened on 12 August 1903, over more than 100 years it has played host to kings and heads of state, artists, and intellectuals, carving out its place as a true landmark of the cultural and economic life of the city. 

The building that houses the hotel was built in the second half of 1800 by Prince Carrega di Lucedio. In the years following the Prince's move to Rome, the palazzo became the Grand Hotel Baglioni after the conversion of the building at the hands of the Baglioni family. 

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